summer school

The drugs have worn off finally, it's 9 pm. It took three pills instead of one to get me relaxed to a point I could have the test. But after the third one, I slept and I was still sleeping till a few minutes ago.

I thought I'd take this opportunity to blog a bit about something ON topic. Summer school.

We will be pressing on through the summer. After giving it some thought I decided we must stay the course. The first 6-7 years of homeschooling we went all year. It was one of the initial principles I wanted to apply. Following the hurricane our school day/year was shot and by summer we needed a break. Then last year it just fell that way, largely without thought.

I prefer to have a year round schedule that allows for long breaks. We take many unplanned breaks throughout the year so it follows in my mind that we have that time to keep us honest.

I also strongly believe entirely too much information is lost over the summer. When I started homeschooling I didn't want to make the public school mistake of spending the first quarter reviewing. I also recognized after the first couple years, how difficult momentum, and organization is to maintain throughout the year. When the summer is taken off you do get that exciting boost at the beginning of the year, that's nice but it burns out by Christmas and January and then we push through to the end, collapsing at the finish line. Last year I ended school, one Monday morning totally unbeknowst to the kids and myself as well. I was just so tired of it all I declared, "guys school's out" sometime in May.

I haven't worked out the year long calendar or given a great deal of thought to how the schedule will look all summer but I know we are holding course.

Breaks are great and necessary. But for my school, I realize now that the long breaks are serving as a crutch, and actually hindering our discipline, progress, and retention. The breaks are like slot machines. The kids are always jockeying for a break, hoping for a break and in my honest assessment they are purposefully doing less and being more difficult in an effort to wear me down to gain those breaks.

I see the negative results of these breaks in their work ethic. They are always watching the clock looking for the time off. They know full well they will not have completed their work by the typical end of school yet they work no harder, no longer. It doesn't effect them. They do not expect me to hold them to their responsibility.

Charlotte Mason speaks of excellence and discipline. This summer is where we will begin to build that element back into our school. If the kids worked their best, they would have a much easier time of each day, as opposed to dragging out work some days or being difficult with me, distracting their siblings, etc.

For my part I fall behind on grading, forget where we were in Algebra and have to review everything to be able to teach effectively. The classroom gets disorganized, my desk buried. Then I need weeks to regain my composure and be able to teach again. These unplanned breaks derail me, and the summer buries me. I cannot teach this way another year, I will not.

I believe kids have our number. Like Dobermans they can smell fear and failure and they know when we will not really follow through at least mine do. They never fail to monopolize on my weakness and turn a day that is slipping into a total loss or "off day". It's no wonder they slack off, what's the consequence? The year will be over and they will have no consequence for not having finished. I'll begin working on the new summer schedule next week as soon as volleyball wraps. But for a few pieces I have all the materials, and curricula I need to start next year so as soon as we finish this year we can move on.

It's a delicate balance between enjoying and exploring throughout your school day, and meeting the requirements we've set. It's great fun to trace down a rabbit trail, but knowing when to pick the math up and catch up is important too. Discipline, and self control are central elements to CM, and I am not imparting this properly.

For me summer is a great opportunity. We can chase those rabbits without hindering any book work. We can spend mornings reading aloud under trees, and whole weeks catching up on labs and experiments. We can make day trips to museums, zoos, parks, wildlife habitats, and all kinds of cool stuff. We can make up all that math we slacked on, and not lose any momentum. But my greatest hope is that they will build a deeper level of commitment to their work, and own it, it's their education after all. I will build in breaks this year instead of falling into them out of necessity and I think we will all push harder knowing exactly when and where the breaks will be.

So summer school is the order of the day and I am excited about it. The kids have mixed reactions - one is relieved, he can catch up, one is excited and looking forward to cool stuff and one is skeptical. Those of you familiar with the kids can easily figure out who is who!

I am a fan of year round schooling with lots of planned breaks, and we are getting back to it.


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