Monday, April 05, 2010

Review Crew Cruise Question: On Choices, burnout, and violets

This week's question: "Burnout--how do you handle it? Avoid it?" (Click on the ship to see more responses--they will be posted on Tuesday.)
And in the morning it's manna hotcakes.
We snack on manna all day.
And they sure had a winner last night for dinner,
flaming manna soufflé--Keith Green

On the weekend we went out for dinner with Grandpa Squirrel, to a diner-style restaurant we like. The food and the service are good. The wall decor is amusing (lots of diner-era movie pictures).The only problem with this place is its mind-bogglingly long menu. What are you going to have? Fish and chips, pasta, pizza, pasta-plus-pizza, burgers, sandwiches, all-day breakfast? Soup or salad with that? Fries or baked potato? Mama Squirrel went into can't-decide mode, so when The Apprentice asked for a chicken wrap, she just said, "I'll have the same." Fortunately, it turned out to be a good choice. But wrapping your brain around all those choices seems to be a too-common experience in our culture, and it can actually keep you from choosing at all. We have posted about this very thing before.

The Toronto Star posted a review yesterday (by Jennifer Hunter) of a new book by Sheena Iyengar, The Art of Choosing. Iyengar talks about the same issues and describes experiments such as "the jam test"--a grocery store experiment where people overwhelmed by too many flavours turned out to be less likely to buy any of them at all. I've seen the same thing happen at the homeschool conference vendor hall, where the sheer number of books, DVDs, posters and toys makes people either freeze up, or go crazy buying things they don't need. Or the number of people telling you to try this math curriculum, that method, this subject, that program, becomes just another invitation for brain meltdown.

I'm experiencing a slight dose of this myself today, on a gorgeous warm Easter Monday that, besides an attack on Mount Laundry, requires some time spent organizing our spring term. If you can get burned out by boredom (manna waffles) or by overwhelming demands, you can also be attacked with similar symptoms when the choices seem too many. Especially when the weather's nice and the last thing you want to do is go through all those free downloads.

But maybe there's something there I missed...and the DHM is using that Numbers Long Ago book, so maybe I should look at that again...and I just got that 40-page Worksheets Directory, maybe there's something in there we could use. Oh nuts--I'd rather sit on the back deck and finish Terrible Lizard.

Okay...regroup. First of all, our general schedule has been working pretty well. Although I might like a slightly neater weekly table of subjects; and although Charlotte Mason might like it better if Crayons didn't do all her math, spelling and handwriting all in a bunch (or if she didn't do "spelling" at all, but that's another story); I have to admit that if it's working and the work is getting done, we're probably halfway there.

What do I want to see change this term? More outdoor nature; more picture study and music (we've been very lax on that this year), more geography, and more independent literature for Ponytails. More independent Bible reading, since we've finished the year's stories-to-read-together. More Roots and Fruits word roots, since we let that drop in the fall and the Squirrelings keep asking me when we're going to add more prefixes to our lonely little list on the kitchen wall. More habit training, which sounds like rather nasty medicine but which is nonethless beneficial.

Goals: to get Crayons to a particular point in third grade Math Mammoth, and to get Ponytails past decimals and through a bit of algebra. To read Kim and Great Expectations out loud, and more poetry. To get done Easy Grammar Plus through the Verbs chapter. To get done everybody's assigned history for the term. To finish a few other things that we started--no big choices involved there. To keep everything within the idea of leisurely. (You never thought it was so much work to be leisurely?)

Nice things I'd like to fit in:

*A short unit on inventions with Crayons, using some of the chapters from Story of Inventions which is part of her Year 3 work, and since we were asked to try out this Inventors game for the Review Crew.
*Marmee Dear's Sugar 'n' Spice Unit Study, just because it looks useful and interesting
*Gardening books
*Spring Nature Study, from Type Lessons for Primary Teachers
*Nature study on the violets that are everywhere on our lawn
*Tables in Word 2003 by Leanne Beitel (how to create tables--very useful)
*Charlotte Mason's Ourselves

Some of those are obviously more important than others--but violets don't last long. We have to keep the priorities straight.

So am I done? Can I go read my book now?

Oh--I still have to get all that stuff in order for tomorrow, don't I? And put the things in the right workboxes. Okay, so I'm not quite there yet...

but I'm not burned out.

Photos: Mr. Fixit

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