Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hitting the Books

Ordinarily by this date, I would have completed my preliminary curricula selection process, made several slightly messy and not-wholly-necessary lists, placed my book orders with several online retailers, and right now I'd be sitting here in the anticipatory glow of the dawn of a new school year, waiting peacefully for the doorbell to begin ringing, the boxes to arrive, and the children to pull long faces before cheering up at the sight of crisp new books with interesting titles and, in many cases, attractive illustrations.

But this has not been an ordinary summer. July has been characterized by visits from out-of-town family members, and rather than start the whole book-ordering process and have to set it aside somewhere in the middle to enjoy our company, which would carry the inherent risk that I'd order some books more than once, I decided to postpone the whole thing until after the visits had come to an end.

Which they did. Sunday. And it's Tuesday afternoon, and there's a nice blank legal pad in front of me, just waiting for the lists to begin. But in the meantime the midsummer ennui that so often drapes like a hot dark velvet curtain over late July, all of August, and here in Texas, much of September, is shrouding all my would-be activity with a level of inertia that's as hard to fight off as a pleasant dream that begins five minutes before the alarm clock rings.

I know what I have to do. I know how to do it. I've been making practice lists in my head for the past several days. But I can't help thinking, rather sleepily, that it's all a lot of bother just now, and perhaps my family and I should consider unschooling this year instead. We've got lots of non-textbooks in the house, and I've even got a book with hundreds of easy science experiments, so why not?

At this point I know that what I really need is an infusion of caffeine.

It's not that unschooling's fundamentally a bad idea. There are lots of homeschooling families who take this approach, and take it quite well. My reasons for not trying it are many, though, and range from a serious deficiency in willpower that would turn unschooling into simply not schooling at all, to the fact that February still exists, and turns an icy and malevolent glare across my mad midsummer daydreams, freezing them so that they shatter into crystal shards that melt like the insubstantial things they were; because by February the early glow of a new school year has been replaced by the flickering light of an unsteady candle, and even with the help of textbooks, lesson plans, and the invaluable workbooks it still takes all my daily efforts to keep the light of our homeschool from going out altogether from the sheer dreariness of that dreary month.

So, I've got the caffeine, and in a few short minutes I'll be starting. I know that if I stay focused I can have everything selected and ordered by Friday at the latest, which should get all the books here in plenty of time.

But next year I'm definitely going to order my books by the last week of June.

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