Many people are starting a whole year of homeschool for the first time. After the scramble of the spring and what seemed like a jump off the deep end into doing (online) school at home, the idea of having more control over what we learn and probably more importantly how school happens was more appealing than trying to navigate changing and last minute decisions, hybrid, online, A group and B group. I get it
As someone on both ends of that conversation, basically every decision is a hard one at this point. I still maintain that this particular season in education is bringing some really important issues to the surface, issues as large as systematic inequalities (think the inability of many districts to offer online learning because of a lack of technology and internet connection among others) and as seemingly small (but not really) as questions about the role of relationships in education (how do you do that online? Hint, rethink pedagogy, course structure, and curriculum! See, not so small of a question) or recess (again, not so small. Starting with embodied experiences, time outdoors, physical activity central to planning rather than assessment completely changes what education looks like and shifts its goals and objectives). I digress.
There is a lot of excitement about planning and setting up rooms and finding the perfect planner or curriculum. And then the first week ends. Maybe week one went great. Maybe you got through about half of what you planned. Maybe you made it an hour into a day and needed to just stop.
We’re in our first break of the year, with about 6 (maybe 7) weeks under our belt. That’s two-ish projects and probably not enough language arts. And we (I) was ready to not plan another day. Because it doesn’t really stop unless you make a point of saying no work today.
I view our homeschooling in two ways. First, the things I plan for our Monday through Friday work week. The projects, the workbooks, the structured schedule of outdoor time, errands, chores, book work, free time, meals. That’s the stuff I document for recording purposes. But, there is a second part. And it includes everything else. That is the part that does not end. Just because we didn’t plan to work on geology doesn’t mean we’re not going to work on it. Projects continue. Questions are asked. Thoughts are shared. Regardless of the day or time.
I love/hate all the organize pictures of new school spaces. They are so satisfying until I look at what our home looks like by every Tuesday. (We try to reset each weekend, but the later we get into the semester, the more biweekly and then monthly that happens). Projects, books, supplies are everywhere! I tell myself it is evidence that learning is happening. The piles of rocks at the bottom of the porch steps, often happened upon in a new arrangement, and growing after every hike. The stack of drawings. The experiments that take weeks and seem forgotten until I try to clean them up amidst strong protest.
It’s never quite as we plan. Four years in, and I’ve let go of some of my expectations and learned when I can read about pedagogy and new curriculum Ideas (and when it becomes too overwhelming). I’m learning how much (or little) I need to plan to hit the sweet spot of making sure everyone has something to do without being overwhelmed. I continue to learn how my children learn, how they respond to challenges, and I how I respond to their needs. One kid needs short bursts of work times and refuses any help, needing to work out new ideas by themselves until it makes sense. Another needs one on one coaching through every step. We have a pretty good rhythm and as I was reminded recently, most of the work is learning to pay attention. A job for all of us - as teacher to the student, as student to the subject. And all of us to each other and the world around us.
Ruth M. Smith
Community arts educator and researcher. Drinking coffee. Home educating. Making art. Listening intentionally.