For our second homeschooling week of February 2019, I decided to forsake my current homeschool planner, which I have been happily using for a solid 7 months.
Why? I am not exactly sure. Alhamdulillah, our homeschool was on a roll or, at least, so it seemed to me.
In reality, despite feeling I had found a happy balance between my current level of planning and flexibility, the steady amount of school-work related moaning from my children pointed to the fact they craved more freedom. (See how I plan HERE and decide for yourselves if it is too much!)
Alhamdulillah, some valuable lessons were learned along the way.
I kept a daily journal to capture my thoughts in real time. This is what happened.
The day before
I announced to the boys that we are taking a mini break from all the books and that, for a week, they could pick which subjects or topics to learn about, with the exception of homework that would have to get done for other teachers (for tutoring sessions and various “clubs” they attend).
I asked them to come up with at least 2 or 3 subjects of study each, in case I cannot find resources for one of their chosen topic.
MISTAKE #1: I should have told them 1 week in advance, so I could have gathered the material in a timely manner, instead of doing the last minute scramble for resources that I can see myself doing tomorrow (which I hate!…ggggrrrr).
There were some valid ideas: Mr11 said electronics and circuits, cooking, properties of metals (he needs to know in order to build his own car); Mr8 is also into circuits, he also mentioned Italian and using money. Some other ideas were more out there: metal work, martial arts (not surprised. I have been asked to include kung fu in our subjects at the beginning of this year) and then someone started a sentence with “we could buy some dynamite…” (WHAT HAVE I DONE???!!!)
Soon the kids will descend upon us for breakfast. I feel anxious because I don’t have a plan for today’s activities. I am regretting this “mixing it up” idea …I fear it will be a waste of time.
IDEA: Maybe I will make them come out with the plan and with idea on where to find the resources. I will also explain to them that, if the resources they need are going to come in a week, the are not going to be sitting and waiting for them without taking out the maths books.
The morning went ok alhamdulillah. After breakfast I asked the boys to help me compile a list of subjects they want to learn about (inside my actual planner, I just couldn’t help it!) AND where we could find resources, in order to keep it realistic.
While they were doing their Qur’an lesson I briefly searched online and stumbled across Khan Academy, where I promptly registered them to the computer programming course. They both completed the intro and first lesson.
Mr8 did some of his homework for his Maths club, then we went to the library. This was great because we had books to return, nothing else scheduled and we were hunting for resources. It made perfect sense!
MISTAKE #2: I want to “let go” but I am not really letting go, am I?…
Last night I was in bed thinking about what to do with the children: This is not good. This lack of structure is stressing me out a lot more than I thought it would. I resolved we would do the following:
- Usual Qur’an lesson
- Coding lesson(s) on Khan Academy
- Each child picks a book from those he chose at the library. Read aloud.
- Read and retell (I am not following Charlotte Mason as such, but I find this technique would be immensely beneficial and I have been wanting my children to pick it up for a while).
- Some maths. Usual maths, from their textbooks.
- Mr11 will make sourdough bread (he has been feeding his starter for a week now, Allahumma baarik).
- Mr8 will also cook something, probably some treats to take to their friends’ house this afternoon.
- A foreign language game
Yesterday we managed to achieve all but the last 2 bullet points. I had to cut the morning work short because I had my online Arabic class and in the afternoon the boys had been invited to their friends’ house. It was ok, alhamdulillah.
We received the first of the books on electronics I bought for the boys and somehow this makes me feel a little better about the whole set-up. So now, just before the kids descend on me for breakfast, I cannot help myself from jotting down another bullet list:
- Electronics book (make list of components we will need for the projects – even better if we learn what they actually are insha’Allah!)
- Read and retell (or do something to make the information yours)
- Homework for art class (tomorrow!)
- (insha’Allah this time) a foreign language game
- Islamic studies: brainstorm with them on how they can own their information (retell? Make a poster? Make notes? etc…)
NOTE: see how I am ending up shaping and somehow “owning” the process? I don’t think I could ever unschool nor do anything similar to it. But I am not going to label this “MISTAKE#3” because I don’t believe it is one.
We have achieved all of the above, alhamdulillah. I feel less stressed about the plan (although I still dislike the feeling of “winging it”).
I can tell there has been learning, and the boys definitely prefer doing subjects they have chosen as opposed to what I think they should be learning. I do still feel we are doing less though. We were done in about 2 hours which, even by our standards, is pretty short… * nervous laughter *
Tuesday is the busiest day in our homeschool. It did NOT go well.
My teaching to the boys on Tuesdays is squashed between their early art class and my online Arabic at 11. After their art class I am usually ready to:
a) tell them what they are doing and
b) sit with them to guide them through what they need help with (especially Mr8)
So they are set for the whole morning before I have to go, and they can finish the work independently or with minimal input (insha’Allah).
Today it was 10.30 and I still nobody had a clue who was doing what! I ran (or, one might say, “crawled”) back to our curricula and assigned something quickly, trying to explain my Mr8 what was expected of him. I was stressed out, hungry, didn’t have time for coffee or a snack and was late to class (2/2 times this week!). The boys of course disliked doing their work like that.
Not a happy bunny.
IDEA: from next week I will schedule more things to do for Mr11 and fewer for Mr8: why didn’t I do that before? Mr11 always self motivated to finish as quickly as possible, while Mr8 needs a lot more input and more of a push to progress through the whole list of topics I have planned…does he need all that, daily? (and do I???)
I am finding myself planning next week already. I obviously missed it.
I didn’t write anything for this day and I don’t have a clue what we did. Other than trying out our first electronics project (a battery torch that did not work. Big disappointment all around, alhamdulillah. We did learn the names and functions of all the pieces though!)
Could it be that I have spent this day running around like a headless chicken?
Could it be that the wave of spontaneity and relaxation swept me off my feet and transported me to the realm of homeschooling awesomeness?
I will leave you to guess that.
It has not been an entirely pleasant experience (for me), but I surely learned some important lesson that in sha’Allah I hope will be of benefit for the future.
What I learned about my kids
My kids would love to be unschooled. Seriously, when they saw me editing this post, they asked what is “unschooling” and they both went: “WOAH! AWESOME!”
I also realised that – due character as well as maturity – only one of them would truly benefit from that way of learning.
I was reminded that my children, particularly my eldest, need more time set aside to learn what interests him (unless that involves dynamite!).
What I learned about myself
I found not planning a lot more stressful than I thought I would.
Efficiency is very important to me (I need to see that some daily objectives have been achieved).
I believe that kids can learn by following their own interests, but I cannot “do it”. I probably put myself under too much pressure to be able to “go with the flow”.
UPDATE – How have things changed?
My little experiment gave me some good insight into the way we homeschool and approach learning. It showed me that – here and now in our homeschool – the balance between structure and freedom and spontaneity needs to be reassessed.
Our single most important problem is the friction between me and the boys when they complain about having to do certain work. In fact, there often is a general sense of “oppression” related to their schoolwork. They would be very happy to only ever pick up a book if and when they love it, but I do not think that it is in their best interest to homeschool them like that. So I will try to apply my newfound knowledge in 3 ways:
- Remembering that the value of the overall experience exceeds the completion of a certain portion of tangible work;
- Unschooling might have at least some aspects that could benefit our family (I say “might” because I believe its benefits can only be truly reaped if one does it completely and over time);
- Trust is necessary in the homeschool: the parents must trust their children’s ability to learn freely; the children need to trust their parents in the choices they make for their benefit, even when it comes to their education.
I am also trying to relax a bit * evil laugh while stroking planner *
What about you? Have you ever experimented different methods in your homeschool?
Have you ever ditched your planner to go with the flow?
Let us know how you found it in the comments below!