Saturday, July 7, 2012

10 Reasons I Homeschool Year Round

I've always thought year-round school was a great idea. When I was young, I was so bored by the end of July that I actually got out books and started reading for hours. That was after the yearly two week road trip vacation with my parents, in June, right after school got out. When my children were in public school and they went on the year round track, it was a huge relief, both financially and psychologically. Financially because I didn't need to squeeze so tightly in order to pay the babysitter for full days for three months. Psychologically because I didn't have three active children at home going stir crazy from boredom and cabin fever. 

When we transitioned to homeschooling, we actually did take the first summer off. Partly to celebrate and change gears. We took a long camping vacation. We moved to the next state. Then we settled into our new "routine". I decided not to take the next summer off, because for one, I was working and could not have constant interruptions to direct bored children into useful, productive activities. Secondly, children need routine, just like the rest of us. It gives us a sense of security and purpose that gets us up in the morning and keeps us moving through the day. Lastly, we could take a week or two off throughout the year, as it suited us, for visits to their dad, grandparents, or for our own vacation or just a plain old break from routine.

With my 9 year old son, whom I have homeschooled since birth, we have taken one summer off, because his friends did. It was so hard for me to get back into gear after that, I decided to get back to the year round schedule. So, without further blab, here are 10 reasons we homeschool year round:

1.  It keeps the routine consistent.
2.  It fits our work schedule better.
3.  We can take time off as a family.
4.  We can plan trips and time off around our schedule, not the school's.
5.  We can go places during the off season and avoid crowds.
6.  No paying for expensive camps or day long babysitting to "keep the kids busy".
7.  Fewer interruptions for mom, working at home, because boy is doing schoolwork at the same time.
8.  We can take a three week vacation in the mild fall weather of November, instead of the blistering heat and humidity of August.
9.  We can stay inside in the air-conditioning, working in comfort when it's too hot to do anything fun or productive outside.
10. We can go skiing midweek in the middle of January, without worrying that we are getting behind on schoolwork.

Now that I'm started, I'm sure I can come up with a bunch more. So next time I'm faced with a dumbfounded stare after telling someone we homeschool all year, I will be able to give them more information than they ever knew they wanted.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Little Free Libraries - Take A Book, Leave A Book

I admit it, I have a problem.  I'm a bibliophile.  I collect books for the sake of having books. I love to read, but I certainly cannot read fast enough to justify my enormous collection of books. I just can't help it, I go to a book sale, or a thrift store and they call to me. I take a teeny peek and they look so interesting I just have to buy them to read "sometime". Friends give away books and I take them. My mania is not limited to bound matter. I also collect audiobooks - how can one drive for hours without something decent to listen to? I have 100 ebooks and counting on my ipod. Project Gutenberg is one of my regular haunts. My library card is worn and no matter how hard I try, I cannot leave the local public library without at least half a dozen books.

I have tried to trim my collection. I regularly go through all the bookcases in the house and thin out the books.  Then I put them in boxes in my workshop. I pass them on to friends. I have an Amazon store where I sell some.  It does not help that I end up paying out of pocket to ship most of them. I have donated cases of books to the library and subsequently bought them back when they didn't go on the shelves. I've donated dozens of books to our church library, but it doesn't seem to be very popular. I donate boxes of books to the veterans hospital, thrift stores and sell them for $1 a box at garage sales. Somehow, it is not very fulfilling. 

That's why, when I read about Little Free Libraries in the Sunday Los Angeles Times, I thought "what a perfect idea"! Just mount a weatherproof box on a post at the end of the driveway, keep it stocked with a variety of books, and hopefully people who come by for books will also leave some that will be good to read. Heaven knows I could probably keep the thing stocked from my own stores for years, but it would be nice to find an interesting read in there from someone else. 

Little Free Libraries was the brainchild of Todd Bol and Rick Brooks of Wisconsin. From Todd's first Little Free Library which he installed at his home in 2009, over 1600 have sprung up around the United States and around the world.  That's not counting any which may not be registered with the site. The friends' original  goal was to see 2,510 Little Free Libraries built, just over the number funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Now they expect to see 3,000 registered with their site by the end of this month. Little Free Libraries encourage patrons to "take a book, leave a book, leave a note", and frequently become a meeting place for friends and neighbors who otherwise wouldn't see each other very much.

I can just picture myself slapping on the skis this winter, and heading out to see if anyone's left a new book, and to set out a couple of old friends, to go keep company with someone else. Of course it will take a little time to pull this project together. I probably have most of the materials I need for the box, and I've downloaded tips and directions from the website. It is that elusive factor - time - that I need to corral in order to get it done. In the meantime, I will nurture my vision of my own Little Free Library right at the end of my drive - and maybe a portable one to have in front our campsites when we go traveling...