Monday, September 8, 2008

Starting school

Hello loyal readers (and you are loyal indeed if my blog is still on your reading list after such a long break). I could write several posts, at least, on all the reasons I haven't posted all summer. Chiefly, we moved to Minnesota and that has taken a lot of time and energy. But more immediately, I don't have any idea where regular blogging can fit into my life right now. So I've had moments here and there when I could have written something but I never wanted to give the impression that I was "back to blogging" only to take off for three months again. What's the word for this kind of "all or nothing" personality of mine? It does not serve me well.

So I'm going to dive in here on one of the gazillion topics I've been wanting to write about lately and I'm going to start with the easy one: we started school.

Joseph will be four in October. I think, actually, that in most school districts he would not be eligible to start kindergarten until Fall of 2010 which is just incomprehensible to me. I have many, many unschooling and "Better Late than Early" tendencies and I struggled with how much--and how formally--to attack the whole school thing this year. In the end I decided that Joseph and I would both benefit tremendously from some structured time together each day. My crazy daughter has taken up most of my time and energy for the last two years and my laid-back son has really gotten the short end of the stick. Margaret still naps two hours every afternoon and Joseph almost never naps. Our routine is that I get Margaret to sleep after lunch, have an hour to nap myself or get some work done, and then spend an hour with Joseph who will have had an hour of quiet "rest time" on the futon by then.

I wanted to round out our new "school" focus with a reinstatement of our tea time tradition which was definitely set aside this summer. And I want some kind of semi-regular outing schedule for mornings. But one thing at a time.

I intended to start school the first Monday after Assumption but we had an out-of-town guest. Then I realized that things were still a total mess in our home and that I couldn't really be in school mode before Labor Day anyway. So I moved the start date to the day after Labor Day. But we were out-of-town that day. So we started on Wednesday last week and that was all the school we did last week.

But we did get in tea time every day. Tea time is a snack--usually a sweet one--with tea (herbal and diluted for the kids). I read about the saint for the day and then we dive into the refreshments while I read aloud from a chapter book. We got through quite a few last year and last week I started The Secret Garden.

Today was a fiasco schedule-wise. Margaret fell asleep at 10:30 this morning. But in an amazing feat of flexibility it actually ocurred to me to do school anyway. And in a last-minute inspiration I decided to use the material and activities I'd chosen for the year to work on one letter each week. So with no preparation at all we started right in on "A".

Our curriculum this year consists, so far, in nice paper, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, glue sticks, old magazines, and books. Basically we have an activity at the table and then we read together on the couch until Margaret wakes up. I'm still working on what it will mean to do one letter each week but today I drew an A, and Joseph traced it. Then I helped him think of something that started with "A" and he drew an apple--a really lovely apple, I might add. Then I let him draw his own picture of anything he liked with his new crayons while I worked on my own drawing. Margaret woke up then and we put away the nice art supplies and moved to the couch. Instead of finding an A book we read Tomie de Paola's book Mary, the Mother of God in honor of Mary's birthday today.

My "goals" for this year with Joseph are to improve his fine motor skills and solidify letter and number recognition. I have no idea how long that will take but that's the goal until we meet it and then we'll set a new one.

I do hope to be back here more often but I've only been able to write this much because my children have suddenly decided that raisins are the single best thing that has ever happened to them.