Third Topic: Homeschooling
As far as what we are actually doing in the homeschool, we are in a good holding pattern for the summer.
In my lesson planner I write down enough work for 3 days and then we just try to have the bulk of it done by the end of the week. That means that there is room for summer projects, for appointments (I am trying to catch up on doctor's appointments and that kind of thing) and for field trips/ life experiences and for the general open time that one associates with summer.
I guess it's a kind of loop schedule, come to think of it. As with Brandy's loop schedule for cleaning, some subjects need to be more "high traffic" than others. Mostly math, since that seems to be the least likely to be done naturally around here, and the children don't seem to progress as fast with math as with some other things.
I am trying to work with Paddy, my 11 year old, on the habit of using a planner. His planner is basically a set of weekly checklists with the names of the books/ materials which we are using. I write notes on the checklist about what we actually did so I know if we need to revisit the topic again.
Aidan's checklist is mental. I hear him at night sometimes saying, "Tomorrow for school -- we'll do some reading, and I'll write my story, and do the adding game online, and some dot to dots...." Even though he is cognitively delayed, in many ways he is right on developmental track or even ahead, in his ideas of personal responsibility. He has his own internal list of duties --many of which he takes on for himself, like collecting the trash around the house and bringing the bin out to the curb, and now bringing it back to the garage again.
Kieron has graduated, so now it is just the two -- Aidan and Paddy -- that I am directing daily.
As always when things are going pretty well with homeschooling logistics, I feel like the spark is gone. In connection with that phenomenon, I am reading a book called Mini-Habits which had an interesting take on the relation between habits and the emotional feeling of motivation -- basically, he says that the relationship is inverse. You start off, say, with a highly motivated feeling that inspires you to make changes. Then you come to a point in about 3-5 weeks where you actually have somewhat established the habits, but your initial inspiration is basically gone. You are doing better but it doesn't feel like you are. He points out that habit is automaticity, which by its very definition is rather emotionless. The whole idea of fluency is that it is second nature, so you no longer notice how wonderful it is that you can drive a car, or diaper a struggling infant, or make a dinner where all the parts are done at the same time, whereas once those things were very difficult.
One of my grown sons told me he feels like he has gotten stupider in the past couple of years. This is at the same time as he is getting A+s in college and being asked to join honor societies. I think this is part of the same picture. A lot of times, as you get further into the nitty gritty of some habit, skill or area of knowledge, you feel like you are doing worse than you were originally, because the learning curve starts leveling off. You have a more acute sense of your relative lack of skill and knowledge, and less of the naive ignorant kind of enthusiasm that you started with (one notices this in the spiritual life, as well).
This seems to have gotten rather far from the topic of homeschooling systems, but I wanted to remember that whereas once the lack of "spark" as we go about our homeschool day would have scared me into thinking we were being too mechanical, which would have driven me back to the drawing board to reinvent the homeschooling wheel (strange confusion of metaphors there) -- now I have a better sense of how these things operate. Sure, my homeschool WILL become mechanical if I simply rest on "systems", rather as my prayer life or my relationship with my family will become too pedestrian if I let them run on autopilot. But at the same time, the habits are like the underweave or as Charlotte Mason says the "rails" on which the good things run.
So all in all, I think I want to keep the "loop" idea even when summer is over, though I may go about it differently as the seasons change.