Homeschooling is such a funny thing. One the one hand, we parents feel the need to create checklists and plans for getting our kids through a course of curriculum we have deemed worthy of our time. But, on the other hand, we want our kids to have real life experiences that bring fresh ideas to feed their minds and encourage them to enjoy their education. Yesterday we had the later, and even though it set us back a bit on our checklist this week, I’m not going to let that steal our joy.
A Time for Tea
I have been meeting monthly with a group of moms to study Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles with Brandy Vencel’s Start Here study guide. This is the first year in my three-going-on-four years of homeschooling that I have had a truly CM support group, and I’m loving it! Even better – one of my closest friends, Cassie, is in the group with me, and she usually inspires me to leave my house for the sake of homeschooling. That’s sort of ironic, I know, but my kids and I are lucky to have Cassie (and her kids) in our lives to make me brave enough to venture out into the world away from home and outside of books.
Cassie, in all of her wisdom, created a book celebration event centered on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Along with some other moms from the CM Study Group – and a few moms outside the study group because the idea was catching – we celebrated Alice’s fanciful dream with games, a handicraft, a book discussion, and a Mad Hatter tea party. And, for a nice added bonus, we had the whole event outside on a gorgeous autumn day.
The kids enjoyed being outside –croquet was a big hit! They loved consuming “Eat Me” cupcakes before lunch, drinking out of fancy cups and saucers, and making Alice themed bookmarks. Oh, and the book discussion was so telling! We had around 15 kids in kindergarten through 4th grade (and a few preschooler siblings), and those kids remembered such detail from the book. They each favored different parts of Alice’s adventure, but they were all able to appreciate the theme of the book, which (in my opinion) is that it’s great to be a kid and have wild dreams – that childhood should be celebrated and not rushed.
A Time for Books
After the book party, my kids and I returned home, and I found our checklists staring me in the face, math worksheets left untouched, and a few errands needing to be run (A9 had some birthday money just begging to be spent on a Pokémon booster card pack and L6 was out of chocolate almond milk). It would be all too easy to slough off on the curriculum if the kids or I disliked it, but we had the goodness of Ambleside Online Year 1 and 3 books just begging to be read. So, for that day, each child was read just one selection from his checklist and the rest just had to wait for another day.
Juggling, Not Balancing
I wish I could remember whose original idea this was. I vaguely think I might have heard it on a podcast, and I want to say it was in Pam Barnhill’s voice, but memory and Google are both failing me. Anyway, at some point over the past year, I began to realize that “balance” was never something I was going to achieve in daily life – nor is it something my kids or husband or employer are ever going to want from me. What I mean is there are lots of people calling for my time and attention, and each of them want my full attention, not a sliver of it.
When I’m playing Candy Land with J3, he wants my full attention. When I’m building K’Nex with L6, he wants my full attention. When A9 is dictating his latest story for me to type, he wants my full attention. When DH and I are finally alone after all the kids are in bed, he wants my full attention. When I’m writing a piece for my employer, my coworkers want my greatest efforts. And, when I’m enjoying a book, you better believe I want solitude. How I spend my time is never a balance; it’s always juggling. And, I think the same can be said for how the kids and I spend our time at home.
There are only so many balls we can toss in the air on a given day and safely catch them all. Most days it’s a fantastic Circle Time, math concepts, and AO readings. Other days it’s a nature walk and journaling followed by a trip to the library so inspiring that it feels like we’ve taken all of the books off the shelves. Sometimes it’s a carefully conceived field trip that reinforces ideas we’ve been reading in books, and sometimes it’s going to the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Skipping bookwork is not a choice I can make for us every day (or we would never make progress in our books), but like I told DH last night, “It might have been a bad day for the curriculum, but it was a great day for learning.” I liked the sound of that.
Until next Friday (or so).
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (audio book – not finding the time to listen)
- The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
- The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
Moderately challenging books:
- Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain (I so love this book. I ❤ Mark Twain! I hope to enjoy a big chunk of this very soon.)
- Mind to Mind: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education by Karen Glass
- For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in conjunction with Brandy Vencel’s Start Here study (for my CM study group)
- Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen – I’m sticking it out! I think it just irks me to read a book phrased about what you should not be doing.
- A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola – nearly finished and don’t want to return this to the library. It’s not even in our county library; had to get it through inter-library loan. Maybe I should suggest they put one on our shelves.
- Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson with Sally Clarkson