Backpacking, Payne Bluffs

What a difference this year! A new violin teacher has arrived in the area and I have relinquished all my private lesson teaching to her. This means that Fiona is not dragged to a furniture- and electronics-barren teaching studio for hours each week to sit and wait for me to finish working. It’s the second year that Sophie and Noah have both been full-time students, so our house doesn’t feel suddenly much emptier than usual. And last spring, for whatever reason, Fiona made her peace with homeschooling not just as a necessary accommodation but as a gift, an opportunity.

I feel relaxed and present in both my own life and in hers. We are finding a good balance between intentionality and serendipity. In the past we’ve defaulted to a style of serendipity that felt more like “we’re too busy to really think about what we’d like to do,” a tidal wave of chauffeuring, scheduled activities, volunteer and work commitments that left our discretionary time entirely spent in recovery mode.

Last spring Fiona joined the Grade 7/8/9 class for an introductory Spanish course, where she excelled both academically and socially. At the end of the year she wrote the Math 8 final exam (at home, under no pressure) and completely aced it. These two accomplishments were sufficient to allow her to be easily welcomed into the Grade 9 math course at the local school this year, where she is spending two or three hours a week. The format of those hours is rather in flux. For now some of the time is spent on group projects spanning several grade- and ability-levels from basic Grade 7 to advanced Grade 9, and most of the time is spent working independently through the course syllabus and workbook in a classroom with a range of grades and a teacher and aid circulating to support and assist as needed. She ended up somewhat accidentally seated at the slightly raucous Grade 7 table (I think she had forgotten that while nominally a 7th grader, she was there to do Grade 9 math — perhaps she’ll get moved), but nevertheless she’s enjoying working on her own in the midst of a group of similarly engaged math students. She likes the course and is moving quickly through it.

Fried rice & wonton soup, from scratch

So that’s and hour, two or three mornings a week. Her other scheduled once-a-week programming is a violin lesson (yes, with a real teacher!), violin group class, gymnastics and homeschool art class. She still has three days a week completely free, and every morning is empty until 11 am. For her, for now, this is exactly the right balance. And here’s what she’s busy with in her unschooled time, in addition to the usual eating, housework, playing, hanging out, being active outdoors, etc.:

  • KhanAcademy math, totally for fun
  • violin practicing — which is daily, independent, and enthusiastic at this point, thanks to the novelty of having a ‘real’ teacher
  • exploring human evolution, human genomics and pre-history
  • learning a bit of ASL
  • reading for pleasure
  • historical fiction readalouds (me to her)
  • science textbook reading / browsing

and she’s also busy with two “projects,” in the style of Project-Based Homeschooling. For now she’s chosen backcountry survival skills and meal preparation. The main difference between the autonomous interests she’s developed and pursued in the past and what she’s doing with these interests is that she and I are intentionally devoting regular energy and time to these projects. I think the most important thing that results from this approach is a change in me: she and I are clear that these projects get some regular priority in our lives. This keeps the momentum going, at least so far. We’ve enjoyed several amazing Fiona-dinners, and have a backpacking trip planned together later this month.

The weather is still mighty fine, we are luxuriating in the additional time and energy we have at our disposal, and we are feeling optimistic and full of energy. It’s a wonderful time of year.

 

Homeschooling just one, v2.0

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