In Proverbs 2:10, we learn, “…wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” When is it a good time, then, to stop learning? Do we ever really stop learning?
I remember longing for summer when I was young. When the school year came to an end, we were rewarded with two months of leisure time to play with neighborhood friends, hang out at the neighborhood park, set up a lemonade stand in the front yard, and watch a lot of television. Much later, when I was teaching in public school, my desire for the summer break was even stronger. After the crush of administering final exams to 150 high school students and determining their final grades for the class, I felt as though I needed to spend some time in a deprivation chamber just to escape the misery of the school experience. Neither of these experiences relate to how our family regards the summer months now.
Life for my nine- and ten-year-old children is different from my experiences at those ages. How, you might ask, is life different for them? Our children cannot roam the neighborhood unsupervised. Our family does not spend hours in front of the television. Our children generally enjoy their school experience.
School is not the factory experience that it was for me as a child or that I participated in as a public school teacher, in an institution where people were herded from room to room in response to the sound of a bell. For our family, school caters to our individual needs in terms of what we do and how long we do it, and it is, generally, a pleasant experience. We take a week off here and there throughout the year to give ourselves a break from the routine, to refresh, to enjoy holidays, and to travel a bit, but we do not need—or want—to take two months off from our studies!
As we look toward the summer months, I am focused on reaching our goals and completing curriculum, but I am also evaluating what areas of study have been going well, what needs to be revised, and what needs to be left behind. We adjust our goals and curriculum in order that they may reflect what we have learned about our strengths and weaknesses, and in order to pursue new interests as they develop. This flexibility, the privilege of adapting as we go along, is one of the chief benefits of homeschooling. The system does not hold us back.
In a week we will complete our first full year of participation in our Classical Conversations community. When we began in February of 2012, I spent the rest of that school year trying to determine how I was going to integrate our studies in Classical Conversations with the curriculum and plan I had spent years crafting. It was a little stressful because I sensed redundancy of effort. (I tried to call it enrichment, but it was really redundancy.) I have determined, for example, that our family does not require a separate history curriculum in addition to our Classical Conversations resources. However, I have also realized that the time we save by streamlining history should be invested in reinforcing our Latin studies. The time spent in reviewing grammar has been well spent. I can almost see my children’s brains developing as we pound those grammar pegs. A few people in our community have taught their children to say “Ding!” every time they encounter information—out in the world—which they have learned in Classical Conversations. It is amazing to see these connections.
Also at this time, I am thinking of the transition from our “school year” schedule of activities—such as Classical Conversations, piano and ballet lessons, and completing core studies—to a lighter schedule. During the summer months, we spend more time reading. I read aloud more, and my children read more historical fiction and topics of general interest. We will spend more time reading our science books, because during the Classical Conversations year we focus on learning from the weekly science experiments presented there. We will spend more time studying Latin. There are other areas of learning and life on which to focus, and there are other goals to pursue.
When we have a break from scheduled weekly activities, there will be more time to focus on areas such as household responsibilities. Now is the time for me to be thinking about the responsibilities which I can train my children to assume during our next school year, asking questions such as, “How will their chore lists change?” and “How much more will they be involved with caring for our pets?” We organize bedroom closets and bureaus. We prepare piles of outgrown items to be donated. Household management is a vital area of learning for our children, too.
The warm-weather months are more conducive to enjoying time out of doors. Last April, we began taking our children on two-mile “hikes” along various walking and biking trails. Our children required a lot of cajoling, and my husband and I endured much complaining, but by the end of October, we had worked up to walking four or five miles together on a daily basis! Our walking opened a whole new realm of time spent together as a family, and we greatly enjoyed God’s beautiful creation as the seasons changed from spring, to summer, and then to fall. We spent time talking about things, frivolous and serious. We watched our children’s bodies grow bigger and stronger. We kept our middle-aged bodies in good shape. It was fabulous!
The fact is: your children are constantly learning, whether school is in session or not. What will you be teaching them this summer?