Thursday, August 18, 2011

Top Ten Reasons We're Excited for School

Tis the season for back-to-school shopping, planning, paperwork, and a return to a more scheduled life.  Even the non-list makers (like me) are making lists to ensure that everything gets done.  I for one, love the fall.  For me, it signifies a fresh start to a year full of possibilities.  This morning, as we were discussing the next few weeks together, I commented that I was full of anticipation and excitement for this year in particular.  My son said, "Mom, you always say that."

Well, yes I do.  And in the spirit of list making, here are few things that I'm most excited about as we launch off into a new school year:

10.  Great Read-Alouds - Our time reading great books together will always be a cornerstone of our schooling.  I love the smell, feel, and pictures in the books, and I love the sound of my children begging for "just one more chapter,"  the conversation that bubbles up as a result of our reading, and the richness that is added to our family culture.  We have a long list of books on the docket, most of which are "living books."  I look forward to meeting new friends, experiencing different cultures, and having a front row seat as major historical events unfold - all while cuddled together on the couch.  

9.  First Lego League - Brings to mind images of happy, carefree children building towers with boxes of brightly-colored legos.  Not quite.  This year, Will (my newly 12 yr old) is participating in the FLL.  Think intricately-built robots, student-designed computer programs to direct the robots, team building, problem solving, public speaking, with the culmination being a competition with other groups in the state.  Given his talents and interests, the FLL has given him a place to explore and grow, and has been welcome addition to our school year.

8.  Community Bible Study (CBS)- We'll be studying the gospel of Luke this year.  Ya can't go wrong there!  I'm grateful that not only the children and I will be studying the same thing, but that David's evening class will be as well.  "Education without values, useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil."  C.S. Lewis

7.  Fun Fridays - I learned last year that we do much better if we arrange our week so that we spend Monday-Wednesday on our core classes (math, writing, languages, etc.), CBS on Thursday, then reserve Friday for Science.  Last year, we studied birds, including participating in the Cornell Dept. of Ornithology bird count study.  This year, we're studying plants.  I know nothing.  Hopefully I'll know more by the end of the year.  We start Friday mornings on the porch reading about the topic for the day, then spend much of the rest of the day doing an experiment, nature walk on the greenway, or painting/drawing whatever we learned about.  Fridays often entail field trips to the museum, a play, the library, or adventures with friends.

6.  Music - I love our home being filled with beautiful music.  With 3 children practicing piano, one playing the guitar, and the youngest (and possibly her mother as well) adding violin to the list of instruments being practiced, I'd estimate that we have 2-3 hours of music screeching, banging flowing from our home everyday.

5.  Writing/Art/Latin - We have been lavished upon greatly with wonderful teachers who speak into the lives of my children.  I'm forever grateful for their technical expertise, passion, individual gifting, and their unequivocal dedication to and love for the kiddos.  And I'm a lucky duck because I get to see them every week.

4.  Training for a 5K - For the first time, we'll be training as a family to run a 5K together.  The schedule started this weekend, and we'll be running 3 days during the week and once on the weekend in preparation for the race this fall.  I look forward to their experiencing the discipline, persistence, commitment, and reward of support from each other as we gasp breeze through the miles.

3.  Philadelphia - We use a classical approach to studying history, which basically means that  we take all of history and divide it into 4 years, to be repeated after the 4th year.  We covered Ancients, then Medieval, Renaissance, and now we're coming up on the Explorers/American history.  So, we're off to see the Liberty Bell, the National Constitution Center, Independence Hall, and no doubt a few famous Philly cheese steaks in October.  And by the way, we'll just so happen to be able to catch the Andrew Peterson/ Steven Curtis Chapman concert in PA on the way.  Our trips to experience whatever we've been studying continue to be one of my favorite dimensions to our schooling.

2.  Rembrandt - This year, we have a fabulous line-up of resources from which to study the life and works of Rembrandt.  As I was plotting our our trip to PA, I was thrilled to discover that the Philadelphia Museum of Art would be hosting "Rembrandt:  The Faces of Jesus" during our trip.  Rembrandt's 7 paintings of  Jesus will be reunited for the first time since 1656.  In posing an ethnographically correct (Jewish) model and using a human face to depict Jesus, Rembrandt revolutionized the history of Christian art. We started reading The Night Watch:  Adventures with Rembrandt and enjoying his artwork this week.  We're warming up to becoming friends.  I can hardly wait.

1.  Margin - I don't take for granted the privilege and responsibility that I have in tailoring my children's education.  Through the years, I've become convinced that the best part of what we do can never be measured by a year-end test.  I try to apply the general principles of "do what's most important first," then make plans around those priorities.  We've cut out some activities this year hoping to create more margin... To serve our refugee friends.  To be more available to others.  To have leisurely conversations about life, art, the Panthers, and whatever else is on our minds.  To play in the creek.  To read for pleasure.  To stop and watch the spider miraculously spinning her web or the weary yet determined ant carry the crumb to her home. To learn to be still.

As you venture into your school year, please join me by reviewing your own lists.  Do they support your long-term priorities?   Are you considering making changes to help your practical-everyday life line up more closely with your this-is-what-I-value-most life? I'd love to hear more.  Best wishes, and a "Happy New Year" to you and yours!

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