Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Rhythm

School years have rhythms.

In the seven schools all over Oregon I have worked in over the last 13 years, they have all had the same rhythm. First month, September, is all about procedures. How to sharpen your pencil, go to the bathroom, wash your hands for lunch, check out books from the library, fire drills, earthquake drills, emergency drills... Not that there is no learning going on, it's just secondary to learning how to function in this little community called a classroom.

From October to December it is a run through the holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, even at the high school level. Halloween is the study of skeletons, spiders, the human body. November studies fall, Pilgrims, early American history, and Native Americans. December is all about Santa (don't mention Jesus.) The months have holiday breaks in them that disrupt the flow of learning so that the learning has to center around the holidays. This is less evident at the higher levels, but still there.

From January to March the real learning occurs. No major holidays. No vacations. Sometimes you get your federally mandated standardized testing in there to muck things up, but even that usually only takes a week and the kids certainly don't get excited about it.

After Spring Break is a sprint to the end of the year. Anything that didn't get learned yet has to get done NOW! We haven't studied adjectives yet! Australia! Analogies! Cold deserts! The Mayans! On top of that are the end of the year festivities--field day, spring concerts, science fairs, sing-alongs. And on top of that you have a tired, cabin fevered, hormonal student body (throw the teachers in there, too) that CAN'T WAIT 'TIL SUMMER! Even if they are bored with summer a week in, it's the frenzy to get there. Trips to the principal's office increase, pranks, friendship dramas, fights. It's a wild and wooly time of year. The last week of school everyone just simply looses their heads.

Homeschooling is different, of course, but has the same kinds of rhythms, though muted. We are winding down, finishing up our books, thinking of what we can do when the books run out but the school year hasn't. The thoughts run towards summer--horse camp, OMSI science camp, theater camp, camping trips, relatives visiting, summer parties. The hormones are charged, the lack of other people about during the day rankles more, the arguing has either increased or is bothering me more, tempers flair, schoolwork is harder to produce.

I'm ready to do something different.

My friend who homeschooled said that they took the spring off and schooled summers instead. Another friend of mine said that his kids homeschooled year round, no holidays because everything was so fun or something.

We are taking the summer off, for sure, although all the camps going around have a good deal of learning in them. We have about a month of our math and Latin books left, but about two months of school to go. Since Mi'ita is considering going back to school in the fall, I'm considering hitting her official 4th grade math book to see if there is anything she needs to cover before 5th grade starts. And she can switch to Greek when Latin gives out or learn a bit of cursive that she has refused to learn all year. Or maybe I'll let her set up her own learning agenda.


  1. Wow. I never thought about it, but this is spot-on. I bet parents get sucked into that same rhythm, homeschooling or not. Good luck with your decision!

  2. I have heard some homeschoolers prefer to school in the summer. Sun and learning go hand and hand, I hear. I love our summers off though! Good to see you today!

  3. Don't forget unschooling! We're going to unschool! (Mia wrote this.)