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To Choose or Not to Choose

Scheduling in an Over-Scheduled World

by Laurie Block Spigel

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(This article first appeared in the NYCHEA newsletter)

The topics suggested in the November newsletter are as overwhelming as, as, as a homeschooler’s choices in New York City! They all seem to be about how we make such choices. After all, we have chosen to educate our children outside of the governmental system just so that our choices will be greater. To describe when I mean, let me share with you a dream I had last winter.

I dreamed my child was in school. The schoolroom looked like a composite of a cafeteria and an auditorium. There were long tables with attached benches, and long racks of clothing. Children filed by in rows, going through an obstacle course that went over benches and tables up to the auditorium stage and snaked down through racks of clothing back to the cafeteria level. At every turning point a young, friendly teacher offered a helpful hand to any child who might stumble. The teachers repeatedly encouraged the children to select clothing from the racks and, as the line wound around, the children’s dress changed, layer by layer, until almost all of the children had selected several items from various racks. My son, however, chose nothing. I stood on the side, observing him, and thought that none of the clothes appealed to me either. Suddenly a teacher appeared from the back of the stage area and announced that musical instruments would be handed out. For the first time my son perked up. I, too, was intrigued. Music sounded pretty good to me. The line of children looped by the music teacher who handed out bassoons. Only bassoons. They looked like enormous recorders, as long as a child was tall. Some children took them and continued in line. My son passed the teacher, and then passed by again. I could see him looking behind the teacher, craning his neck, and I could hear him thinking: “Where are the flutes?”

That next morning, as soon as I awoke, I vowed to get my son the flute lessons he had been begging for. But this dream also gave me my metaphor for school: the off-the-rack education. We all buy off the rack, and most of us search for bargain basements. But anyone with a wardrobe that reflects their own personality knows it took countless malls and thrift shops to put it together. And anyone who yearns for the luxury of custom tailoring has probably made some items from scratch. A great wardrobe, like a great education, can be had at Harrod’s or Oxford, but the public school on the corner is more like Woolworth’s!

How many activities are too many? How many are too few? Only your child can tell you. I resisted flute lessons for so many reasons: the time, the cost, the inconvenience, the schedule overload. My son already takes piano, and far too many dance classes. Of course he has no time for flute lessons, I reasoned. But my son makes the time. He could choose to give up piano or dance (c’mon, your Mom’s exhausted!), but he only wants more! Just last week I asked him.

“This year, we’ll see if flute and piano together are too much for you,” I said.
“I know,” he answered.
“What do you know?”
“I know you think it might be too much for me.”
“But what do you think?”
“I don’t think it’s enough, I mean I don’t think it’s too much.” Give your kid the power to choose, and they just might choose the world.

I used to try to keep a schedule. Now I just try to keep up with their schedule. This year I devised a new method for my teacher’s log. I print out a weekly calendar with a list of subjects along the side. The teacher or student fills in the spaces, logging hours or content of studies. This works out well for us, because at a glance we can see if we are falling behind in an area, and it’s a quick review for when I write my quarterlies.

Is it helpful? Do we agree? Don’t make me laugh. When do homeschoolers really agree? Besides, I gotta go or I won’t fit in that math lesson before the next dance class!

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