Moving Right Along

So . . . the rest of December. Well, after the last duckling had the last relapse of throwing up we had about a week of relative health. During which time we had torrential rain, our storage sprang a leak, and about half of the book boxes had to come over here to be checked for damage. (Fortunately only one cookbook got really wet and the rest seemed to air out quickly.) So on top of the general mess I was not keeping up with, we had a couple dozen boxes of books. They’re still there.

Because, that Saturday, the dreaded stomach bug hit the grownups simultaneously. After two days of the acute version we have managed just barely to drag through regular life for the past two weeks, but we are still barely able to eat. And yes, that would have been with Christmas and New Year’s and everybody home from college and other Faraway Dangerous Places.

So . . . school? We finished The Nutcracker. And Robin Hood. We’re still reading The Carpet and the Phoenix and they are getting more out of it all the time.  The twins have been listening to Madeline and Katy and the Big Snow and books about zoos. We’ve still done copywork and our singing time and gotten outside whenever I could get vertical before the sun went back down.

That’ll have to do for this month.

Now, since it’s the new year, it’s time to think of new plans. I’ve been realizing that our favorite and most meaningful thing we did all last year was the project on the planets. They still talk about and draw up the planets.

My long-term plan has been rather influenced by wanting to do Ambleside Online, or at least a heavily-adapted version of it. I think Charlotte Mason has the best ideas about children’s education, the right mix of rich material and child-friendly approach. But since I wanted to start the older two together and D2 is still well shy of six, I’ve been waiting and doing other things in the meantime.

Now I’m wondering if we should just stick with the “other things.” Not that we won’t be heavily influenced by Charlotte Mason, but I’m not sure I can follow a set program. I find it awkward to keep so many different books going at once for so long. And . . . this is the clincher . . . I want to let the children have a great deal of say in what we study.

The more I reflect on it, the more I realize that the approach to school I first envisioned when D1 was an infant and D2 still kicking my inner organs is still exactly the way I want to do things. It suits me; it suits my children. More flexibility and choice; discrete packets in which we do one thing and then move on. (It hurts my head to try to think a whole term in advance–a month is about all I can handle.) Freedom to do projects (which they love) without me having to be the driving force.

Narration has been a real problem, as I’ve mentioned before–not that their narrations aren’t adequate for their age and level of practice, but that they are so far below what I know they can do with motivation. But they don’t see a reason to be motivated when we all just read this together. Why not let them read on their own different materials and then share? Then there’s a reason for narrating clearly.

A couple of weeks ago I pulled out a yellow pad at breakfast and asked them to tell me what they wanted to know about. They exploded with questions and ideas. Even D3 contributed that she wanted to learn about animals in the zoo. I said I wanted to get back into studying different parts of the world, but they vetoed Japan as next (which made geographic sense to me) and suggested France instead. Well, why not? D2 also had a lot of science questions.

I still want to do our best to get living books, when available, but I don’t want to ignore a topic just because there aren’t tremendously great living books on the topic at the current age level. We will always have at least SOME of our books at any given times being great literature. I don’t know if we can ever manage short lessons, except on things like copywork, or following a set schedule for different subjects. My mind thinks in chunks, with infinite connections. I need to make room for that.

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