Friday, May 4, 2012

Making Peace with the 180-Day Mindset

I don't think I could ever be an unschooler.  Some days I really want to be one and even start researching and wondering about the feasibility for us, but I honestly don't think I could ever completely join their ranks.  For one, there's just too much commotion over semantics on that side of the fence.  Now, I'm always up for a good argument or debate (my mother still laments my choice to not pursue a career in law), but I refuse to argue over semantics.  The argument over the definition of unschooling aside, I just don't think I could ever completely lose the 180-days mindset.

I've been thinking a lot lately about scheduling (it's that time of year again, right, when we start thinking about next year before we finish this year), and how to make peace in my own head with the desire to be more free with our learning and to get in those required 180 days.  We're lucky to live in a state that only requires 180 days of schooling.  It's a very simple requirement.  So simple, in fact, that it's easy to trip over the concept when planning a year.  What counts as a day?

Does making sun tea count?  Does identifying that caterpillar count?  What if that's all we do that day?  Do those things still count?  

I reconcile it all, for my own sanity, like this:  Most things we do count.  At least in the grand scheme.  I'm a big fan of the idea behind unschooling or, maybe more appropriately, Free Range Learning.  The idea that learning never stops.  I strongly cling to this idea.  It's part of who we are, as a family, and it's partly why we homeschool.

But there are certain things I want to teach my children.  Sometimes in a certain order.  There are certain things my children want to learn.  There are certain things we (my kids included) want to plan for ahead of time.  Enter those 180 days.

When I sit with my calendar and plan when we will have "school" and when we won't, I am well aware of the fact that more learning takes place on some of our non-school days than on the planned days.  That said, I still plan.  I have to.  For my own sanity and for the sanity of my children.  So while we might have 365 days of learning, we have 180 days of planned learning.  We plan for a theme/block/focus each month.  We plan for interest-led units.  We plan for a mix of copywork, assigned reading, math practice pages, projects, and any number of other activities.

Then, we wing it.

Do we accomplish every single thing I planned?  No.  And I wouldn't want to, either.  We get most of it done, and the rest we push back, put in next year's monthly folder, or ditch completely because it was a stupid idea in the first place.  (Just kidding, no ideas are stupid . . . they're only stupid if you do them anyway after you realize there's no way in hell they're going to work in your house.)  This flexibility means we're free to add in a fun activity we saw on pinterest, or replace a day's plans with gardening, a field trip, or free reading on a backyard blanket on a particularly gorgeous day.

So, there you have it.  My way of making peace with my desire for year-round unschooling and my need for a more traditional 180-day calendar year.

Most things count.
They just don't all count toward our 180 days.


  1. I get it!
    But around here, if they "count" I count the days too--that said, I don't document "attendance" on any kind of regular basis. I suppose that should change since I have a high schooler now. :)
    I'm more of a "if it works to do five math lessons in a day, and you finish the book early, you get credit for math this year" kind of person...then we will order the next level and you can have a head start!

  2. I completely agree! I'm pretty sure I'll get much more easy going about this as they get older and start doing more work on their own. I also think that because my oldest did go to school for a while, she still keeps it in my head with all of the "When are we finished with school?" and "Are we having school next week?" questions. People weren't kidding when they told me it would take about three years to really settle in . . .

    1. it took me three solid years. not sure why that is the learning curve, magic number...then there are still DAYS, but part of that for my own peace of mind is needing to do better at keeping some sort of record other than "oh! we finished the book!" :) do you keep a standard attendance chart, or what, and (bigger question) HOW do you remember to update it daily? yep. ten years, and i cannot answer that one little problem....a little too RELAXED, maybe? (at least i want to be)

    2. Good to know. :)

      I keep a one-page yearly calendar in my regular folder/binder/thing where I keep each week's work. I just circle the days we do "school" and add them up. I'm considering using one for a plan at the beginning of the year and then not circling the days though for next year . . . it's all shifting again. Some days I just was to rip it up anyway.

  3. Did this post grow out of our email conversation? :) I used to just jot down what we did each day for my own peace of mind (really loosely), and that's probably what I'll do in the fall. I figure I want one datebook to actually plan things, and another to make notes--that will be like an attendance book, I suppose. Although my middle is already asking if we'll have weekends when we homeschool...sigh. School did this to them, created this idea that you take a break from learning...even though they don't, not really, because that's how we roll, too.

  4. Oh, yes, this has been brewing in my head, and our emails just got it stuck in there. :)

  5. I hear you on this. Every day we are learning something. And the days we are "off" they often learn better than the ones where I plan everything out.

  6. Here too, Pam!

    I probably should add that I do include the girls in most of the planning. Just this morning I asked her to make a list of all the things she wants to learn this summer, top of her list is "how to cook soup."


Thanks for visiting my site! I love hearing from readers, and I do my best to answer all questions here in the comments section. Thanks for reading and commenting!