This year I tried something new. I've always said that I take things year by year, and after last year I felt that while I was largely successful I also had room for improvement. My biggest wish was to "combine" more. Up until this year, I did separate math and reading/grammar/etc. for each child, combined the oldest two in history and science, did the same for the youngest two, and combined all four in art and music. Another big wish was to reduce the amount of planning that goes into organizing each year. While a complete boxed curriculum made me nervous (tempting though it may be), I thought I could try something that was partially ready-made. As an added bonus, it seemed like my middle two would fit into the same level so instead of four levels I'd be able to get away with only three. And at least three subjects would be planned for me. Lastly, I really wanted something more independent for my oldest and this program is written directly for the student starting at the level of my oldest child.
After much (MUCH) deliberation, I decided to keep doing my same approach with phonics instruction, math, music, Greek/Latin roots, and art. The only new bit would be a ready-made language arts and ready-made social studies/science (as opposed to our classical approach doing history and science, and pulling literature from those). I figured that if I didn't like the break from a classical approach I could always go back next year. The product I chose integrates the Language Arts with the Social Studies and Science (something I love from the Classical approach) and is project-based (something I try very hard to do in our homeschool, and I believe I do a good job - it just takes a tone of planning). This was a very pricey endeavor as I purchased for the entire year, but I thought I'd be able to unload a lot of planning and make my life simpler.
I could not have been more wrong. We are currently in week three of school. I did more planning and organizing this year than I've ever had to do. I feel like our days are longer and I've got less time than before. Part of me thinks this will adjust as we get into a groove, and that this is normal as the kids get older and older and have more and more school work to do. But another part is nagging and whispering that I made a huge mistake. I'm actually starting to wonder if I'm cut out for homeschooling the middle years, whereas before this year started I wrote about how I actually felt comfortable and confident as a homeschooler. My experiment has totally wiped away all the good feelings I was having and I'm left feeling inadequate.
Well, that's not completely true: I know I'm being thorough and doing a good job. The kids say they enjoy the projects, like the new curriculum, and love doing school. So it's not all bad. But the bad part is seriously getting me down. I feel like I'm "doing school" all day long. And I'm second-guessing having talked myself and my partner into spending more money than I've ever spent on homeschooling product. I am cranky and grumpy more than I'm happy (this is totally unusual for me) because it seems like my oldest can never stay focused on her work and get anything done in a timely manner. Then I wonder if it's because there is too much for her to do. At the same time, I wonder if any other approach would really be any better? Maybe this is just how it is when you have four kids, close in age, and are responsible for their education. When I do less, I second-guess myself on that and worry that I'm doing them a disservice. When I do more, I worry that I'm trying to do too much and am doing them a disservice. Like I said, before this year started I was feeling very comfortable and confident with myself as a homeschooler. Now, not so much.
Maybe I just need to ride out the first "quarter" and re-evaluate before making a judgment call on my decisions.