In the Autumn of Unschooling: Shifting Gears for High School

Pinning this for later: Great read on what unschooling high school looks/feels like. #homeschool

When the kids were younger, September was a month of settling into a new routine.After summer 4-H activities and nearing the end of the summer farmers market season, we looked forward to making plans for fall projects and defining just what it was that we wanted to accomplish in the coming year as the days grew shorter and the temperature dropped.

New routines don’t feel like so much of a joint effort anymore. I’m feeling, in fact, like the month of September snuck up on me. Our family has managed to wrap up a summer full of 4-H, quite a bit of travel for the kids, farmers market events, extended family gatherings with cousins one-two-and-three generations down the line, and we’ve celebrated the middle kid’s 17th birthday.

What has changed?

I find myself asking if it is more the kids or me. As they’ve gotten older, my routine has slid toward working more and hanging out at home less. A defensive mechanism, perhaps? A way of keeping myself from hovering? A reaction to the fact that I realized, at some point, my kids would benefit from a little less mom time?

Five years ago I took a job as the farmers market manager (part-time summers, somewhat less than part-time through the winters) and what my vendors have been reminding me lately is that the kids were there, near weekly, helping out. My youngest learned to count change by sorting the market money bag. The oldest helped by plugging the numbers into the accounting program for the first few summers. She also became the market’s official photographer for events. They carried corn and watermelons for shoppers and were often there to ring the start of market bell.

“Haven’t seen your girls all summer,” a vendor said to me on Saturday, and, “That boy of yours, I barely recognized him. He’s gotten so tall.”

Some days I feel I don’t see much of them either. My oldest seems to be having an easy semester. When she’s not in school, she’s working… saving her money for big plans down the road. She’s spending more time out with friends, studying… or whatever it is the college kids do these days.

The middle kid is also on campus, for only one class, but it is five days a week, and she works in the office for her dad the one day I’m not there. We took a break together at lunch yesterday to review the state’s guidelines for high school graduates. We then went to the university’s page for incoming freshman. She’ll have no problems getting in. She could be “done” in fact if we chose to look at things that way. In the spirit of being thorough, we decided to add a Crash Course/Khan Academy chemistry unit to her transcript. I volunteered to sit beside her as a student, too. I’m looking forward to the time together.

My son took on a two-half-days-a week babysitting job in the summer that has morphed into three-more-or-less-full days this fall. When I worried that it was too much time, too much responsibility, he talked me into letting him give it a try. I still worry, but he is finding his way, and we are keeping the lines of communication open about it. In addition to the babysitting job, my son remains dedicated to daily “edu-pack” time, his self-titled selection of topics/themes/lessons that has evolved from what I once urged as a daily things-to-do list. The last I looked, in included things like DuoLingo lessons, a history series on YouTube, and daily time on Khan Academy. In addition, he has signed up for a German cooking class, and has been studying the area technical school catalog, trying to decide if there is a certificate he might like to apply for (he has learned that high school students can begin taking classes at minimal cost their junior year of high school).

I have moments where I ache to have it all back again… days centered at the kitchen table, rolling out egg noodles for lunch as little voices take turns reading out loud from the latest Harry Potter novel. Last night middle kid made pizza for the whole family. Tonight we each ate what was found in the refrigerator as we arrived home, varied leftovers as varied schedules permit. Last night’s pizza maker has her nose in a book, and it’s not the same book I saw her reading a few hours ago. My son has retreated to his room, feeling the need for some alone-time, I suspect, after another full day of babysitting. I crawl into bed without seeing the oldest. Hubby and I have a conversation about it. Should we ask her to check in more often? We hear the key in the lock as we drift off to sleep.

September will soon turn to October, and I will be doing my best to balance keeping out of the way, while spending all the time I can manage with them.

What We Love in the Fall Issue of HSL

home/school/life fall 2014 issue

We asked some of our regular home/school/life contributors to share their favorites from the fall issue. (Want to read them all? You can subscribe or buy the current issue here.)

  • Once again, home/school/life is full of fantastic reading suggestions. This month’s guide to books for young writers was just the list I’ve been looking for. My oldest son is participating in NaNoWriMo, an online writing project. The fabulous collection of titles HSL suggests this issue will come in handy in my quest to support my budding young author. As the weather grows colder, my kids and I look forward to long afternoons by the fire. You’ll find us there curled up with gems like the Halloween selections Suzanne recommends in her column this month. As if all this wasn’t enough to keep us busy, Amy shares 11 must-read titles spanning many genres including poetry, fiction, science, and history! Thanks for all of the great suggestions! —Rebecca
  • * I love "Best Cities for Homeschooling" and am particularly tickled at the fact that my own city, Oakland, made the list! I wholeheartedly agree that Oakland is a wonderful place to homeschool. It's neat to see Lake Merritt mentioned; it's been the heart of the city for years, but it's been recently spiffed up. A walk around the lake these days gives the ideal snapshot of Oakland: vibrant, diverse, urban and naturally beautiful all at once. * "Snap Happy" is a fantastic article on how to take better photos. I'm amazed at how much useful information Shelli managed to pack into this piece. Her suggestions about how to take advantage of light should be invaluable to anyone who wants to take better photos. I've been working at my photography for a few years now, and I found this piece to be both a great refresher and excellent inspiration for me to pick up my camera more often. * If you know me at all, you know that I love writing, and encouraging others to love it too. Parents who want to inspire their kids to write ought to write themselves—which is why I think "Just Asking" is such a neat article. It's aimed at helping parents think deeply about their reasons for homeschooling, and how they spend their homeschooling lives. But they could also be used as the ten best writing prompts for homeschooling parents ever! Parents who don't have a regular writing practice could buy a new journal, or open a new Evernote file and try answering these questions. Just tackle one at a time. They're such thoughtful questions, and they're bound to lead to deep wonder and discovery. I know I'll be trying them out myself! —Patricia
  • This is very hard for me because I love everything in the magazine, but if I have to pick just five, I will pick the five that were very informative to me right now as a homeschooling mom. * You Asked: I loved the question about when a parent should start worrying about a child who isn’t interested in reading because this is something I’ve dealt with and I think parents need all the encouragement they can get to not worry about this issue. * Curriculum Junkie: I love our new curriculum junkie’s first column, and when I read it I wanted to go buy the biographies she recommended immediately. * Career Path: I love these interviews with professionals because as a homeschooling mom, I want to learn as much as I can about different career paths and how to help my children on their chosen career paths. *Mark Twain’s Mississippi: I just love Mark Twain and enjoy reading anything about him. It reminded me that I want to read all his books to my boys. * Just Asking: When I read these excellent questions to ask myself on this homeschooling journey, I knew I’d revisit it someday with my journal, and I think I might just do that tonight…. —Shelli
  • Officially, everything in the issue is my favorite because that's kind of how we put each issue together—we say "What do I really want to know about homeschool life this season?" and go from there. I've been gushing about the Best Cities for Homeschooling for a while, so I won't include that one (even though I think it's terrific!) and I'll try not to repeat anything that's already been mentioned, but here are a few things in this issue that have really inspired me: * Patricia's lovely letter to her new-to-homeschooling self is a much-needed reminder that we can trust our kids to point the way when we feel stuck. * Our reader letters page is one of my favorite pages ever because it's so wonderful to hear from people who are actually reading the magazine we work so hard on. * I have already purchased the quick-attach smartphone microscope in our holiday gift guide. I love the idea of having an instant microscope for nature walks. * I wish I had had Amy Hood's tips for art museum field trips when we started homeschooling — I think our museum jaunts would have been a lot less stressful and a lot more fun. * I always love Shelli's "Our Way" pieces, which profile real-live homeschool families, and this issue is no exception. I don't know about you, but I never get tired of hearing about other families make the homeschool life work. —Amy