– Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles…)
Just don’t expect it to always work! So often our plans fail or need redrafting but I still like to have one.
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
So home education isn’t exactly a battle but the sentiment still holds. I am a very middle of the road home eder, we like and need some structure but we also like and need flexibility. I like some preplanned curricula but find others restricting and enjoy the creative side of planning. Over the years I have learned that if I plan too tightly when the plan falls apart due to illness, minor household disaster, visitors etc it is hard to get going again; I’ve failed and lost confidence, motivation has gone and bad habits sneak in and a whole new plan is needed. However if I fail to plan then we drift, sometimes in a positive direction but more often aimlessly.
Regardless of the academic side of home ed I find we need some sort of plan simply to accommodate the social aspects, even though a lot of what we do is informal, having some sort of agreement of when is a good time to catch up with certain friends, what evenings we don’t have to be anywhere so we can take day trips without clockwatching, if we want to organise trips when is a good time to get other home eders sign up…
It is the act of planning that I find concentrates my mind, helps focus in on what is essential, what is desirable and what is unnecessary.
How I plan
I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel, if things are working keep going. However chances are if I feel the need to properly plan (rather than simply small project plan) it is because something is not quite right so I start with two lists, what is working and what isn’t and bear this in mind through the rest of the planning.
I then mark on a weekly planner external commitments and times we want free – Jack finishes early one day so I like to be around if possible, longish days out don’t really work on Cubs/Guides nights, we have arrangements to see friends on certain days and while these are flexible I don’t want anything cluttering them up too regularly. Then it is a judgement call about whether the balance is right; are there enough social opportunities, enough time to work, scope for days out?
To me I find the social side of home ed the hardest to get right so this is where I start my planning. It is also the aspect where external factors (ie other people’s plans) have most impact on our own plans. I start by looking at what we are currently doing, what we enjoy and what has run its course. Then consider if there are any other activities on that we want to sign up for. We also work out when are the best times to catch friends individually. Then we discuss any further things he would like to do with a group (or that I would like him to do – physical activity/sport is a debating point) and I try and make them happen!
When I know what times we are home and have set aside for ‘school work’ I can begin by looking at what we want to cover. I soon have a massive list that I know is completely impossible so I set down to essentials. What do I feel we absolutely MUST cover/work on. Generally so far this has focussed predominantly on Maths and English skills. We are now at the level where the basics are there and we can expand a bit.
I then research and find a curriculum or various curricula that work for us. This has been a bit of a hit and miss with some expensive mistakes over the years but happy with what we have at the moment. I do believe that it is really worthwhile using a proper curriculum rather than cheap workbooks designed for parents to give extra practice at home. Proper curricula include explanations, plenty of practice and reinforcement and are thorough. Cheap workbooks are nuggets skimming the surface. Depends on the child whether I have targets for when we reach certain points in the curriculum, boy 1 needed the motivation, boy 2 would crack with pressure – aim is a lesson a day, 4 days a week, and plod through.
Then there are the other stuff, the ‘want to do but can shelve if something better comes up’. Having swung between using planned curricula and trying to include a bit every week and topic work for things such as Science/History/Geog then I am finding a mixed approach is better. Languages need regular practice so have moved over to join essentials. For the rest I list and plan for each subject, which we want to do regularly (these are usually the ones that are not our favourites so we need a bit of routine) then we’ll look at preplanned curricula and if I don’t find anything that is spot on, I will find books to use as a base and plan around them myself and which subjects we pretty much can not fail to cover because they are our interests and for which projects and self led reading suffice.
On a rolling basis, since we follow school terms, every half term I will make sure I have every thing prepared for the ‘essentials’ and scan ahead into the more fly by the seat of the pants stuff. I’ll project plan (another post) and order or find anything we are likely to need for crafts/experiments in the next half term and pop them in storage boxes so I have a box for ready a project.
Will try and get the plan for Sept outlined this week.