Reclaiming Joy

It’s fairly typical of me that we’re quite a few weeks into our school year and I’m just now sitting down to type up my annual “what are we doing this year” kind of post. That’s partially because I’ve been extremely overwhelmed by how suddenly our schedule morphed from summer laziness to OMG-where-did-my-calendar-space-disappear-to! mode.

In an attempt to marshal my aging brain cells into some semblance of order, here’s what we’re doing this year: math. Writing. Reading. And whatever hairbrained ideas the spawn come up with. Yup. That’s about it.

After a brutal last few years where we’re all reeling from pandemic exhaustion and political pain, I’m done. The kids are done: we’re all super tired. And despite our best efforts to keep the kids somewhat insulated from the stressors of the last few years, they’re stressed. Not helping our other mental health issues either, for sure!

The only thing that made the last year bearable for the kids was giving them some control over school. So I decided that this year, I’m going to amp that up and see how they do with student-led learning. In moderation. Because full-out unschooling would mean my kids would never ever EVER do any math whatsoever!

I’m something of an academic control freak, I’ll be honest. I see people with lovely little planners and piles of perfectly planned out educational content, and I sigh wistfully. That’s nothing like my barely controlled ball of chaos, constantly ping-ponging off the walls of my life in reaction to yet another “unexpected,” or “unlikely” scenario. I mean, seriously, how often can things go wonky before you give up and see “unexpected” as the new normal? Don’t answer that. I’m still pretending I’m normal. We’re normal. Nothing to see here!

For now, we’re barreling through Singapore Dimensions Math again, until we’re all back to the levels I know they are capable of. We’re reading steadily; a smorgasbord of different books, poetry, literature, news, and research options. They’re writing about all of it – what they’re reading, the project they’re interested in, lists of songs they want to download, list of tree names for 4-H, essays about the last field trip we went on: if you can imagine it, they’re probably writing about it.

Science and Social Studies are almost fully child-led. All of the kids blew through their year’s assigned science textbooks (Marshal Cavendish) last year, so we’re stopping to do some deep dives. Social Studies is a wide-ranging world history and geography viewpoint that ties together everything they’re learning. Art and music this year are therapeutic-based ways to connect and de-stress.

Our school budget this year falls under the category of “Ways to Look Things Up On Your Own,” and I’m down for that. My kids have become far too used to me feeding them information. It’s past time for them to learn how to research on their own.

At the start of the school year, I usually sit down with the individual stacks of school books and work up my goals for each kid for the year. It’s the roadmap for their academic success, a personalized goal planner. This year, it’s the same for all of them. Forget “complete Singapore 5A,” for this year it’s “Reclaim Joy.”

That’s a nebulous, lofty goal. Maybe I should stick with “Learn More Independence” instead?

I usually share which resources we’re using, so I’ll plop the links in here if anyone’s interested. They’re a rich mix of gorgeously illustrated encyclopedias, serious compilations, and tomes of endless science questions. All good stuff! I got a lot of them used, which really helped my budget. (note: I do not receive anything from Amazon for linking all of this.)

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