My oldest son never expected to be on lockdown for the final third of his senior year, unable to go anywhere, do anything, or see anyone. He never expected to wonder if we’d be allowed to have a graduation celebration. He never expected to contemplate whether his college would open in the fall. He never expected to invent a Plan B, a gap year in which he worked a lot of hours (in case he isn’t allowed to do what he dreams of doing).
He certainly didn’t expect us, as supposedly free citizens of the republic, to use the word “allowed” so much, but I digress.
None of us expected to be here, did we? When I planned our spring Circle Time after Christmas, I thought I’d planned for the rest of the year. But when this whole quarantine thing started, we really struggled. I kept doing what I called “fighting for normalcy” — which turned Circle Time into something everyone dreaded. (Consider how disheartening it must be when your mother continues to read aloud a book on social skills when socializing is forbidden.)
Yesterday morning during our read aloud, this sentence jumped off the page at me:
[T]he melancholy mad elephants, like the Hard Fact men, abated nothing of their set routine, whatever happened.Charles Dickens, Hard Times
The thing about Dickens’ “Hard Fact men” is that they are Lewis’ men without chests. They have memorized lots of facts while losing their souls. They have cold calculation in place of warm hearts. Men like this see no reason to adjust their plans just because someone is having a hard time. Hard times do not cause them to wonder at the state of the world because nothing causes them to wonder at all.
I saw myself in the mirror dimly. Yes, carrying on a routine can be good for children, especially small children. But my children are not small and they’re struggling with all of this as much as anyone.
So I went back to the drawing board and created what I assume is our last set of plans for the school year. The finality is not lost on me: next year I will only have three students instead of four. My homeschool has reached the tipping point and we are now on the decline.
I decided Circle Time needed to be shorter. I needed to cut things that didn’t make sense right now and add things that did. It’s not all that different from before, but it’s more what it needs to be for now.
Here are my plans:
Note: My oldest only stays for the first four rows. I do the final two with the other children (9th, 7th, and 5th grades).
Here are my resources:
- We read a couple chapters aloud each time. Right now we’re in II Kings.
- Loop 1
- Artist study: AmblesideOnline assignments, studies laid out by the amazing Rebecca at A Humble Place
- Composer study: kit from Simply Charlotte Mason
- Loop 2
- Poetry reading:
- This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry (sent to me by sweet Renee Shepard ♥)
- Read Aloud:
- Rex Barks by Phyllis Davenport
- Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price
- We add a bit of map work for this as well.
- Literary History:
- What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool
- Logic Puzzles:
- Aesop’s Fables by Milo Winter
- I just use the fables to teach the variations.
How a Loop Schedule Works
The nice thing about loop schedules is that you are never behind. You are always exactly where you mean to be, so you pretty much feel like Gandalf as long as you’re consistent.
Following a loop schedule is pretty simple, once you get the hang of it. I use Post It Arrows to keep track of where I am. I have one pointing at which day I am on, another pointing at where I am in Loop 1, and a third pointing to where I am in Loop 2. As long as I remember to move the arrows when I’m done, I’ll always be ready to do the next thing.
On Finishing Well
It was easy for me to assume that “finishing well” — something I long to do every year, of course, but especially this year as a gift to my senior — meant doing exactly what I planned when times were normal. Dickens, with his little word sword, corrected me. Finishing well can include adjusting well. We’re changing plans in order to finish well. And that’s as it should be.
Have you changed some plans lately?
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