Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Less School-y Than Usual?

Our happy little homeschool has been under a bit of a transition lately with the holidays, my increased working outside the home, and now, my crazy anti-clutter kick. We never have been workbook type homeschoolers, but rather the hands-on / project-oriented kind. Even so, it's been feeling less “school-y” than usual around here.

Things have seemed so busy lately, I've been missing the abundance of time to read with, play with, explore with, and overall just hang out living and learning with my kids. We have never followed a curriculum, but we do a lot of things, and they are always creating something. I was actually getting a little concerned with the idea that my children wouldn't have so much cool stuff going on with how busy I've been. So concerned in fact, that I considered signing back up with a homeschooling charter school.

We went through a charter school for several years in the earliest grades and it worked well. Our facilitator was, and still is, a good friend who always has positive encouragement for my kids. Our school went through transitions of it's own a few years ago, and we decided to try being independent. It's been really, really nice. I am a big fan of freedom, and we've been pretty happy doing our own thing.

But, life is always changing and I thought maybe I should consider seeing if the charter could work for us again. The money they offer for music lessons is awfully tempting, and they offer some classes. We were hoping for a bunch of fun things offered one day, all in a row, like chorus, theater, Spanish, and ceramics that would give me a chunk of time to work while the kids did fun stuff. The charter does offer a few fun classes, but it's mainly core enrichment classes. These come complete with timed quizzes and weekly homework. Not surprisingly, there were no excited looks about that idea around here- these aren't the classes my kids or I really want or need.

Both of my kids are doing a lot of writing on their own already- fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and they are frequently excited about entering contests. The same with reading- they already do plenty of it and it's mostly self driven. Neither one was too excited about someone directing them with it. They might gain some academic skill or another a little earlier, but right now they have passion, and that's more important to me. I don't really want to limit the amount of time and energy they have to pursue their own interests with a bunch of busy work. I want to let my kids keep their learning sparks alive and kindle them, and don't want to risk dulling their interests.

My dear friend the facilitator knew that going back probably wasn't the right choice for our family, but she kindly printed out a bunch of information  so I could come to my own decision. It's a blessing to have such positive people in our lives.

For now, I know those classes fill a need, and I'm glad they are there for the folks who utilize them, but unfortunately, it's not what we need. Luckily, there is a lot out there to choose from, including some things that my kids are actually excited about. They aren't all neatly lined up in a row, and conveniently located in one place, so I'll still be driving all over and juggling like crazy, but that's OK. It'll be worth it.

The holidays, of course, had a number of projects of their own that provided plenty of learning opportunities with baking, crafting, family, gifts, cards, budgets etc. It never ceases to amaze me how one thing leads into another. An old Christmas movie can spark an interest in a food, fashion, car or tradition that we aren't familiar with, and before the day is done, we are researching and learning about something new. That's the homeschooling we love. That's the stuff we want to do more of, not timed quizzes.

When I think about it, we really are doing plenty of “school-y” stuff. I just haven't slowed down enough to realize it. The holidays change everyone's routines- that's why kids in school got a couple of weeks off for a break. As I look at my daughter busily designing with her new Fashion Magazine Kit and my son intently building with his new Connectagons, it's obvious, they are engaged, and happy and even if it doesn't look "school-y," they're still learning all the time.