Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer Planning

I have been avoiding work lately. Part of it is the usual summer thing; enjoying vacation and not wanting to think about the school year looming ahead in September, but part of it is what is known as burnout. I just completed my eleventh year of homeschooling...but if you include all my kids, I have homeschooled twenty one grades! That is a lot of planning and reporting, and part of me is sick and tired of it. Not sick and tired enough to throw my kids to the school system, mind you...just sick and tired of the hoops and keeping all my ducks in a row. Next year marks the first year where I must report all four kids to the school district (although Emma has completed her Kindergarten year, she won't be 6 until August, so by law I only have to report her this coming school year) but thankfully, I only have to report Rachel for two more school years (you can stop at the end of the year the child turns 16, since school is not mandatory after that.) Still, two years of reporting four kids still adds up to 8 letters of intent, 8 IHIPs, 32 quarterly reports, and 8 end-of-year assessments or 8 standardized test requirements. Jeez.

As usual, I am reading the Rainbow Resources catalogue from cover to cover (although I am skipping all the religious topics and much of their science section-- allowing terms as "secular" and "mentions evolution" to catch my eye...the OPPOSITE of what they intend, but very useful for me!) I spent the first few years of homeschooling using various sites, message boards, and catalogues to plan my syllabus--but once I discovered Rainbow I never went back. There is so much information in there; because the family who runs the company is so vast, they have used almost everything and they describe in minute detail. I don't always buy my books from Rainbow--I can often find them gently used or cheaper somewhere else--but I use them for the decision making.

This year, as in most years, we are making a few changes. The best part of homeschooling is that you can change whatever you want depending on the needs of your kids. The first change will be in history and science. Now that I have three kids of elementary age (!) I have decided that we are going to work these subjects together. I am getting programs geared to Julia's age, since she's the eldest, and Ben and Emma will work with us at their own levels and pace. History Odyssey seems to be the program I will get; science is still undecided. It is quite simply too irritating to not only plan three levels of history and science, get all the books and supplies needed, but to actually help them along at three different levels is mind boggling for me. We can take turns reading things aloud and work on projects at the same time. I think this will cut our frustration levels to almost nothing. History Odyssey also has a high school program, so Rachel can work on the same meta-subject but at her own level.

The other major change is that I plan to cut out some busy work. Language Arts is the prime example. In the past, each child has had spelling, grammar, literature (reading and writing in whatever capacity) of various sorts, proofreading, handwriting and vocabulary in different combinations. While these are all worthwhile things and need to be studied, my kids are, quite frankly, really good at all of these things. I am seeing less and less value in workbooks that are at their grade level, but pose no challenge at all. I am going to focus more on the literature side of things and less on the time wasters, because reading helps all of those areas and endless drills are boring.

Hopefully I will have my IHIPs together in the next 2 weeks, and my books ordered. I hate walking into Target in the middle of July and seeing BACK TO SCHOOL all over the place, but I have to admit that summer flies far faster than any other season and I have to be prepared. And in the meantime, we are enjoying all that summer has to offer!