Monday, October 20, 2014

Serendipity Homeschooling

I recently read a question on a writing blog that asked "Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?" Basically, it said that there are two ways to write a book. You might be one of those people who outline every plot point in full detail or you might be one of those people who fly by the seat of their pants and just start writing and see where it goes. I personally have never written an outline for a paper in my life unless the teacher forced me. I tend to collect a lot of quotes, try to find a personal hook, start writing until I get to what is actually the beginning of the paper, write the middle, and try to tie the ending up in a nice bow with the beginning. 

What I had never considered before reading this was how much my personal planning/ organization style affects how I homeschool. When I first started homeschooling, I was intimidated by all the bloggers I read who seemed so organized. They seemed to enjoy homeschool planning for fun-- like printing out things and putting them into binders with tabs. Some even had their own printable planners that you could download.
I, on the other hand, download all of my thoughts on anything into a single 17-cent, spiral-bound notebook.  On one page might be my lesson plans for the week, on the next a menu plan, then a quote from a book I'm reading, an idea for a novel I want to write, some blog posts I should write, then a page where we've written some math problems or cursive practice because it was the closest thing handy.

My second year in, I finally came to the point that I could admit to myself that I just don't like homeschool planning. I would never sit down and do it for fun. But I also began to realize that there is beauty in my kind of mind too. On personality tests, I always come up as a visionary thinker. I'm great with the big picture, but tend to overlook details. While I don't get any thrill out of filling in boxes on a calendar, I love gathering interesting resources that will inspire my family. I like to think about the big picture of what we're doing and how everything we are studying can be integrated. I'm resourceful so when I have an idea, it's easy for me to think of many books I can pull off the shelf or crafts we can make or curriculum resources I have on my shelf. Because our plan is loose and I'm flexible, we can also drop everything if an opportunity arises.

We only have one car so it requires some planning to be out of the house. On one particular Wednesday, Brent had forgotten that he needed to be at the dentist in the morning, and we needed to be at swim class in the early afternoon at the college where he works. It didn't really make sense to drive all the way home when we were already in the town where we needed to be later in the day. So we had about five hours to kill. We decided we would let the town educate us that day. We started off at the library, then had lunch with Daddy, and walked over to the Natural History museum on campus. We walked in and a student working at the museum asked us if we wanted a guided tour. Sure! It turns out that it was only his second day on the job, so not only did we get a guided tour, but the Director of the museum came along with us
to show the student how it was done. As a result, we had an awesome lesson in examining the teeth of Stone age fossilized animals to see what we could learn from them. The kids were thrilled.

Another day my husband had to travel to Boston for a meeting and asked us if we wanted to go along. I emailed my friend who lives there and also homeschools. We spent the morning at the Museum of Science courtesy of her Membership and free passes and had a great day with our friends. If there had been anything written on a calendar, I would have spent the whole day feeling like I wasn't getting something done, but instead we were free to learn.

So I have come to think of my own personal style as Serendipity Homeschooling. We have a definite rhythm to our day so the kids know what to expect, but as for our subject matter or the books we read, that might change from week to week depending on our interests, the season of the year, what activities we have planned. I might see that we have an opportunity to go to Boston and decide to do Make Way for Ducklings next week. Or I might see that they're doing a talk about bugs at the library so we'll read The Bee Tree. The Five in a Row curriculum is a perfect fit for me because it has some structure, but lots of room for creativity and flexibility. I can do the books in any order, pick and choose from several learning options for each subject. I can also add my own creative projects or follow the lead of the kids.

This week I really had no idea what book to do next when I stopped to get our farmshare and lo and behold, there was a GIANT turnip in the bin. I have no particular fondness for turnips, but I knew that they were a key part of one of the books on our shelf: Down, Down the Mountain. Since this book is set in Appalachia and my parents had just visited from West Virginia, it was perfect. I tucked four or five turnips in my bag and warned Brent, "Don't cook those. They're for school." Then I thought, I've never blogged about all the wonderful Appalachian books we've studied and I do love Appalachia, so I should do a blog week about it.So all this is to say: stay tuned for Appalachian Week! Brought to you by one, giant turnip.

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