Monday, August 14, 2006

A Lilting Curriculum

The Lilting Lissa has posted her plans for the coming school year and has invited others to do the same. She prefaced her post by saying it would be be "one huge oxymoron" and I must echo that sentiment about this post.

To say that I lean toward unschooling but then to add, "And here are my plans" sounds as if I've abandoned the unschooliness of unschooling. Or, maybe that I've schooled myself right out of unschooling. Or that I've Un-unschooled.

But, no, no, no. Not really. For me, unschooling is the answer to the following equation:

My kids
+ books
+ideas and discussion
(- boxed curriculum)
+willingness to abandon plans

This dovetails nicely with one of the definitions of "lilting"and thus the title of this post, inspired quite obviously by the Lilting House:

"A light or resilient manner of moving or walking."

I love thinking of our homeschooling style as "light and resilient" -- a lilting curriculum, full of buoyancy and rhythm. Oh, yes, we sometimes stumble, fall, make mistakes or realize that we've taken a wrong turn, but we bounce back, and we follow the natural rhythms that life and seasons throw our way.

So -- given my definition of unschooling, here's a look into our upcoming school year which is fast approaching. Of course, it's almost impossible to neatly divide this into subjects, so I probably shouldn't even try, but I might, here and there.

We're going to read lots of books, together and individually, and a partial list can be seen in this post. We're covering WWI, WWII and then jumping back in time to the middle ages. Through it all, we'll be reading about saints, too. It's History, Language Arts, Religion, and sometimes Math ("How many years ago did St. Francis of Assisi live? How old was he when he died?") We'll do some narrations about the books, add pictures and notes to our timeline (my dining room is smashingly decorated in Early Timeline) and add pages to Books of Centuries.

Math will be tackled more formally, with goals centered on improving proficiency, and I'll be using "Key to ..." books, which we already have. Math is one area in which I consistently dither ... there's much less unschooling there, because mathematical thinking just doesn't come as easily to me as language and history.

I'm the same way with science ... I have to confess that my eyes often glaze over if an experiment takes more than 60 seconds. But, the girls want to learn more about the following topics: genetics, taxonomy, food chains and ecosystems, the solar system, plants and birds and we'll tackle those with books we already own as well as library resources. We'll journal about our discoveries, so it's also Language Arts, isn't it?

We'll do research, hands-on projects and cooking in our Geography Club (Linda, we need to talk ~~ ) and 4-H will also provide plenty of arts-and-crafts opportunities as well as some community service. Other artsy plans include scheduling and saying "yes" often to fingerpaints, tempera paints and Sculpey. A Catholic How-to-Draw will provide some nice ideas for illustrating faith-related notebooks and journals. We'll also continue following the 4Real "Artist and Composer of the Month" (again, notice that artist and composer studies combine history, language, critical thinking skills ... the overlap of subjects is endless.)

My plans for Ramona are quite simple, but just as important as any laboriously planned curriculum:

Keep reading to her
. We have tons of great picture books, and she loves our regular trips to the library. Of course we'll keep those up. Without any effort on my part (aside from wanting to share books with her), last year she came to recognize Barbara Cooney's illustrations, Jim Arnosky's books at twelve paces, and Lisa Mccue's bunny rabbits.

Don't simply "say yes" to painting ... plan on painting: finger paints, tempera paints, watercolors.

Ramona's Shelf: Over the summer, as I decluttered, I put a couple of new bookshelves in the dining room. They hold a lot of books for Anne and Betsy, but also offer things that are just Ramona's, that she may use whenever she likes (provided we aren't on our way out the door to the grocery store ....) Ramona's Shelf includes a container of dried peas and sundry scooping tools, pattern blocks, paper, crayons and washable markers, window clings, window markers, stickers and paper, a basket of faith-related books, and a variety of coloring books.

Another simple equation: Preschool = Life and Fun.

And, what about last May, when I thought we should radically cut back on activities and slo-o-o-o-w down? Well, we've tweaked that idea a bit. We're not cutting out everything -- we won't be cloistered, though there are days that sounds heavenly. We're definitely planning on the Geography Club and 4-H. And, we'll swim weekly with friends. The older girls will (probably) be singing with the parish youth choir, because they really, really want to. But, we are dropping piano (we'll look at that again in a year), and we have an entire set of friends moving away, so they'll no longer be part of our days and weeks. The biggest change will be that I'll no longer be hosting a weekly Moms Group in my home. For as much as it seemed to be "just two hours, once a week" it had become more than that, with prep time, clean-up time, etc. and I kept having the nagging feeling that it was time to pass the baton. After much prayer, I put the word out, and one brave young mom has offered to be on the receiving end of that pass. I know she'll do a great job. I feel such peace about the decision that I know it was the right thing to do.

Sometimes mom is the one who needs to drop an activity.

So. That's our life, our plan, in a nutshell (maybe not such a nutshell ... I've rambled on quite a bit.)

And, as always, I'm open to changing it.

In a lilting kind of way.


Anonymous said...

I love it, love it, love it. Wish we lived close enough to lilt with you. :)

Leonie said...

I liked readung your pkans - made me feel less tired and guilty. :-)

Ron R said...

You should submit this to unschooling voices.

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks, all!

Hey, Lissa, I wish it, too. :-)
Leonie, you, of course, have nothing to feel guilty about.
And Ron, thanks for the reminder -- I've fallen behind on carnivals and things.