Seasonal Schooling - Or "Ahh, it's all too much!"

One of the things I've heard multiple homeschooling moms say when they hear we follow the Charlotte Mason philosophy is that they love some parts of it but the sheer number of subjects dear old Miss Mason expected a teacher to cover is overwhelming.

Why would they think that? I mean, it's only:
  • Math
  • Reading Instruction
  • History
  • Science
  • English 
  • Literature
  • Foreign Languages 
  • Picture Study
  • Geography and Map Work
  • Folk Songs
  • Composer Study
  • Hymn Study
  • Nature Study
  • Swedish Drill
  • Handicrafts
  • Music Theory/Solfa
  • Recitation
  • Poetry
  • Timelines
Oh, okay. I see their point. And I'm really only talking about early elementary students here. We add things like a Grammar, Latin and Dictation later. So, yeah, it's a lot when you put it that way.

So much learning about to take place!

The typical responses I've seen are either 1)Yes, but we also don't do x,y, and z (spelling workbooks, textbooks, writing/grammar curriculumn for younger grades, etc) so there is room for it and most of the "riches" as they are typically called (meaning folk songs and hymns, handicrafts, picture study, etc) don't take much time and each subject isn't done daily. Okay, that's true. I mean, we knock out Bible Memory, Family Prayer, Recitation, Hymns, Folks Songs,  and Foreign Language Folk songs in just 15 minutes at what we call "Table Time."

Or 2) they jump right into defending all those things because they're important. Also true. We love composer study and picture study and nature study and the folks songs and hymns. And I know that our homeschool life (or just our life in general) would be missing out on something without those things in it. So I understand why that's the first response. I don't think it normally comes from a judgement place and they think you'll be a failure of a homeschool mom if you kid can't sing a folk song or two but more of a "No! Don't leave that out! It's wonderful!" because - it really is wonderful!

BUT neither of those things really means that it isn't overwhelming at times, especially when you are coming from a reading, writing and arithmetic background. For me at least, there are two types of homeschooling schedule pressure. One is the day to day schedule. I have my list of what needs to happen and how do I actually make that happen when I'm interrupted by the toddler and disciple issues and bad attitudes at times and well, life! For the most part, I have a handle on this.

The second type of pressure is the mom head space type. I can legitimately only think about so many things. Make so many decisions. Keep so many mental plates spinning. This is the gets me the most. Even if singing folk songs and hymns only takes 5 minutes a day, I still have to 1) think about them and what we'll be doing for that and 2) find a spot in the schedule and get it done.  The pressures are real. Not insurmountable.  But real. Let's just admit it. Then realize the results are worth overcoming those pressures and come up with a solution. And what solution works for me might not work for you, but maybe it will. (Or if you've got this covered already, then by all means, keep doing it all. More power to ya homeschool mama!).

One thing we did was to start without the readings. I actually did a whole fall term of all the Ambleside Online scheduled riches with Lucy before we started Year 1 readings. Another mom I know did a few weeks of the riches and seat work to get into the right rhyme before adding the new years's readings. Those are different ways of building up to where you want to be.

Using Ambleside Online's schedule also helps. It's not that those folk songs are the only ones you can use or you'd be wrong to substitute other ones that you have easily available or have a reason for wanting to use. No, understand the principles behind the riches and use the resources that work for your situation. But having those there is really great because you don't have to think about those. I feel funny saying that because it sounds like I don't want you to think but what I really mean is save you brain cells for the things that need thinking!

The main things that seems to have helped me as I got started was taking a more seasonal approach to some subjects. Not that I did this intentionally at first but I'll take the credit for it anyway. We school year round-ish so the dates are a bit iffy but we're starting what I'd consider our third year of real school and the first two years I noticed at the end of a term that there was always that one or two things I just didn't get too or didn't do consistently enough.  I gave myself a lot of grace (or at least I tried to). I figured that as long as I'm lax with a different area each term, we'd be okay. And we were. But with a bit of time, I realized that often those areas we missed (or maybe to frame it in a better way, the areas we excelled at!) changed with the seasons.

It's August and we just hit the half way point of our second term (and year 2 as a whole. Woo hoo!). I had thought we'd be doing more embroidery right now but except for a two week period of overwhelming heat that killed all my cucumbers, it's been a really nice summer so we've been outside a ton and we've done basically no handicrafts or art. I've got 6 weeks of schedules with handicraft and art check boxes and nary a check! It's not that I think handicrafts or art aren't vital. I've started a series on handicrafts for the young ones (Form 1 and little siblings) and hope to continue it as we learn more. Last spring we were consistently doing art two times a week, rotating between three art programs, and the kids were begging for more. We love art and handicrafts! But something has to give at times.

And this winter, we probably won't be doing much formal nature study. I mean, we'll continue reading the Nature Lore books that are included in the Ambleside Online schedule and our local nature group will continue to have meet-ups that we'll join in with occasionally but we won't be spending 4-6+ hours outside and I know we'll be doing a lot less of structure nature study time after we finish our fun fall plans (that may or many not involved an ant farm and a honey tasting party! I'm excited!).

As we really incorporate this philosophy of education into our lives, it becomes part of our family culture and seems to find a way to continue even without all the formal structure. The formal structure part is good and necessary but we can also coast for a while as needed. We've built the habit of caring about nature so my kid's will still point out what they see and they'll want to draw the birds they see at the bird feeder or the show me the bug they find in the basement. But my brain gets a bit of break from planning that subject - so it can focus on another.

And next summer term,  I won't worry about thinking through our next handicraft and buying supplies. We'll probably have plenty of supplies left over from the fall and winter terms so on the occasionally stormy days, they can sort through those and find something to occupy themselves. And with time, some of the other riches will probably become more routine as well. I'll know that I always order my art prints from bestvalueprinter in August and I'll know it works best to put all my hymns and folks songs in a Spotify list and on a cd for the car and it won't be A THING I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT that looms over me so I might have enough brain space to plan all the things for all the seasons. But for now, this works.

Update: More thoughts about seasonal living in Part 2!

No comments :

Post a Comment