Everyone, it seems, is winding up school for the year, both public and private. We had our last school day on Thursday, and it was very much the way I remember public school last days: cleaning out our school baskets, putting away the math books, reorganizing the art supplies, making sure everything we wanted to save got into our binders. We even rearranged our main room (which serves as living room/family room/dining room/craft room/art room), so now everything feels different. I laugh a little bit because there is, in actuality, very little difference between our school year and our summer break, but there is definitely a shift in energy, and it’s nice to recognize that, and put an endcap on our more concentrated learning days.
I’ve been asked a lot about my homeschool planning process. I think it’s the part of homeschooling that stymies people the most, and is the most interesting as a homeschooler, to look at other peoples’ processes. In a lot of ways, I’m not a planner in the sense that other people are. I have no binder, no printouts, no spreadsheets, although I ogle other peoples’ just like everyone else (and I did just get a homeschool planner at the end of this year, I will talk about that soon!). There is just something so soothing about what is essentially a long set of checklists. But while I embrace the appeal, that is a process that has never really worked for me. I’m going to try and share with you what has.
If you read my last post about homeschooling, you will remember my (hard won) list of three priorities:
- allow them to engage in meaningful work
- cultivate a sense of belonging
- give them opportunities to create connections
You will see that these priorities do not include subjects, benchmarks, or anything else I could reliably plan out in advance. They are by their very nature changeable and must be thought through with sensitivity to their individual application. I spend a lot of time questioning convention (such as it exists in homeschooling) and questioning myself about what is really important or necessary, and I measure against these priorities.
This is why I believe that the most important thing you can do as a homeschooler is to ask yourself the hardest question of all: who do you want your children to be as people when they leave your home, and what benchmarks will you use to measure your progress on the way? It is simple to hope your children are kind, loving, inquisitive…it is harder to imagine what you can do to help them on the path of kindness, love, curiosity. I want my children to be confident, to believe in their worth as humans and as contributors to this world, to feel connected to place and people, to be interested both in learning new things and the connection between ideas, to feel capable. I want them to recognize and appreciate beauty, to be able to participate in wonder. I want them to be equipped to live a simple life of peaceful joy.
This is the place you can begin, before you think about math curriculum or whether they need to learn a foreign language or how history should be taught. I realize this doesn’t sound like homeschool planning: at this point it sounds like life planning. But one of the benefits (and challenges) of homeschooling is that you can’t really separate the two, no matter how hard you try. Strengthening these underlying principles in your own heart helps you to be strong and confident, like a storybook mother. It helps you to stay peaceful and focused in the face of the temptation of every new curriculum or appealing Instagram photo or Pinterest pin. Your goals and priorities will be different ones from mine, but it helps to really think about it, talk it out with your husband, brew on it for a while. It has taken me several years to get here! And that’s ok too. Take your time. Take the long view. Look for the big picture. The little stuff will always be there. Give yourself the gift of muddling, puzzling, refining, changing your mind. The process of honing is equally as (maybe more) useful than making a Final Decision.