Monday, September 3, 2012

The tricks of September

autumn olives

Ani and I have had the weekend to ourselves, thanks to the annual Silver Baby Golf Tournament (our family is on the road as I write, home to us), and her request was for "some major kid time".  We managed to combine some major Mama reconnecting time with some major kid time, and ended up a little tired and grouchy, but feeling like we're really back home after our busy summer.

arranging bones with Ari
some awesome fort-building with N.

When September rolls around, I feel as though the year is starting.  Years of schooling have trained me to smell newness in the air - new clothes, new paste pots, new's a hard habit to break, even starting our 5th year of "official" homeschooling.  How it manifests itself nowadays is in  near-manic planning for me and the endless "hasn't school started yet?" from strangers.

 Near-manic planning? Now wait a minute.  I don't see much "schooly" stuff around here, you say.  Well, this is my point: in spite of knowing, deeply, that the best learning happens around here through play, conversation, reading, and our experiences out in the real world, I still feel the urge to carefully plan out our days and weeks, outlining math schedules (really!), science objectives, writing exercises to improve facility with handwriting, spelling, sentence structure.  It's like I can't help myself, though I know from experience that very little of that actually works in our home. I'm not saying it doesn't work for plenty of school-at-home-ers, but it has never been what has worked for us.

So, why do I go through this and how am I making it work for me this year?  Well, I'll tell you what I think and I'll do my best to come back and tell you how it all turned out, all right?

First, there is this idea that I have experienced in action, that the more structured your approach to something - say, Farm School, for instance - the more freedom to be found within.  That is, the planning and the forethought prepares you for some possibilities and opportunities, but leaves a wide open space for freedom of choice.  You can have an idea and be prepared for the way a day can flow, and within that structure, there is flexibility.

Second is an idea that I ran into years ago on Here in the Bonny Glen, which she calls "tidal homeschooling".  It is the idea that sometimes the kids and the interests are leading the learning, and sometimes it is my suggestions and ideas that lead us.  To that end, I gather lots of ideas for games, science projects, art projects, books to read.  I also make lists of things the girls are talking about, or things they say they'd like to know more about.  This year I am interested in helping them set some goals for their year - are there chapter books they want to work up to being able to read? Are they hoping to write poetry or plays or build something (Ani is thinking of a large clock. With a pendulum.)?  

But back to what really happens here: learning all the time.  There is no official start date to our working together.  That would mean not counting the snake dissection or the trip through the cave or the incredible empowerment of going out on the water in a boat by yourself, or any of the things, big and small, that were learned this summer.  Yes, as classes begin - choir, piano, and a new day of homeschool co-op - our time will be structured differently.  Sometimes at this time of the year, after a summer of Outside, the girls ask for a "schooly" day, and so that's what we do.  As the weather changes (fall is coming at some point, I gather), we will turn a bit more inward toward the cozy reading spots in our house, or to the kitchen for some communal cooking.  And yes, I have spent the last few days in a daze of brainstorming ideas and projects and oooh, wouldn't this be fun??, all of which will be written down in my notebook and some of which won't be looked at again, but this internal clock of fall = new beginnings is less a starting than a re-evaluation of what we are doing all of the time.

And for the record? In addition to interest in creating a pendulum (out of tape and a chopstick), Ani is wondering why the first windowsills were made (we voted for ye olde cooling of pies, and so the window wouldn't just fall out of the wall) and just how many individual plants there are in the world? Lots of thinking going on here...

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