Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On Making Judicious Decisions

It took me two years to make the decision to homeschool.  Two years worth of conversations with Jason.  Two years worth of notebooks filled with the pros and cons of school vs. homeschool.  Two years worth of reading blogs and books.

I knew that most people go overboard and take on too much their first year.  And yet, I still did that.  I have ordered far too much curriculum.  It all sounds so wonderful and amazing and enriching...and if I buy it, we are that much closer to having that wonderful, enriching, rewarding experience.  I have bought more curriculum than we could ever do in a year!  I spent much of the autumn feeling bad that we weren't finding time for all of it (we would have to do school 24 hours a day to find time for all of it!)  Also, I tend to use curriculum as a guide, but enjoy taking all of the side roads that our interests lead us down.

I also spent the autumn saying yes.  Yes to every activity.  Yes to every playdate.  Yes to co-op.  Yes to sewing classes.  Yes to field trips.  Yes to choir.  Yes to organizing a mixed media program for a homeschool group.  Yes to coordinating a homeschool library group.  Yes to a play; a museum; science day; another play; an aquarium...

I was afraid that my kids would not have enough to do and that they would not be socialized enough.  I was afraid that if I didn't do everything people would think this was a bad idea.

In taking the month of December off, I took a lot of time to read and research and assess and evaluate.  We took our girls out of school because we felt that the school was pushing them along to prepare for standardized tests.  We had wanted to get them away from that kind of learning, and yet, I was doing the same thing, cramming and jamming in English and Math, History and Science before we had to go here or there or do this or that....we could not take the detour, the side road that looked interesting because we needed to get to choir/sewing/art classes or I needed to get to work.

I was excited that the month of January is so open.  We have been taking side roads.  We are exploring fables and legends and fairy tales and folk tales...something that was unplanned but was a part of both of our History and Reading curriculum one day and we just found ourselves enthralled.  The characters are easy to discuss; they are stereotypical in many ways which has lead to all kinds of conversations.  Now my girls recognize and make predictions about stories based on the characters.  The plot is fairly simple and easy to understand, the girls are making connections and discussing the plot smoothly and thoroughly.  There are morals to be learned, which the girls pick up on without any prompting from me.  This also has lead to myriad discussions.  We are writing our own fairy tales.  Illustrating them with egg paint.  We are planning to erupt a volcano and write a legend about that.  We are learning the similarities and differences.  I had wanted the girls to write compare/contrast papers and this seems like as good of a topic as any!

We have also had time for homeschool swim.  We have learned that there is a homeschool roller skating day on Tuesdays not far from here.  A homeschool ice skating day on Mondays and Wednesdays.  The neighboring town offers a Science & Nature class for homeschoolers on Fridays.  There are so many opportunities for homeschoolers, opportunities to meet new friends and play with different children...that we need to make judicious decisions. 

I think I like the idea of just committing to a couple of things (choir and sewing) and then leaving our slate open to explore those side roads and maybe do homeschool swim or skating if we are not cruising down a side road at the time.

We loved being members of a co-op.  I had felt that the transition from a social learning environment to home learning may be difficult.  I thought co-op would bridge that gap.  Our co-op is wonderful and I don't want to let it go...not completely...but having that commitment one FALL DAY every week limits what we can do the rest of the week....we can't possibly do all of our lessons, co-op, choir, sewing classes, work at the library AND consider swim or skating in four days a week (we often do school on weekends as well, but that's another story....).  We require down time.

I have made the decision to take the winter term off from co-op.  I feel badly because I had volunteered to help with activities two of the days this winter.  But right now, it is important for us to have some freedom in our schedule to explore what being a homeschooler means to us, where and who we are as a homeschooling family.  We need freedom in our schedule to do this.  Having the freedom to jaunt off to swim or skating if we feel so inclined is much more how I envisioned our homeschool.

We may go back to co-op in the spring.  We may go back for only part of the day, not the full day.  We may decide that for us, for our style of learning and for where we are right now, we want to keep our schedule more open to allow for field trips and playdates, swim and skating.  I don't want to close any doors...the future is WIDE OPEN!