Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Our upside-down school year

As schools are gearing down for the end of the school year, things are moving the opposite direction in our lives. Typically our natural learning year begins shortly after the photo on the right was taken in March. From January to March we're in cabin fever mode, in a routine with a few activities, but mostly suffering the post-holiday, cold-Canadian-winter-in-the-mountains doldrums. It's the time of year when we go to the fitness centre a lot (and encourage Fiona to hang upside down to shake out the beans she's full of!) because otherwise we start to go a bit squirrely. We get by. We watch a lot of video documentaries. We wait for spring.

Then in April, as the weather (supposedly) starts to warm up, we start to poke our little noses out. We get outside more, we take walks, we work on the garden, we get the bikes out. Spring rituals like installing the hammock and hanging the laundry outside for the first time are enjoyed. Soccer starts. There's a flurry of busyness as the concert season washes over us like a tidal wave. Pretty soon there are rehearsals and concerts filling our weeks.

And then once that tidal wave has ebbed away ... the academic year really starts. Intellectual vitality emerges. The math books come out for the first time in weeks or months. New project ideas surface. New materials are purchased. Music practicing often ramps up a notch. Curiosity ignites. Energy bubbles forth. Children are discovered reading dense thick novels in the hammock or treehouse, painting, drawing, pulling out handwriting workbooks or diving into CyberEd courses on-line. They begin volunteering statements that begin with "I'd really like to get better at... " or "I'd really like to learn about..." My job is just to feed the fire.

All through the summer things are in high gear. The culmination of the summer consists of the three weeks of music camps in August. The intensity and stimulation leaves them begging for more.

September typically brings some travel or holidays, full of learning opportunities of course. And by early October we have dug into the fall's slate of activities -- orchestra, group class, lessons and classes. Holiday preparations kick in gradually over the next month or so, especially the Christmas concerts and craft-making. Things remain busy as we accelerate towards the holidays.

And then we are done. I suppose it's not surprising that January through March represent our down-time, the season of the year when we are just putting in the days, getting testy, feeling unmotivated and uninspired. Now that I recognize this natural cycle of our learning, I rest easy during our homeschooling nadir each year. I know that spring will come again.


  1. I love that phrase "...our natural learning year begins...".

  2. Thanks Miranda! It's taken me 5 years of homeschooling (officially at least)to come to the realization that our lives follow that natural rhythm of nature. It's a learning adventure for all of us every day.

  3. This is an aspect of unschooling that fits us, too. In the two years we have been doing it, I have noticed a natural cycle:
    Summer--project learning
    September--high-holidays, social events
    Oct.-Early December--book learning
    Mid-December-Mid-January--holidays, parties, social events
    Mid-Janaury-March--book learning
    May-early June--downtime

    I am glad we are not the only ones without a standard calendar!


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