Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Easing into Homeschooling

It is a 90 degree day, and the children in our district went back to school today. I remember wanting to wear new clothes on my first day of high school (1983), so I dressed in a fall outfit comprised of a wool argyle sweater and corduroy pants, with penny loafers, of course! I was sweltering hot all day. Very uncomfortable. I think kids in the present era might be allowed to wear shorts to school. I hope they did today!

I was going to wait until after Labor Day to start our homeschooling, but since the streets were quiet and devoid of the neighborhood children Beezy usually plays with, it made sense to go ahead and ease back into our lessons. And this way we can be finished by early May. After my whole foray into researching unschooling and practicing natural learning over the summer, am I going to do anything different this year? Yes and no.

I kept a notebook all summer of our activities, and certainly there was much learning that happened naturally by simply living life and doing the things we enjoy doing. Beezy attended three vacation bible schools, went to the pool often, and played with many friends, including having lots of sleepovers. We had two family reunions and visited my husband's dad in upstate New York. We watched movies and played video games. Beezy participated in parks and recreation activities such as gardening, cooking, crafts, and a week of a special program at our library. She continued with the dog obedience classes begun in the spring and is still working on her 4-H program book for her dog project. Beezy and her dad played a lot of board games together, and math skills were reinforced this way.

While she did read some books over the summer, I didn't think that enough reading progress was happening through "unschooling". We go to Mass every week, but I feel that more is required to really learn about our Catholic faith. Weekly religious education classes at our church will begin next week. As Catholic homeschoolers, religion must be the center and foundation of our studies and our life. Also, math is one of Beezy's strengths, so that subject needs more formal attention to maximize her skills. I will continue to keep a record of all of our activities in my small, leather bound book.

What we did today was very simple. I have all of the books we will be using for the year already collected, except for whatever we may check out from the library. This way I can relax, knowing that we don't have to get every resource out and start using it now. We have the whole year ahead to explore...

Formal lessons will be worked into the day, not as a set schedule, but in the context of a natural and relaxed rhythm. With my recent exploration of the French way of life, la joie de vivre, it seems most logical to structure our days around meals! This probably seems obvious to some, but my family had habitually become grazers. I would often have only coffee for breakfast, and then a very small lunch, snack throughout the day, and then make a nice dinner, later snacking some more. But even sitting down together for at least one meal a day was not consistently happening. Now we are eating a real breakfast, a substantial lunch, and a lovely dinner. I am not snacking, but dessert is allowed, and usually I have one or two squares of Ghiradelli chocolate a day. I am paying more attention to eating slowly and really tasting and savoring what I put into my mouth.

We did a little homeschooling after breakfast. While I prepared lunch, Beezy played "girl games" on the laptop, which I am assisting her in learning to use. She also played outside. After lunch we did more lessons, then walked the dog together as a family. Beezy and I ran an errand, and then we played together with Monster High dolls. After that her dad read to her.

We began and ended our homeschooling with prayers from the Catholic Treasury of Prayers. I read the 20th chapter of John to her, and we prayed the first Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, the Resurrection, using a book of Our Lady's Rosary Novenas. Beezy worked on her dog project book, which uses writing skills, and read the first story in the Ginn classic reader, We Are Neighbors. I began reading the historical novel, St. Elizabeth's Three Crowns, to her, which I will sometimes have her narrate. That was it for today, just a gentle beginning to get back into the swing of things. Oh, and the soccer season began last evening, which covers physical education!

The difference in approach this year is mostly one of attitude rather than methodology. The focus is particularly Catholic, and I am not going to allow myself to feel pressured to achieve specific academic goals. There are no check lists or a scope and sequence curriculum to follow. We will live and learn at our own pace, with no separation between "school" and "home". Learning happens through the rituals of family life, and my goal is to make that life one of beauty, elegance, and refinement, celebrating tradition and experiencing joy in the smallest details. God alone, with a little help from the French and the Blessed Mother, is my guide.

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