Monday, May 16, 2016

Still Going Strong (But Still Counting Down Our Days!)

I've been thinking how I usually have a whole plan for next school year by now.  Here it is May and I don't! This makes me happy and I'll tell you why.

Next year isn't going to be better.

That's usually the motivation behind all my New Year's homeschool planning (and purchasing!).  It's this idea that the current year has reached it's peak of enjoyment. We are tired of what we are doing, and next year will be way better because we'll be studying something new, or using a new curriculum.

"Next year will be better!" so many of us are thinking as we slog through the final months of school.

 But in my discontent, my boredom, or more likely my weariness, it is so easy to forget :  each morning I have a new day with my kids. I don't have to muddle through til next school year to have a great school year NOW.

This 2015-16 school year, I returned to my roots, so to speak. Our first five years of home schooling were spent doing unit studies.  The next three years I purchased an all-in-one curriculum with all the subjects planned out for me.  This  year I really wanted to study American history with the kids, in depth and for as long as we wanted to.  I already had so many great books, it didn't make sense to buy another all-in-one package.  I was a little nervous to take back responsibility for planning, but also really excited to do so. (I like being in control! I am an INTJ  homeschool mom!)

So this school year has been one of meandering through American history, utilizing the notebooking method, and lots of wonderful read-alouds to make history come alive. It has really been a great year. Even with a baby in the house.  Yes, I am pressed to get it "all" done every single day, but I am also learning to slow down.  I don't have boxes to check in an Instructor's Guide. I'm spending much more time on the Revolutionary War than I expected.  I'm not cramming information in just for the sake of a syllabus.  We are savoring our studies more.

I'm not anxious for next year. Because this year is good. And I'm glad it's not over. There is so much more I want to do with the kids.  There are sooooo many books I want to read to them.  We won't get everything done that I had planned, but I am glad. Because that means we get to do it again next year (and all summer if we want!). I plan to just keep going with history and keep doing what we've done.  Next year won't be better, because this year is great!

These are a few things that have helped me slow down and enjoy our days more this school year- they are at the heart of what I really love about  homeschooling:

1) Lots of reading aloud.  I've read so many wonderful books to the kids this year, mostly complimenting our study of American history.  The benefits of reading aloud are incredible, but more than that, we all just love it. It is what brings me the greatest joy in our homeschool. I love  running my finger along the shelves in our library and seeing how many of the books we have read.  Lots!   I love when the kids beg for another chapter. I love when they are eager to find out what our next read aloud is.  And we have learned so much history through The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Johnny Tremain, Bound for Oregon, and biographies by the D'Aulaires.

Side note: If you love reading aloud, or want encouragement to read aloud more, please check out Sarah McKenzie's Read Aloud Revival blog and podcast! You will be inspired!

2) Togetherness.  I am occasionally blown away that I have four children.  And I am even more blown away when I see them all interacting together, playing, laughing, teasing, provoking.  I love that we are all home together, every single day. I love that my three school age kids get to watch their little brother grow up.  I love that he gets to watch them and learn how to do practically everything.

Now you know we have crazy days. You know there are days I want to quit.    This isn't a walk in the park. But we're all here together. And it's one of the best things about our year.

Mister is an amazing big brother, and loves to help out with B.

3) Time off.  Instead of trying to cram our required 175 days in as soon as possible, I have allowed for time of.  Josh and I took a trip in November and that was a welcome week off.  Holiday breaks, of course.  We took a family vacation in early March.  We may take more days off before our 175 are complete.  Because having built in breaks has kept us going strong instead of fizzling out.

4) Days out of the house.  As my kiddos have gotten older, their craving for friend time has increased, and I have purposefully built more days into our schedule to get us out with friends.  This is hard for me sometimes, because  I am a homebody and I really hate interruptions in our schedule. But it means so much to the kids, and I love the time with my mom friends as well. Roller skating days, MOPS meetings, and co-op are appointments on our schedule to look forward to.  We all need those!
I need excuses to escape the ever-present laundry pile- because in the grand scheme of life, laundry is pretty small, even if the pile is huge!
 5) Letting go of some crazy ideas, like "We need to finish the whole curriculum before the year ends" or "We need to do every subject every day".  Where do these strange measures of homeschool success come from? I'm daily trying to put them to death and we are all the better for it.

6) Holding to my values, my  ideals.  I wholeheartedly believe homeschool is the best way for my family, even on my worst day.  I have faith that it is making my children, and me, into the people we are intended to be.  More and more it feels like the road less traveled, but I'm also learning to stop trying to run other people's race and put  my energy into running MINE.

7) Education that is a mile deep vs an inch deep.  We are taking as long as we want on a subject.  We are diving in, reading from more than one resource, getting more than blurbs, feasting on one person at a time, one moment in history at a time.  We have had so many wonderful discussions as we have done this.  Recently, as the Constitution came up again, and as I read more of what it states, Mister asked me, "Is there anyway that document can be destroyed?" Oh, what a great talk we had about how the principles, and governing laws, that our nation was founded on have been under scrutiny and constant interpretation. We can't possibly touch on every topic under the sun.  Every education will have gaps. But because I'm not trying to keep up with a preplanned teacher's guide, we have time to chase rabbit trails and go deeper into  our studies.

Now  I confess, I got the latest CBD homeschool catalogue in the mail the other day. And I did flip through it and circle some items in black Sharpie.  But I'm not thinking too long and hard about next year. After all, there are new mercies for me each day -for marriage, mothering, and home education too.  No need to wait til next year to do what we really want to do, or to scrap what isn't working and choose something that does. (Early on in our year I chucked Apologia's Human Body book for their book on flying things- and we've only done the first six chapter on birds- because we love birds! No guilt!

How bout you, homeschool moms.  Have you planned or even  purchased curriculum for next year yet?

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