|The Bat (L) and Eel (R) Riding the Miniature Train in Alamogordo, NM|
Since the rhythm of our religious calendar is so different from the rhythm of the secular calendar--from having its beginning in spring to being lunar instead of solar--it can be difficult to see it as a cycle rather than as a series of unpredictable holidays scattered through the secular year. In order to teach my children our religious calendar, I decided to peg our school calendar to the liturgical year. This way, the beginning of the school year is linked to something relevant to their lives, and comes just after a holiday. The beginning of the "traditional" school year, on the other hand, comes just before several holidays, making it terribly inconvenient.
Last year, the Bat and I started doing kindergarten. But we didn't get as far as I'd hoped. What with five moves spanning three states and six localities in the last twelve months (not to mention the birth of the Elephant about a month before we started school), last year was far too eventful to settle into any kind of school routine. And coping with stress and disruption is not conducive to academic learning.
Still, in the de facto unschooling environment that the Bat has experienced this last year, he has made considerable progress. He is starting to read and write. He can count and understands addition. He is memorizing addition tables. He knows the alphabet, numbers, and several words in ASL. We've discussed many scientific topics that have come up along the way, too. And he enjoys documentaries about space, construction, and engineering. He has learned enough in many topics to know what questions to ask. He is learning about the days of the week and the months of the year (on both calendars), and he is learning about the rhythm of our week. He is learning about reading clocks. He has learned about the solar system. He is learning about our faith, and he asks questions on that topic frequently. He is actively learning about his place in the family structure and in society.
Most importantly, though, he is learning to focus. He no longer objects to my reading aloud, and has started to enjoy it. He is learning to help me with housekeeping in a more dedicated way (his new chore this year is to rinse the dishes I wash). He is learning that there are things I expect on a continual basis, rather than a momentary one (being good, for example), and that means he needs to keep track of what I tell him and what he does for more than a few minutes or seconds at a time. This in particular is developing as he learns about the calendar (liturgical or otherwise), since it requires a concept of time.
The result, though, is that last year was Kindergarten Part One, and we are now onto Kindergarten Part Two. Let's see if we can form some kind of routine (that would be up to me) and build on the Bat's ability to focus (that would be up to him). The nice thing is that repeating kindergarten in the homeschooling context allows me to do what no school can: acknowledge that there was no failure on the part of the student. Academically, last year was a huge success for the Bat, now it's time to build on what we have started.
This year, the Eel will also begin doing "Preschool." That means he will begin learning in a more structured manner and will have assigned tasks at the same time as the Bat. He already knows a lot of what the Bat has learned simply by being present. Now it is time to harness and guide that energy, to teach him to be a student.