Breaking Out of the 36 Week Box

I am on a slow journey to relaxed homeschooling. Anyone who knows me knows I am anything but relaxed when it comes to my children's education! The idea of being a relaxed homeschooler really appeals to me, but I have been working on defining what that means to me, for the purpose of our family. 

One of the main things this means to me is not being tied down to a 36 week curriculum. for me. I like pretty succinct packages of curriculum. I have never bought a fully boxed/all in one curriculum, I have been comfortable piecing it together from the beginning. However, I still liked the idea of using a full year of grammar, writing, spelling, math, history, etc. The problem comes in when a 36 week curriculum starts boxing you in. If you have to "finish" this curriculum there leaves no room for rabbit trails and investigative learning. In some areas, it really doesn't matter. I don't see my children taking all that many rabbit trails in math, grammar, or spelling. ;) But what about writing and history? Especially with history I have felt like everything we have used has been a mile wide and an inch deep. I know that there is a reason for this and history is meant to be an "overview" at this age....however, I am not convinced my children are getting much at all as we graze over everything. 

I want my children to work at their level and their pace, not be confined to the grade on the cover. I want to start looking at things with the mentality of is this a good fit for my child? Not, what grade is this for?

There are a few areas in our homeschool that have gravitated to "do the next thing." The kids are working at a different grade level, or it is not set up in daily "lessons," so we just go at their pace. I have come to appreciate and love these curriculum choices. I feel such freedom in not having to box check and fly through things to complete them in 36 weeks. Need more time on that? Sure! Want to play some games to cement that topic? Absolutely. And I don't stress because we are not getting it "done." A few of these programs are: All About Reading, All About Spelling, and Math Mammoth. I have gradually "broken out of the 36 week box" in the areas of phonics, spelling, and math. We simply gauge progress by moving forward consistently. 

There are a few areas where I am still in the "box." Some boxes I intend to keep closed for now. Some, I am planning next year to bust them wide open.

One of the boxes that broke open this year was writing. We were using a 36 week workbook (Writing With Ease 2) and for multiple reasons, it turned out to not be a good fit and I abandoned the workbook for the Writing with Ease text where I picked our own passages for narration, dictation, and copywork. I am embarrassed to admit, this was really hard for me! I plan to even further venture off the planned path next year when I will be implementing a Writing with Ease/Brave Writer combination.

History is another area I am breaking out of the box next year. This has been challenging as well. I and the children absolutely have had a wonderful year with Biblioplan, and leaving it has caused major fretting! However, I think two years of US history will fit in great for my kids ages at the time we would be doing year 3 and year 4 of the classical cycle. I am planning US history for next year in units. A list of books and activities and read at our own pace.

Breaking out of the box makes me nervous! It may seem silly to many who are naturally relaxed, but I am freaking out a little bit! ;) Now, I am not completely dropping scheduled curriculum. I have no desire to plan science, so we will stick with our 36 week schedule (though I will say it never gets done as is.) I seem to be more relaxed about science than anything else, so not "getting it done" or skipping things here or there does not affect me like in other areas. Even in history, I am rather confident in choosing a spine, adding in readers and read alouds, and just having fun with it. The content subjects grant me some freedom. I plan to stick with a scheduled grammar (First Language Lessons) as it is only 3 days a week, and it has been pretty flexible for us.

Skill subjects . . . Oh goodness... this is so hard for me! It is easy to follow a plan like All About Spelling or All About Reading where we just do the next lesson (or part of a lesson) and then when you finish the book you move onto the next level. I do wonder sometimes about grade level and if we are "on track" but I simply remind myself we are going at the pace my children need and to not worry about where they "should" or "shouldn't" be. But sometimes, that is hard to do!

I think my biggest angst of breaking out of the curriculum box comes in writing. It is an important skill area that I do worry a little about messing up. However, I have solid resources, and I plan to try it and see how it goes. I really want to integrate writing across the curriculum and make it fun and natural.

Fun and natural. That is how I want learning to be. I am very much not an unschooler, but I want to be relaxed and enjoy my children enjoying the learning process. So. . . I am breaking out of the box!

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