When we first started homeschooling (after two years of public school for the oldest), I intended to take things easy. Lots of deschooling. The problem was that my kids were always bickering and craved structure. We tried different routines to see what worked for us, and the girls gradually learned how to occupy the same space. But those routines were a slippery slope to structured educational activities. In no time, despite my intentions, we had jumped into "school" mode and stayed there.
I did recognize that were were going down a path I didn't care for, but balance is difficult. I don't ever see us becoming radical unschoolers, but we do believe in a lot of the principles of child-led, interest-based, lifelong learning. At the same time, I feel we need the structure of some sort of simple, regular math program and an ongoing chronological examination of history. These two sticking points form the spine of our school days, and I start our planning there and fill in other activities around them.
Inspired by Lori's Project-Based Homeschooling book and blog, we've added project days to our weekly routine. Twice a week, the girls are completely in charge of what they want to do. Their projects range from making commercials to drawing and writing character sketches. With, of course, the occasional duct tape contraption thrown in. They choose, they plan, they execute. I assist if needed, but only if they ask for help.
Really, there's a lot more to project-based homeschooling than this, but this is how we decided to start. Baby steps. I really enjoy that we can shift to this mode of learning at our own pace, and, as Lori emphasizes, in conjunction with any other methods we choose to continue implementing.
Still, I feel like we've hit a wall recently. Maybe it's the change of seasons, maybe it's some nagging issues with not deschooling from the beginning. Whatever the reason, I'm feeling itchy lately. I think that in order to properly implement some of Lori's other ideas, I need to learn to let go more. Maybe that's not the right choice of words. I want to let go. I know how to let go. But it isn't a regular part of my being yet.
So that's my goal for the month.
To let go.
To shift from planning their work ahead of time, to recording the work after they do it.
It sounds like a simple shift, but for a planner and reforming control freak, it's a big shift. We'll still move forward with math and read about frontier life and Pa and Laura and the whole gang, but it will be one foot in front of the other with long stretches of time set before us to question and explore. To soak in the month. To play in the mud and get dirty. To do all the things we have been doing, but without the pressure to hurry up and move on to something else. To relax and do exactly what we should have done during those first few months of homeschooling.
To let go.