La Paloma in the City
A JOURNEY FROM ROOTS THROUGH WINGS
What does "paloma" mean? It is the Spanish word for dove, and is fitting for our homeschool in many ways. We love the idea of immersion with nature and the outdoors. The dove is a universal symbol of peace and love, and is depicted as a messenger in many religious and secular forms dating back to antiquity. Our star student, Isabella, has a mixed heritage from around the world, primarily Scandinavian, Spanish, and Native American ancestry. The puzzle pieces of "paloma" just fit together!
We are a tiny trio based in Seattle– carving our own small slice of the world one day at a time. Matt owns and operates a recording studio,
Maggie keeps the homefires burning, and Isabella is a sponge. Deals, promo codes, coupons, and giveaways are our best friends.
My daughter began life as a "normal" kid in a "normal" school and was promptly miserable. Kindergarten, first grade, and then second grade came and went, and we finally made the decision to try an online school. Third grade was the beginning of our journey with K12– the Washington Virtual Academy, or WAVA for short. By the time fourth grade rolled around, we knew it was time to throw in the towel and go for broke on our own. Those five years of schooling taught us quite a lot about the difference between "school" and "education."
Our first official year of homeschooling, fifth grade, began in the only way I knew how– traditional schooling. Several subjects in a row, separated by some arbitrary length of time, repeated each day. You'd think after five years of this I would have known better, but fear and anxiety got the best of me and I truly thought this was the way it had to be done.
Eventually I started to learn there are different types of homeschooling, and in one way or another each one made sense to me. Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Classical.... what were we supposed to do? I found a great online quiz which helped me understand some of the different approaches and where I fit in on the scale (spoiler alert: I was pretty equally across the board!). The bottom line became more clear– it didn't matter what we did, as long as we did something. It didn't matter how qualified I was or wasn't, it only mattered that I cared and wanted what was best for my daughter.
After a few months, I felt comfortable letting go of the "everything everyday" method. I was having trouble keeping up with the daily toil and my daughter wasn't any better off than before. I decided to try a new method I referred to as "focused learning" where we'd tackle a new subject each day (seven subjects, seven days a week). I felt like this would allow us to really hone in on something without switching gears several times each day, and it seemed like the days would be relatively short if we only needed 2-4 hours. But soon we started to miss a day here and there and I'd be totally out of whack... doctor's appointment on Monday? But it's Math Monday! Now what do we do on Tuesday– the missed math or the assigned ELA? It wasn't long before the whole train derailed and I was pulling my hair out.
Finally, it dawned on me. My daughter needed to focus, and I needed to sit the eff down. I started to understand the simplicity of "unschooling", but my "traditional" brain wasn't having it. I knew there was no chance my daughter would ever naturally want to learn fractions, no matter how many cakes we baked. I was convinced something would be forgotten and I'd smack my forehead in 20 years and say "I forgot all about prepositions!!"
So what's a girl to do? How could we be left-brained and right-brained at the same time? How could I give the freedom of unschooling and maintain the composition of a balanced schedule? My answer developed itself after several false starts and many long nights of researching curriculums and state standards. In the end, this is what we decided to do:
I built a spreadsheet with seven core subjects: ELA, Literature, Writing, Math, Science, History, and Social Studies. Each subject got seven columns, and the entire year was populated into these 49 boxes (yes all 52 weeks of the year, with 3 weeks off for vacations). I do not use any pre-packaged curriculums, but instead I've pieced together my favorite random workbooks, websites, and resources over the past few years. We take A LOT of field trips and I rely on museums, libraries, and nature to be our co-teachers. Click above on Recommendations to see some of our favorite stuff, follow the Blog to read about our trips, and visit the Store to see what we've designed.
So how does it all break down in the end? Every year has (or will have) a mix of all core subjects, and include a focused push on:
6th grade: ELA and Math
7th grade: Science, History, and Art
8th grade: Language, Music
9th grade: Full Core Review