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Today is the beginning our spring term in the River Houses — Leo Term — named for the Great Lion of the Heavens. Leo Term runs from March through May.
We put great stock in the educational value of the calendar in the River Houses. The calendar is the framework on which we human beings hang a great many of the facts we know about the world: historical events, natural phenomena, personal reminiscences, the seasons, blooming flowers, migrating birds, the sun and moon, the planets, the stars. A key part of every student’s intellectual development is the development of “calendar sense” — a sense of time and history.
Our annual River Houses calendar (riverhouses.org/calendars) divides the homeschool year into four three-month terms (quarters) that roughly correspond to the seasons, and these terms are named after prominent seasonal constellations of the northern hemisphere:
- 🦢 Fall or Cygnus Term (September–November)
- 🗡 Winter or Orion Term (December–February)
- 🦁 Spring or Leo Term (March–May)
- 💪 Summer or Hercules Term (June–August)
This calendrical division is an open-ended idea that we’re developing for the River Houses, and we think has a great deal of educational potential. We’re looking forward to expanding upon it as time goes on.
As you think about your own homeschool year, think about how different parts of it — curricular, co-curricular, social, or recreational — might be informally arranged into these four terms. You could have a different decorating theme in your classroom each term, for example, or you could schedule a regular trip to a special place where you take a photo at the beginning of each term to track how the seasons change. You could group your curricular work by term, or bake a quarterly cake, or set goals at the beginning of each term that you want your students to have met by the end. You could have your students measure their height at the beginning of each term, or take their penny-jar to the bank for a quarterly deposit. At the end of each term you could assemble a portfolio of student accomplishments. With a little imagination you will be able to come up with a clever and comfortable arrangement and a new way to think about the structure of your educational year.
Leo Term is named for the Great Lion of the Heavens who is rising in the east in the evening now and who will be passing overhead throughout the spring. Leo Term is home to the Spring Equinox (19 March); to Einstein’s Birthday (14 March), Leonardo da Vinci’s Birthday (15 April), and Shakespeare’s Birthday (23 April, more or less); to the Ides of March (15 March), the annual Swiss Spaghetti Harvest (1 April), the beginning of the American Revolution (19 April), Arbor Day (24 April), Mother’s Day (10 May), and Memorial Day (25 March); and to our River Houses Bird Migration Month (the whole of May) — not to mention countless other holidays, anniversaries, and events, local and global, public and private, that you may wish to mark on your own homeschool calendar.
If you want to make a special astronomical study this Leo Term, your River Houses reference library (riverhouses.org/books) includes an excellent backyard guide to the night sky that will introduce you to Leo and its most prominent stars:
“Leo is a large and easily recognized constellation that sits in a rather empty portion of the sky, just beyond Ursa Major and between its fellow zodiacal constellations Cancer and Virgo. A sickle-shaped asterism represents the lion’s head, mane, and chest. Shaped like a backward question mark, the period of this giant piece of celestial punctuation is marked by the brilliant star Regulus [our April Great Star]. while the stars trailing to the east mark Leo’s hindquarters. This is one of the easier constellations to construct mentally, as it resembles the classic image of the Sphinx.“ (National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Night Sky, page 200)
Why not spend a little time out after dark with your students over the next three months and locate the Great Lion as he makes his nightly passage to the west. Once you learn to spot him, you’ll have a friend for life.
What educational adventures do you and your homescholars have planned for this Leo Term? 😊
❡ Quarter days and cross-quarter days: Dividing the year into quarters is an ancient and natural practice: the annual movement of the sun across the sky automatically gives us two equinoxes, two solstices, and four seasons. Our four terms are just a simple modification of that natural arrangement so that our River Houses calendar will align more conveniently with the ordinary months and with the more-or-less customary American school year. In many traditional calendrical systems, going back into the Middle Ages, the first day of each quarter is called a quarter day and the midpoint of each quarter is called a cross-quarter day. That means the quarter days of the River Houses year are 1 September, 1 December, 1 March, and 1 June, and the cross-quarter days are 16 October, 14 January (15 January in Leap Years), 15 April, and 16 July. (Fun fact: a vestige of the old system of quarter and cross-quarter days is Groundhog Day, also known as Candlemas on the Christian calendar: it’s the cross-quarter day between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.) Quarter days have for centuries been the traditional days on which school terms began, so homeschoolers who follow our four-term River Houses calendar are participating in a very ancient tradition indeed. 😊
❡ Watchers of the skies: Teaching your students to recognize the constellations is one of the simplest and most enduring gifts you can give them. Your recommended River Houses night-sky guide (riverhouses.org/books) has descriptions and maps of each constellation that point out the highlights, and the astronomical section of your recommended world atlas has beautiful large charts of both celestial spheres. Find a dark-sky spot near you this term and spend some quality homeschool time beneath the starry vault. 🔭
❡ Choose something like a star: If you’d like some more light and easy homeschool astronomy lessons, download and print a copy of our annual River Houses Star Calendar (riverhouses.org/calendars) and follow along with us month by month as we make twelve heavenly friends-for-life over the course of the year. 🌟
❡ Here, said the year: This is one of our occasional posts about our Homeschool Terms & Calendars (riverhouses.org/topics/calendars). Print your own set of River Houses Calendars (riverhouses.org/calendars) to follow along with us, and add your name to our weekly mailing list (riverhouses.org/newsletter) to get more great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 🗞