July 14, 2011

planning, or not

Last weekend I made myself a little to do list in my planner. Along with my regular craft writing gigs, our Wednesday homeschool get together and the normal chores of the week I wrote

Book kids back to school check ups
Sort and pay bills
Plan school year
Which, looking back, seems pretty preposterous. I didn't actually intend to plan the whole school year, of course, but I had hoped to make a good start.

The good news is that I got the back to school check ups knocked out of the park and in the process found a new doctor, dealt with the bills and am, as I write, doing laundry so that I can pack to take the kids to visit my parents tomorrow. But the school year. Well, not so much.

I keep staring at the planning book that I bought before we left Charlottesville. All those blank pages for all those weeks and months in which I will be responsible for teaching my son. I'm not really even sure where to start.

For months I've kept a notebook for ideas about homeschooling. Websites that I've run across, books that have been recommended to me. And most of all, thoughts I've had about the things that I'd like to do this year. They are mostly half thoughts, incomplete sentences that I've jotted down as they come out of my head.

"Artists and Musicians could be tied by a time period"

"Pick Large science theme - flight, electricity, etc."

"Start the day reading the newspaper
-where are the biggest stories
- find the location on the globe
-why does it impact us?
-what do you think might happen?
-track/graph sports stats

The lists went on and on, and then slowed down when we moved. And then stopped completely while we got to know the apartment and the building and the neighborhood and the city. But now it's time to get sorted, and I just stare at all those ideas, wondering how to make that into a year of homeschooling.

I'm tempted by the unschooling route, the lets just do things and see where they get us route. But in New York, this is hard. Not because there isn't a plethora of things to learn from all around, obviously this city is full of teachable moments, but because the state requires a lot of paperwork with a lot of specifics on what you are going to teach your child. Or at least that's what it seems to require. At the moment, I'm a little overwhelmed by the paperwork.

Also, I'm a planner. I like to plan and make lists and have things set out for me in an orderly way. So I need to organize our year for me, so that I know where we are going, even if I don't know exactly how we are getting there.

I remember facing this dilemma every year when it came time to fill our my class planbook. It is at once frightening and thrilling. All those days. All those opportunities to fill little minds. But then I had a pretty strict curriculum to stick to so I at least had an outline. Here, by choice, I'm not working towards any pre-planned curriculum. I wanted that freedom, to choose what we would learn, to take what was happening in the city and the world around us and use that as my guide. Still, it's a little scary. All that time to fill, and not just with worksheets and math problems.

Every Wednesday I meet with a group of homeschooling moms for a playdate. Most of them have been homeschooling for years and many of them have boys Briton's age so it's a great chance for us to jump into the community around here and to ask questions. Lots of questions. No one does the same things, obviously, but it's given me a few ideas on structure. It's also been eye opening, to hear about the struggles, the frustrations, especially from one mom (of a boy Briton's age) who just started homeschooling last year and isn't sure she is going to stick with it.

While I knew, of course, that homeschooling Briton for the year would not be simple and easy, it's easy to get lulled into a "this is a piece of cake" attitude during the summer. An M and M graph here, a discussion about the workings of a sky tram there and bam, your homeschooling. And that is homeschooling, but only the beginning of it.

I do have the start of a plan in my head, at least. In fact, there is a book waiting at the library about the History of New York (a really cool book!) that I hope will help me plan out history, and hopefully that will help anchor some of the other subjects. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.

Yay, this is going to be fun! Right?