Friday, September 13, 2019

Minimalist Schooling: 7th and 3rd Grades

I recently wrote that I'm going through a challenging time*...something about still recovering from a year devoted to cancer treatments + a (minor, but annoying) physical issue of my own + exhaustion + + burnout + ?? and that one of my priorities this fall is school...but very, very minimalistic school. Even more minimalistic than my usual educational minimalism!

I have spent a lot of time thinking this, and re-thinking this.  Even before I was hit with burnout, I was carrying on a school-related conversation with wise Susan, whose perspective was invaluable to me, especially once I realized I needed to really re-group.

I don't know how things will unfold after the New Year, but for this fall semester, I am basically going to take my children to their normally-scheduled activities, and fill in a little bit of school at home around that.   What this means is that I'll be flexible with what I consider "school." Our activities outside the home provide a nice framework for learning.....

Robotics club? That's a lab science!

Ballet?  That's physical education!

Obviously music lessons count.

Our Charlotte Mason-based co-op provides my children with weekly lessons on Plutarch (2 lives/year), Shakespeare (2 plays/year), brush drawing, recitation, architecture, and handicrafts. I am so grateful for this!

Spanish class for both kids and my son's French tutor take care of foreign languages.  (Thank you God, for people who teach these classes!  My son loves languages and I can't teach them at his level! He is very serious about getting fluent, and I'm rusty at best in French and Latin.)

So those are a nice framework!

At home we will do:

Bible (daily at breakfast--that's the thing I'm best at in terms of consistency)

math lessons (Finn uses Math U See and Annie uses Horizons)

read-alouds or audio books (thanks Sarah! I need to do more audio books!)

daily music practice


(and my children will have homework for French, Spanish, architecture, and robotics, but they'll do that on their own)

And then occasionally, and only when I'm feeling up to it:

grammar/language arts-type things when and where we can (lower priority, but my son loves grammar and actually does it daily on his own--the joy of parenting an auto-didact!)(Annie uses The Good and the Beautiful Level 2 Language Arts, which we are really liking, and Finn uses Junior Analytical Grammar, which he loves and is almost done with, we'll transition to the next level soon)(also, Annie coaxed me into buying this book at Staples the other day and she's zooming through it....yes, my Charlotte Mason-educated daughter loves workbooks! why not!)

a history lesson (both kids together, using The Good and the Beautiful Year 1 History, which is very open-and-go and user-friendly, and lends itself nicely to Charlotte Mason's teaching methods)

And my children are also selling at the farmer's market once a month.  So that's handicrafts, economics, math, social skills.....

That's it. I don't think I can manage more.

But when I list it like that, even though in daily life it is pretty minimalistic, there's a lot going on.  We're covering Bible, math, literature, history, citizenship, music, physical education, life skills, crafts, art, science, and foreign languages.  And there's lots of margin for my children to pursue additional interests as well. (They both love to write!) This isn't a bad way to operate, it allows us to take part in the outside activities that we value and that I cannot teach (make no mistake that I'm incapable of leading robotics club or teaching ballet!), and gives us flexibility and breathing room.

I'm also taking an entire week off in October, part of Thanksgiving week, and either 3 or 4 weeks off in December/January.  And we want to really enjoy autumn, Thanksgiving, and the Advent and Christmas seasons!

This will be it for us this fall, and over our Christmas break I'll revisit things and see what to add, subtract, or swap.

I'm hopeful that this approach--using our outside activities as a framework, and filling in with the basics at home--will help me regain my sense of joy and energy, which are so important to me in leading my children and loving my family.

*               *              *

*Funny side note: I originally wrote this last weekend.  In the course of this one week:

 -We have had a new roof put on

-We trapped 2 feral kittens & surrendered them to a vet friend who will give them medical care and find them a good home--but I was sad because I had developed quite a relationship with one of them over the past month of feeding them on my porch at night..... :(

-I came down with a stomach bug that still (on day 4) has me SO hungry yet with no appetite, and down to my lowest weight ever (LIKE EVER--I am sure I weighed less at some point in my childhood...maybe middle school?? late elementary school??); this is not ideal, and I really miss eating.

-I completely forgot an orthodontist appointment (in my defense, it was the first day of the stomach bug).

-My husband hit a deer on the way to work and his car is now in the shop indefinitely (he's fine, thankfully!).

-Our thermostat completely went kaput (hoping my husband can fix it tomorrow!)

-A few days after her Nutcracker audition, Annie twisted her ankle

-Was up 8+ times in one night with our geriatric dog (when you go to bed at 10:30 and at 3:30 realize that you've already been up 6 times, that's what we call not a good night's sleep). Usually I'm only up 3-4 times with him.'s no wonder I'm tired!  And it's no wonder that I need minimalism these days.

Here's hoping that I can start eating again (!!) this weekend, that I will not miss appointments or beg off of obligations in the coming week, that no one will have any other car incidents, that the dog will sleep well, and most of all that I'll have a clear and clean and uneventful and un-newsworthy and unremarkable visit to the oncology specialist on Tuesday.  Whew.

May it be so!

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, your week makes ME tired! That same stomach bug has been going around here, and it sounds dreadful. I'm tempted to hibernate inside my house to avoid it . . .

    You're so smart to pare down to a manageable level for you. I think I've told you that we took off three months the spring after I had Sarah Grace. I was SO worn out! The kids were fine, and nobody really regressed. And then a couple years in a row we've taken off the bulk of December, (except my high schooler) and called it "Christmas School." It consisted largely in helping me get ready for Christmas, and watching loads of old Christmas movies. Again, it was very restorative to me, and the kids all read so much that they never seem to take a step backward when we take a break. I hope your fall does the same for you! :)