Kitten, Bookgirl, Hatchick and I have been working hard to finish up this year's school work. Bookgirl and Hatchick will finish at the end of this week, which is why I'm considering it our last official week of the school year. Kitten, however, will be working on a couple of her high school subjects through the summer.
I'm told this is not unusual for the first year of high school at home. I had a great time participating in this discussion over at Karen Edmisten's blog not long ago, at which point the light finally dawned and I realized something I needed to be aware of a long time ago: I've been trying too hard this year to reinvent high school at home, instead of trusting my instincts as a homeschooler and doing what worked for us. Apparently, I'm not the only homeschooling mom who has ever done that. :)
As Karen put it, high school really is like starting over, in many ways. All of the comfortable, familiar curriculum items which formed the "core" of our grade school days were gone. Instead, there was a bewildering array of choices, and lurking amid them all the notion that if you didn't choose the exactly right best option in every single case, you'd be derailing your child's potential "college prep" program, hurting her chances of doing well on the SAT or ACT tests, and otherwise ruining her life.
Pressure? Oh, boy.
But as it turns out, that pressure was predominantly self-inflicted--pretty silly given that I live in Texas, one of the homeschool-friendliest states in the nation. Why I agonized over the local public school's "college prep" recommendations, made lists of "must-do" classes, and then tried to cram eight full classes per day, every day, into our schedule will always puzzle me. Why I did this without even considering that we would always be doing one class more than any public high school (religion class, naturally!) each day boggles the mind. And why I suddenly felt so much of a need to replicate or duplicate the classes going on in the brick-and-mortar schools, when one of the joys of homeschooling is the freedom to go beyond those borders, is truly puzzling.
With grim determination Kitten and I have been muddling through all of it, to the best of our ability. But a much-needed math curriculum change midyear, and a science program that was moving at a slower pace than I'd first scheduled (because the slower pace was necessary for actual comprehension of the material), meant that we'd be working on finishing at least those two subjects over the summer. I kept thinking that things would have to be different next year, but couldn't quite see how--until that discussion over at Karen's blog, when I finally realized what the problem actually was.
It's not that I don't think homeschoolers should toss out all ideas of what a "college prep" program is in the brick-and-mortar world; some idea of what students will be expected to have covered in the four years of traditional high school is good to have, so that our children's transcripts are comprehensible to the admissions office of a college. But there's a big difference between making sure your "core" classes follow the typical high school requirements (e.g., four years of math, science, English, and history, with 2-3 years of a foreign language and assorted electives to round out the program) and making up a daily schedule featuring one of each of those classes, plus religion class, plus two electives, for a whole year.
Thankfully, now that I've figured this out, I can plan next year's schedule in a much more coherent way (for example: figuring out that "English" was supposed to cover both literature and grammar instead of having each be a separate course complete with daily assignments etc. is a big help. It's not that we won't still do both--but I'm envisioning a rotating schedule, with grammar so many days a week and literature the other days, etc.). Bookgirl, who starts high school next year, will be the main beneficiary of Mom Finally Figuring Things Out--but I know my patient Kitten is also going to appreciate days which are smoother and less cluttered, giving her time to continue to explore her own interests and take "classes" in a less formal way (I'm thinking a healthy cooking "elective" might be fun for both of us).
We may be crawling toward the finish line this year, but I share all of this to encourage those moms who are, perhaps, just starting out, gathering handfuls of kindergarten or first grade curricula and wondering if they can do it all: you can. Be confident, and learn to trust that inward voice that lets you know when things could be better--that voice doesn't ever completely go away, and even veteran homeschooling moms have been known to take a step back and say, "Okay, something's just not working. What is it, and how do we fix it?" Because those moments of doubt or frustration will occur--yes, even in a family like ours that has been homeschooling for ten years now. Working a little over the summer, picking up the pace here and slowing it down there, or even realizing that the book your homeschooling friends raved over is reducing your third-grader to tears and isn't worth continuing are all challenges you may face--but most of those obstacles can be overcome, and there are plenty of wise moms out there to help you figure it out--even when you're teaching a ninth grader and can't imagine that you don't, by now, know what you are doing.