Well, it's been a month since our relaxed homeschool experiment began. I wanted to experiment with a more laid-back, interest-led style of learning...basically the 3R's, a read-aloud or two, and everything else would be just what the kids wanted to do.
I was just about to type that the experiment was a failure, since I think we need to go back to more structure. But I guess, really, it could also be considered a success. I have learned a ton from it. I have learned that...
-The kids just don't seem as engaged and interested as they did when we were doing more stuff together.
-The kids spent the first few days doing lots of fun and educational things, but that quickly tapered off, and by mid-afternoon nearly every day now someone is complaining of boredom.
-The kids don't have as much to say at dinner when Dad asks them what they did today. The response is almost invariably "nothing".
-While the kids loved the idea of making up lists for themselves, after the first week or two, interest waned.
I also learned that....
-I really do better with a more structured day. I miss having a routine. It feels easier to have a routine and more structure with these four kids.The key, I think, is flexibility within the structure. Interest-led learning is a great concept, and I truly believe it would work well for many families. For me, though, I feel like it's going to lead to burn-out. I like the structure, I really do miss it. The days are harder without it.
-I missed reading and talking about stuff with the kids. Not that we didn't do that during our "relaxed month", but it wasn't quite the same, and we didn't do it as often because the kids were frequently off and doing their own thing.
-I miss Sonlight! Didn't think I'd say that, but it's true. I really miss having the plans laid out for me, knowing what I'm going to do each day, and having a book list all set to go. I miss all the good books we were reading. The clincher for me was when the new Sonlight catalog arrived in the mail earlier in the week. Made me want to go straight back and finish the Cores we started.
We're going to do that. I talked it over with the kids. Christopher and James were both happy. They say they LOVE Sonlight (can't remember them saying that while we were doing it before, but maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder). Grace was less thrilled, saying she likes what we are doing now. Yet she is the one who frequently feels most bored! When I showed her what we would be doing for science, she perked up. I think this will work.
So I could say this was a failed experiment, but I don't think it was. We haven't done any Sonlight since Christmas. We spent January and February doing a Charlotte Mason approach loosely based on Ambleside, and we spent March on the relaxed interest-led learning. So we're way behind where we "should" be for Sonlight, but that's okay.
To be honest, all the switching around we did this year makes me feel like a new homeschool mom again-totally confused and overwhelmed. Now I see though, that I really do love a lot of things about Sonlight (well except that I have to secularize it....). But I feel like I can go back to Sonlight now and do it in a different way, with a different attitude. Not so much focus on getting the boxes checked, more focus on keeping things light and fun, and treating our studies like an adventure. I hope I can carry that attitude through. I want to.
I will still be incorporating a lot of Charlotte Mason into our lives: using narration, and continuing with nature study, and just reading a lot of great books. I think a Charlotte Mason approach could work well with the Sonlight books. I need to think more about how exactly we will do this, but for now that's the plan.
Next week, we're going back to Sonlight.