Friday, August 5, 2016

Why I Don't Lesson Plan Ahead of Time for our Homeschool

Even in the summer, we do a good amount of school! 

I used to spend time at the start of each school week lesson planning and plotting out our whole school week.  When teaching classes of students this was a necessity, and since it was habit for me, I just continued doing it.  The problem was that I am much more flexible with my own homeschooling kids than I could ever have been in a classroom setting.  I'd find that one day we would never get to history, and at the same time one child decided to do three lessons worth of language.  Maybe we'd skip the whole day for a field trip for hands on learning or the book I planned was terribly boring and we nixed it altogether.  Nothing in my lesson planning book EVER lined up like I thought it should.

I quickly found that lesson planning really did not work for me.  And yet, at various times in our four years of homeschooling, I've given it another shot (with the same frustrating results).  Lesson planning simply does not work for us like I want it to.  It looks nice and neat, until nearly everything has to be erased, added to, moved, etc.  And then I just end up annoyed. 

There are so many "awesome homeschooling planners" out there-both in book form and in digital form, that it seemed like I just couldn't figure it out.  Or maybe, there are so many out there because it doesn't work for many others, either. 

I am a total type A personality.  I like things in order, and I like a plan.  But specific lesson planning in my homeschool simply does not work for my easy-going, follow my kids' lead, let them dive into the things they are curious about now attitude.  Instead, I've found that I like to lesson plan AFTER we do school.  I know, it sounds ridiculous, but let me explain...

I keep my lesson planner handy while doing school, just like I would if I were going by the plans inside it.  But instead of a full planner, I start with an empty one.  Instead of "subjects" at the top of my planner, I fill in my kids names:  Ellie, Zoe, Aaron,  and "Altogether" (Levi doesn't need a section yet).  

As I go about the day, I fill in what we've done.  Books read, lessons finished, lessons started, topics explored, etc. all goes into my planner.  This allows me to see where we most recently finished off (no more guessing about where we stopped the previous time) and pick up in the correct spot the next time we return to that subject.  It also allows me to track things that I otherwise forget about.  Those weeks where you feel like you didn't accomplish much in your homeschool?  You can look back and see that you DID accomplish something and find encouragement from that.  I often forget about the books my kids have sat and read or about the topics we explored online.  This allows me to remember exactly what we spent time on during the week.  

I love not having to erase, move, and rewrite that dang geography lesson that we couldn't seem to get to during the week.  I love being able to easily track how many math lessons we completed or how often each child spent reading.  I love that my planner accurately represents our school day, and that instead of feeling let down that we didn't finish everything inside it, I can rejoice in knowing that everything inside it IS finished.  

It's important to note that I have not thrown planning to the wind.   I still set goals for progress, write down topics we'd like to cover, and reference our curriculum books for what's next, but I simply do not plan out the details of any of it.  I often find that when I wait for curiosity to start a topic, we can easily spend hours on the topic, completing many of the lessons all at once.  Why not wait for their curiosity and make it easier on myself?!?!  

Because I allow this flexibility in our homeschool, we are often on various lesson days of each subject.  Currently, my 8 year old is on lesson 50 of 3rd grade math, while on lesson 79 of 4th grade language.  All of my kids do history together, and so we're on lesson 1 (when we officially start back to school) of 4th grade history.  I could easily lose track of where each child is at in each subject (which I've done many a time).  Lesson planning as we go gives me a visual reference to where everyone is at.

So if you are frustrated with lesson planning and are feeling defeated because you can never stick to what you have written down, I suggest you give lesson planning as you go through the day a shot.  It really has helped me feel much less stressed as I go throughout our week, and has given me more freedom to follow my kids' lead. It's made me MORE organized, because I can quickly glance at my book and see exactly which lesson I need to do next.  

I realize this may not work for everyone, but hopefully for some of you, it will give you the freedom you've been looking for in your homeschool lesson planning pursuits! 

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