When I first started homeschooling two years ago, I stuck with the schedule I had always known in public school. Even though my kids were chomping at the bit to begin in August, I held them off until September and homeschooled right through June. Then I read a homeschooler's blog, and she casually mentioned that they do more inside school work in the late part of summer so that they can have more free time during the Fall to be outside playing and enjoying the weather.
This was a total AHa! moment for me because our family doesn't particularly love summer: the humidity, the mosquitoes, the fact that our unshaded park becomes unplayable. But we do love Fall! So we start school at the end of July and it gives us the margin in the Fall to spend an extra half-hour in the park, to take off for a day on an adventure with friends.
This Fall in New England has been gorgeous. We have been walking our dog every day and collecting so many leaves. We've been sorting our leaves and graphing them and trying to identify them. We've been planning field trips with friends and time at the park. Mabel has learned how to ride a bike. The little ones have been playing in the yard while we do our reading lessons and crafts on the porch. Swimming lessons, trips to museums, birthdays, and family visits have filled our days. And I haven't been blogging much because our days have been so full.
For the last two months, every time I feel pressured or crazy, I have been trying to tell myself, "I am not in a rush." I'm not in a rush to get through this season and on to the next. I'm not in a rush to educate my kids. I'm not in a rush to get through that math book at the expense of noticing the leaves on the ground.
One day as we were coming to the end of our walk with the dog, the kids asked to stop at the park. I could rush us all home so we wouldn't get behind on our lessons or we could spend twenty minutes at the park. We had the place to ourselves so we filled up all the swings. There are only three so my two-year-old son was sitting on his six-year-old sister's lap in the big swing. The sky was perfectly blue and the leaves were just starting to burst into color. My oldest daughter kept going on and on about how swinging that day was her favorite thing she had ever done. She tends to be a bit dramatic. Then it grew quiet. My toddler son turned to his sister and said, "It's lovely, Mabel. It's lovely."
There is a beautiful essay by Katherine Paterson called Dog Day Wonder in which her son brings her a cicada and asks her to watch as it sheds its skin. She writes, "As I let that wonder wash over me I realized that this was the gift I really wanted to give my children, for what good are straight teeth and trumpet lessons to a person who cannot see the grandeur that the world is charged with." It's what I want to give my kids too.
What about reading, you say? Because that's another part of this seasonal life. Our Fall reading is not like our winter reading. When it gets cold and we fire up the pellet stove, the most attractive place in the whole house will be snuggled up on the couch reading in the warmth. We will have a stack of longer chapter books we will read this winter. Winter is long so we'll have lots of time to read. We'll listen to tons of audio books too, and maybe watch Anne of Green Gables all over again. We'll definitely have tea parties, and maybe we will try reading poetry at them this year.
But in Fall, our reading is light: mostly the picture books we're reading for Five in a Row and short non-fiction science books. Our time outside will inspire us with questions like, "Why are the leaves changing color?" and we'll go to a book. We'll read The Salamander Room and need to learn everything we can about amphibians, which will inspire Ella to catch an insect and keep it in a jar. So suddenly we are researching habitats for roly-polies and building them a home. We'll listen to audiobooks in the car on the way to field trips or swim class. There will always be books at night before bed.
All winter we will read and read, and our heads will be full of adventures .Then like Mole in The Wind in the Willows, Spring will fill our house "with its spirit of divine discontent and longing." The muddy yard will call us again and we won't be able to spend another minute inside. Out will come books about tadpoles and frogs, caterpillars and butterflies. Then summer will come and we'll spend hours listening to audiobooks on vacation road-trips. Then our new box of curricula will arrive and we'll jump into studying again.
The weather just turned nippy today, and soon the stove will be lit and I'll be planning booklists and blogging more faithfully again. For now, we are soaking up every last bit of grandeur Autumn has in store for us. I hope you are too.