In Which We Assess Our Current Plan and Prepare To Make a New One

I’m not big on new year’s resolutions . . . unless they involve lofty and unrealistic plans for everything we’re going to accomplish in our homeschool starting in January. 

Before we get to that, however, I need to do my annual mid-year assessment. Even though we don’t take significant time off in December—we school year-round without much regard for major holidays or summer break—the end of a calendar still seems like a good point to evaluate what’s working {and what’s not} and make some adjustments going forward. 

Early Christmas present: Tenney and Waylon

What We’re Keeping

The review year concept is going well. It may end up taking longer than we originally thought, but in general we are enjoying re-reading many of our old favorites. Plus, we’re getting more use out of all those beautiful spine books we bought a few years ago, so it’s also cost-effective.

I like our new schedule of having one solid chunk of the day devoted to school {with a break for lunch} instead of our previous set up of morning school and afternoon school. The Agents are older now, so their attention spans are such that we can do more in a shorter amount of time, and we all enjoy the freedom of knowing that when we’re done, we’re done. 

The Agents are loving their one day a week of classroom time {an enrichment program through their charter school} so we will definitely be keeping that.

The Agents quite like workbooks; these file boxes are pretty cool

What Has To Go

We’ve pretty much given up {at least temporarily} on any kind of oral or video Spanish lessons. The Agents just aren’t interested; they actually all prefer written work. I realize learning to read/write a language, but not speak it, has disadvantages. However, I also don’t want to discourage learning a new language in whatever capacity they currently feel comfortable with. They know enough that pronunciation is not a problem, and they hear it spoken regularly. It’s likely they will want to pick up conversational practice again at some point in the future, just not now. 

Studying any mythologies other than Greek mythology, at least for this year, is probably not going to happen. We just can’t help ourselves: There are so many good stories and books and we fall down all sorts of rabbit holes and can’t seem to bring ourselves to put it aside and look at other options. So we’ve decided to just accept that for the rest of this school year we will indulge ourselves with all things Greek and plan to move on to other world mythologies next year. {Note that we consider world mythologies a separate subject from world religions for reasons shared at the end of this post .}

Cat principal inspecting the day's reading

What Happens Next

In the next few weeks we should be able to get to a good natural break for most subjects. It won’t come together perfectly for everything, but in general we’ll be ready to tackle new topics. We’re also working on clearing out our library bookshelves to start fresh. {It’s not unusual for us to have anywhere from 100-150 books—from four different library systems—out at one time.} 

Of course I’m already overflowing with ideas for the next calendar year, but that will have to wait until a future post.

A Quick Homeschooling Update

It’s been nearly three months since I last wrote an actual homeschooling post, so I guess I’m due. 

The Agents are still enjoying their one day a week enrichment program and will miss it when they pause for winter break. They will be returning to their same classes and same teachers again in mid-January. 

We continue to plug along with our review year, and it’s going pretty much as expected so far. I originally anticipated maybe a review half-year, but we have accepted that we can’t help but follow occasional rabbit holes and therefore will never get through everything we intend to in that short amount of time. 

My students on a recent field trip to the natural history museum

This week is our 29th {!} of the school year {we started back in May} and we haven’t even made it to Christmas yet. Needless to say our year-round schedule means we accumulate more “school days” than we might following a traditional calendar. However, because we go year-round and don’t take much time off around holidays {or a long summer break} our individual days and weeks can be {and are} more relaxed. 

Our schedule has remained pretty much the same: math and language arts most days; every other subject twice a week. We did add in some written work for science and geography as well. We still keep Friday as our catch up day. Ideally we start working by 10:30 and are done by 2:00, and that includes a break for lunch. If we have errands to run in the morning, we do school after lunch and finish whenever. It’s all very flexible, but unless we’re traveling or it’s a holiday that Hubby is off work, we rarely skip a day. 

Since I wrote about it last year and our approach hasn’t really changed, here’s a link to how we do Christmas at our house. It’s all pretty much business as usual for us this time of year, to be honest. 

We will be taking a few days off to head up to Disneyland, and we will have company for a few days at the end of the month, but mostly we’re just trying to get to a good stopping point in all of our lessons so I can plan for January and beyond. 

Why Bother

My heart hasn’t really been into blogging lately. Part of it is the usual busyness and distractions, but part of it is simply that it’s so much easier to post a picture or a blurb on Facebook or Instagram instead. I don’t feel compelled to “save up” what we’ve been doing for the week and share it in a longer piece. 

Of course I’ve already pointed out that I’m never going to help you solve problems you don’t know you have. And I still don’t like ruffling feathers

But truthfully I probably could share much more than I do—and some of it may even be useful for other humans to read—but the thought of wading back in is daunting. If I’m not going to be all-in committed, why bother? If my words are only being read by a few dozen people tops in most cases, why bother? If I might say something that upsets someone and wish I hadn’t said anything at all, why bother? 

Years ago I used to participate in a weekly blog hop where the whole purpose was to post a brief summary of seven {random} things that were on your mind but didn’t warrant a full post. I also did a weekly “list” post of ten {related} items, although I can’t remember if that one had a suggested theme or not. I miss having that sort of structure in my blogging week, and I haven’t found anything similar since. Even on my “off” weeks where I didn’t feel I had much to say, this was an easy way to motivate myself to get something down.

So where do I find motivation now? I mean, I haven’t written anything in six weeks {and that was a book review read by, let’s just say, not many people}. 

But recently something reminded me of a quote—and no I don’t know the exact words or who said it, and yes I tried Googling—that has helped me in the past. I’m not writing to change people’s minds, or to convince anyone they must see my {obviously correct, ha} point of view. I’m writing so that those people who need someone in their corner know they are not alone. Because that is something I can do with little effort: be a small voice for someone—even just one person—who might need it.

And that is why I will bother, going forward.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry: A Review

I actually finished Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson a few weeks ago, but I’m just now getting around to composing some thoughts on it. Because, life. This was my second {maybe third?} read-though. It’s one of the few books I’ve ever purchased without first checking it out of the library to make sure it was worthy of spending money on a personal copy. {Spoiler alert: it is.}

If you’ve watched Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey {on Netflix and highly recommended} you will recognize several of the main points he makes throughout the text—although the book by no means follows the show by chapter or even approximately. He begins with “The Greatest Story Ever Told” {i.e., the birth of the universe} and ends with some personal reflections on the humbleness of our place in the cosmos.

Along the way individual chapters deal with dark matter, dark energy, the periodic table, the electromagnetic spectrum, and other topics. He does a good job of explaining the complex science without sounding condescending, but had I not already possessed a basic understanding of some of the points he addresses I think I might have been a little lost. {Or at the very least re-reading several sections to make sense of them.}

There will be several moments you will stop and think, Wow. I did not know that. That is so cool. Here’s one of mine from the beginning of Chapter 10, Between the Planets:
If you enclosed [our solar system] within a sphere—one large enough to contain the orbit of Neptune, the outermost planet—then the volume occupied by the Sun, all planets, and their moons would take up a little more than one-trillionth the enclosed space.
I would definitely recommend this book if you enjoy science and learning about the universe, but need to be reminded of some of the finer points of cosmology. It’s not exactly a “light” read, but something you could easily work through in a week or two over your morning coffee.