Well, it’s mid-September, which means we unschooly types are starting to trickle back into what we think of as our school/unschool year. Of course I’m not technically unschooling as Neko is in a blended program, and also given that we do some schooly stuff most days, but we still fit the personality profile (you know — sleeping in, avoiding bookwork, having not the most academic goals in general).
Neko started back to her blended program last week and we had our facilitator meeting last Monday, so it seemed like a good week for us to start back at our homeschooling as well. We’ve been doing a tiny bit of review since late August but we have mostly been lazy and sleepy.
I have, however, been thinking a lot about what I’d like to focus on this year. The major factors in this planning have been the fact that we are putting Neko into a public arts school next year, so I need to make sure she is up to speed on her core subjects; and also that I want to make sure I’ve done as much as I can during my intensive time with her to instill the core values that matter to us as a family: gratitude, service, self-sufficiency, appreciation of art and connection to nature, specifically.
Neko having some fun at the Telus Spark Science Centre last spring.
That makes two separate categories of goals for our homeschooling year. First, Public School Prep; and second, Family Values.
1) Public School Prep
Neko has decided that she does not love math. This makes me sad. I LOVE math. I find it fun. So the fact that the kid I’ve been trying to teach math now hates it makes me feel like I have totally let her down. Anyway, enough about me and my insecurities and guilt. My goal for math for this year is to help Neko to feel confident in her ability to grasp new concepts, and use concepts up to her grade level. She is mostly at grade level so it’s not like we have a ton of catching up to do, however she really doubts her abilities. I’d like to use a variety of different methods of learning (I’m especially hopeful about using art and kinaesthetic learning) to help her grasp concepts like division, fractions, decimals and early algebra so that she doesn’t go into public school assuming she is way behind everyone.
I’m really excited to have some “team writing” time this year where we spend an hour together working on similar compositions (ex. both of us work on short stories at the same time, or poems, or research projects). The main skills I would like her to take from this are planning and revising skills. Right now she is happy to sit down and start a story from scratch, but I’d like her to understand the options for different types of compositions and styles of writing and have the ability to sit down and plan her composition before she starts writing. She also needs to know about story arc and the crucial elements of each type of composition, as well as how to go back and revise and edit. On a more basic level, we will be working on legibility, capitalization and punctuation to iron out any remaining kinks.
This year my main objective is to familiarize her with the scientific method and the proper process of conducting an experiment.
2) Family Values
I’m sure it’s the age (9.5), but I feel like Neko has been fairly ungrateful lately. She wants everything all the other kids have and I know that gratitude for the things you have is extremely important to longterm happiness. I have planned a variety of methods and activities to instill and discuss gratitude over the course of the year. I hope this will be good for me, too.
This ties directly into gratitude. I’m not sure yet whether we will do a few different volunteer tasks or the same one repeated monthly. For our first commitment we’ll be serving lunch at a large homeless shelter and outreach centre downtown. I would also love to create small, beautiful public pieces of art to drop around the city, as this would tie in to service, connection to nature, appreciation of art and also gratitude.
Neko is currently really interested in making and handling her own money, and she’s motivated to work to earn cash. We are exploring options like working as a mother’s helper, weeding and watering neighbours’ gardens, and selling her artwork online to figure out what makes the most sense for her. I would also like her to learn to cook more dishes this year and become more comfortable with basic kitchen skills, as we haven’t covered this as much in the past as I had hoped to. Every Monday night she and I will be cooking dinner together. Lastly, I’ve signed her up for Girl Guides in our community, and the meetings are a few blocks from our house. I’m hoping she’ll meet other girls who live nearby and also that she can ride her bike to the meetings and later to her new friends’ houses.
Appreciation of art:
We’ll be visiting art galleries one day each month, exploring the new exhibitions from local artists as well as the more iconic pieces featured at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum. I hope that we can follow up our outings with some home learning, either through library books or online, and then maybe try out some similar techniques ourselves.
Connection to nature:
This is so key in my opinion. I believe that nature should be home base for everyone. We should have the desire to go into nature when we need to ground ourselves, and feel comfortable doing so. This has been really key to our homeschooling journey all along but this year I’d like to finally do something I have always wanted to with Neko. We are going to choose one spot in a local park (not like a public greenspace, but an actually wilderness area) and visit it once every week or two. We will go on the scheduled day regardless of the weather and be in the that space for a period of time, and record what we see. What is the weather today? Are there animals around and if so, which ones and what are they doing? Are there plants growing? Is there water running? What else can we observe about how this spot changes through the seasons? My hope is that by visiting the same spot throughout the year, we will gain a level of intimacy with that spot and some insight into the cycles of that exact spot.
Neko in the wild.
Of course I recognize that at the beginning of every school year, we homeschooler have pretty lofty goals and a renewed vigour, which usually wanes by January and by spring we have again become super lazy and extra unschooly. But what would happen if we didn’t set these lofty goals?! A person can dream.
We’ll see whether I manage to meet any of these!