Let me start by saying I’m not an unschooler. I think when done well, unschooling provides an excellent education and is perhaps more challenging for the teacher than traditional schooling. Maybe I’m not an unschooler because I’m too lazy. That probably is part of the reason but the main reason I’m not an unschooler is that I like schedules. And checklists. I like plans. And planning. I like knowing what we are going to do and finishing it and feeling like we ACCOMPLISHED something.
I also like new beginnings. I like the New Year (both the one in January and the schoolish one in September). This year, we were all ready for school to start. I had plans a plenty. The kids were bored with vacation. We needed routine. We needed a schedule. I needed the satisfaction of crossing things off a list. We actually started school on Monday Jan 2nd. H. was home that day and it just made sense to start even though officially it was a holiday. (My office also didn’t take a holiday so I was starting back to work and all around it just felt like an ordinary Monday.) Monday went well. I planned a light day knowing that all of our brains would be a little sluggish after our roughly two week break and we had a great morning.
Then Tuesday came. John started complaining early on that he felt cold. And then he said he just felt tired and wanted to take a nap. At 8 years old, you don’t have to be a pediatrician to know that something is wrong. His temperature registered 104 and although he was a fairly cheerful sick person, sick he was. He remained sick the rest of the week and by Friday Ruth joined him. (David was recovering, having already had this particular plague over the holidays.)
I’m ok with sick days and if he’d been too sick to do any work, that would have been fine. But for the most part he felt ok, just a bit tired. So each day we just did what he felt up to doing. And by Friday what I could get done with Ruth feeling hot and clingy.
We did a science experiment/magic trick using candles to create a vacuum that sucks up the water in the plate. This was cool to watch and also cool because it actually came from a reading selection in Writing With Ease. He did the narration and then asked if he could do the experiment. It wasn’t planned for but I figured why not? We also read several chapters in The Mystery of the Periodic Table which was fun for both of us.
We read. A lot. John finished Inheritance on his own and started The Horse and his Boy (the only Narnia book he hasn’t yet read). We read a lot of picture books. We started on our plan to read the One Year Bible together. At night we read The Story of Dr. Dolittle and Mattimeo. At lunch we continued to read Little House on the Prairie.
In history, I’ve been somewhat unsure of what to do with Story of the World. Volume three wasn’t working for us so we’re embarking on our own American History focus. But John likes SOTW and wanted to continue reading it (the reasons it wasn’t working were complicated and may have had more to do with me than him). I’ve been a little bit at a loss as to how to fit in more concentrated American History and SOTW but this week we read 8 chapters of SOTW while snuggled in bed or on the couch.
There was a lot that didn’t get done. Spelling. Latin. Grammar. But John did do a fair amount of Math.David and I played several games of Fast Track (the Lego vehicles are our game pieces) and spent some time snuggled on the couch reading Bob Books. David also is loving Lollipop Logic and wants to do pages and pages in a sitting.
We also missed out on the normal fun outside activities. There was no co-op and no playing with friends. No piano lesson (although there was practice) and no basketball. We are a family that likes to be home but also likes to get out and the long days at home did make us all a bit cranky. It was also a cold week so there wasn’t much outdoors time with two sick kids. Still, even though the kids had more screen time than I normally allow and even though everyone had at least one episode of being really cranky, it was a good week. We had a lot of fun with our Five in a Row book and even did some tie-dying, something I’ve never done before (and the end results turned out great).
In the end this was a good week, not all that different from any other week. But it made me think about my approach to school. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a true unschooler. But this week did teach me that we can throw out a lot of the planning and still learn a lot. I’m pondering now how to apply that lesson to our non-sick days.