Yesterday, I talked about my difficulty with my planning process and why it hasn’t quite worked out. Basically, my previous method just set me up for failure.
This year was different.
Today I wanted to detail my planning process but realized that it was going to be a lengthy post. I have decided to break it up into a few pieces, namely the “head,” “heart,” and “hands” parts of the process.
Here is a peak into the “head” part of the process which feels really good right now. (Mind you, it’s only the second week of school in our house but it seems to be running smoothly on all fronts.)
I took a break from school planning.
In late spring, I did meet up with other mamas and compared notes and resources for the following year so we wouldn’t buy duplicate books and we traded notes on what worked and what didn’t. This was largely informal and was really to organize who was buying what and could budget accordingly. But as soon as summer hit, that was it. I didn’t read any curriculum or any books relating to child development and I didn’t troll blogs for homeschooling inspiration and ideas. I enjoyed my summer fully by loading up my senses with the season’s finest offerings. Because of this, I have to admit that this has been one of our family’s best summers together. By mid-August, I was refreshed and ready. I was ready to go full steam ahead with planning and switch back to teacher mode.
I began with our rhythms and not curriculum.
(Hopped on my bike with a notebook to sit and reflect on the movement of our family.)
The first stage of planning was doing our year-at-a-glance, figuring out our yearly rhythm. I divided a paper up into 12 squares and plotted the months – Sept – Aug. I wrote down the months in different colours according to our energy levels. In the fall, we find that our family is pretty active. The kids and I are enthusiastic for schoolwork and we are out and about even doing school outside sometimes. We take hikes and spend afternoons hanging with friends. By late November, Christmas prep begins to creep in and infiltrate every spare moment. Christmas time is a big deal in our house and one of the most magical times for us as a family. Ever-Patient and I have worked hard creating holiday traditions that the kids look forward to every year and that are a part of our family identity.
As I mentioned before, our energies dip mid-January to early spring. I can’t plan to do our most intellectually demanding lesson blocks for this time (which I have done in the past and have been met with blank stares, tears of frustration, and exhausting groans). Spring hits and there is a renewed energy and we are outside again which means that I can wake their bodies and minds up enough to get them interested in those tough yet stimulating lessons. We always start grinding schoolwork to a halt by June 1. I know now that June needs to be a time of fun and review for our family. I also added in all the festivals I wanted to celebrate within the year and laid out all the monthly lesson blocks for each child based on energy levels and the time in the month.
The next stage was planning our weekly rhythms. We love getting together with our friends by exploring nature together, going on field trips, or just hanging out at a local park or someone’s home. Last year, we veered away from scheduled get-togethers and moved to a more ad hoc format. I found that this just did not work for some families, including mine. This year we have decided to designate a day for outings and to schedule one large field trip per month where families can choose to participate in. This will work better with our rhythm as the kids will know what to expect. And I love how this will fall on a Monday which eases us into the week gently. I also had to iron out our extra-curriculars – practice schedules and evening/weekend classes.
I purposely left Sunday unscheduled to allow for one day a week that our family can rest at home together. This will be important for me this year. I will have to learn to say “no” to a lot because I would like to keep this day special for us.
I used to plan our fall daily rhythm in the early days of summer. I have discovered that this is a premature activity. The kids change. I change. I really have to figure out what works for each child in terms of morning, afternoon, and evening dispositions. Who they are in September and what they need is very different than last September and even this past summer when they all just needed to enjoy the warm weather and to let loose. Our daily rhythm will change with the seasons but for now, it looks something like this:
5:00-7:30: Mama Time
7:30-8:00: Prep breakfast; cuddles with littles who filter downstairs.
8:00-8:15: Wake up children. Children get ready.
8:15-9:00: Breakfast; clean-up.
9:00-9:30: Circle with #4 and #5. Storytime for #5 and craft set-up or baking or painting.
9:30-10:00: Main lesson with #4. And then she can join #5 for play.
10:00-11:00: Main lesson with #3. (And review grammar and math independent work together.)
11:00-12:00: Main lesson with #2. (And review grammar, math, and geography independent work together.)
12:00-1:00: Lunch. (Leftovers or something simple.) Clean-up.
1:00-2:00: Main lesson with #1. (And review any challenges or insights from current main lesson work and independent work.)
2:00-3:00: Mama Time
**#1, #2, and #3 have independent work or reading to do while I am working with others. #4 an #5 start with organized activities but then need to transition to free play. The afternoon will have time for art, music, language, and handwork as we become more comfortable with our fall daily rhythm.
Daily rhythms include my personal schedule – my own goals for my day including the components I need to get my day started off right. My morning ritual is very important to me. From 5:00-7:30am, before the kids are up, I am journalling, praying, meditating on the day ahead, writing in the older children’s agendas for their independent work, creating chalkboard drawings, and prepping material for crafts and stories for the little ones. My afternoon time is spent writing down my thoughts of how our day unfolded and any challenges each child may have encountered. I also write what went particularly well to remind myself to go with that flow.
Identifying our natural rhythm as a unit and respecting individual rhythms has allowed me to plan how to deliver material efficiently and working with what works for our family of 7 which doesn’t necessarily work for other families.
Once I pinpointed our family pulse and how its rhythmic movement from daily to yearly, I was able to now shift gears and focus on the “heart” of planning. Tomorrow, I will go into more detail on how closed the book on the mentality of “catching up” by opening my heart.