The older kids now have timetables for school. Fiona wanted one too. So she sat down with me and we came up with something.
First we put in the out-of-home things she has to attend. Summit Strings and the trip to Nelson she has to do because she’s too young to be left home alone. Group class is on Wednesdays after school. We put in lunch and supper. We blocked in some time for practicing or violin lesson every day.
And then she wanted to put in “school.” She has three areas this year in which she is doing structured curricular work: math, science and social studies. So we set aside one or two hour-long blocks on Monday through Friday to give her a chance to work on those areas. Then we threw in a couple of blocks of scheduled physical activity to round things out.
She is absolutely thrilled to have me facilitating structured learning with her. I’m making an effort to steer her away from the curricular stuff as much as I can. She is often just as keen to go on a mushroom hunt or make soap or work through playful engineering challenges or read some historical fiction. But then later in the day she’ll announce that we should do some science workbook or math as well. She almost never does two full hours of bookwork, but she often likes to touch on two or three subject areas for 15 or 20 minutes. The schedule is a guide, not a rule. We use it when it suits her, but if something more enticing comes up she is flexible enough to discard it cheerfully. She does like her curriculum, though!
When we finish the schedule for the day she is often at loose ends. “What can I do now?” she asks. I worried that the structure was turning her into a kid who was dependent on others for direction, but it’s not really that. She’s just as good at finding things to do on her own as she ever was; it’s just that with no at-home siblings during the day rather than the three she was used to, she misses the social energy and interaction. She’s a bit more dependent on me for interaction, and it’s no wonder, I suppose. She’s a sociable kid who now has only one person to socialize with for a few hours each day.
It’s somewhat frightening to see how much she is capable of with this kind of active facilitation available to her. It’s easy to feel guilty about giving her so little one-on-one up until this point, when I see how eagerly she is gobbling it up and enjoying the learning. (Although I also know that simply being around her older siblings and the rest of us and our busy lives was immeasurably good for her too. My guilt is kept at bay by that thought.) In the past month she’s done half of the Grade 6 Singapore Primary Math curriculum. She’s moving steadily through the 7th grade BC science curriculum, and through a Canadian history curriculum intended for older kids as well. We’ve done tons of enrichment learning around each of these, so it definitely doesn’t feel like a narrow book-learning-only trajectory. She’s getting lots of context and lots of chance to explore rabbit trails that pique her interest.
And then there’s all the other stuff. She’s run a race, learned to ride basic “skinnies” and do bunny-hops on a mountain bike, been on that wonderful field trip to Fort Steele, attended the local Harvest Festival, begun learning to use the sewing machine, learned to hand-sew stuffed toys, been on hikes and nature walks, started a new Handel Sonata on violin, prepared an entire family dinner on her own, obsessed over Dr. Who Season 5 episodes, written on her blog, read books, played with our adorable kitten, done her usual amazing housekeeping blitzes.
She thriving, I’d say. Which makes me very happy, because I was worried she’d be a little miserable being left out of the whole school thing.