Having made our way to the end of a half-term of being the most structured to date in our Home Ed journey, I wanted to review how it has gone.
I ended last year feeling dissatisfied as it felt like the lack of planned activities had led to us feeling somewhat stodgy in our Home Ed - I wasn't convinced that I was giving my best to the boys, and wanted to re-evaluate. I realised I had been torn between my love of the theory behind unschooling, and the reality that we seem to work best (some more than others) with some form of structure. So, with some trepidation that it might be a tricky balancing act to meet all of our needs in this respect, I decided to embrace my inner plan-maker, and draw up a plan for the half-term to start in January.
I have to say, it worked really well! I generally scheduled in alternating Maths and English (both twice a week), plus an art activity, science activity, couple of activities on our project (at the time it was Vikings), and the odd educational game and several educational TV programmes - plus whatever the boys wanted to do. I only planned two or three things per morning, four mornings a week, for six weeks, which was flexible enough to allow for days out and other fun. The afternoons were mostly left for socialising and free-play time If the boys had a slow day, we just ditched one or two of the planned ideas or saved them for another day, and if they had an enthusiastic day, we just factored in whatever extra activities they came up with. Sometimes we did something completely unplanned and spontaneous. The end of the half-term was noticeably slower-paced than the beginning, but that's not surprising really, and certainly not a problem. All-in-all it was the most comfortable I have felt about the Home Ed process since we started. Of course, that may be because we've being doing it for a while now - but I definitely think the plan helped.
I am convinced that the key to it working was the fact that although I am a not-so-secret planner, I am very relaxed about whether or not the plans actually happen as scheduled. It's just a guideline, to give us a focus and starting point each morning. If the plan starts to take over at any point and stress us out, I think I will have to step back. I may enjoy planning but I completely believe that a child who is stressed and resisting participation is never going to learn as well as the child who is relazed and enjoying whatever the activity is. So fun remains the priority, the plan is secondary - it just helps us to have a frameowrk to some of our fun.
Of course, after this half term we will be approaching summer, and then I expect things to change considerably, as home educators everywhere suddenly spend most of their time out of doors. I'm not sure how the plan will cope with that, but for now I've just finished drawing up another 6-weeks of scheduled activities, flushed with the success of last half-term (success for me meaning that we all enjoyed it, we all learned stuff and the plan helped us to HE in a way that felt really positive).