Maybe the thing that Mark and I love best about homeschooling all the children is that we set our own schedule. Nobody tells us how much time we get to spend with our own children. Nobody tells us how much homework we have to supervise each night. Nobody tells us when we are allowed to go on vacations, or when we have to come home. We decide when to get up in the morning and when to go to bed.
All that is about to change this coming week, and I'm bracing myself for it.
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My oldest is a high school senior, and in this last semester of school-at-home he has elected to take a few college courses at the state's flagship university, for which he'll get both high school and college credit. Our main motivation for encouraging this is to get him used to rigid demands on his time, after twelve and a half years of flexibility and personal attention, before he has to jump right into full time college next year.
Q. Why didn't he start in the fall and get two semesters' experience?
A. Because we wanted to take a long family trip in September.
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So I'm sitting here making a spring-semester daily schedule for the rest of us, for the first time ever; up till now, our schedules were always good for a full year. I'm deleting the two meetings a week I had in the fall with our oldest to teach him Calculus II; I'm deleting our once-weekly meeting for Religion; I'm moving Physics II to the afternoons. He won't have English with H. anymore, although we'll still do Latin IV together on our coschooling days, along with H's oldest who is otherwise a full-time college student himself now.
Besides Latin IV and Physics II with me (twice a week each), he'll be taking microeconomics, calculus (again), and contemporary literature, for ten college credits. I heartily approve of this schedule. I think it will be challenging but not overwhelming. I am glad he is taking economics from someone who is not me. I am glad that H. concentrated on composition for the first half of his senior year, and am satisfied that contemporary literature will slot nicely and with novelty into a high school curriculum intentionally dominated by classic works.
He will have to be on campus by eight a.m. most days, nine a.m. the others; conveniently, Mark can drive him there on the way to work, much as he used to drive me while I was in my Ph.D. program at the same university. He can get home on the bus most days. On Mondays I will fetch him from campus on my way to H.'s. On Thursdays H.'s son will fetch him on the way to my house. We shall see how well this commuting plan works.
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We are going to have to take our ski trip during Spring Break this year, instead of in February, and we can't take any extra time to drive leisurely. This fact keeps blowing my mind.
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Another thing that's different: I am going to have to assign him fewer chores than his siblings this semester, despite the fact that he is by far the most competent chore-performer in the house.
Currently, he does a lot of child care, lunch-making, dishes, and daily sweeping-up, as well as the monthly pickup we have to do before the professional housecleaner arrives, the occasional cooked dinner, and assistance with some household project of his dad's.
(Not to mention reaching a lot of things from high shelves for me.)
This aspect of his absence is going to be really difficult, so habituated am I to yelping to him for help all day long. I've calculated: He really should be spending forty hours a week on his studies, if you add up class time and homework time and commuting, and include the two high school courses he's still taking from me.
We'll still be requiring him to do some chores, of course; they're part of living in a family. But we are going to have to dial it back. I'll probably have a talk with Mark and work out how many hours a week is a reasonable amount for a full-time student living at home to contribute (mental note: should be at least as much time as he spends playing online games), and from that derive a list of which responsibilities he should keep and which I should dole down the line to his younger siblings.
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The silver lining: I, too, have to ease into the time when my young right-hand man heads off into the next chapter of life. I'm really excited for him. I can't wait to hear how his classes are going. I'm pleased, vicariously, at the thought of this firstborn launching into the world. I remember well the intoxication of leaving home and finally having power over my life, my environment---indeed, over my schedule.
I'm so happy for him that he is finally going to be able to pass into that part of life. Even if, temporarily, I have to live with his schedule for a while first.