Yes, you're reading that right! We free and unfettered "life learners," we long-term unschooly types, tried a timetable on for size this term.
Oh, it was so pretty.
I dolled things up by changing the font, using different colours and text sizes, fitting things into coloured boxes, all in the attempt to make the Scheduled Learning Opportunities look enticing and fun.
I printed it out and put it in a plastic sleeve where we oohed and aahed over it. It looked so fancy, so polished, so Sensible and Straight.
And I had high hopes for it, in the beginning. This timetable thing was how I was finally going to fit all the government expectations and requirements into the week, squeeze them in like step-sisters' toes into our glass slipper.
You see, at the beginning of the school year, I suddenly got hit by a fit of the Have To's. The Shoulds, the It's Got to Look Like This'es. My son was going into year 8 this year, and two days before term began, I suddenly thought, "Woah! This is serious! Better start "Doing" high school, then!" I forgot we'd been perfectly happily "Doing" high school all last year, without the sense of squishiness, without feeling the subjects crowding into the week like mad concert goers rushing the stage.
So, I tried to fit all the Stuff—the language, technology, science, maths, literacy, history, geography, all the boxes you're supposed to tick every single week—in around the kids' passions. But these things were bullies…or at least, by attempting to change who we are and how we learn, I turned these Required Subjects into bullies…because they shoved my son's juggling practice to the far reaches of the day. Half an hour in the mornings, maybe. Perhaps an hour or two on a Wednesday, if he was lucky. He had evenings, which I thought were enough, working on his passion before bedtime.
But the problem with (and the beauty of) passion is, it's all consuming. It is your greatest love, your escape; your saviour and your finest hour.
Go without the thing you love for long, and it's torment. You aren't yourself. Everything feels wrong, feels wobbly, like you're not in the right skin, the right life.
I know this, because without my own passion, I get lost. When I'm not writing, everything feels a bit (or a lot) off kilter. There are times I can mask the feeling with more exercise. Magnesium supplements. Extra sleep. And with mindfulness exercises…where I take note, gladly, that I am well and get to hang out with my kids all day.
But if I forget to write, or get so busy tweaking a schedule that doesn't fit—"facilitating learning experiences exactly between the hours of 9 and 12 on a Monday, and 10 to 1 on a Tuesday, etc, etc"—that my writing time shrinks to nearly nothing, then after a time, it feels like a limb is missing.
The last few weeks, I've begun to truly prioritise my writing. Brought my computer everywhere I've gone. Grabbed every spare minute to write, write, write. I've written in the mornings while the kids eat their breakfast, written while they've pottered away at their projects, begun to put my writer self first. I've written 20,000 words over the past month, and it feels beautiful.
And as I've raised my passion up, valued it, prioritised it…well, our timetable has, sort of, um, fallen away.
What has this done to my newly-organised homeschool family? Well, the kids have gone back to learning, exploring, creating, discovering, just as they have been, quite organically (with us as a team, following ideas, suggestions, and desires), for four homeschooling years.
And as for my son's juggling, it is setting up home in centre stage.
The other day, you see, my son showed me yet another Youtube juggling video—one of the hundreds, literally, he has watched over the past year.
He said to me, "Mum, this guy [pointing to the teenager doing mad tricks…] practices juggling for three hours a day, seven days a week."
I said, "Really???" and he said, "Yes."
"Huh. Would you want to do that???"
He was so quiet, sitting there at the computer, looking at me with these eyes—the only word to describe what I saw there, was 'Hunger.'
He didn't just want to throw objects into the air for every waking minute of every day. He needed to. He was unmoored without it.
Something clicked. So this is what passion looks like when it's outside your own body.
We talked for ages about how to make this love an actual, honest to goodness priority. He had his circus classes, yes, but needed practice time too—hours and hours. And practice space—he needed tall ceilings. He needed time to watch videos, to make videos, to think about juggling, to breathe in circus arts like oxygen.
So we're doing it. Going for it, jumping into the deep.
We've set up open training at his circus space. Two hours here, three hours there, almost every day of the week. I've talked with his teachers and they've told me what he needs, to get into university to study circus arts. They're setting higher goals, harder tasks, because they take this thing seriously. They will take it seriously for as long as it's my son's dream. I've even booked my boy into ballet class—he can't wait to start.
I've rewritten a timetable he might never see. Great swathes of the day are filled with the words, "Circus Training." Our classes—art, tennis, writers workshop, music and more music—are marked down too. But the "Official Stuff?" The boxes filled with labels like "maths"? Gone. I've rewritten the timetable…for me. Now that it's been written, with all the right bits in, I'm not sure, honestly, if I'll look at it again.
Passion is valid, vital, alive. It's okay…it really is…if it is everything and all the other Stuff fits and flows around it. I've read articles about unschooling and kids having consuming passions and how this all can work…and I am finding my way again.
Which brings us to today.
My son made juggling videos, all day. He filmed his training yesterday, edited and formatted the movie, added text and music. Together we created a Youtube account for him. He worked his way around the site for hours, adding a profile pic, creating a cover image for his Youtube channel, subscribing to his favourite jugglers. He uploaded his first ever Youtube video. Hurrah! And then…he went and made another.