The "loveliness" of planning...Hmmm....
My sensibilities where planning is concerned are a little on the fragile side. I certainly benefit from having general goals, direction and expectations for what may be accomplished for the day/week/etc.; and that can and does keep me on track and feeling that our time has been well-spent.
On the other hand, if I go overboard with planning, scheduling and setting expectations for what "must" be accomplished--be it school, housekeeping or outside activities--I get a knot in my stomach, my rebellious side rears its ugly head, and I may just throw up my hands in disgust or anxiety or frustration and do none of it.
I gotta play myself just right if I want to get the best outta me, where planning is concerned.
Planning, scheduling and sticking to a set routine are hard for me. I really like to "go with the flow." I like to have a great framework to begin with, and then let happen what will within it, adding where necessary, following the kids' lead when the opportunity strikes, and joyfully introducing them to the things I (and the good State of New York) believe they need to know, that might not otherwise occur to them. When I do this, we have really lovely days, and accomplish wonderful, often unexpected, things.
My problem is, I haven't felt all along that this is "good enough." I read everyone else's blogs; I know the amazing things "everybody else" accomplishes on a daily basis. I see their curricula; I admire their philosophical underpinnings, I marvel at their schedules and I am in awe of the level of cooperation they must facilitate from their children in order to make it all happen on a daily basis. I am amazed at how well-read they are; how remarkably creative and sure of themselves--at least, that's how it looks to me.
I can't hold a candle to any of them.
I'm finally starting to realize that it isn't my job to try.
I keep going back to something I wrote when I first started this blog (and I am absolutely certain nobody has read it!) :) God gave me the children I have, and the heart for homeschooling I have, for a reason--because He knew I'd approach this task as only I would, to the benefit of my children who respond...well, the way they do. I call this "Eileen It," because of something a friend of mine used to say more than 20 years ago. (It's a pretty good post, really; you can check it out here.) :)
One of my favorite old Amy Grant tunes has a line it it that goes, "The more I try to be the best, the more I get the worst." It's not my job to recreate someone else's home school. It's my job to seek God's will for me and my family.
And boy, isn't that task enough!
My goal this year has been simple: To find a way to homeschool that brings joy into our home. I wanted a simple but flexible routine, and a way to manage all the things I am charged with accomplishing each day that is effective, without being overwhelming. I wanted to be warm, loving and joyful in my interactions with my children, instead of seemingly always stressed out and frustrated; and I wanted my children to be kind, generous and attentive to each other. I decided that formal academics needed to take a back seat while I figured this out. It's still very much a work in progress, but it finally seems to be falling into place, especially as I (finally!) am beginning to gain some modicum of control over general household routines and tasks.
See, the thing is, I really don't want to do "school at home." I am drawn to something different. Something more natural, cohesive and, yes...lovely (at least, to me)...than that. I want (and am required to prove) measurable progress, of course; I want my children to have as excellent an education as I can provide them.
But I don't want it to look or feel like "school."
I want it to look and feel like...family.
Honestly, I'm not really sure how you go about "planning" such a thing. Prayer is my greatest ally, and the more I remember to go there first, the better everything goes. Academically, I have a pretty good outline to guide me in my IHIP, and I've been pretty much taking that week by week, modifying at will. With housekeeping, I've started using the Motivated Mom's Chore Planner with some pretty good success, but I pick and choose there as well. With that in mind, here's a quick rundown of how our best days go...
Our morning routine has been focused more and more around practical life skills, "virtue building" (character development) and outside play (when we can); and it's really (at last!) falling into place.
After breakfast, we all go upstairs to get dressed and make beds; then we go downstairs for general tidying, bathroom wipedown, vacuuming and dusting as needed. Our day begins by making the entire downstairs, save the cluttered office, look neat, tidy and ready for action, with all of us feeling like we had a part in making it happen. Then we have snack time and a "virtue building" story, along with a little discussion and maybe a song, a bible verse and a prayer. When we're really clicking, I do a special activity with each of the boys while Junie B. plays with the other; then the two boys have some general free play time alongside me while I tend to a couple of my chores, and Junie B. does some independent school work ("Folder Work"). A good, long outside time (or some kind of indoor play time) is next, while I get a few more quick things done and put out lunch (usually in lunch boxes prepared the night before--a glorious time saver, and the kids love it!). We don't do focused "academic" time until the afternoon, while Sunny-boy is sleeping; and we try to buzz through that in an hour and a half or less. We read together a lot--mostly one on one as part of bedtime routine, but I've also started reading to Junie B. and Taz together just after Sunny-boy goes down for a nap--it's Taz's first foray into listening to Chapter Books, and we are all really enjoying it!
(On a weekly basis we also work in Nature Monday--outdoor explorations and activities for a couple hours before lunch; Junie B.'s horseback riding lessons on Friday mornings, followed by something fun (usually going to a playground) and lunch; and Karate lessons in the early evenings on Mondays and Thursdays.)
Our day is finally falling together in a fairly simple, stress-free
routine, that has a strong "family time" feel about it, yet learning is
happening--in some ways, almost effortlessly. It has taken all of the
first half of the year (not to mention the three years that preceded
it) and no small amount of hand wringing to get here...fears of not
getting enough school work done; a nameless "shame" that hours and hours of our time
are not marked by focused, teacher-directed academic time; worries that
I'm not doing enough or the children aren't learning enough or the
house isn't clean enough, etc., etc., etc. As long as I'm being honest with myself about what 's happening in our home, making adjustments along the way, I'm finding that we're generally moving forward...and slowly realizing that goal I set out last summer.
I'm starting to make peace with the fact that I'm just not a hard-core purist where curriculum is concerned. I've finally stopped trying to have someone else's excellent home school.
I just try to "Eileen It."
And that seems to be working just fine.