Over the years we've tried a couple of different times to start our homeschool year; by far my favorite has been starting with the fall equinox. It gives us a natural celebration to begin the homeschool year with and the seasonal change helps us feel like it is time to shift gears.
The transition between seasons here is subtle; we don't have a sudden cold snap or leaves bursting out in bright colors. Some years we even begin fall with a heat wave. But we feel the change; the cool of evening doesn't envelop us gently as it does in summer, no, it is sudden and sharp. The light is different. The produce we find at the farmer's market changes.
Two years ago I decided that we would follow the schedule set by the charter school that most of our friends use, beginning in August and finishing in May. That spring the boys had been a little unhappy at the thought of doing lessons when their friends were already on summer break; we'd had an easy grade 3 year anyway so we ended when they did.
When I started my homeschool planning earlier this summer I considered going with a September 23rd start because it feels right, but then when I thought about June lessons I changed it to an August start and I did all my block planning based on that. It is true that we are all ready for a break by the time late spring rolls around.
But a question on the Homespun Waldorf message boards asked how people mark the first day of homeschool and I felt a longing for the way we did it before, the way that had meaning for us. I also considered how rushed I would feel to be starting in a little over a week. It didn't feel right, and so I went through my planning block by block and moved us back to the September start. Then I let out a big sigh of relief.
I want to enjoy the last month of summer without having filled it with lessons. I want us to find our rhythm, something that we have struggled with this summer. I really don't want to jump from our summer-that-felt-like-it-wasn't into a homeschool year that feels like we-have-to-but-we-don't-really-want-to. Besides, we're still waiting for it to get really hot; summer has plenty of life in her yet.
We don't have to do what everyone else is doing. Following the charter schedule doesn't give us any more credibility. It doesn't matter what strangers thing when they ask us if we've started school and we say no. Choosing to start when it makes sense for us and when we can infuse it with meaning is the right thing for us. Ending after our friends do just takes a little more discipline, but we can also look forward to our final festival of the homeschool year, the summer solstice.