Monday, April 23, 2007

A Good Day of Learning

Theresa's post, What Makes a Good Day of Learning? got me thinking. Theresa writes:
"How does one decide how much is “enough” without the aid of a professionally prepared lesson plan or step-by-step curriculum? Good question!"
A good question indeed. Since I have, at times, tagged myself "The Schizophrenic Homeschooler" (as in this definition of schizophrenic: "a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements" ... thanks,, I do get the "How do you decide what to do?" question.

The "contradictory or incompatible" elements, in my case, are:

1. I love to plan, but I don't always like being tied to a plan (Or, as Melissa Wiley might say, "If you love planning so much, why don't you marry it?")

2. I love to unschool, but I don't fully rely on unschooling.

3. I love Charlotte Mason, but I'm something of a failure at certain of the outdoor aspects (ask any of my friends who recently brought up the word "camping" in my presence. They laughed OUT LOUD at my expression. I must be a CM fake ... I don't see the allure of camping. Do I love God's creation? Yes. Do I want to sleep directly on it? No.)

So, if I like to plan but I unschool, and yet I don't rely on unschooling, but love to leave the plan behind, and if, while doing all of the above, I gag at the thought of sleeping on the ground, just how, for Pete's sake, do I decide what to do?

We're back to that good question.

Theresa wrote, after recounting a full day:

So, was this a good day? Maybe. It was NOT AT ALL what I had planned, and not really a typical day, but when I look back, it seems like a good day. The fussy baby made our plans change considerably, but then again it allowed us to get through ALL of our read-alouds, which hardly ever happens!
Like Theresa, I often find that even though our day turned out to be "not at all" what I had planned, it was still a great day. A full day. A learning-is-an-adventure day. Theresa went on, in her post to list what is a "good day" of learning, and what is a "very good day."

Following her lead, I'll make a list. For me, a good day of learning includes:

*Starting with morning prayer. (When we don't do this, I can tell. Seriously.) Also, other reading or discussion that relates to our faith.
*math (like Theresa, I insist that we do this daily)
*reading aloud from our current history book or literature focus
*independent reading for the kids
*some kind of writing (creative, blogging, narrations, work on a story they're writing, letters, anything)
*living books or other lively interest shown in nature or our current science topic (see? I can do this as long as I don't have to sleep on the ground.)

A great day would also include:
*an amazing discussion, these kinds of tender moments, seeing a reflection of our life in literature.
*adding to or finishing a notebook or some other kind of project, and the satisfaction that comes with seeing the fruit of our labors
*painting, drawing, clay or other art

I see, as I compare this to Theresa's lists, that they are very similar, probably because we have very similar styles of homeschooling. We plan, but don't overplan. We are flexible, when life and little people force a change of plans. We like to let the kids follow their interests, but also require certain core subjects or disciplines. We see the value in unschooling days and methods, but don't live completely unschooling lives.

Theresa went on to write:
I gave her examples and listed the components of a good day, but never said exactly HOW I decide whether that day was good enough or not. And I think it is because I am still not sure myself. The closest I can come to the short answer is: “I just feel it.”
Not very satisfactory, I know, and probably no help to anyone, but the truth none the less. Because our days rarely go as planned, and I don’t think we have ever been able to follow a schedule more than a week or so, I cannot rely on plans or schedules to tell me if we’ve done enough. I have had to develop a sort of sixth sense about the fullness of our days. As we go about our activities through the day there is a sort of subconscious weighing and measuring going on. Nothing scientific, but at the end of the day I just know. I feel it just as surely as I can feel a full cup of coffee or a full tummy. Or an empty one. And my goal is simply to try to keep it full.
I love this.

I probably love it because I can identify with it so readily. I, too, cannot gauge how much we're learning by how many pages have been finished in a workbook, or how many tests have been taken. I can't tell you when we'll be "done" with "7th grade."

When people say that they have to keep schooling through the summer because they "aren't done," I'm sure I give them a blank stare that asks, "What do you mean 'done'? It never ends. And yet we're done for now. It's always beginning, but, no, we aren't 'starting school' yet."

My sixth sense, like Theresa's, is always at work. The gauge is clicking. I know when I'm slacking. I know when the kids are slacking. I know when we're all on and when we're so off that we're pitiful. The "off" days aren't necessarily those days when we don't appear to be doing much. Those days can be some of our best. It's a feeling. It's that old "you know it when you see it," thing and it's also the "you just do it" philosophy.

It never ends.

And it is always beginning.


nutmeg said...

I can relate so well.

Today (with my lack of sleep last night) we did absolutely no formal schooling.

But my oldest read "Quanah Parker" and then played shipwreck with my 2 year old. (totally unrelated, but hey)

And my 6yo daughter read a bunch of "Frog and Toad" this morning and then wrote 5 sentences by herself.

I am just fine with that.


The Bookworm said...

Good post, Karen. I'm very much evaluating this too. My eldest, who I always thought needed structure, is increasingly unschooled (and because it looks so unlike the education I would plan, I can't help wondering if this means uneducated). Then my 8yo, who I thought might be a natural for unschooling, is getting more and more structure. Changes here seem to be turning our home education on its head. Perhaps I just need to look at it day by day. Was today a good day? Hmmm. Need to think about that. Perhaps I should be writing a blog post too.

Beth: said...

What a good and thoughtful post. I, too, can really tell the difference when we've not had our touchstones of daily prayer. And, I too was inspired by Theresa's post and wrote to this subject recently.

One of the greatest gifts of homeschooling, I find, is simply time: time to grow and change as a family, time for each child to make his or her own way, each according to their needs, time to learn what makes for a good day, and what is best avoided.

The Bookworm said...

Karen, I tagged you for a Thinking Blog meme. Here is
the link.

lapazfarm said...

Great minds think alike, Karen!LOL!

Jennifer said...

I think it must be Spring, we're all doing some heavy thinking lately! Great Post.

Kristen Laurence said...

A great post, Karen. It is encouraging to know a good day in homeschooling can be had in many different ways. Because I haven't begun formal schooling yet and still fear *failure* as a home educator, this post was critical for me to read. Thank you!

Karen E. said...

Thanks, everyone. I guess it is that 'pondering time of year' ....