Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mid-Year Slump

Ah, it is that time of year again.  As we get set to resume the formal part of our learning (homeschoolers are always learning, in or out of school, just like kids everywhere) we get set to face my least favorite annual tradition: the mid-year slump.

We have been schooling year-round, with sprinkled vacations, for five years.  For the first time this year, we'll take a longish summer break (though still shorter than the typical bricks and mortar school).  We are now at approximately the midpoint of the year, and the looming summer break has if anything enhanced the mid-year slump.

From the point of view of the kids, their annual subjects-- those that change yearly, such as history era, science focus, any new foreign languages or writing challenges-- are no longer brand new, shiny, and exciting.  Yet, in the bleak midwinter, summer vacation seems yet nowhere in sight.  Our freaky weather this year is exacerbating the situation.  Normally, it is cold, icy, slushy, and yucky outside in early January in the mid-Atlantic region.  Lately, it has been sunny, largely pleasant, mild weather with confused plants starting to bloom.  So instead of the feeling that studying is better than going out in the cold yuck, the weather feels as if summer is nearly here.  Buckling down to week 21 out of 42 seems out of sync.

From my point of view, the problem is entirely different.  This is the time of year when I start gathering resources, vetting books-- text and more casual volumes-- researching experiments and writing assignments, scouting web resources, and jotting down plans that will become syllabi in late spring or early summer.  In the process, I get thoroughly excited about what we are setting up to learn next year, so much that I develop a strong impulse to abandon our current studies and launch into next year's stuff NOW.

For example, I received a new telescope for Christmas; it was a complete surprise, but a wonderful one.  I have been burying myself in star charts, reading about azimuth, ascension, lunar cycles, composition of comets, light waves, radiation, and more.  I am just BURSTING to share this wonderful stuff with the kids, shoving aside the rest of the year of my home field of biology.  I can't really do that.  We have awesome stuff planned for the second half of the year, from ecology to evolution to comparing plant biology to human senses (thank you to the Coursera course from Tel Aviv University that I took around this time last year, "What A Plant Knows.")  It was an exciting part of their courses to plan, so now I have to fight the desire to give it all short shrift and hustle on into astronomy.

Similarly, my high school freshman will be a sophomore next year and taking the second half of world history.  I am going crazy trying to winnow down the list of possible literature to match up with the history course, knowing he can't read everything in one year, no matter how enthusiastic his mother is.  We can't start on the list now-- he's done a terrific job wrestling with the literature of the ancients and will now be starting medieval writings.  I, of course, want to read it all, revisiting old favorites and discovering writings I have never yet encountered.  (By the way, faithful readers-- if any of you have any favorites among non-western writers for next year (renn/early modern/modern) I'm all ears!  I'm also up for hearing about readable titles that illuminate international events from a non-USA perspective, to challenge ideas and perspectives for this rhetoric stage kiddo).

The kids have the job of getting back into the swing of things and focusing on the now, rather than the distant horizon of summer.  I have the task  of reminding myself why this stuff was so exciting last January, and to also stay in the now, focusing on the wonder before us today rather than what will be next year.  We'll get through this midyear slump, as we always do.

I have some great labs planned, to include some of the kids' buddies, running some DNA fingerprinting, visiting local streams, and more.  My freshman is looking forward to reading the Qu'ran and looking for common themes drawn from the surrounding literature, surviving Dante's Inferno, and beginning another semester of current events with a lively online group of teens as well as finishing up a course in symbolic logic.  My middle schooler is looking forward to shifting his history focus to medieval times for the second half of the year, doing more biology labs, and diving farther into algebra to find the fascinating problems.  I will somehow balance enjoying their discoveries, following through on all the exciting plans I made a year ago, with getting up in the night to go watch the skies and wondering about next year.

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