Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Is This "Summer Break" Thing?

Summer break. 

I've been dreaming of it for months. That far-off, mythical time when we'd be done with our home education for the year, and when I'd finally have time to get to all the projects I wanted to complete - decluttering, deep cleaning, planning for next year's lessons. 

Apparently my delusion is widespread, because I am starting to see "plans for summer break" posts all over the homeschooling blogosphere.

But I'm now three weeks into "summer break," and folks, I'm here to tell you... there ain't no such thing. 

Or if there is, I'm really missing out. 

The problem, of course, is that home education is only a very small percentage of my daily duties. Every thing else - child care, baby care, laundry, cooking, cleaning, church, errands, outings, dishes, etc. - goes right along merrily, forgetting to respect the fact that I am supposed to be on this long-awaited summer break! But nooooooo. Life continues, and so does the somewhat frantic nature of trying to keep up with daily duties and activities, regardless of whether or not we're doing lessons. And for the most part, all of the tasks I had planned for the summer are not happening

And so, more experienced home educating mamas, I'd like to ask you, in all seriousness: 

What is this "summer break" phenomenon, and why does everyone keep talking about it when it doesn't exist? (Or rather, how are you all getting so much done with a houseful when I am failing so miserably to make progress with only a small family to care for?)

It sounds facetious, but I'm serious. Really, ladies, fill me in on what I'm doing wrong. I had oodles and oodles of plans for the summer - especially decluttering and planning for next year - but I am seeing days and weeks go by with only tiny and painstaking progress made in either area. 

And really, though my list of summer planning tasks seems (to me, a novice) overwhelmingly long, I'm only planning for one student in the early grades. Goodness only knows what state I'd be in if I were lesson-planning for a houseful! (Hopefully that will come with time.)

When I saw this article, which lists about five million things that the author is planning to do during her children's homeschool summer break, I almost cried. Whatever she's doing, it's different than what I am currently able to make happen during summer breaks. 

{Please chime in, experienced home educators!}

Another source of frustration during the "break" is that I don't so much have a list of things to do as a list of decisions to make - curriculum decisions. And being that I am a person who doesn't do so well when there are lots of choices (and there are thousands of choices out there), I am quickly approaching the hair-pulling stage as I try to determine curriculum choices for our first-grader. 

My primary puzzle is over Language Arts. Should I do it at all in first grade? If so, which one? I'm thinking of Alpha Omega's Language Arts LifePac (based on Erica's recommendation at Large Families on Purpose), but there's also a friend's recommendation for First Language Lessons, along with about a million others. 

If I ever disappear mysteriously, look for me in an over-the-border insane asylum, where you'll find me banging my head into walls and muttering, "Language Arts curricula... Language Arts curricula..."

But I digress.

Besides that knotty problem, I am also trying to make a host of other decisions (thankfully phonics and math decisions are already made):

- Should we try to teach any sort of formal history, literature, or science, or just continue with informal reading? If and when we start formal teaching, which curricula should we choose for each? 

- When, if ever, do I want to teach spelling?

- What extra-curriculars, if any, should we choose?

- Do we want to keep trying to do notebooking? How do we make that work? (For all the praise of notebooking that I've heard, I have found precious little about the actual technicalities of making it work.)

- Whenever I do choose a language arts curriculum, what additional curriculum will we need to fill in the gaps? (Some L.A. curricula teach spelling, composition, grammar, etc.; some don't.)

- Which home education style do we want as our focus - textbook, unit studies, Charlotte Mason, etc.? (Yes, I'm still enough of a beginner that I don't have that figured out.)

- What about the extras, like art?

- When should we start piano lessons?

- Should we start Spanish next year?

- Do we eventually want to include Latin in our curricula?

- Should we consider classical education choices? 

These, and many other questions, are currently swirling around in my head, making me into something of an emotional wreck. Though I am doing my best to bring my questions to the Lord (rather than running back and forth mentally like a rat in a cage) and consult my husband about them, these questions are driving me batty. Primarily it's about language arts, but the others are pretty problematic as well. 

And so, dear readers, that is my ongoing summer break - having no time for any major projects, and driving myself nuts with all of the questions I need to answer. 

Ah, the joys of summer. 

One thing that has become abundantly clear is that I do indeed want to make next year's summer break to be April. Much as I am trying to work on contentment with living in Phoenix weather (when my heart is aligned with the weather of the Pacific northwest), I do not enjoy getting outside in our broiling  valley summers. I would much rather use the summers for hitting the books and take our breaks during the temperate times of the year. With that in mind, I hope to start our school year at the beginning of June, so that we can be done in time. 

Again, more experienced mamas, please feel free to fill me in with your wisdom, experience, and advice! 

One of our summer projects completed - our new compost bucket!

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