Our homeschool has always had a more relaxed feel to it. I won’t say we are 100% unschoolers. I’d like to say we are delight directed homeschoolers with a dash of unschooling. The truth is … our homeschool changes from year to year as far as the classes, curriculum, activities, etc. Some years have been a little more curriculum heavy, some have been more adventure friendly, some have been out-sourced, and some have been all at home. But the heart and vision of delight directed has remained. I try to check in with my kids often to find out what it is they are hoping to learn and accomplish.
Schooling in this way can be difficult to plan. You cannot always anticipate the opportunities that will pop up.
We live in North Carolina. Homeschool Law is very friendly and does not have a ton of oversight. We are not required to turn in lesson plans or choose a certain curriculum. Parents are the chief administrators of their schools and make all the decisions concerning goals, plans, schedules, etc.
Even still, most of us like to have some record of all the things we’ve accomplished. We like to have a portfolio of sorts to record the things our children are learning. Many people like to use a planner and chart the course for the week, month, or year.
I have high aspirations for being a planner. I used to make outlines and charts and goals. I used to plan out a semester at a time. But I found, for my personality and the nature of our homeschool, that simply did not work. At times it feels like our homeschool operated in the in between of crisis…. health scares, house floods, car trouble, and more. All the lesson planning doesn’t account for those moments and can honestly put unnecessary pressure on a person.
Several years back, I started the practice of retro planning. I would get to the end of the week and feel like I didn’t have much to show for it. I would have to intentionally sit down and reflect and wonder about the week’s events. As I reflected, I would realize just how much “school” we had accomplished. When my kids were younger, we frequented the library, the children’s museum, the zoo, the park, and any one of the amazing hiking trails in our area. We would have impromptu discussions and Lego-building challenges. We would watch documentaries or other educational shows. My 2nd has a ridiculous amount of animal knowledge and she credits Wild Kratts. We would go to our homeschool association’s Enrichment Classes.
At first, I felt the need to make sure I school up everything… go in with a plan, be intentional. But I realized that just letting my kids experience something was totally fine too. I didn’t have to print out a scavenger hunt for the zoo. I didn’t have to have my children write an essay documenting their experiences. We could just go and do and talk about it over dinner.
You might be surprised with just how much you accomplish in a week when you go the route of retro planning. There is freedom in this homeschooling approach. Let me give you some tips on retro planning:
- Pick a recording method. Maybe you have a paper planner where you leave space to record your day- maybe like a homeschool diary. I have a friend who took a picture every time they finished a read-aloud. At the end of the year, she was able to look back and see how many amazing books they read. Maybe you could have a photo album on your phone or in Google Photos dedicated to “Homeschool Days.” Take pictures at the park, when cooking a meal together, during a read-aloud, doing table work, going to the library, play dates with friends, field trips, building with legos, playing make-believe, going on a walk, jumping on the trampoline, etc.
- Listen to your children. The further you get into this homeschool game, the more independent and adventurous your children may become. As they learn how to learn, they will venture off into rabbit trails of their own. Listen… pay attention to their interests. My oldest is an artist and he loves learning about different cultures. He would research a certain culture and apply it to his art. I would periodically ask to see what he was working on. I asked how he came up with certain ideas. Eventually, I recognized he had done enough research, learning, and applying to equal a 1/2 credit for high school in Asian studies. If I had given him direction to go and research Polynesian culture, write a story, and illustrate it… I would have schooled it up and he would have quickly lost interest. Instead, I followed his lead and asked a lot of questions.
- Allow Wiggle Room. It is totally still ok to make plans. My kids typically have to do at least Math and Reading every day. I make plan to allow for those structured bits of school. Because we are part of a co op, they also have work they are responsible to complete for those classes. However, we allow wide margin for creativity and exploration in our homeschool. We implemented a 4 day school week a long time ago. As long as my high schoolers are willing to work and get things done Monday- Thursday, they have Fridays off. Don’t plan every moment of your day. Giving kids space to just be can open the door to things you didn’t realize were possible.
- Write down what you did- not what you think you will do. Allow space in your planner to go back and reflect over your week and write down what you did. You may start to see some themes popping up that you want to explore. Maybe you have a child who has been focusing a lot on butterflies. They’ve checked out books. They’ve been curious and chasing butterflies at the park. They’ve been drawing. How can you direct this desire and help be intentional in your learning. Maybe plan a walk through a butterfly garden or plant a butterfly garden. Maybe order some butterfly eggs and a habitat and watch the process from start to finish.
- Don’t Stress! I think all homeschool moms (and dads) feel immense pressure to perform and prove ourselves to others. Please stop! Remember why you chose to homeschool. Think about your family goals and values. How does your homeschool help guide towards those goals and values? Maybe you pre-plan a couple of days in your week and retro plan the others? Find what works for you!