Homeschool Planning Pitfall: You Can Have Too Much of Good Thing
Since taking on the huge responsibility of homeschooling my children my natural personality trait of being task-oriented has been in overdrive. My tendency to obsess over details, set unattainable goals, and over-plan keeps my brain and body running at full speed trying to “get it all done.” During the last part of our school year I felt myself running on empty.
After the school year I took the time to review our curriculum choices and every aspect of our homeschool looking for successes and struggles. I went on a date with my my husband to ask his thoughts (I’m constantly sharing my thoughts with him). I interviewed each of my children separately. I read (or re-read) books that suit my homeschool philosophy.
I know that since life and my children are always changing I’ll never get everything “figured out,” but there are areas that need an overhaul, and a major one is planning. You know the saying, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans? Well, that could apply to my homeschool planning over the last two years. I spend way too much time researching, making lists, fretting and adding to our full plates. Being prepared and planning for your homeschool is a good thing, but I need to adjust how and what I plan.
Homeschool Planning Problem #1: Trying to Group All Topics Into Themes and Units
When I come across resources, whether books, videos, field trips, or anything else educational, instead of jumping in and enjoying it I struggle to pull all resources about the same topic together. I can spend an extraordinary amount of time researching books, activities and videos about a topic. This can actually lead to less time spent interacting with my kids (not to mention cleaning my house).
Here’s a typical scenario: My son asks when the bicycle was invented. Instead of answering his question with a simple web search or by checking out a library book I think: “Let’s do a whole unit on transportation!” I spend weeks pulling together ideas only to find he’s on to guitars.
Solution: Save themes and units for holidays and special occasions.
I will probably need frequent reminders to stop trying to group everything into tidy units. The themed unit studies with coordinating activities I see online look wonderful, but with my introverted personality and kids growing older, less me leads to more independent learning.
When students learn pre-selected information, pass a test, and receive a grade, they tend to feel that they have “finished” a subject. They close the door on that chapter, soon forget a large part of the information, and have no open questions that they intend to search out answers for. So as teacher, you do not have to be an “answer giver.” That should take pressure off practically all of us.” ~Ruth Beechick in You Can Teach Your Child Successfully
Instead of trying to group everything, I need to trust my children’s ability to make connections with information they learn.
The ideas required for the sustenance of children are to be found mainly in books of literary quality; given these the mind does for itself the sorting, arranging, selecting, rejecting, classifying.” ~Charlotte Mason (vol 6 p. 117)
Homeschool Planning Problem #2: I plan elaborately.
This problem goes along with my desire to make units out of everything: I tend to go overboard and I can spend as much (or even more) time planning as our lessons take. I strive to find every resource on a given topic. I try to learn information ahead of time to then teach to them in an engaging way, with preparation for hands-on activities, printing and cutting out minibooks, or finding the right notebooking page. I’m wearing myself out and losing the joy of learning alongside my children. I can even feel a bit offended if they don’t “ooh” and “aah” over my facts or techniques.
If your children sense that you are more concerned about the structural details of your unit than you are about the joy of learning, they will not be free to learn. If you are uptight, they will be uptight. If it becomes a test of your teaching ability, it’s time for a change.” ~Clay & Sally Clarkson, Educating the WholeHearted Child
Solution: Stop trying to put on a show for my kids.
I need to stop planning elaborate lessons and activities that are more entertainment than education. After years of leading Girl Scouts and teaching Sunday School and throwing themed birthday parties I still planned homeschool like that. But this is now our life and it needs to run differently. I realize I’m actually doing my children a disservice because it allows them to be passive.
The whole thing must be highly amusing to the teacher, as ingenious amplifications self-produced always are: that the children too were entertained, one does not doubt. The teacher was…in fact, acting a part and the children were entertained as at a show.” ~Charlotte Mason (Vol 6 p. 116)
In fact, I have so many thoughts on the labor-intensive activities I was planning that I’ll have to address that in another post.
Homeschool Planning Problem #3. I plan more than we can complete.
I’m very prone to this both in my personal to-do lists and in our schoolwork. I get caught up in the details and what I think we need to be doing. So many ideas look interesting, educational, fun, worthwhile and even necessary. The more resources I find the more I add to my list of things to do. Add to that curious kids and a dad who likes to jump in with ideas and I always plan too much.
Though it’s great to not run out of ideas, planning more than we can do leaves me feeling behind. I feel overwhelmed even though they’re always learning and making progress. I loose the joy of discovery and learning and just notice what didn’t get crossed off my list. I go to bed at night fretting over what I didn’t do that day, and wake up up in the morning with a heavy feeling that there is too much to do that day.
Solution: Pin it and forget it.
The internet is a wonderful resource, but I see so many good ideas that I over plan or feel we aren’t doing enough. Going forward, I vow to add ideas to my Pinterest boards so they are there for inspiration, then let them go. (If you have the same problem but aren’t on Pinterest, just substitute paper lists, browser bookmarks, or however you save ideas.)
This doesn’t mean I won’t ever do those great activities and use those great resources, just that they won’t be on my list of “have to dos.” They’ll be there when I need them—not lost but not required. So many things are good but we can’t do everything! And I’ll remind myself that as long as we’re learning every day all is well. Focus on making progress and enjoying life, not worrying about what didn’t get done.
Many thinkers have stated that it is better to study less and learn it well than to study more and learn only superficially.” ~Ruth Beechick in You Can Teach Your Child Successfully
I hope sharing my struggles helps some other planning-till-you-drop homeschool mom. And hopefully putting it in writing will hold me accountable to simplify my planning and rely more on great literature to be the teacher for my children.
I’ll let you know how I do, okay?