Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Eighth Day of Summer Schoooooool... Aaaaaalllll's Welllllllllll!"

sounded the call of the Town Crier (or is it the Night Watchman?), assuring all the townspeople that they would be safe and secure in their expectations of morning routine and order, even in the midst of these months traditionally referred to as summer vacation.  And so shall it remain, by order of the Queen, Schoolmarm, Governess/Wife Jane Eyre Style.  Aw, forget it.  By order of ME.

Last Monday we buckled down once again... for so many reasons, not the least of which are (1) both the boys have some catching up to do, and (2) the wise mother in me saw that we would all benefit from a teeny little bit of structure to at least the first few hours of the day.  I had always planned to do some work through the summer, but had hoped it would be some "extras" - I especially had my sights set on map memory work and story book geography.  But, I decided to let that go to focus on getting Aaron through his math book and having Dominic repeat his handwriting book.  Back to the basest of basics.  (Believe me, we're not the type of homeschoolers that are trying to get ahead all early-college-entry-like.  We're more defined by trying to keep up without losing the joy of learning and the appreciation of being together. Sounds all hearts and flowers?  Most days it's not.) 

For two years now, I've been trying to convey the concepts of time well used and time wasted to the boys.  I've even gone so far as to draw pictograms of the day, showing how lessons done well and quickly and early, leave TONS of time for whatever later in the day.  No one ever got it.  Ever.  Dawdling, stalling, procrastinating were the typical methods of accomplishing school work - despite every natural consequence and un-earned reward I arranged.  (I'm primarily referring to methods used by my eldest, here.)  

However, yesterday the boys finally finally finally got it!  They independently decided, without a sermon from me, to wake up early and get their lessons (and morning chores) done so that the rest of the day would be free. And they did!  This morning, by 7am, I had two pajama clad kids at the table busily working and eating fruit and waffles.  And Aaron just announced as he went to bed tonight, "Dominic and I have agreed we're going to do that thing again where we get our lessons done right away so that we can have the rest of the day free to clean the backyard."  What?? What did I do to deserve this double bonus - lessons done and a clean backyard!  

So - even if we don't finish the math book or the handwriting book, these kids have learned a far more valuable lesson in their summer school: He who cheerfully completes his work in the wee small hours of the morning has a very good chance of avoiding the wrath of Mom for almost the entire rest of the day.  Well, at least the morning.  (She might even smile at you before 8am.) And you really do pretty much get to do whatever you want for the the remaining free hours of the summer day.  An important lesson, indeed. 

A few notes on our "Summer School".

- It is ultra low key. Often includes things like, "practice tying your shoes" or "write a letter to your Aunt ___." 

- Besides the Math and Handwriting, the point is to get back into the habit of knowing what Mom expects and doing it in short order :)  

- My kids think it's cool to do lessons outside.  Veteran moms are always telling us to change things up a bit, right?

- I use a check list because then the boys know what they have to do without asking me over and over, and I don't have to try to remember what I was planning on having them do. It's super low-tech - I just write it out and they check it off as the go.  I love check lists that look long but the lessons are very short - the kids get to check stuff off quickly and it gives us all a sense of accomplishment.  I also like to think of it as a lesson in perception vs. reality - a project (or list) may seem long or difficult, but if you start it, you may find that it's well within your power to finish it with reasonable effort and in a reasonable amount of time.

today's lists.  relatively short, actually.  the boys were thrilled they only had four things each.
(During the school year, I used a magnet board system - I wrote about it here - to keep track of lessons, and I'll probably go back to that in the Fall. We usually cover so many subjects in a day that the hand-written checklist would be ridiculous.) 

- Here's a fun thing - a sweet friend of mine from college encouraged her son to write to Aaron asking if he wanted to be summer pen pals!  They're the same age and both love Legos.  It was a pen pal match made in heaven.  I mean, what a GREAT idea. I'm so grateful that she came up with this and that they included Aaron - he gets handwriting/editing/letter-writing practice with the expectation that he'll get something in the mail in return! And he's making a new (out-of-town) friend in the process!  Best kind of summer school I can think of!

- Part of our summer school plan involves read-alouds, usually done later in the day or at bedtime.  Earlier in July we read Kipling's The Jungle Book and the kids listened to Just So Stories on CD. We recently started an abridged version of Moby Dick, but it seems to have gone missing - Davy Jone's Locker's got nothin' on the abyss that is the mysterious darkness under our living room couch. 

- So far, Summer School is going well. (It's only day 8 though, so I know there's still time for it all to fall apart...  I'm not that cocky or naive!) I suppose we may take another week or so off right before September.  But for now, it makes sense to continue - we're learning, it's productive, and it hardly takes any time out of the day. 

- Don't worry.  They are getting PLENTY of free-to-be-kids-in-the-summertime time, so there's NO NEED to convince me that children need time to run and jump and play.  My needs-to-be-cleaned backyard is proof enough that these kids are freely running, jumping, playing, and I don't even know what else (usually unsupervised, to boot) many hours of every summer day.  

Do you school through the summer??  And is it different that what you do during the traditional school year?  

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