When we initially made the decision to homeschool eight-year-old Phoenix this year, I did what I always do: I researched everything I could get my hands on. I checked out almost every how-to-homeschool book that was on the shelf at the library, I read piles of homeschooling blogs, joined a local Yahoo group, Googled curriculum choices, unschooling, deschooling, reschooling, homeschool laws, and on, and on.
When I had reached the million word mark, I really felt more confused than confident about how to homeschool. I was certainly more knowledgeable about all the different possibilities of method, but which one was right for me? More importantly, which method was right for my child?
As the beginning of the new school year drew closer, I enrolled her in a one-day-a-week enrichment school that is chartered in a local school district. Because they are a publicly funded school, they provide curriculum at no charge to the parents. Better yet, because the program is purely complimentary to the families’ homeschooling choices, and they serve many families with differing opinions, they provide a large variety of curriculum options to choose from. The coordinator cautioned new-comers against ordering more than the children could handle in one year, so I went to the curriculum book fair with that in mind. I came away feeling I had ordered just enough.
It all began according to plan. I planned lessons based on the books, organized days around the lessons, scheduled field trips to support learning, wrote daily assignments in Phoenix’s planner…
Two and a half months in, we had used only half the curriculum, given up on lesson plans, disorganized the days around what had been planned. We were frustrated. We were exhausted. Phoenix resisted every effort I was making to teach her.
So I stopped.
It was a convenient time to pause. Phoenix had been taking ballet for over three years, and this year, she had auditioned to be in a professional production of “The Nutcracker”. She got cast in two parts (exciting!), and was scheduled to rehearse/perform multiple times per week during the last part of November, and the entire month of December (crazy!). We decided that, because this was very time consuming, and took a lot of hard-work and dedication, that she would focus on ballet. We would temporarily stop “schooling”. I figured we could call it unschooling.
It is now January, and let me tell you, it has been wonderful. We quit arguing (about school, anyway), and have been able to simply enjoy each other’s company. We have talked to one another. We have listened. We have read books to each other, just because; gone to the library to check-out books on whatever piqued her interest; watched movies next to each other on the couch, and then discussed them over tea. Unschooling is awesome.
But the nagging voices in the back of my head won’t shut-up.
So for this, the second half of the school year, I need to find a happy medium (that sweet spot that is oh so hard to find sometimes). I cannot teach her directly–we tried that, and it doesn’t work well. She is a work-at-her-own-pace kind of gal, and really loves learning (which public school seemed to crush at times). I am not worried about her skill levels in any subject, but I also would like her to continue to learn new skills that she probably won’t find in a novel, and maybe not in everyday life. I’m going to have to get sneaky–like chopped-up-kale-in-spaghetti-sauce sneaky.
Phoenix loves kale now. Perhaps if she gets enough chopped-up multiplication and division in cookie recipes, she will love math too.
(By the way, seeing Phoenix perform in “The Nutcracker” with all the pros was an amazing thing. My big girl looked so tiny up on that stage).