Half Life


If you look up a typical school year, you would find it usually includes 36 weeks of classes, or 180 school days.  This is the required amount of time set by the state for kids to be ‘in school’. Now, in Oregon, the standards are extremely loose, so whole families move here to take advantage of the freedom afforded in the homeschooling laws. We were not one of those families.



We moved to Oregon for my husband to pursue a Master’s at Western Seminary, which led to another degree, and now he is in the midst of a PhD. Rigorous schoolwork has been the pattern at our house for some time now. That being said, kids and adults have drastically different motivators when working on lessons, and the kids in our family are no different. They simply would rather play. Play is scientifically proven to have long-term educational and social benefits, don’t get me wrong, but there is a limit to my tolerance of avoiding schoolwork to build Duplo battle weapons.


Each year as I dutifully plan out our curriculum, I base everything on that 180 day model. 36 weeks. Labor Day to Memorial Day. The School Year. On paper, it looks reasonable, but after the rest of life is added in, it seems to become a burden. Towards the end of last year, I joked that this would be the year I switched to year round school, but I still planned out a ‘normal’ 36 week load….and let it ride. I had my suspicions, and so far they are correct. It will take us about 360 days to do 180 days of school work. The half-life of our work load is roughly 6 months. We are on year round school auto pilot.



The kids are working, they are enjoying the books, videos, classes, lessons, and field trips. They are doing chores, visiting family, working in the garden, riding bikes, exploring interests, and practicing instruments. No one is playing Nintendo for hours, or sleeping in until noon {although I would pay dearly for a sleep-in day!}, no one is slacking, it is just taking twice as long, and I am ok with that. More time to think, more time for ideas and concepts to sink in, more time to read, time for tea….more time.


Naturally, some of our books will go by more quickly than others; as the easier books taper off, and the work load decreases, summer will be here, and a cycle will {hopefully} emerge. 

All of those reasons why I keep doing this that involve ‘going at your own pace‘, and ‘adjusting to each child’s specific strengths and weaknesses‘ {and so on….} seem to fly out the window when faced with a simple 12 month calendar. We are so ingrained with this western school model that even something as small as taking extra time on a subject seems like failure, rather than due diligence. But it isn’t failure. It is learning how to learn, how to enjoy the process of absorbing all of these crazy skills that we NEED TO KNOW, like graphing algebraic equations, and correcting punctuation. The things that we see as insignificant now, may someday be an integral part of our lives. Even algebra. Especially chores.

Determining the half-life of my coffee to be about thirty seconds,



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