Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coming Home

I've been away so long; I didn't even realize how long it had been.  The boys and I were moving between focused work and long breaks, and I had decided to take a long summer break from writing.  Then I got sick again.  Really sick this time, debilitated to the point of being mostly bed-bound for a couple of months.  I didn't do much more than the absolute minimum.  It was hard; I had to pull out of commitments made, I had to give up things that I wanted to do, and I had to learn how to balance being a person with medical needs as well as a mom who chooses to live each day with her children.  Okay, I'm still working on that one.

We're a little lost when it comes to homeschooling, almost completely without a good daily rhythm.  I sense it in my boys; J-Baby cries more frequently and T-Boy exhibits more discontent.  They are less resilient.  They can count on things throughout the week, but their days have only the structure of meals and bedtime.

This period of complete unschooling has been a grand adventure and experiment for us.  It works well when I am healthy, when I am ready for anything and don't have to guard my energy.  The thing is, I can never predict how long a remission will last or when I will go into a flare again.

When we first fully embraced unschooling we came at it from a place of connection.  We were connected to each other, to our community, to nature.  Living and learning were happening naturally.  Over time, however, we've reached a place of where we experience disconnection more often than I would like.  I'm certain that part of this stems from the boys getting older, and in particular from T-Guy going through the nine year change.  But I also think that the loss of rhythm is a large contributor as well.

Unschooling as an educational model has actually been working well.  We've explored ancient history and are currently learning all about Rome.  We formed a nature co-op and have been getting together with other home learners to hike, go on nature field trips, and do nature activities together.  There has been plenty of reading going on; T-Guy reads for hours everyday. We play lots of games, both as a family and just the boys.

What's missing is a sense of connection, of daily rhythm than we join in together.  For instance, I'll knit, but the boys will be doing something else.  Later they will want to do some sort of hand work just as I am starting something that I can't delay.  It's as if we are all doing many of the same things we did before ~ reading, drawing, hand work, outdoor play, etc. ~ but never at the same time.

So, for many reasons, I am looking to swing our pendulum back toward the structured learning that worked so well for us throughout our extended grade one year.  Grade one is the year that both boys named as their favorite time homeschooling, and I have to agree with the them that grade one was magical for us.

At first I wasn't sure where to start.  Should we just start with workbooks to review basic concepts and get a feel for where the boys are, skills-wise?  Do I attempt to pull together a loose, eclectic lesson plan? Do I order curriculum from Oak Meadow, Live Ed, or Christopherus (nix on that last one ~ they don't have a grade 4 curriculum available yet)?  Do we bring in small amounts of focused work and mostly stick with unschooling?  Should we start with the basics such as handwriting, spelling, and math and leave arts and crafts, cooking, gardening, modeling, etc. for later?

I realized that what I really need to do is go back to the beginning.  I'm rereading the Enki Foundation Guides.  We need to tend our environment, to find our rhythm, and to come together for connection.  I already know what to do in terms of philosophy and methodology. Sure, there is that sticky little part where Enki hasn't yet released any grade 4 materials, but I actually find that somewhat freeing.  We love the library and the last time we were working with Enki I found a lot of great resources to use with grade 3.

Home.  Returning to Enki is a homecoming of sorts.  Making the decision I felt my body let out a huge sigh ~ yes, this feels right, we can do this

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