Guest Post by My Homeschooling Sister: Intensity in Learning

This is a post by my amazing sister, Cynthia. She and her husband homeschool their three kids. My sister works full time and my brother-in-law works part time for the National Guard. They live on a farm in Tennessee and raise chickens and a few ducks.  Here’s a view looking out on their lake from a trip last winter:

I’ve written about my sister’s family adventures from time to time — Their Flood Story Here, and two Homeschool Interviews with my sis here: Homeschooling through Spousal Deployments, Destructive Flood and More (Part 1)  and Homeschooling through Highschool (Part 2).

Here is a new post by my sister:

Liesl has had me on once before to blog a bit about how I came through the early years of my homeschooling journey.  We sent our kids out to pre-school, but brought them home for Kindergarten.  We’ve now managed nearly a full cycle, and have a high school senior, a freshman, and a seventh grader in the household.

Today’s post is on intensity.  Intensity of learning is something I believe in strongly, and it means that the rhythms of the homeschool calendar are for us quite variable.  Liesl is amazing; she manages this steady pace of day to day really cool things, and fits quite wonderfully into a schema that approximates attending a school with the coolest teacher imaginable.

I’m not that homeschooler, at least, not any more.

For me, a lot of the work of homeschooling is found in the set-up.  We’ve got strong annual goals in all of the traditional subjects, and the world of Life of Fred and Khan Academy and Rosetta Stone and piano practice informs our daily lives on a mostly-regular basis.  There ARE skills that need attention every day, and that’s an important part of keeping the academic nerd in me from melting down.

But the place where I think the kids will learn and remember the most is in the intense experiences of deep exploration, and I have had to let go of some of the school day model to make room for the “wow, that’s so cool” stuff.

The youngest is interested in space, and yes, last year we did count space camp (http://www.spacecamp.com/) as part of her “days of attendance” as far as homeschooling is concerned.  I’ve also learned that the work with her dad at the craft table (aka dining room table) is part of the measured rhythm of our lives.  A project that takes 10 hours and leads to a discussion of types of glue and set times and (oy veh), solvents is probably more important than anything I might have had her do with the Citizenship study that’s also part of our 7th grade curriculum.

Likewise, we’re about to enter the NaNoWriMo zone.  National Novel Writing Month (http://nanowrimo.org/ ) is a good time for us to take a hiatus from the regular day-to-day of the school plan, since writing consumes time, mental energy, and planning, organization, and focus.  The seventh grader is on her third novel this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what direction she takes it this time.  But if we were also still plowing through a set of textbook, I don’t think she’d take it on, or at least she wouldn’t take on the scope and complexity of which she is capable.  If you are going to do a big thing, you have to let go of some of the small things.

And so, for the older two, I’ve asked them to think through what their November looks like.  It’s NaNo WriMo time, but it’s also time for that long delayed trip to the Everglades.  Frankly, I’ll be surprised if they write novels; I suspect that ecology and navigational planning and museums and conversations with the Park Rangers are where our November education will happen.

And it won’t be in books.

And the charts of work accomplished won’t be checked off in all categories.

And I’ll have to let go of the day to day.

Yet at the end of November, the day to day plans for the year of grammatical constructions to be mastered and educational skills to be mapped out and plans for the future: those will still be there, and they might even be good guides for what December needs to look like.

But for now, it’s time to go big, and go deep.

Because I believe in my heart that “intensity” is where learning happens.

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