Accidentally Educational

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Yesterday, Keats accompanied me on a small trek across three counties to visit the vet.  It was supposed to be “snip” day for Robin Hood and Little John.  Little John got a pass, but will have to return in a few months for a more invasive process because he is a cryptorchid (sigh.) We knew his condition heading into the appointment, but didn’t realize the vet would want to give it some more time before performing the surgery.  Anyway, this is probably too much information in the goat health department, but I wanted to explain why only Robin is pictured recuperating on the back seat of the van.

When Keats and I headed out for this appointment, I had no idea what to expect, having only taken dogs and cats to the vet in the past.  The vet we saw typically does house calls, but the fee for her to come out to our area is pretty high, hence the drive on our part.  She essentially had a mobile clinic in the back of her truck, and performed the surgery there.  She explained everything she was doing, and was completely comfortable with us watching.  I was really impressed with her manner, and with the way she cared for Robin.

I waited in the van with Little John because he is a baby, and cries if he’s left alone for two seconds.  I also knew that there was no way I wanted to watch the procedure on Robin.  The combination of cutting, and blood, and private parts is definitely not my thing.

Keats, though.  Keats watched!  I kept reminding him to sit down if he started to feel funny.  The only move he made was to shift to get a better view.  I was nervous for him, because I think that I would actually pass out if I watched something like that.  I can’t even look at any of the scene surrounding having my own babies, and that is despite the fact that five of them have been born at home.  I guess I can deal with pain, just not the sight of blood or parts.  Robin was anesthetized, but I was still afraid he would cry out.  (He didn’t.)  With hands that were literally shaking, I was able to knit two rows from start to finish before the vet called out to me, “He’s all done.”  I braved looking at that point, and even took a few photos to share with the family back home.  Be thankful that I’m not sharing them here!  We don’t want this blog becoming that educational, right?  (Ginny, could you please just write about flowers and pretty things, or maybe some knitting?)

Before yesterday if you asked Keats what he wants to be when he grows up, he would have replied, “A professional baseball player or a violin maker.”  Today he would probably add, “Large animal vet” to that answer.  And that makes me feel so thankful that he was able to gain that little peek into veterinary medicine, and that despite the fact that it was a pretty unpleasant procedure he observed, he was fascinated rather than grossed out.  And you know what I’m thinking, right?  I’m totally wondering whether or not he might be able to accompany the doctor on her rounds someday:  the ultimate homeschooling experience.

Sometimes homeschooling really stresses me out.  But on days like yesterday I am just really grateful to be able to place my kids, even if accidentally, into the path of things that might just become passions for them.  And as my three boys are getting older, I find that this is exactly the way my mindset about education is shifting.  I am less worried about the conventional aspect of their education, (though they still have to do their math and English, etc.).  I am far more concerned though with paying attention to their strengths and weaknesses, the things that they get excited about, where their interests truly lie.  I am wondering how I can get them into places where they can obtain hands on experiences, experiences that might shape their futures.  Because I would love that they end up with jobs they love one day, jobs that do more than just pay the bills.  Don’t we all hope for that?

(And yes, Keats and I stopped to smell the flowers along our way.  He and I are very good at doing that together.)

Year Round

A few years ago, we accidentally started homeschooling year round.  When summer came around that year, we were behind, so school continued.  Anticipating the same happening again the following year, we only took a short break that summer and got started on the following year in early August.  In doing so, I realized how much sense schooling year round made for our family.  I think that frequent shorter breaks facilitate learning for some of my children far better than infrequent long breaks, but there are other reasons that we have adopted this approach.

We like to take breaks during the fall to enjoy the weather.  Fall days just aren’t the time to coop yourself up indoors with books.  And actually, I don’t just mean school books.  I mean any books.  It’s not that I am against reading, but I prefer that we save that for nighttime, or for frigid winter and hot summer days!  When the season begins to shift from summer to fall, the last place I want to be is inside, trying to hammer out school days.  This is the time for day trips, for hiking, for watching the colors change, for getting the garden and wood pile ready for winter. Yes we school, but I like to have some room for taking a day here, a day there, maybe an entire week of if we want to.

We also tend to take a long break in the spring to focus on getting the garden in the ground.  Honestly, when the flowers start to bloom and everything starts to be saturated in green again, I just want to be out there in it, soaking up as much sunshine as possible to make up for the winter months indoors.  Because while my children continue to spend a lot of time outdoors during the winter, I don’t.

I know families who like to take the entire month of December off.  We haven’t managed to do that, but we do take an extended break in the weeks surrounding Christmas.  Of course, that’s pretty typical.

Year round schooling makes the schedule more forgiving during years when a new baby is due, or mom is struggling with morning sickness or something else pregnancy and baby related.  Last summer we ended up taking off nearly two months rather than just the one that I had planned on because of the death of a close friend.  You just never know what life is going to hand you, and how it might affect your school year.  Knowing that taking a few weeks off won’t ruin our school year is a real comfort for me, and keeps me from getting anxious when we aren’t doing school for unexpected reasons.

Last week was a regular school week for us, but the week prior was taken off by my younger children to play in the snow, and the week before that we all took off because of illness.  I didn’t stress about it, because we aren’t strapped to a tight schedule.  We aim to school roughly 36 out of 52 weeks of the year.  A couple of my kids are using a boxed curriculum this year (Catholic Heritage) and that is where the 36 comes from.  For my other kids, we aim to school until they finish that year’s math book.  Typically by that time, they’ve done enough of everything else for the year.  If we end up being able to take the month of July off in its entirety, great!  Then school will start back in early August.

This year we joined a homeschooling co op that meets during the typical school year months, and that has put a small cramp in my flexible plans.  We only meet three days out of the month, so it’s not that big of a deal though.

Next year, Seth will be in high school and his schedule won’t look the same as everyone else’s.  He’s pretty independent and very self motivated when it comes to academics (insert Hallelujah chorus, so far he’s my only child with that kind of motivation) so I am not too worried about the transition, though I am sure we will have our bumps as his course load will be heavier and more challenging.

Anyway, I thought I ought to share this little piece of our homeschooling life, in case you have ever thought of  year round schooling.  I imagine that many of you already do the same.  It was a very organic process for us, one very much facilitated by the nature of home educating a large family amidst life’s hurdles.