Planning and recording - valuable tools for building confidence as home educators
© Beverley Paine
I'm a planner - in fact, I'm addicted to you it. Planning more is a great idea. One of the most effective tools I used as an educator was manipulating the environment so that what I wanted to happen would flow more easily - with less effort on my behalf. How to 'set up' the learning environment is something I've written about in my Learning Materials booklet and also Getting Started with Homeschooling.
It's not just the physical environment either - it's the emotional, and spiritual environment. An orderly environment is a calming environment, and I believe this is necessary to promote active creativity. Orderly doesn't have to mean forever tidy or minimalist. I'm a collector and my house can be very 'busy'. Because we are very busy people I need to keep activities orderly too - if I don't know what's happening when, with whom, and what do they need, beforehand then chaos usually reigns and the creative process starts to disappear. The result is an undermined confidence and an increasing sense of being overwhelmed. My kids despaired of my constant planning - as did other adults, often calling me a control freak. But they all admired just how much I was able to get done and appreciated the organisation!
There is a down side to planning and organising so efficiently however: although children learn by example, they, like many adults, can become too comfortable having life laid out for them all the time. This could lead to developing an avoidance of risk-taking and decision making. Control freaks usually suffer from unwarranted anxiety and stress and can feel guilty when things don't pan out as planned, or if a small detail wasn't remembered or considered. Most of my health issues stem from unnecessary stress. Finding a balance meant working out exactly what I was responsible for and what I needed to let others take responsibility for, and learning that delegation meant trusting that others can do the job as well as I could. This was particularly hard when it came to entrusting my children's care and well being to others - even their dad!
The other tool I developed for feeling more in control and less stressed about our homeschooling life was to have periodic bouts of recording. Often the act of recording each day would be a self-organising tool. Simply focussing on writing down what our plans were each day - for example, a list compiled at the breakfast table with each person stating their desires, needs, etc - would result in more getting accomplished. It's amazing how we all became more committed to our individual and group projects and activities, simply by verbalising them to each day. We've never been hung up on the need to finish everything we start. The learning process has always been the main focus in our homeschooling life. Because of that I've always been very flexible with my planning, knowing that situations can change in an instant, and plans need to be updated frequently. At times my 'flexibility' drove my family nuts! Being a meticulous planner allowed me great flexibility and gave rise to a high level of efficiency.
I found recording our goals, objectives, and outcomes (in other words: what we want to do, the steps involved and how we will know if we've succeeded) on paper, or simply talking about them with each other often, a vital part of planning. Without it I often felt 'lost': the recognition and celebration of successful outcomes would be smothered and hidden by the worry of never doing enough or the 'unfinished' projects.
My confidence in home education grew from a haphazard recording regime. The unfinished diaries, multitude of lists, the calendars, the photo albums, the scrapbooks, the learning programs and plans - all these scraps of paper are concrete reminders of our many successes as home educating parents. On days when I feel that I haven't been a good enough mum or homeschooling parent it's my scraps of paper that remind me that I did my best. That's why I keep recording... I've found it valuable tool for keeping me on track with what I want to achieve in my life.
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Since 1989 Beverley Paine has steadfastly promoted and supported home education as an educational choice for Australia families. Her books and websites aim to demystify education, gently deschooling families so that they may meet their children's individual and unique educational and developmental needs. Her honesty, insights and wealth of experience continues to bring hope, reassurance and confidence to families. Beverley publishes her recent articles, tips and links to resources in her quarterly magazine, Homeschool Unschool