Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thoughts on Lesson Plans

I always knew we would homeschool. Pretty much from the minute we planned to have children, we planned to homeschool those children. Homeschooling tied in nicely with all the other uncoventional ideals and ideas we have here in the Owl Nest. And I always knew I never wanted lesson plans. You can't put me in a box... don't try to tell me what to do... blah blah blah. It was all just too much structure for this free-spirited momma to handle!

And so we began our homeschooling adventure in earnest this past fall. I was in love with the Well-Trained Mind, and the philosophy of Classical Education. So that is what we set out with. I had beautiful binders laid out for each subject, everything neat and organized waiting to be filled with proof of my children's superior education. The problem was, what should we fill those binders with? I had no idea what lessons to cover when. I found that for all my rebellion and free-spirited resistance to structure, I really really needed someone to boss me around and tell me what to do! And not in a broad over-arching kind of way, but in a day to day, minute to minute kind of way!

So after floundering awhile, then taking a long schooling hiatus, we recently began again. We are using the Ambleside Online curriculum. And the best part about it (besides that it is free) is that there is a lesson plan. YAY! Someone to tell me what to do so I can tell the kids what to do! It is narrow enough that I know what we are doing and where we are headed. But broad enough that I can schedule our weeks the way I need them to go. I really can take the best of it and make it work for my family. Hooray! I love knowing what we need to acomplish this week. And being able to use the weekly checklist I made up to be sure we haven't forgotten anything. You can view our weekly plan here.

Now, in all honesty, I probably could have done this myself with the Well-Trained Mind guidelines. But it would have involved many man-hours (mom-hours?) that could be better used doing other things. Like sleeping. The lesson plan frees me up from last minute scrounging around trying to put together something cool for the next day. No more late nights planning out cool projects that the kids ultimately don't want to do anyway. Now, I don't have so much of my ego tied up in it, which is probably better for all of us. When they reject the cool things on our schedule, it is ME personally that they are rejecting. And I love not being overwhelmed with too many choices. There is no super-long debate with myself about which book might be better on anyone particular topic. It's all laid out for me. And I know we're actually making progress toward the bigger picture. This is important since I have a tendency to get lost in the minutiae... the whole "forest for the trees" issue.

Here are a few highlights of what's working so far:
  • The kids are thriving with short lesson-times. We do focused work for a short amount of time. And you know what, they are really remembering what we have covered. And we moved on to a new subject before they get totally fried on what we were doing. Part of the problem I was falling into before was that I figured if some were good, more must be better. We were trying to do WAY too much at a time in any one subject and everyone was burning out. Especially the momma who was losing her patience trying to get through "one more" of whatever we were working on.
  • We are also really focusing on narration. Because my schooling kids are young (6 and 4) we are keeping the narrations short. So after we read a passage, or maybe a few paragraphs of a longer passage, we take a break and they tell me back what just happened. This really does seem to increase their comprehension, by helping them to really own the material.
  • Shorter lessons means school is over in a timely fashion so we have lots of time left in our day for play, impromptu get-togethers, and spontaneous trips to the park (yay for spontaneity, says the free-spirited momma).

  • I still feel happy with the eclectic assortment of things we have added into our homeschooling days. So even if I am using a lesson plan, at least I can still claim to be eclectic. That's one less box for me! :)
I won't pretend that this will work forever, or that I'll feel so sunshiny about it later. But I know that for now, we have stumbled upon something that is really working for us. And we have a lesson plan to keep us on track!

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