Planning

This is the first year I decided to really and truly make a learning plan for the coming year. Other years I have loosely followed a Waldorf curriculum, almost like a list of things we could do, and left a lot of room for flexibility around the kids’ interests (for more about that read this article I wrote for a friend’s blog). It was a bit fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, because let’s face it, it’s been 8 years of babies, diapers, and not nearly enough sleep.

This year, my seventh year of homeschooling, there are no babies, no diapers, I get enough sleep and suddenly I feel like I could do anything, including my own homeschool planning. One of the things that inspired me most about my time at Taproot Farm last summer was hearing some of the presenters talk about planning. So when I was faced with all this time this summer, I thought I would give this planning thing a try. I thought I would share some of what I found helpful in my planning process.

I purchased Jean Miller’s planning guide while I was at Taproot. Jean talks about her own planning process, provides some advice about rhythm, and also has a wonderful list of Waldorf resources. She also lays out the topics for each year and some of her favorite resources for each topic. What this resource did for me is give me a framework for doing my own planning. It can be as simple as a table with three columns and three rows (9 blocks for 9 months), thinking about the possibilities, thinking about my kids and then finding resources (library books, museums, materials, etc.) that are available to me.

The more challenging part is taking four plans for four kids and thinking about how to bring them together so I don’t lose my mind. Listening to Jean Miller and Alison Manzer speak at Taproot gave me some great ideas about this. Talking with these more experienced homeschooling mamas really took some pressure off (thank you, ladies!). Here are just a few of the goodies I got from hearing them speak:

  • I was fairly blown away by Alison’s description of bringing different ages together on similar topics (or example: farming and botany). I had to laugh at myself for being blocked on that one. But yes, of course, it would be easy enough to find books, outings and projects that would be good for two similar topics and then have two kids (or more) going in the same direction.
  • Go deep, not wide. Instead of doing so much, do a few things well.
  • Process not product. There isn’t always something to show for every learning process and there doesn’t have to be something in the main lesson book for every block for every kid.

Hrm….Taproot, Taproot, Taproot. Yes, my time at Taproot last summer and the people I connected with there have continued to inspire me all year long.

I do know not to get too attached to plans, but setting our own intention for this coming year also feels really good. I intend to remain flexible and hold space for my kids to follow other interests that come up throughout the year. There are always learning detours and these are often unforgettable experiences for all of us.

Summertime

We have just never really taken summer off. But this year for the first time my boy asked for a summer. He wanted a real summer with less structure and some sort of end of summer where we get back to our usual thing. We have always just kept a daily habit of learning. Times when we snuggle up and read together, times when we write together, times when we are at the table painting or drawing, and of course days when we either go out in the country to hike or into the city for museum visits. We just live and learn through our fine full days, all of us.

My little guy, before he got so big

But this year my oldest for the first time had a sense that his friends were having a summer. A late nights, Minecraft, swimming, baseball, full-of-fun summer. And he wanted in on it. I love that he is having this summer that he wanted and I also miss those times that we snuggle up and enjoy a good book together or draw anime characters at the kitchen table. I miss our bedtime chats. It used to be “I want to BE with you” right as I was about to close my eyes at night but now this time of day is a good time to play with friends over Skype. I have that before bed time to myself, which is nice but also a little sad. My guy is definitely growing up.

But his growing up is also fun and exciting for many reasons. For one, it means that he is playing a much bigger role in his own learning. He sat down with me and we talked about what he wants to do and learn this coming year when summer is over and his friends are going back to school. I got to hear what he is loving and what he wants more of. I got to hear his thoughts on how he would like to structure his days. We talked about having regular meetings so that he can be a part of planning and I can hear what he is learning and figuring out. I know there will still be times that we are cuddled up reading together, but there will now be more times when he is learning on his own and I still want to hear about it.

Making plans with him feels a bit like a promise to return to the life we have loved once our fun summer vacation is over. I know that partly I am longing for the times when my boy wanted to BE with me, snuggle and read with me, draw at the table with me, etc. and that no plan we create will be able to take us back in time. The kids are growing up and some of these things are changing more permanently than just for the summer. This is feeling like a new chapter for us.

But the other wonderful thing about my guy growing up and wanting a free summer is that I also am benefiting from that freedom too. With this time that is available to me, I feel like I can catch up on all the things I have fallen behind on those years that I had babies in the house and I was getting settled into homeschooling. You should see my super clean and organized house, folks. And I feel like there is now time and mental energy available for some planning for what we’ll do when this summertime is over.

I’ll share more about that soon….

A shift from uncertainty to possibility

I usually like to write from the other side of a difficult place and not right in the thick of it, so I have been putting off writing, thinking I will find that other side soon. We have been in this difficult limbo, living with uncertainty about our future. That sounds kind of silly as I type it out, because really even when we feel certain about our future, life can take twists and turns we don’t expect. So for weeks, we’ve just been hanging out in this difficult place, waiting for this thing to unfold so we can KNOW what is going to happen. (Again, even as I write it, I know no one can KNOW what is going to happen, but that’s still where we’ve been.)

Thankfully we are all healthy and safe, but still in the early stages of this limbo we were anxious and clearly not our usual selves. You can bet the kids picked up on that, so we added whiny, clingy, grumpy kids to the struggle. This is when I realized that it was time for me to get myself together because they needed me to and because my worrying wasn’t accomplishing anything. So I got busy with the snuggling, reading, creating, playing and working of our day-to-day life. I’ve kept the focus on this moment and then the next, not looking too far ahead, and just loving these people I live with. So it was back to supporting my little baker girl in finding recipes and creating her own new recipes, supporting my little photographers in their birdwatching and people watching, and learning and growing along with my almost teenager who is taking me new places with regards to technology and social dynamics that weren’t even possible when I was growing up.

And a cool thing has happened along the way. As I am just paying attention to each moment, I know that uncertainty is still out there, but it is becoming easier. It feels lighter and we can laugh about it sometimes. And while we wait, we are even having some fun (yes, really) considering the possibilities of what our future might hold. It has been inspiring to me to read about people who have gone to incredible lengths to follow their dreams and how to work out the details. My husband and I talk about everything from working together as a family to build our own country home and raising chickens to selling our home and everything in it so we can hit the road in our travel trailer. We talk about moving around every couple years to experience different parts of the country but we also talk about doing everything we can to stay close to home. So in all of these discussions, we began to see that we are capable of being happy in a variety of circumstances. We are finding many ways to be excited about the changes on our horizon, that there are opportunities for us in the possibilities.

So while we are not on the other side yet, we are coming to a place of (mostly) enjoying the ride.