Back to (Home)school

This week, a familiar story happened to us: our computer crashed, and we hadn't backed up our data in years.  (Let this be a lesson!)  We were very fortunate that we were able to salvage the personal files that mean so much to us, as a family: the photographs and videos of the kids from the last couple of years.  (I can't imagine losing most of my youngest children's baby pictures!  Total heartbreak!) 

I breathed a great sigh of relief and believed it might have been a blessing.  We happened to have a computer (this one) in the closet that had been given to us for free by a friend of my aunt's who had upgraded his computer and wanted to pass the old one along.  Well, this computer is newer and faster and comes with more gadgets than our old computer!  This one had just been sitting in the closet for the longest time, primarily because I was too busy (read: lazy) to take the time to transfer all of the files.  Meanwhile, our old computer (the dead one) was so noisy that it sounded like an airplane was flying in our dining room.  I should have changed it then.  (Let this be a lesson!)  But we transferred the special files and didn't even have to buy a new computer.  How often does that happen?

Everything was fine, except that I cannot find any of Lolly's homeschool records.  None.  A whole year of records went poof.  (To be fair, her paper workbooks and lapbooks and computer tutorial records are all in the closet, and we have videos of some experiments on YouTube.)  Part of the problem is that I had the records stored on a desktop application, rather than online or even in a file on my hard drive.  Whoops!  I guess I thought that airplane-computer was going to last forever.

But with challenge comes opportunity.  I have decided to use this time to rethink our homeschooling for Lolly (officially a first-grader) this year.  We have different "obstacles" (we'll use that word) this year than we did last year.  For example, last year, Ola was a tiny newborn who slept most of the time or who was content to be held or rocked in a swing.  Now I have a one-year-old and a two-year-old who get into everything, and they have to be watched all the time.  The collateral damage has been everything from jewelry in the toilet to scribbled library books.  Plus, they are being homeschooled, too, so I can't just keep them in a room with some toys while I tend to more "important" matters with my oldest child.  I have to find a way to incorporate them into the homeschooling routine.

"We had no intention of staying inside today.  Are you kidding?"

Another obstacle is that I need time to myself.  No, I don't mean time to sit with a cup of cocoa and chat with a friend on the phone, though I might pencil that in next year.  I mean time to do work (I edit reports from home), time to do church work (my other unpaid job), time to clean the house (got to fix that collateral damage), and time to play on social networking sites.  (Did I just write that last one?  Whoops!)  How do I do that when my oldest child needs time to learn?

Baking a Father's Day cake from scratch: Home Economics.

We are neither an "unschooling" family (in the way that many of our friends are) where unstructured learning is the norm, nor are we a "traditional homeschooling" family where there are formal, scheduled lessons.  We fall somewhere in the middle, I suppose.  Typical daily "lesson":

Me: "You need to learn your XYZ this week.  How about you do some pages in your workbooks, play an educational computer game, read the books we checked out from the library, play the board games that tie in those skills, and do research to make an XYZ lapbook?"
Lolly: "Okay!  Can I also watch that documentary we've been talking about, and can we print out those worksheets?  How about I write a story about it?"
Me: "Sure, that sounds great!  I'll help get the materials.  In the meantime, you can get started, and let me know if you have any questions."

The schoolroom is anywhere, and amongst everyone, by necessity.

Dress-up counts as Dramatic Cooperative Play. 

With a few exceptions, that is how a "typical" homeschool day goes.  Lolly goes off to do her work with some pit stops - like playgroups and silent reading - along the way.  I record the work afterwards, and those records are what got lost when the computer crashed.  (Typical entry: "Used blocks to perform examples of subtraction with regrouping," or "Discussed important dates for Civil War.  Made timeline of events.")  Some days, we accomplish a week's worth of work in a few hours.  Other days, I feel like a slacker. 

Time at the library with some of her selections...

It helps that Lolly is very motivated and wants to learn, wants to be assessed, and wants to succeed.  (Last week, for example, I heard: "Please give me a spelling test!"   She did it with words she'd never studied; I made it up on the spot.)  She's also very independent.  I never need to tell her that it's "Reading" time; instead, I find her on the couch, curled up with a book.  She's been reading 12 chapter books on average, per week.  I can hardly keep up with her.

I love to be spontaneous, but sometimes, spontaneity is another word for disorganized.  I need to make this my priority because, well, it's my priority!  So I looked for another method. 

I thought that I knew all of the homeschool methods (Unschooling, Traditional, Unit Studies, Classical, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Montessori, Literature-Based, Eclectic, et cetera) that there were to learn.  I loved a lot about each of them, but I didn't want to commit to any of them.  Then I heard of the "Workbox" curriculum.

It refers to a specialized, independent, customizable, flexible curriculum.  Lolly could do her work, written or otherwise, based on prompts and materials in workboxes.  Obviously, I would still do many projects with her, but the advantage of this is that she wouldn't have to wait on me while I tended to the needs of the babies, a work project, or anything else.  She could work ahead as far as she could, and then stop when she had a question.  This sounds like a more organized way to do what we've already been doing.

I really like this approach, and I think I am going to try it, starting this week.  With backed-up files.


My prayer tonight.

If I curse diapers and late nights and the inconveniences of parenthood, remind me that there are those whose arms ache to hold a baby.  If I curse the coming of an empty nest, remind me that there are those would would give everything to see their children grow up healthy and independent. 

If I curse the work that sustains our family, remind me that there are those who would love to have any profitable work, much more that which would be safe and secure.

If I curse the compromises of marriage, remind me that there are those who will never be able to marry or even spend time with the person they love the most.

If I curse the marks on my walls or the noise of my appliances or the state of my furniture, remind me that there are those who do not have any of those things to call their very own.  If I curse the mess on the floor, remind me that it's because my home is occupied by people who love me. 

If my definition of "hungry" means that there is nothing in my kitchen that meets my cravings of the moment... if my definition of "lonely" means that my friend didn't call me back... if my definition of "tired" means that my eyes ache from reading my favorite books... if my definition of "injustice" means that I had to pay extra for my insurance... if my definition of "underprivileged" means that we don't get a vacation this year... remind me, Lord, remind me.

And Lord, if I ever complain about being bored, please give me some work to do, as there is so much that the world needs.