When the culmination of the long – awaited autumn begins to come to pass. The leaves are falling, the trees patch-worked with yellow, the blueberry bushes are glistening with fiery red among the summer green.
And on that poetic note, we have officially begun our school year.
And this year, along with every year preceding in which we have homeschooled, I was beset with a familiar breed of anxiety.
What should we do this year?
Are they getting enough?
What about another curriculum?
THE SPELLING. The spelling needs big help. And fast.
This anxiety led me, as it always does, to yet more familiar googled paths. These paths are well-worn. I’ve researched Sequential Spelling, All About Spelling, Spelling Wisdom, Spelling Power, Rod & Staff Spelling, and what all the moms on Simply Charlotte Mason and the Well-Trained Mind Forums have to say about spelling. I would decide to order one, then research a bit more and find out that what do you know? There is another family with whom that curriculum hasn’t worked well for. So I’d begin to doubt, toss it around, and that led me to yet another spelling program that I needed to rabbit-hole down into.
Other familiar paths were My Father’s World, (love this curriculum, and I’ve researched it every August for the past 5 summers.) various reading curriculums, (because – kindergartener this year!)
In the middle of all of this, I had decided we needed more routine in our days, so I began a non-school-ish routine of school. This involved lots of reading out loud, sometimes having the boys do a bit of copywork on subjects interesting to them, and more reading out loud. History, Little House on the Prairie, picture books, you name it. Audio books, too.
Suddenly…. I realized….
This is how we homeschool.
Yes, we officially “began” two weeks ago. But before that, we were already doing school.
Before we “started school”, we were doing things like researching crawdads, finding amazing butterflies to pin on our makeshift insect board, and finding inchworms that matched the deep violet cosmo it was crawling on.
The boys began catching all manner of creek creatures after having overnight company a few weeks ago. (Dear friends of ours from CA who doted on our kiddos so much that I’m pretty sure the two days they spent here will not be soon forgotten.) Thomas and Michelle arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, deposited their clothes in the guest room, and Thomas asked our boys what they liked to do best.
When they told him they liked to play outside, he said “Well, let’s go outside, then!”
Within an hour or two, he had helped them make a crawdad-catching trap down at the creek, along with a spear. They caught crawdads, and had the most absolute time of their lives.
All of this resulted in a two-crawdad boil, which they ate with Cajun butter. Crawdads are not very big. Just saying.
Since then, we have a clear plastic Rubbermaid drawer on our front porch (it’s beautiful front porch decor at it’s best, let me tell ya) and it’s filled with rocks (“so the crawdads have something to crawl under, Mommy!”) and minnows and whirligig beetles (which are seriously so much fun to watch) and the occasional lettuce leaf bits for food.
So they have drawn their finds and we’ve read about crawdads. Science. No curriculum. Whaddya know.
Did I mention the baby mouse that wasn’t completely formed (I don’t even know what to call it. Or why it ended up on our front porch. Possibly Socks the cat could tell us.) that was brought in this week? Yes, in. As in, inside. And it’s been in a jar. Green beans, anyone? Oh, gross. Seriously. This is the kind of science that you just can’t manufacture.
I have a notebook on the table for them to write down questions they have and we google them. (There’s some doozies in there, like “Who was the most famous person in 1800?”)
We randomly decided to learn about Bach, and have been listening to some of his cello suites. (I feel so classical-musically accomplished that I even know now that Bach had anything to do with cellos or suites. But they happen to be some of my favorite music now.) We watched a mini biography, read some more about him, and sketched a picture of him to put on our history timeline.
(Read, we sketched it to put on because it’s not on yet ….because after having these timeline books for three (?) years now, and I finally put all the dates in the little corners…. I realized that I had spent a whole century or something with dates missing from the book. As in, one two page spread said 1700-1710 and the next said 1720-1730. And I’m pretty sure there are really important things that happened between 1710 and 1720. And between 1730 and 1740. I was seriously annoyed.)
So we did all those sorts of things. And it wasn’t really school. You know? But it was.
They are delighting in life.
In crawdads and whirligig beetles. In poetry that we laugh like crazy about. In Pa and Ma and Thomas Jefferson and Sacagawea and in how long the Great Wall of China is.
Although, trust me, not every day feels delightful. The “first actual day” of school I got the brainy idea to take pictures. It was going to be so great. Pictures of each of them, and I was only wishing I had cute little blackboards for them to hold up saying which grade they were in. They cooperated for the most part, amidst “go over there, it’s better lighting!” “Nooooooo we can’t this is right where there used to be a HUGE YELLOW JACKET NEST!!!!” “No, no, (to miss E) you can’t run in circles, stand STILL. BOYS. Stop tickling/sticking your tongues out/wrestling.” Eldest rolls his eyes at his extremely uncooperative and immature siblings. Youngest runs circles. Second oldest flops on the ground. Second youngest chases a kitty she must hold for the picture.
It was great fun, let me tell you.
And we won’t even talk about the day of the eclipse. Other than the clouds + several behavioral malfunctions + a weary mama + no coveted cardboard glasses so we made some sort of ramshackle cereal box projector = eclipse viewing fail. There were a couple people in the house who thought they probably had missed out on The Single Most Important Event in History. Thankfully the disappointment was curbed by finding several YouTube videos. Not the same, but it helped.
So here we are, two weeks in, and I haven’t ordered a spelling curriculum yet. I might – I’m leaning towards Spelling Power or Sequential Spelling. But we have been doing dictation – (where you take a passage, they study any words they are unsure of, and I dictate it to them, and they write it out, and then practice any words they miss.)
I couldn’t believe my eyes when one of them wrote out a large three stanza poem on George Washington yesterday. And missed only three words. And I realized that he is getting spelling, by reading a lot, by continuous copywork, and by growing up.
We’ve had more of a routine since we “started” and they’ve been settling back into multiplication, fractions, writing, journaling, sketching, and by now we have finished Little House in the Big Woods.
I’m feeling much more ok with where we are and with what we are doing. It’s hard to believe we are on year 6 of homeschooling this year… I still feel very much like a newbie. But my kiddos are growing up, and my 5 year old who was a baby one summer not so long ago is learning her letters and sounds, and writing every new letter she learns (mostly combinations of A’s and N’s). And my biggest is almost 12, just one year away from a teenager. I can’t believe how fast time is going, and I can’t believe I’m in my mid-30’s either.
I don’t want to waste a minute of these fleeting days. My babies are growing up.
I read a blog post written by a mother whose youngest is 21 …that she wishes she could tell her younger self just how short these years would be. That her children’s years as children are much fewer than their years as adults. I began to realize that the next ten years will make me 44, my oldest 22, and my youngest 13. I want to make the most of each year, each month, each moment.
Somehow, August seems to do it to me every year. The hand-sweaty panic of how can I do this and what are we doing and what about all the stuff we aren’t doing.
But September’s here now, bringing with it promise and hope and perspective.
And I’m excited to dive into another year of this homeschool journey. It just might be the best yet.