Eternally Optimistic Slacker

Will we get our act together and start tomorrow? Or will I turn out to be a total slacker for yet another week? Place your bets, folks!

I’ve been saying “we’re starting schoolwork next week!” for approximately four months now. As you might have guessed, we have not started. Motivation has been running pretty low around here these days, but the children have been getting along and keeping themselves busy, so my usual criteria of “we are starting schoolwork if you’re going to be jerks to each other” hasn’t really come into play. Still, we haven’t taken a summer off since the year my oldest forgot how to add when fall rolled around, so I’m a little nervous about our prospects.

Most years, we take a little vacation during Labor Day week, which usually includes my oldest’s birthday. Some years we go away, some years we stay home and do all the fun stuff that’s completely dead because kids have gone back to school (hello, beach to ourselves!). We were supposed to go to Disney in November so hadn’t really planned to take that time off in September, but, well, global pandemic . . . so with the Disney trip canceled and our backup plans up in the air, we decided to take “Birthday Week” off as well to hopefully fit in some fun family outings. Of course, that means if we don’t get our act together and start schoolwork soon, nothing will get done until after that week off, which puts us at mid-September. If I want to maintain our streak of finishing the school year in April or May like we usually do, I need to summon the strength to get a move on!

Shelf

Behold my beautiful new Tardis blue shelf, which I had to commandeer for my own purposes to prevent the children from fighting over it, as yet uncluttered by the random crap that somehow always ends up shoved among the workbooks, bins of the few new supplies we actually needed for the year, and a planner ready for action. Yes, that is in fact a Home Depot moving box from when we bought this house 4 years ago, and no, it has not been unpacked. But our school supplies look heckin’ lovely so just ignore it okay?

And so . . . here I sit, surrounded by curriculum and thinking about my late-sleeping tweens and quiet morning coffee time, blogging instead of actually figuring out who is doing what come Monday morning. This is our 8th year of official homeschooling and it just wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t constantly second-guessing every curriculum choice we made for the year (indeed I am), frantically selling off stuff I’ve held on to for far too long (yup), and wondering if maybe this will be the year that we buckle down and stay committed to following what the books tell us to do (insert maniacal laughter here). Still, somehow, it feels like it might just be a really good year for us. Unless anyone forgot how to add over the summer because then I will lose my ever-loving mind.

The Best Laid Plans

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As I’ve mentioned before, I looooove planning. I love spreadsheets and checklists and charts and color-coded schedules . . . and I love ignoring them after they’re made. I was once called “the least type A type A person ever” and thought that was a pretty accurate description. What can I say–I like to convince myself I have my life in order, especially when it comes to homeschooling! Except, of course, that I really prefer to wing it most of the time. My firstborn and I spent a great deal of time butting heads during our early homeschooling years, largely because I made the mistake of creating detailed lesson plans and setting goals of what we needed to have done during each week (or month, or quarter). Learning to let go of my own unrealistic expectations and embrace what actually works for us was probably the most vital lesson in our homeschool journey. Even if I love planning, we are all better off if those plans stay loosey-goosey so that when something comes up, I can shift things around without stressing.

This is particularly apt right now, when I’m mapping out lesson numbers for the coming weeks. They look so pretty in a table on Google Docs, all evenly spaced and labeled and nicely organized. We go on vacation the first week of September most years so I wanted to jot down lesson numbers for the week after the trip, to keep myself from having to figure it all out at the last minute after a week away. Then yesterday my children asked if they could each pick one subject to skip during schoolwork. I agreed because look, I need as many un-ironic “Mom of the Year” moments as I can get, okay? They’ve finally realized other kids get ACTUAL summer break and if letting them each skip one tiny chunk of schoolwork makes them feel like I’m a benevolent ruler instead of an evil hag, I’m going with it.

What it led to, however, was a discussion about whether they should have weekly goals with the freedom to choose which subjects they wanted each day, as long as it all got done by the end of the week. I’m not positive this will work for us–I can definitely see my 6th grader deciding to save all of her math lessons for Friday, because those take her the longest, and then we’d be all burnt out at the end of the week while she has 75 hours’ worth of math problems to do. So it will need SOME guidelines (especially as far as math goes), like maybe certain subjects will require a certain number of days per week instead of just getting through the specific lessons whenever they want . . . but hey, it gave me the opportunity to create YET ANOTHER weekly checklist to fill in!

I’m starting to wonder if my children know me so well that they actually orchestrated this because they thought I’d be in a good mood if I had new checklists to work on. Am I being played? Hmm. It’s entirely possible, but since I have such a pretty new table to work on, I don’t really care!

Tools of the Trade

It’s that glorious time of year when school supplies are everywhere and people start posting beautiful photos of their homeschool set-ups. I freely admit that I am a sucker for school supplies, whether we need them or not. So what if I have a dozen empty 3-ring binders on my bookshelf? Can you ever really have too many sharpened pencils and spiral notebooks?

Well. Yes, you probably can, but sometimes the sales are too good to pass up. We just rearranged our family room to incorporate our schoolwork area so my shelves are currently nice and organized. I suspect it won’t last long though! At what age should humans be able to put things back where they found them, the WAY they found them? We have apparently not reached that milestone yet. Here is our current arrangement.

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If you can’t tell, I completed the shelf in the top picture first–that’s our “curriculum/resource” shelf (plus some Outlander and fantasy books that didn’t fit on the “reading books” shelf. Fortunately, those cabinet doors hide stacks upon stacks of construction paper, lined paper, chalkboard, and half-filled notebooks. The two smaller shelves house the random stuff and baskets of junk–I mean, leftover supplies–that have nowhere else to live. And, of course, you also can’t see the twirly bin of pencils, markers, notebooks, rolls of tape, empty glue bottles, and sticky scissors that lives in the living room. Or the giant box of picture books that still need to be sorted through and then shelved or donated. Or the stacks of mostly-used workbooks that should be recycled but I just can’t bring myself to get rid of yet because what if I decide to use some of the unused pages this year? Let’s just focus on the good stuff today and forget all of those things exist.

And there, at the top of one shelf, sits my very favorite homeschooling tool EVER: The Laminator. “Why do I need one?” you ask. Why DON’T you need one is the real question. You can make posters, reusable worksheets, checklists, bookmarks, signs, reminders, labels. You can preserve artwork or awards certificates or other Really Important Things.

Besides, if Ryan Gosling loves it, it’s clearly worthwhile. What’s your favorite homeschooling supply item?

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