I've been reflecting on a few things today as I sit with the kids and discuss with them what the new school year will look like. Sometimes I like to take a step back and analyze my thoughts. :
I believe that "child-led" works. It allows the kids to "own" their learning and makes them want to do the best they can in all they do, since it's their idea.
I'm enjoying that my children asked for a structured, scheduled educational path, as it does make things a bit easier to keep track of what they're learning. And in NY, we do need to stay on top of that.
The 3 years with no curriculum worked very well, though, but none of my children like their days to be all spontaneous and carefree (I know they inherited that trait from me, lol). J would create her own schedules for her days (and help W with his) which would include lots of academic stuff (workbooks and websites), crafts, piano, outdoor time, and museum visits. It was fun, but she eventually needed (and requested my help in finding) more than that. Now with high school right around the corner, J wants to be very prepared, so she helped put together a nice schedule for this coming school year.
W likes to do what J does and likes the idea of structured academics, too.
W feels better about himself when he can see his own learning progress. He sometimes didn't feel he was as smart as other kids his age until we started using a curriculum. (I don't know why he felt that way - could have been the taunting from his cousin and hearing what his friends were learning in school)
I'm very glad we found AmblesideOnline. Charlotte Mason was a genius, imo. The fun activities (nature study, history timeline, creative narrations, etc) and classic readings mesh so well with the kids' interests. They retain just about everything and often want to pursue topics/people further. It also goes incredibly well with my relaxed, unschooly self. It's the most gentle, enjoyable, stress-free way of learning I've ever come across.
Other than that, the kids are keeping so busy this summer. Lots of outdoor time, friends, movies, shopping, swimming, dancing, new theater group, water guns, K's fantastic job, making videos, biking, etc. Life is oh so good.