It's the middle of June, and here in the Northeast, the schools are winding down in anticipation of summer vacation. My nine-year-old neighbor blithely informed me that they are no longer really doing work, even though they still have two weeks until the last day of school. Brick and mortar schools are like that. The teachers and students know going into the school year the approximate date that they will be done. It doesn't matter if they've completed their books, or if every child has really understood the concepts taught. The calendar declares that it is time for break, and so it it is. Weak skills are left for the parents or next year's teachers to deal with.
People ask me all the time when we will be done with our homeschool year. It's never that simple to answer. I want to be done for the year, and have no responsibilities for the next three months. So do the kids. But I can't just quit teaching them at a random point in their studies. Because I am next year's teacher as well as this year's, I'll just make my own job harder if I stop too soon now.
Like most parents, no matter how they choose to educate their children, my husband and I are working to produce true students, who will be life-long learners in this ever changing world. We are working to raise children who set goals for themselves and don't quit until success is achieved. It's hard to mark that date on a calendar. It's also hard work at times, to motivate a child to keep trying and learning, but that's just part of being a parent.
When we first started to homeschool, we did try to keep to the same schedule as the public schools. We started our school year on the same day as them, and took all of the same holidays. So there we'd be, cruising along with our schedule, when suddenly the schools would have a long weekend, so we would take one too. This made class planning difficult, since many courses are set up with a five day week in mind. Often the rest of the world (including my husband) did not have the day(s) off, because it wasn't a real holiday, just administrative stuff.
I quickly realized that exactly following the school calendar didn't work for us.Now we still follow it roughly, in that we aim for a lighter schedule over the summer (while doing enough work not to lose skills), and we take off for major holidays. Sometimes our activities require days off that the schools don't have. We make our schedule work for us now. That is the built in flexibility of homeschooling.
We start out each school year trying to follow the suggested rate of the lessons in the textbooks. Since each grade level in our homeschool has only one pupil, that suggested schedule soon falls apart. We can and do progress at the rate of the individual child. Some subjects come easily to them, and we're done with the texts early. Others are more difficult, and then we take the time needed to be sure that the concepts are properly learned. We don't skip lessons, and we keep working until the books are completed.
So to sum things up, yes our 'official' school year will soon be done. We're wrapping up the last of the core subjects as I write this. My kids will soon have time to stay up late and sleep in. They'll spend lazy afternoons by the pool, and relaxing with friends. As a family we'll fit in some fun times and go camping. Summer will be everything that it should be.
That doesn't mean our learning stops though. Summer is a time when we can explore less traditional topics that interest us. It's also a time that we can use to improve certain skills in preparation for next school year. As the primary teacher, I've realized that true learning can't stop just because it's summer. We'll all pay dearly for it in September if I do.
linking to: Pour Your Heart Out