I am so proud to report that both of my little men finished their studies for what was supposed to be the 2011-2012 school year at the beginning of March. They absolutely love learning and they both soared right through their studies in just six months. (We didn’t begin school for the year until September.) While I don’t foresee this being a problem forever, (in middle and high school they can just take extra electives they are interested in, should they finish their studies early) I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation for pre-k and kindergarten. There’s not really all that much supplemental work that one can add, at least not one as creatively-challenged as me. So, we decided to have a big kindergarten graduation party for Andy and take the month of March off, in part to allow time to order new curriculum and in part because my schedule in March was so jammed packed that I could hardly breathe, let alone educate my sweet children. With that being the plan, we were slated to begin classes Monday, April 2.
All of the books arrived in plenty of time and the boys were thrilled to get working. They loved their books even more in person than they did one the internet. (I let the boys give input and suggestions regarding which books we use.) We cleaned out the school closet and got it all organized with our new materials. Everything was ready for Monday.
While it occurred to me as I was looking over suggested lesson plans, it became glaringly obvious Monday morning, that first grade is going to be much harder than kindergarten. Every day Andy is supposed to cover English, Math, Phonics, Reading, Religion, Spelling, and either History or Science (They alternate weeks, as they’re not considered core subjects for first grade.) We also got a Latin program, but I think we’re going to have to get into the swing of the year before we tackle that task. Each class is supposed to last less half an hour. (For those of you doing the math, yes that’s correct. Only 3.5 hours of actual work are required for first grade. What our sweet traditionally school children are doing for the remaining 4.5 hours is not related to actual learning, but rather classroom management, moving between locations, lunch time, busy work, etc. While I’m obviously biased, I’m very happy that I don’t have to miss out on 4.5 hours of my kids’ lives every day for that nonsense. But I digress…)
Anyway, Monday was a disaster. Well, not a disaster, but it certainly wasn’t enjoyable. We got the work done, and in less than 3 hours, but it was chaotic and bumpy and mostly unenjoyable. Granted, it was the first day. There are always bumps the first day. But our big bump was that I was trying too hard to follow the directions in the suggested lesson plans. (I learned this lesson last year, but apparently I needed a refresher.) While the suggested lesson plans are a great resource, they don’t know my kids or our family, and one of the reasons we homeschool is to tailor their education to their needs, interests, and learning-styles.
Since I’m obviously a slow learner when it comes to lesson-planning, we decided to take one more week off. It’s Holy Week. We should be out of school anyway. At least that’s what I told myself. Truthfully, Holy Week didn’t have a lot to do with it, as I only planned to take Good Friday off completely. The remainder of our Holy Week activities weren’t going to be affected by school, so I saw no reason to cancel. But, as an act of mercy to my relentless morning sickness, and as an opportunity to get my ducks in a neater row, we’re taking Holy Week off.
At first I wasn’t sure what to do to resolve the probelm, but it finally dawned on me. (Thank you, Lord, for always lighting my path.) Pushing through seven (less than) 30 minute classes every day is just stupid. Even for Andy’s (and my) super short attention span, it was just too much. It was too quick, too choppy, and didn’t flow well at all. So (drum roll please…) we’re going to give block scheduling a try. When I was in 9th and 10th grade I went to a school that did block scheduling. It works a lot like college classes. The students take 8 classes over the course of the year, but only 4 at a time. They complete 4 classes first semester and the second set of 4 after Christmas. I think that setup is going to work much better for us. But I’m torn, because I think, for younger children especially, reading, math, and religion need to be taught year round. So, I guess that leaves me with a combination of block scheduling and traditional scheduling. We will work on some classes all year long, while others we will focus on intensely in order to complete them quickly before moving on to something new. I’m really excited about this prospect, and certainly looking forward to Monday to see how the school day flows!