Just as the weather follows predictable seasons where I live, I have found that my homeschooling has seasons as well. While I wouldn’t call them predictable, they are constantly evolving just the same. Some of this is central to parenting in general, but our homeschool has taken many different forms over the years.
The School-at-Home Season
When my daughter turned five years old, I ordered a boxed curriculum from a major Christian curriculum company. I set up a desk in the basement and tacked alphabet letters to the borders of the wall. I found an American flag and purposed to faithfully begin each day with the Pledge of Allegiance.
Although I thought this was the beginning of my homeschooling adventure, we were actually five years in. The previous years of singing songs and reading aloud to my daughter rendered the alphabet letters unnecessary. The first time we opened a reading book, she read the student words as well as the teacher’s. The alphabet song that came with the curriculum was helpful, though. My two-year-old was singing it by the second month of school.
The Toddler and Baby Season
When the boxed curriculum for first grade came for my daughter, it contained over twice as many books and subjects. We moved the school room up to the kids’ bedroom where we painted one wall with chalkboard paint so I could keep my active three-year-old occupied while we “did school”. His toys didn’t interest him as much as trying to pick up his baby brother who was conveniently born during the third week of school.
The Activity Box Season
The year my daughter entered second grade, I now had two active preschool boys. One of them ran everywhere he went, and the other persisted in worrying me by refusing to walk even though his first birthday was past.
Our schoolroom was anywhere I could reasonably fit a whirlwind and a playpen at the moment. I carefully filled small Rubbermaid shoeboxes with all kinds of activities for the little boys, but they persisted in climbing up on my lap and getting in the middle of whatever “school” we were doing instead.
The Two-in-School Season
The year I had two official schooling children, I pored over schedules the whole summer before. How would I fit in the alphabet song and beginning multiplication? Not to mention the birth of our fourth bundle of joy due the second month of school. Our schoolroom was in the dining room where I juggled baby entertainment centers, newly filled activity boxes, phonics and third grade leaf projects.
The Two Toddlers, Two-in-School Season
This is probably the year I began hopping between the couch, my double bed and the dining room table for school. Oh, and the bathroom because child number three was potty training. His urge to go usually came in the middle of a particularly emotional math lesson for my oldest or a diaper blowout for my youngest. Baby number four started skipping naps when they coincided with our homeschool gym class.
Babysitting Shifts Season
With two mobile preschoolers and twelve subjects to teach, my boxed curriculum was getting a bit overwhelming. However, I persevered by having the child I was not schooling entertain the younger ones. This worked surprisingly well most of the time.
I added some preschool workbooks in the activity boxes and removed the play dough and markers. No use in cleaning any more than I had to. We finally found a homeschool co-op that we loved where all five of us made friends and learned much.
Current Season: Three-in-School, One Preschooler
This year, I pulled out the kindergarten books again. I also ditched most of my boxed curriculum. Learning is more of a family affair. We use every room in our home to homeschool because, yes, we are potty training again. We use a lot more books and a lot less worksheets. I have an eye on the future which means my second time through high school and my fifth time through kindergarten are looming closer than I want to think.
The chilly spring gently gives way to summer, and you suddenly realize you are sweating as you pull weeds in the flowerbed. Before you know it, you are mowing down the garden and smelling the wood smoke and dying leaves of fall. The first snow buries the leaves you didn’t get around to raking, then gradually fades into a chilly spring once again.
So are the seasons of homeschooling, of parenting. I look behind me and see abandoned baby powder and chalk dust. I look forward and see myself trailing in the dust as they rush on to colleges, careers and families of their own. For now, I think I’ll occupy myself with drawing pre-algebra equations and alphabet letters in the dust on the furniture. Because seasons pass way too quickly and weathering these years begins with today.