Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Day 52

As we get closer to summer, I am planning to phase out of a “learning notes” format and into a more unschooling type format of journalling, closer to what I was doing when I originally started this blog. Our CM semester is scheduled to end at the beginning of June. I am planning a few summer type lessons — which is what we usually do — but I think that once or twice a week will be enough to log our progress.

Today Sean did:

  • Religion — chapter 20 of Our Life in the Church (we are going to try and finish this book by summer)
  • Copywork — Romans on Christian attitude towards civil government
  • Henle — read introduction.
  • On his mind — March Madness – he is not a Florida State fan.

Kieron has been sick so he is basically just lying around reading and playing with the little ones.

I read a bunch of books yesterday to Paddy for the first time in quite a while. Finally my eyes are strong enough to do this. We must have read for nearly an hour. He really loves the mini Milne treasury; we have read about Tigger getting unbounced about 20 times now. He also listened to The Drinking Gourd, which was a bit conceptually difficult to him — what does slavery and the Underground Railroad mean to a four year old? The stack of picture books beside my bed is getting kind of old now — I need to go browse through our boxes and find some new material.

We have a study guide to the new SATs from the library — I was looking through it today and got pulled in and ended up spending a happy hour solving math puzzles. Cool (there doesn’t seem to be a geek emoticon, though I could use it). Unfortunately, for Clare the whole SAT thing looks very different. When I was in school, standardized test time was the funnest and freest part of the whole school year for me. You could just sit there and solve all these puzzles and when you were done you could read your library book, or draw, or go outside. No boredom, no trying to focus on what the teacher was saying. I now realize that I was a visual/kinesthetic type who found passive listening to be the most draining activity on earth. But my kids have been raised in a very different environment and standardized tests are anxiety-producing and artificial to them. Maybe temperamental differences factor in as well.

Now, some thoughts on how the semester has gone so far.

Generally, it’s been good. I see that life is much happier when we are doing SOMETHING. In the past I’ve struggled with boredom when we got overly structured. This time I think we’ve hit a fair balance. Charlotte Mason believed in variety along with consistency in the daily schedule. She also believed in hitting the structured academics in the morning hours using SHORT lessons, and saving the afternoon for free discovery and exploration and self-directed projects and TIME OUTSIDE.

I’ve tried to achieve that this term. I’ve found that when we read a given book twice a week rather than every day, it is a pleasure to pick it up (and easier for me to plan a bit for introducing it and following up on it with an extension activity). I think, but am not sure, that the retention is a bit better. I am planning to do some verbal reviewing, not an exam exactly but a term overview such as Charlotte Mason suggested, to see if they did retain some of the readings.

On the downside — having a BUNCH of books on different subjects, and basing the curriculum mostly on reading and oral narration, feels a bit scattered to me. In that way, I sometimes wish I were more of a unit study person. I am considering trying some sort of family unit this summer to see if I could manage it. In the past, units have required more structure than I really enjoy, and also have had a claustrophic effect. It sounds like this is all about ME, but really, it isn’t. If my kids loved units I would do my best, but they don’t. They like having some structure, being able to see their progress in specific areas, and having plenty of free time to do their own projects. The way we are doing things right now seems to work for them as far as interest and motivation go, but I am troubled by a sort of superficiality. I think the bottom line is that it’s difficult to have a perfect homeschool. You end up going with “good enough for now” and then revising when “good enough” is no longer quite good enough.