Planning: An act of hope!

Some people take great comfort in planning out their day in great detail, laying it all out in neat time-slots, and ticking off each item with satisfaction. And then there’s me. A clear agenda sheet divided into tiny intervals makes my chest tighten and is more intimidating to me than a blank page waiting for a blog post or poem. As a poet I love to capture spontaneous moments and share them, but I could never get into writing short stories…I just don’t know what would happen next…so much planning!

When it comes to homeschool, I love to have tons of great supplies around for art, drama, reading, baking, geography, learning games, etc, but planning exactly when to use them or in what order is my downfall. With four young girls being schooled, and two rascally boys in tow causing lots of ruckus, planning at all is an act of hope. We end up doing a variety of things, but the disruption of various bad moods, sudden low blood sugar, baby diapers and necessary chores makes planning specific times for each topic seem ludicrous. With children literally climbing the walls, having an exact time for geography seems beyond the realm of possibly. I know there are homeschool moms who are amazingly organized and structured, because this is what works for them. That’s awesome, but just not where I’m at.

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However, I yearn for more peace and order in my day, and think I have finally found a handy resource to help me be reflective and intentional about creating this kind of day. It’s a sheet of question put together by April and Eric Perry, the great husband-wife team of the site http://learndobecome.com/.

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The idea is to quietly read through the 7 questions, ideally before bed or early the next morning, and use them to reflect on what kind of day you want to create. The questions include things like appointments and important projects for the day, but take it further to ask how you will strengthen you family relationships within carrying out those duties, as well as how you will take care of yourself physically and spiritually. Rather than just a to do list, you record a number of important intentions that help set the tone of your day. It’s then up to you to put them into your agenda or up on your white board in whatever order seems best. There is a great 17 minute podcast that goes with the sheet, explains how helpful it is to do this process prayerfully, keeping in mind character goals as well as things to accomplish.

The question that really interested me was “How will I learn today?” Not just how will I teach my kids, but how will I learn and grow as a person today. April mentioned something that she learned at a leadership conference I think, that to be a great leader, you must be a great learner. Of course as a homeschooling mom, like any mom I’m sure, I want to promote a lifetime love of learning to my kids. And the best way is to model it. So I tried to think how I could fit more learning into my busy jumble of the day…and the best solution is to listen to great podcasts about homeschool, happiness, personal and professional development, etc, while I do dishes. It gives me something to look forward to, as well as lots of new ideas to think about, use and share. Hurrah for my iPad mini, now keeping me great company while I’m “stuck at the sink.”

Here is the question sheet so you can try it out, but I highly recommend also checking out the great articles and podcasts on LearnDoBecome site as well!

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Using this template has been helping me, and this morning I included the kids in planning as well. We actually had quite a good day, and did lots of learning, ticking off all boxes but one in our plan. The kids added lots of their own reading and projects as well, like making a Canada clubhouse out of their puppet theatre, and making homemade flags to wave while singing the anthem repeatedly, much to the delight of their loud baby brother, who delights in song and dance.

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So when life is chaotic, remember to P.P.P….Pause, Pray and Plan…even just a little. And don’t forget to hope, which makes everything a lot brighter. I’ll try to remember that myself! My bigger kids making muffins all by themselves today after a number of classes in our Kids Cook Real Food e-course certainly confirmed that little continuous efforts do pay off! 😊

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Small, brilliant humans…

   
 

Today I watched  Do schools kill creativity? It’s a great Ted talk by educator Sir Ken Robinson about the nature of education…or even more so about the nature of children. Robinson believes that all children are naturally creative and original, and that the exceptionally bright children wouldn’t be so exceptional if we didn’t spend so much time drilling the creativity our of all the others. Three ways we do this are:

  1. expecting them all to behave the same way in the class room, and almost always diagnosing difference as a condition to be medicated and ‘normalized’. 
  2. instilling a huge fear of making mistakes, which makes creative originality almost impossible, because one has to be willing to risk being wrong in order to do something new. 
  3. focussing so heavily on the academic areas of math and literacy to the exclusion of other areas like dance, drama, music, etc. 

He told an anecdote of a little girl in the thirties who couldn’t sit still in class. She was always fidgeting. Her mother was called in to discuss her trouble at school. After speaking with her and her mother, the teacher, or perhaps it was the principle, asked the mother to step out of the room for a moment with him. Before leaving he switched on the radio. They looked at the little girl through the glass window in the wall. She immediately was on her feet and moving to the beat. 

Your little girl isn’t learning impared. She’s a dancer. Please take her to a dance school.

That was the best advice the mother ever had. Her daughter flourished at the Royal Academy of Ballet, and went on to make millions producing shows like “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.” 

And yet we tell kids…don’t bother with music or dance…you can’t make a living at that. Instead we have said for so long, “Be smart and get a degree. Then you’ll be guaranteed a job.” Sir Robinson says we have created a kind of academic inflation, where degrees have become so common that they mean almost nothing, and now a PHD is required for jobs that used to only need a bachelor’s degree. He joked that much as he likes university professors, having previously been one himself, he doesn’t think we are all meant to be professors!

I won’t give away the whole talk…about educating the whole person and not just the head…but you should really watch it because besides being interesting, it is also funny. Being British, Sir Robinson has that fantastic dry sense of humour, and I kept laughing so hard I woke up the baby sleeping on my lap! 

The whole talk made me feel that we need to consciously redefine our view of educating children…that ideas like the blank slate to be filled with ideas, or the small uncultured creature to be civilized are so far off. Perhaps a better definition of kids would be small, brilliant humans, who are unafraid to share their brilliance with others, and with the world. Let’s encourage our kids to keep burning brightly with all their wild and crazy ideas and funny inventions so they that don’t fall into becoming typical adults: large dim humans who are so afraid of making a mistake or displeasing others that they won’t try anything different or new, cause better safe than sorry!

  

Homeschooling Keeps Siblings Close

One of the nice things about homeschool is that you can always be with your favourite “friends.” Everybody, no matter how big or small or imaginary, is included.

One of my favourite things about having the 5 kids learning at home is how close they are…and how the kids of difference ages interact, include and care for each other. They are not artificially separated into age groups and a myriad of separate activities, so they don’t forget how to play together. Many homeschool activities can be done together, like reading and discussing stories, learning about things from animals to waterfalls, doing art, putting on plays, singing, dancing, doing nature walks and running outside.

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Nor do the kids get easily bored. They are quite happy to turn the living room into a giant block tower and Duplo city while I get the dishes done. Or to build endless forts with blankets and upturned furniture. Of course all this teamwork means there is also an organized team effort to drive me crazy, but happily I’ve already been crazy for a long time!  Comes with the territory! 😉

Laying the Foundation for Homeschool

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This summer I’ve been busy working to organize our home and lay the foundations for homeschool. While I prefer a flexible, creative approach to homeschool, rather than a workbook only style, I realize that having an orderly environment where we know where all our great books and supplies are is conducive to achieving this. So in this spirit we’ve been clearing out our junk (over 7 garbage bags have gone to the thrift store, not to mention all the garbage and recycling we’ve cleared out). And we’ve been organizing our homeschool books and supplies. My oldest daughter has had lots of fun helping write labels for them.

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She is actually, unlike some of my other kids, quite naturally orderly and loves all this house beautifying. We spent one morning hauling apart our overcrowded kids book shelf, giving away or recycling some, and putting the rest back in categories like stories, French books, reference books, science books, pre-school, arts and crafts, etc. After I took this picture we got out our dollar store labels and wrote all of these and put them on the shelves.

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My 8 year old was very satisfied:
“I’m so proud of us, Mama! Here, tell me to get a science book.”
“Ok, grab a science book.”
She ran and got it and showed me.
“See, we look at it and then we put it back where it goes!”
I’m so glad she gets excited about this; as order is not my natural forté it helps a lot!

We labeled our binders with partitions for our different subjects, too.

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I recently read a great post on the blog “Capturing the Charmed Life” about homeschooling:

The Art and Science of An Education

It’s a beautiful testament to the benefits of a flexible education tailored to your own children specifically. I like her broad vision of education as something that helps us learn how to live, not just how to pass certain exams. Definately worth reading for anyone interested in education or child-rearing.

Here’s a wonderful quote by John Taylor Gatto she included in her piece:

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist: it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges: it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing; wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die”.

This is what I hope to do: expose my kids to great works of art, literature, science, etc and help them to develop a life-long love of learning. I also want to teach them to think for themselves, to care for others and to become the best people they can be. It’s a big goal; wish me luck!