With 2015 over and looking forward ahead to some changes in 2016, I thought I'd count down the 15 most popular posts of 2015 (not counting our Weekly Wrap- Ups, which always get a lot of page views thanks to linky parties!).
So here is post number 10: (originally posted June 29th):
Homeschooling Without A Plan
This is the first year I've consciously decided to start homeschooling without a schedule. The last three years I've tried a series of different schedule techniques and felt like a failure when they all flopped by Thanksgiving.
I love to plan everything and anything & schooling was one of those things I looked forward to planning. I loved knowing I would have all the materials I need for any given week of school and not being caught off guard so I planned a lot in the last three years.
The first year (2012- 2013): I bought a three ringed binder and printed out a weekly template I made up myself on excel. I divided our day into 5 subjects and left large blocks for filling in what we'd do Monday through Friday across a huge double page spread. I left our subject areas pretty broad: Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies/History, and Art/ Phys. ed/Music/ Specials.
By the third week of school we were so far from our scheduled plan and had signed up for so many field trips and offered classes that we continued to fall further and further from our plan.
By the second month of school I was writing what we had done in each subject area at the end of the week filling it in to keep track. I usually had many things that we did that fit into multiple subject areas and agonized over where to put them. I finally realized it was silly to go back through reading my blog and write it all down again at the end of the week just so I could have it all in a plan book so we scrapped the schedule.
My second year of homeschooling (2013- 2014): I didn't bother to write down any sort of plan other than to outline a broad daily schedule. I laminated it, posted it on the fridge, and included time for me to exercise, time to clean the house, run errands, etc. It was pretty broad and closely followed our normal homeschooling day so I figured we were all set.
Our schedule: From 6-8 the kids would wake up, eat breakfast, & get themselves ready for the day. From 8-9 we would do chores and clean the house. From 9-12 we'd do schoolwork. I had a broad outline of what schoolwork we'd be doing too. I decided that from 9-12 they would each read their book/ story for the day, we'd cover each boys' math assignment and we'd work on any group projects for science or social studies. At noon we'd break for lunch and I would read a story aloud at lunch. Afternoon we'd cover art or messy science experiments and have plenty of free time to relax, play and catch up on any schoolwork those days when we ran errands in the morning or fell behind.
It worked for a while until we got sick of cleaning every day, or until they wanted to start the day with art or science, or that thing called LIFE got in the way of our plan... so, eventually we ditched the plan.
My third year of homeschooling (2014- 2015): I printed out this free homeschool planner. It was pretty, had so many components to pick and chose from, and I figured three years in I had a pretty good idea of our daily and weekly schedule.
I LOVED this planner.
I had a ball planning our entire school year out.
I spent weeks organizing our school year.
I loved that I could look at a year in a glance.
I printed out the monthly templates and assigned one week to geography, one week to world history, one week to U.S. history, and one week to science; rotating them through the months and year.
I could plan family vacations, themed weeks like Harry Potter, Robots, Star Wars, etc. We blocked the whole month of December off to focus on Christmas, baking & crafts.
I assigned states to cover with each week of geography and planned to only cover reading, math and one subject each day to allow us plenty of time to deviate and play.
Once I had our year all broadly planned I planned the first four weeks of school; again keeping things broad and general.
I penciled in any classes, field trips, and homeschool meet ups we had.
I penciled in holidays and time off and make-up days.
I thought we were golden.
I thought I had finally found a plan that would work.
We stuck with it pretty well through September and maybe used it for part of October and then once again we realized our plan was not working for us.
We dropped some curriculum components that weren't working for us and found that once again I was planning so much into our days that they weren't fun anymore. We rarely took time off from school to do fun, spontaneous things because it messed with our schedule.
I still had not planned enough time away from school work to fit in that real- life learning we enjoy so much.
So this year I decided that I'm not planning our coming year; at all!
This is huge for us and it often makes us the odd man out. Most homeschooling parents are deep in the planning mode for the next school year around this time and we have little to nothing to add to any of these conversations. I don't buy curriculum materials, I'm not planning our school year and it seems like winging it is pretty unheard of in most homeschooling circles.
There are those families that do, of course, but we seem to be the minority. Many families feel that without planning out a schedule or having set goals or a set curriculum to work their way through for the school year means they wont get anything done.
I used to think that too.
But I finally realized that for us it hampered us more than helped us.
I finally realized that we cover a lot in a school year but we rarely (if ever) completed everything, and dare I say it? NOTHING, that I had planned.
We buy a math book and I think we'll do two pages a day and finish by June. But we don't. We get half- way through the book, get sick of it or get lured by the appeal of another book, buy a second one and then randomly pick pages to work on until we migrate to something else. Or I'll find some print outs to use a week or two here and there and June comes around and we're only 2/3 of the way through our book.
I'll plan to teach about all 50 states picking one a week to cover with the boys and think we'll have covered all 50 states by the end of the year and within a few weeks the boys are complaining they aren't interested in learning about the state anymore right now.
I think in the past three years we've delved deeply into learning about 10 of them or so.
I plan to cover a set amount of years in United States history and then the kids read a book or watch a movie about a totally different time period and we're off and running with that instead.
Having no plan frees us to learn about whatever we want whenever we want and I've come to realize it's what works for us. So yeah, we're homeschooling without a schedule or plan this year and I can't wait for school to start to see what we'll be learning about.
(Updated January 1, 2016: So far our "non plan" is working really well for us. We've been freed up for MANY, MANY field trips and spur of the moment homeschooling classes. We've had a wonderful start to our school year and are really enjoy the freedom of not having a schedule to adhere to).