Sunday, April 29, 2007

Streaming the Year

I am going to stream consciousness about this past year and how it’s gone in terms of homeschooling.

I started this blog almost a year ago while I was experimenting with “total unschooling”. I wanted a way to record and reflect upon what was happening in our days. I continued this during the summer.

I see that by September, though the days were still pretty unschool-y, I had started Kieron on Saxon 65, and I was doing some casual phonics with Aidan and Paddy.

By December I was immersed in processing information about Visual Spatial Learners. One of the main results of this was that I felt better about moving to a kind of eclectic type of homeschooling where we had some type of collaborative structure along with plenty of open time. It is hard to explain, but my concept of unschooling had locked out my sense of agency. The concept of collaborative learning and the understanding of the right-brained learner helped me get to the other side of the tangle I was in. I still can’t quite put it into words, as you might notice, but the difficulty resolved and now I just have to give it time to come closer to the surface to where I can verbalize it a bit better.

By January I had moved to a learning notes format as we worked through an Ambleside-type literature-based weekly schedule. We continued this through about March. Now in April, I recognize that the nice weather and other things going on meant that we were going to be distracted from the books and the winter daily rhythm would change a bit, so I strategized to put formal academics back to a minimum while I did some planning and pondering. (mostly the latter so far).

What is the point of this incredibly self-referential post? Well, I liked Owl’s Year in Review and thought that something like that would be a good way to get a perspective on what’s been happening in our homeschool. While I was thinking about it, I realized that this blog has provided me with the best record I’ve ever made of a homeschool year. Naturally, it by no means covered EVERYTHING, but there is a little cross-section of our year here.

Where do I see us going from this point? Well, during the summer I want to go back to recording the natural learning that takes place during a day. I missed that when I started logging specific curriculum-oriented details. I found the curriculum details useful in keeping us going and keeping me focused on the academic stuff, but I had less motivation to talk about those other things that happened in the day that were important but that didn’t fit into a “subject box”. Summer will give me some space to get back to that. There were some interesting posts in this series on “Learning Days” that made me think that it’s time for me to key in on connecting with my kids again. (I seem to do that cycle over and over!)

Next year, Clare will be a senior, Sean will be a freshman, and I think it will very likely be Aidan’s year to really get going on reading. So I see us continuing a Charlotte Mason/Classical type format with lots of literature, and steady progress in a few skills that I think are important. Last spring, I remember writing about how uneasy and “left out” I felt because I wasn’t looking over books and making plans. This year, I don’t see why this was such a big issue — why I didn’t think I could plan and prepare for what I thought the next year would bring, unschooling or not. If we go on a vacation, I plan and prepare even though I expect we will be doing most things spontaneously and willingly. Ideally, the preparation makes it possible to enjoy oneself more. Why should that not be the case with unschooly planning?

Unschooling acknowledges that there is more to learning than academics, more to life than learning. This is a bigger box, not a smaller one. I am not sure why for a few months I struggled with unschooling as claustrophobic. I think perhaps I defined it in such a way that it became a locked room rather than a spacious place. I think there are probably times when unschooling requires letting go of something that one has relied upon in the past, and that can give you an uncertain and floundering feeling for a while, but if it feels like oxygen-starvation it probably isn’t really what unschooling is about. Perhaps, to put it another way, there is a temporary oxygen-deprived feeling when you are exerting yourself, doing something new, climbing a slope to find a new view. But a longterm choking sensation like you are walking deep into a coal mine probably is something different.

Anyway, those are my thoughts right now — trying to see reflections in a stream! Seeing lot of little sparkling lights, but not getting much depth of perception!