Planning: Here and Now

IMG_0048

The planning posts on this blog are by far the most popular. If they help someone get organized and make sense of their homeschool year, that’s great. However, my personal planning looks very different these days. For one, I’m not spending very much time doing it this year. My program for certification in spiritual direction goes into high gear in September, and that is taking precedent as far as my time and attention. And as much as they would love it, I’m not giving the boys free rein. I will be combining our learning (4th and 8th grades), streamlining how we do things and yes, even doing math on the computer. It’s a brand new day! And honestly, I’ve never felt more at ease.

Here is an overview of what homeschooling will look like at our house next year.

  • Math: Vincent used Teaching Textbooks for math last year and that is what saved us when we were shipwrecked. The lessons are short, thorough and fun. He will be finishing Math 7 this semester and then begin Pre-Algebra somewhere around December or January. Jude will also be doing TT; Math 4 for him.
  • Science: Vincent will be reading the textbook and completing the corresponding workbook of Joy Hakim’s Story of Science. The first volume, “Aristotle Leads the Way” is mostly a review of how we have done science in the past (largely through biography and a historical progression of thought). Jude will be studying animals, primarily through art/nature journalling. Actually, I’m planning for the three of us to do this together and will detail my ideas in a separate post.
  • History: Both my boys love history. Up until this point, Vincent has studied world history chronologically. This year, I have decided to focus solely on American history, using Joy Hakim’s series, A History of US. (Yes Joy Hakim is my new BFF.) My plan is for all of us to listen to one volume per month via audiobook. (The entire series is available at Audible and I purchased the actual books from thriftbooks.com. If you don’t know this site, you should. And if you want a coupon, give me your email in the comments. I won’t publish it on the blog, but will email you privately.) Vincent will be doing some combination of note booking, timelines, maps and extra reading. I picked up a few of Anne Rinaldi’s I am America books at a library sale this summer and think they will be a great resource. Jude will be following along, and his reading will be focused on the “American Girl” series. (Mothers of Boys: don’t let the marketing fool you. These are great books – both the fiction and the non-fiction.) Jude will also be studying the local history of our home state of North Carolina, mostly through stories and geography.
  • Language Arts: Vincent will continue with some parts of the BraveWriter curriculum, most especially The Arrow. He will also be working with the Editor in Chief series from Critical Thinking Company. Jude will be working on spelling (please let this be the year it clicks!!) and handwriting through a daily notebook. I have never done anything like this before, but saw this one and it looked like a great idea with some modifications.
  • Art: I have wanted to do an art history program for the last couple of years, and this summer found exactly what I wanted at one of my favorite places to shop for curriculum: the Salvation Army. (I’m not even kidding.) I found a series of high quality coffee table books called Great Museums of the WorldEach volume profiles an individual museum (Uffizi, The Louvre, The Tate, The Rikjsmuseum, etc) with architectural information, historical facts and of course wonderful photographs of their permanent collections. My plan is very, very casual: put a different book in the living room every month or so with a pad of post-its to mark our favorite pieces. I’m hoping it will become part of our family’s discussion around the dinner table.
  • Story Time: Story time continues to be an anchor in our day. We have several series that we read every year and always look forward to the new installment: Harry Potter (Book 2), Anne of Green Gables (Book 4 or 5; can’t remember), Little House (Book 4), Swallows and Amazons (Book 5 or 6) Story of the World (Book 3). I’m sure there will be plenty of animal and American fiction, and maybe even a reprise of one of our favorite books ever. I only use audiobooks now, but this is an idea of how we got started.
  • Filmstrip Friday: We have been watching a variety of documentaries on Fridays for about a year and half now and it is consistently the highlight of our week. I am not a movie person and neither are my boys, so this was a real surprise. We have watched some real gems on a variety of subjects, but our favorite – hands down – has been The National Parks by Ken Burns. It took us 3 months to watch the whole thing, and we loved every minute. It even inspired our trip to Yellowstone next month . . . which is why we are starting school so early this year. August 3 is our first day!

Sunday Selections

IMG_9060

a woman can’t survive
by her own breath
alone
she must know
the voices of mountains
she must recognize
the foreverness of blue sky
she must flow
with the elusive
bodies
of night wind women
who will take her into
her own self
look at me
I am not a separate woman
I am a continuance
of blue sky
I am the throat
of the sandia mountains
a night wind woman
who burns
with every breath
she takes

– Joy Harjo

Sunday Selections

IMG_9998

It seems to me that
paralleling the paths of action, devotion, etc.,
there is a path called art
and that the sages of the East would recognize
Faulkner, Edward Hopper, Beethoven, William Carlos Williams
and address them as equals.
It’s a matter of attention and discipline, isn’t it?—
combined with a certain God-given ability.
It’s what you’re willing to go through, willing to give, isn’t it?
It’s the willingness to be a window
through which others can see
all the way out to infinity
and all the way back to themselves.

– Albert Huffstickler, “The Way of Art”

Shipwrecked

IMG_0607

Consider this part two of my homeschooling breakdown/breakthrough – henceforth known simply as “the story”. (If you are just joining us, you may want to read the introduction and part one first.) When we last left off, I was excited about my plans for the upcoming year. I always like to have a theme/intention to guide us and even wrote a guest post about this way of approaching homeschooling. I still stand by this intentional approach, however, I will warn you: setting an intention is powerful, and it doesn’t always manifest as planned. Last year, I learned this lesson in spades.

Our intention of ‘setting sail’ conjured wonderful imagery: tall ships, billowing sails, the expansive sea. We made these sweet little boats, read the first book in what has become one of our favorite series ever and even did a bit of form drawing for good measure. All seemed well . . . until everything went wrong. I shared this by admitting to treading water last October, but really it wasn’t until April, when I read this line of poetry that I realized the extent of the damage: “Trust deep water and head for the open even if your vision shipwrecks you. I still get a lump in my throat when I read those words, because we were absolutely shipwrecked.

I am trying to be careful in this retelling. I don’t want to veer off into dramatic and inflated language. I don’t want to strangle the metaphor. I want to tell what happened as plainly as I can. Looking back, it is so easy to see the grace, the humor, the irony and the little glimmers of hope. But that is not how it happened in real-time. All I could see in the moment was everything that I thought to be solid crumbling around me. The word “breakdown” is not hyperbole nor is it of the nervous variety. It was a breaking down of everything upon which I had built my identity – namely homeschooling with Waldorf-inspired methods. That is hard to admit – even today – when I know this story has a happy ending. I had not expected to confess that in this space, but it is integral to the story. Actually, it is more than integral; it is central. Homeschooling my boys had become who I was. All I was. Or so I believed at the time.

***

On Monday morning, I was having coffee on my side porch, thinking about this draft that I started more than two weeks ago. What was so hard? Why was I getting tangled up in my own words? Why can’t I just tell the effing story? And why the hell did I start telling it in the first place? Staring out over the hayfields to the row of pines beyond, I thought back to the comments I received when I first hinted about my struggles with homeschooling this past year. The response floored me. And that is why I wrestle with the words. I want to tell this story so you don’t feel like you’re the only one – the only one who can’t make your home/homeschool resemble what you see in blogs, in books or even in your imagination. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: the internet is not real life. We all know this cognitively. But emotionally? That’s a whole different ball of Waldorf-inspired beeswax. That is where the work comes in. And the work is what I want to talk about going forward.

As you begin to look forward to next year, take care, my friends. And go gently. xoS