Friday, October 4, 2013

Homeschool Thursdays: Hightide and drowning

Every year I mention Melissa Wiley, and her essays on Tidal homeschooling because it is the closest "philosophy" to the one we practice here.  More schooly than un-schooling, less structured than Charlotte Mason, often, but not always child led, frequently project centered, but occasionally workbook-ish.  Ebbing and flowing with our need for structure, our desire to get outdoors, and my own personal hang ups about what kids should know when.  Its a term and style that fits the way we do things, and one that re-assures me that we are indeed on the right course, be it weeks of sit down learning, or stretches of outdoor adventure, nature observation and mad crafting sessions.  

This fall, like so many in the past, we started off schooling at high tide, faces to the wind.  I made a schedule and a chart on the fridge for the kiddos (the bigger two) to check off when they'd completed tasks.  Some work is independent, some with me.  For the first year ever we are doing a spelling curriculum, and I am asking them to do a lot more writing than ever before.  

I'll say this about those first few days of establishing routine.  The fist two days are fantastic, new pencils, new schedule, fun!  The next few are painful for pretty much all of us.  Since then we've plowed ahead, worked through a few glitches, and pretty much have found a groove.  Sails still full, we're getting busy with math, reading, spelling, handwriting, and literature study.  Science and French lessons make their way in most days. Formal  history lessons are on hold for now, though our literature is mostly historical fiction.  We follow this routine 3 days a week.  Another day is devoted to project work, then music and swim lessons.  Another day is spent at our homeschool coop.  

Sounds great right?  But here's the thing:  schooling, even fairly laid back home schooling, takes a heck of a lot of time.  
Homeschooling books are quick to point out the amount of time wasted in public school, waiting in line, waiting for 18 children to finish an assignment, waiting for your turn in the bathroom,etc.  They point out that the same ammount of learning (or more) can be done at home in half the time.  Which, I believe to be true.  
Homeschooling children (in general) waste much less of their childhoods waiting, which means more free time for pursuing their own interests.  

The homeschooling teacher (parent) however, has much, much less time.  
A school teacher has only one job (albeit it a very difficult, multi-faceted, unappreciated and underpaid one)-- to teach the children.  At home I am teacher, cook, custodian, librarian, gardener, butt wiper, scientist, artistic director, naturalist,  etc.  
Never mind all of the other projects I've committed myself to, or that  I'd just like to make time for.
This fall I feel as though every spare minute of my day is spent cooking or teaching or reading, or attending meetings, or driving to lessons, or grocery shopping, or playing with Kale-- who sometimes can't possibly be told one more time to, "wait just a minute".  
I'll stop complaining long enough to point out that I love homeschooling.  I love spending the days with my kids and being a part of their learning.  I love that they have more opportunity to learn through living, and time to pursue their passions.  But, I also feel overwhelmed at balancing all that I want for them and what I need for myself.  

And so, last week, I found myself fallen over the bough, drowning at high tide.  

The evening before we were to leave for the weekend in NH I told Rob I needed to just stay home, and have a weekend to myself.  He wasn't psyched with the last minute change of plans, or the idea of our family weekend turning into a Papa trip.  But it worked out.  Rob took the kids to his dad's for the weekend, including a trip to the Deerfield fair and apple picking with my brother and his family. They had ice cream 3 times in one day.  
I stayed home and gardened, tended the bees, had dinner and a hot tub with my mom and sister, did some committee work, went for a 10 mile run, sewed myself two shirts, cleaned the house, and started a landscaping project in our future "orchard".  It was lovely.  

That same weekend I had a dream that I was watching a child swim.  I could see that he was going to drown if I did not help him, but I continued to stand and watch him, growing more and more frustrated that I was for some reason unable (unwilling?) to extend my hand and pull him from the water.  Eventually, with a huge sigh of exasperation (at myself, not the child) I was able to reach my hand out--actually flinging my sleeping arm across the bed, and waking myself up.    

I shared my dream with a running friend who happens to be somewhat of a dream specialist.  
"You saved yourself," she told me, "though you nearly let yourself drown."  

At Juniper's swim lesson this week they took turns lying on their bellies at the pool's edge, extending an orange noodle to their instructor.  "Grab on, I'll pull you to safety!"  It was pretty sweet to hear their different voices, some strong, others shy and quiet, all of them hauling their teenage instructor across the lane with their 8 year old arms.  

My weekend alone was like climbing back onto the boat.  I felt ready for our routine again, and able to keep up with my kids' enthusiasm, and to deal with their frustrations.  
But, I'm keeping that swim lesson in mind this week.  Thinking up a few orange noodles for when I need a little help staying above water.  This week that meant planning ahead so that dinner was ready when we arrived home after chorus at 5:30, and  a few extra minutes lingering in the sun on the deck with my coffee, and taking an hour to harvest cranberries and dig up invasive honeysuckle with Kale (yes, those are things I do for fun).  It may mean making sure I fit in a  long run in each weekend, or making a habit of staying up a little later to read a book I want to read, or to watch an hour or two of mindless media while knitting and relaxing with my Honey one evening a week.  I'm confident we'll figure it out.  

I also know that in a month or two we'll be settling into a different rhythm of wood fires and long reading sessions, and crafting. It will be a different pace, and at some point we'll find ourselves at low tide in our schooling,each of us following our own path, meandering a bit, exploring slowly and carefully, sinking our toes (so to speak) into the mud and rooting out whatever it is we're hoping to discover.  This knowledge is something else I can hang onto, knowing that there will be a time when the tide is out and I can catch my breath and ground my feet before we ride the next swell.  

1 comment:

  1. Oh, wow, my mouth was agape at all the things you did while your family was away, let alone what you do while they're there. You are amazing.


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