Once I heard a very, very good piece of homeschooling advice, perfectly tailored to my besetting character flaw of Stick-To-The-Schedulism. You know, the kind of thing that makes me inordinately upset about unexpected changes of plan.
It was this:
When the s#!t hits the fan,
or something entirely unexpected (good or bad) falls into your lap,
and your entire day is knocked off kilter,
and you're unhappily surveying the list of Stuff I Was Supposed To Do Today,
at the same time that you are looking at the clock and wondering how on earth you will catch up,
particularly if, against all reason, you are tempted to try to cram the whole day's work into the remaining hours...
... that is the time to pivot to a new mission for the rest of the day:
The remaining hours of this day will be spent putting tomorrow in order,
so that tomorrow will be the best it can possibly be.
Look at it this way. The few hours you have left in this "ruined" day must be spent one way or another. You can take them as "extra time for tomorrow" or you can take them as "remnants of today." Extra time for tomorrow is much more fun, more relaxing, and probably more valuable in the long run, at least for me.
Sometimes, when I've written off Today in favor of a head start on Tomorrow, we clean the schoolroom. Sometimes I catch up on records. Sometimes I make a meal plan or precook tomorrow's dinner. Sometimes I do long term planning. Sometimes I read to the kids or cue up a good movie. The next morning always feels like a fresh start, and usually it really is a good day.
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I bring this up because recent turns of events have led me to apply this same principle to the entire third quarter of our school year. Maybe the fourth quarter too, it's hard to tell.
Our baby was born Christmas week, just before the start of what I would call the third quarter, and three weeks earlier than expected. Then just as we were starting up again, H., my partner in co-schooling, pregnant with twins, had to go on bed rest. She delivered the twins five weeks early, around what would have been week 21 of my school year.
A month later, of course, we are still nowhere near starting up our "together" subjects again. My oldest hasn't quite stopped completely; he's working his way through Robinson Crusoe on assignment from H., and he's keeping up with history, but Latin and Geometry have been indefinitely suspended. H.'s twins (one beautiful girl and one beautiful boy) are doing pretty well, but feeding them is a round-the-clock job for her right now and for who knows how long?
So it's make-the-best-of-it territory.
- I have been experimenting with an unschooling approach on the two free days, while I take the extra time to work on next year's curriculum and organize thoughts for the overall high school program.
- We are using some of the time to polish up our Italian and French for our planned trip in the fall.
- In a similar vein, we're working through a DVD lecture series on Greek and Roman engineering which we bought last month ($250 would have been steep, but it's been completely worth the $70 or so that we paid to get it on sale.)
- My seven-year-old has rediscovered our favorite chess-learning program. And she's decided to work towards a sports pin (Bowling) for AHG, so we've checked some books out of the library so she can learn the scoring system. (Now she wants her own bowling ball, which might not actually be a bad idea since there are never any 6-lb house balls at the local lanes and I have two smaller children coming up behind her.)
- My thirteen-year-old has been building computer circuits out of redstone in Minecraft, which must set some kind of record for meta.
- I've had some time to sit down with my four-year-old and start working on letter-sound correspondence.
- And we're working on handwriting again using a new-to-me program that everyone is much happier with, especially me, because the exemplar font is not unlike the way I really write when I'm writing neatly but comfortably -- a sort of joined-italic-printscript. (I've had it with handwriting programs that don't have as their primary goals speedy and legible writing.) One thing that made this program, BFH, good for our family is that you can purchase a "handwriting intervention" program (Fix It Write) for older students. So my thirteen-year-old is using that, while the younger kids are doing beginners' sheets.
- Finally, I'm still working on my new time management resolutions (see previous posts starting here).
And you know, I think it's going all right. The truth is, with a new baby myself, I'm not really feeling all that energetic right now. I'm physically well, but I'm out of shape and tired, and having decided to take it a bit easy is turning out to feel like a better and better idea as the weeks go by and it gets more and more impossible to "catch up."
At some point, we'll just have to declare it Starting Over time.
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I have a feeling that when H. and I come back together again, we're going to be putting together something entirely new, based on our new needs.