Are you enjoying the spring weather? In our house, it's time for hatching chicks and planting gardens. Time for running outside… barefoot. Academics are done during the hotter parts of the day so that the outdoors can be enjoyed when the temperature is perfect. What's it like at your house?
With thoughts of spring and new beginnings also comes reflections of the past school year and planning for the one coming. It may be my favourite time of year. :)
Are you planning now for next year?
I love planning. Each year at this time, I feel like I've been given another opportunity to start fresh—an opportunity to regroup. We're heading into the teen years, and there've been a lot of changes over the past six months. Changes I'm excited about but didn't plan for last year. Not because I didn't plan, but because all of a sudden, learning needs are different.
The beauty of homeschooling is that we've been able to pivot. Have you had to pivot this year? Have you had to make adjustments to your grand plan because your kids matured beyond what you had accounted for in your original planning?
In a nutshell:
- Gather possibilities (hopes and dreams)
- What would it take?
- Draft a schedule (plan for success)
- Make it happen
- Connect and evaluate
Hopes and Dreams
Each year I take time to talk to my kids about their hopes and dreams. We talk about where they see themselves working when they're 'done school.' I pay attention to what has captured their attention consistently. What captures your child's/teen's attention? What do they spend time on when they have 'free time'? Is that a possible career direction? If so, what skills and academics are needed for that career? I can hear some of you saying, "But my child changes their mind every week!" No worries.
What would it take?
Even though it's at least four years until my oldest graduates, we've looked at the entrance requirements for areas of study she may pursue. We've looked at schools that are homeschooler friendly. I'm not up for fighting a system that is not homeschooler friendly and feel that once she has a year of post-secondary education under their belt, she'll have more options. You may feel different about it - that's okay! Again, the beauty of homeschooling is that we can do what works for our family.
So now you have an idea of where you're headed. Knowing where you're going makes it easier to say 'no.' You'll be saying 'no' to things that don't contribute to achieving your end goal. It doesn't mean there is no fun; it means that you're intentional about which activities you say 'yes' to.
Planning for Success
How does this work with multiple kids? What if they're all heading in different directions?
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that it offers the opportunity to create your own timeline. We have certain activities that we do during certain seasons because to do them other times would mess up someone else's schedule and create stress for the family.
Think of your own mental health too! If driving a child to an activity several times a week will cause you stress and lead to you yelling at your kids, having huge piles of unwashed laundry and eating pizza every night because you don't have the energy to keep up - don't do it. It's okay.
Drafting a Schedule
After figuring out which activities/subjects/projects, I'd like my kids to do for the year, I create a draft schedule. Can we fit everything in and still have margins? We budget time for snacks, lunch, and quiet time. We budget driving time, and the time it takes to get ready for the activity. I didn't always do that, and everyone was stressed. So, although it seems like we could cram in another subject - I don't. It's not worth the stress. Every family will have different tolerances. Spend some time finding your happy place.
One thing that really helped me be more realistic in my expectations is a family planner. Actually, it's one of those huge planners with space for four people to write their schedules side by side. We call it "The Four" - original, eh?! In "The Four," everyone blocks out the times that they'll be doing activities that affect others. Things like playing the piano, using the exercise bike, snacks, meals, quiet time, family activities, etc. Whoever writes their piano practice time in "The Four" first gets that time. I block off my work time on "The Four," so the kids know when I'm available to help them with their studies. They also write on "The Four" when they'll be doing their chores. This helps me not nag. Even if they're not doing it exactly when I would have liked it done. I figure that done is better than not done, regardless of the time it gets done… as long as it's before supper. ;)
Everyone also has their own schedule book as well. In their own schedule book, they make their own plan for the day based on the predetermined list of things they need to accomplish in the day. Since they've been doing this, I've really noticed a change in the atmosphere of our home. Less fussing, less nagging, and more just 'getting it done.' Have you used schedule books with your kids? What system has worked for you?
Making it Happen
I know that some of you may be wondering about actual instruction time and planning lessons etc. The truth is, I make a general plan at the beginning of the year. I get familiar with the material, and we regularly talk about what they're learning. If they are stuck on a concept, we work it through together.
Because we've worked hard to get to the point where the kids are working reasonably independently, this works for us. Early on, we discovered that requiring 'x' number of pages or chapters done per day didn't work for us. Instead, we have time blocks. We have goals for the year, and they diligently work towards them by putting the time in every day.
Is it working?
One thing we'll be adding this year is narration. We've dabbled in it this year, but I'm excited to learn more about how to use narration to connect with my kids and help them solidify their learning. I'm looking forward to reading "Know and Tell" by Karen Glass. Have you read it yet? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.
I'd love to hear how you plan your homeschool year at your house.