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No plan

Somewhere, between the late swarms of mosquitoes that sounds like summer and the early changing of the trees that looks like fall, is the essence of now. Somewhere, between my longing for an extension of hot summer days, to spend at the lake or the pool, and my desire for the golden weekends of fall, to spend tailgating or raking leaves, is my ability to just be in the present. There is nothing more valuable than this moment right now, which outside of the cliche is painfully obvious given the myriad of things that pull at my time and demand my attention at any given moment. Take this minute, for instance. I have two books I am longing to read, laundry that needs to be put away, a variety of odd household chores to be done, and some hefty decisions to make about the coming year.

I hate hefty decisions—they always make my thoughts difficult to balance.

What they boil down to, though, and really they're not as hefty as they seem, is an inability to define the homeschoolers we'll be. Having decided that I need more of a structure to get through a week I sat down to peruse the Currclick site tonight, looking for unit studies (which are mostly on sale) to help me make a fall plan. Since he's so intrigued by penguins right now I asked him if he'd like to study Antarctica this week, and then I downloaded a unit study on exactly that. Could I have made my own? Probably. Do I really want someone else to have written a plan for our exploration of that continent? Mmmm...maybe not.

And the doubt creeps in.

But I kept going. With Thanksgiving right around the corner (just ask the commercial sector, which is already stocking for it) I sought a set of studies on US history and geography and downloaded those as well. Then I started looking at the Five in a Row book units I typed up, while borrowing the book from the library last winter, and started distributing those books throughout the fall months, coupling them with the activities in the unit studies.

Midway through writing that calendar I hit the brakes and quit with a big sigh.

I haven't fully given up on my desire to unschool, to let go and follow. I feel safer—more grounded—when I have a plan, but when I look at the studies and my calendar I see exactly what we wanted to avoid with home learning—a plan leaving just one way of doing things. We had wanted to provide many ways to reach a goal. In my ensuing panic I realize that I'm right back at square one, which is the point at which I have to decide what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. Even leaving a door open, through which I can go to change my mind, I have to have a path to follow before I can even get started.

How much guidance to give? How much planning to do?

Of course I am the problem. Calvin is thriving in his learning environment, no matter what I throw at him, be it the FIAR book studies, an Itellego unit study, or a general freedom to seek answers on his own. Is a mixture okay? And where is the fine line between planting a seed of interest, nourishing it with information and encouragement, and letting it take root, and creating an interest that would not exist were it not for external pressures, i.e. planting a water lily in the desert and keeping it alive where it shouldn't be merely by excessive attentions? The answers have not been forthcoming, and lethargy (my own) is setting in.

Which is not to say that I am devoid of excitement about this process. Quite the opposite, really. I sent messages out today to two different local homeschooling groups and we will meet them at the end of this week and the beginning of the next. We've made a new nature table and study center upstairs in our office/learning room, we've re-organized and re-shelved the books, and I still have that calendar I started earlier today. Maybe, as the mosquitoes leave and the trees turn, I'll use it. Maybe I won't.

I can't close this one up neatly. I want to be honest in sharing about our journey, and right now my head is swimming and I feel a little unbalanced and lost, so all I can offer are my thoughts, without a logical conclusion. My guess is that, as much as I desire a plan and a clear, distinct goal, only time will really tell me how our path will go. We'll get there, though, even if we get a little lost along the way.

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Reader Comments (2)

When there is so much information out there, so many GOOD ways of doing things, it can be hard to sift through to find the good ideas that will really work for you. I empathize with you on the calendar planning because I did that and then abandoned it when I found out that it really wouldn't work for us. (Unsolicited, I'll tell you what we have planned in case it gives you any good ideas that will work for you...) This year I've chosen a few "core" books to give a path to our studies, usually through a short one- or two-page chapter a week per book. We'll pick up an extra library book on the topic, and I'll have a supplementary activity planned, and we can of course go deeper if we so desire. Our "core" books will give us a loose ongoing structure and a jumping-off point if we choose to delve into the topic further - for me this eliminates the over-planning of units that we might not really enjoy while giving some direction to our learning. For example, we'll be using The Usborne Flip-Flap Body Book (which I already know he enjoys as he sometimes picks it out for his quiet reading time), and A Child's Introduction to the World (a bit beyond Patrick's level so we'll be relying more on library books with that - I am so excited to go geocaching with our "chapter" on latitude and longitude!) together with Best-Loved Folktales of the World, where appropriate. For Math we'll be using the Family Math books, which I highly recommend, both if you're not planning to begin formal math education just yet (as we are not), or to supplement whatever formal math you are doing. Since your family loves music as much as ours does, I also recommend The Story of the Orchestra. We're reading the composer section, and we listen a CD of the music of the composer of the week during our chores time that week.

We are not doing it this year (I'm planning on it for a couple of years from now), but The Story of the World has also been recommended to me many times as a jumping-off point for history.

I love reading about your process because we all go through times when things seem to become unbalanced and we have to figure out how to readjust. Good luck finding your balance. :) and go, Calvin, for being such a proactive, inquisitive learner!
August 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret
Thanks so much, Margaret. It's good to know that others feel unbalanced sometimes as well, and I appreciate you sharing your own plans, too. I had somehow missed "A Child's Introduction to the World" and it looks like a great book. "The Story of the Orchestra", too, and while looking at those I found the "A Child's Intro to Poetry" which also looked great. Anyway, I really, really appreciate your thoughts and support.
August 18, 2011 | Registered Commentercortneyandjon

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