I always enjoy the beauty and cooler weather of fall, and this year it seems to be a very welcome change to an abundance of rain. While it does seem fall is in the air, in more ways than one, our family is not gearing up to send the children away to school. My oldest son is headed back to college classes today after a nice summer break (He took a class during the first summer session then taught in a day-camp at the college for a week and took the second summer session off), he is gladly living at home and commuting. Our younger children are homeschoolers so will not be going away for school on those big yellow schoolbuses. We plan to go to the beach next month now that it is cooler and there is not as much of a crowd. While we promote learning all year round, fall is a nice time to gear up for new studies and focus on specific skills. It is a great time to reassess and renew our motivation toward new or old goals. It is a time when some of the distractions of summer are gone and new opportunities for outside activities often arise.
We are careful about not overloading the schedule with too many outside activities. This would be an even greater temptation if we could afford lots of them but our finances help support us in this endeavor to keep outside activities at a more manageable level. Still, we are battling boredom at this point and are looking for some things to plug into that will be appropriate. (I have promised our younger daughter she could take gymnastics lessons, and that is a high priority at this point.)
One monkey wrench thrown in the mix is that I will be taking my oldest daughter on a month-long trip at the end of September, and will not be able to juggle outside activities and household activities while away from home. My wonderful husband is going to be juggling his work with taking care of the remaining children, household and animals with our adult son and the other children to help him. The children remaining are not small so it should be a good growing opportunity for them as they take on some added responsibility. I don’t want to overload any of them. We may take off that month of violin lessons as well for one daughter (which would be a nice break as she took lessons all summer without much break). That leaves me with the options of starting and stopping for a month any outside activities we begin, or waiting until I return to start up in November. Many things break over Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, so I might as well wait until the first of the year. A third possibility is to see if I can get others to pick up the kids for the month I will be gone but that will still entail their getting ready to go — not really a huge obstacle as they are mostly old enough to do that on their own, with reminders for the 9 and 10 year olds. That said, our trip will also include our youngest son, who I hope to work intensively on language with one on one while we are gone.
As for what to do for homeschool, I need to make some decisions. The kids need more to do to occupy them and give them direction. Reading again about unschooling as a form of homeschooling, my interest in this is renewed. After several years of homeschooling I can relate to the learning that goes on at times when not imposed or enforced by a teacher/parent. You might say we have used unschooling with success on a limited basis, but alongside of other methods intermittently. I am afraid many might use “unschooling” for “doing nothing”, which is not what I would advocate. However, the process of force-feeding worksheets and textbooks and mountains of assignments and lectures onto kids is not a good option either. I am looking for a happy medium where they are encouraged and motivated to do the independent learning of unschooling, while not leaving them to flounder without any direction or needed help. I think I am finding in the better unschooling situations that that is what is happening. It will of course look different in different families. I think training may be tackled more in younger years more than rote learning of academics. If unschooling will allow my family to thrive, peacefully living and learning as we go, gaining the skills and wisdom for life that cannot be gained while shackled to traditional schooling methods, then I think I am ready. Sometimes it may look more traditional as we study books or take classes to learn something desired, but other times it may look more like the aforementioned “doing nothing”. As we go, I hope to at least journal the journey better than I have in the past, if nothing else, to assure myself of the success of this way of living and to give myself that prayerful time of focus in order to be better prepared to help the children in a more gentle way. Gentleness, that’s what I am going for. It is something that has alluded our homeschool/family for a while now due to my trying to get a handle on some of the behaviors and issues that have been problematic. Stepping back, I need to press into God’s grace and guidance to navigate these twists and turns with his expertise rather than my bad habits. The fear of not doing enough schoolwork is not something that will aid in this effort, but will detract as it has before. I think that the unschooling freedom is just what this family needs to thrive as I lay all my worries at my Father’s feet and trust him to take care of them rather than the next best curriculum or schedule. Our family is unique. So is yours. And the needs have changed and continue to change. I can go along willingly with God as my guide or begrudgingly which will not be pretty.