Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Simpler is fitting us better

When we began homeschooling (when my children were seven, five and three) I had grand visions for the complex and exciting ways in which our lives would change. I envisioned planning and executing numerous heavy field trips, I imagined parties for holidays planned by the children where friends and family of all ages participate, I expected to push my children to advance quickly in their work and include difficult, enriching, non-required subjects.

The reality has been that none of these things happen in the way I imagined. It has turned out that my priorities came into sharper focus once we began homeschooling, and high-pressure academics, too much travel, or intense preparations don't fit well with those things we find most important.

My focus has become so much more about how large a moment can be and the potential to seize it.

Our learning is better absorbed in bite-sized, minimized routines and I am satisfied so long as we are staying generally on track with state assessments in case the children ever decide to mainstream back into school.

Our field trips are immediate and centered around the needs or interests of a person in our family at the time they occur.

We plan one party a year, when we are finished with our curriculum. The children create displays and presentations, lay out some of their best work, make refreshments. I put together a slide show of our year and play it on the laptop. We set out every book we read during the school year. Then, we invite family and friends over for our year-end party. It's wonderful for the children to see all that they have accomplished, how much they have grown, the knowledge and learning they have amassed and savored.

The rest of the year I am so satisfied with the experience our children are having when they all stop working to watch a giant flock of geese pass by, when they come in from an afternoon outside with rosy cheeked and breathless exclamations about their game or discovery. I love it when they say "I wish we could see a..." or "Could we stop and look at..." and "I wonder if we could..." and we can.

Their learning centers around reading good literature together, play-acting what they have read or heard, applying their bite-sized lessons without realizing. When we are reading one of those excellent pieces of literature and it is so moving that I have to stop reading for the lump in my throat, we can take as much time as we want to discuss what is happening in the story.

And when they beg me "Pleeeeeeease can we read a little more?" I can answer by smiling and opening the book again.

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