“…the more a man looks at a thing, the less he can see it, and the more a man learns a thing the less he knows it.” – The Twelve Men, GKC
Like nearly all of the homeschool moms I know, I approach term planning with a mixture of anxiety, guilt, and eager anticipation. I regret the ground we haven’t covered – the times we did not make the most of our morning symposium, or when we let our commitment to nature walks slide, or when we ignored the math books in the corner of the room. I am anxious about whether or not the plans I have for the next term will be adequate, effective, appropriate, and attainable. And, I am full of eager anticipation about the fun new things we are going to learn, the stories we are going to get lost in, and the worlds that will open up to us. Planning is terrifying, overwhelming, and exciting all at once. And, for me, it comes every six to eight weeks.
Over the last couple of weeks on Facebook I have been casually talking about planning, and folks have asked to peek at my preparations. Surely it is not because I have any special wisdom, but rather it is probably because we homeschoolers are always, always, always looking at someone else’s plans. Presumably to be inspired and encouraged. Sadly, however, it often means that we take on more anxiety than we already had because it puts us into that awful comparison trap. For this reason, I try pretty hard not to look at other people’s plans when I am in planning mode. I want to lean into the Holy Spirit and trust my planning to Divine Providence instead. It is safer to look at other people’s plans when I am in the middle of my term – when I am too far away from changing my plans and have plenty of time to pray about what else I might be considering.
In our family we have discerned a “relaxed classical” approach. What this means to us is that we borrow from the principles of classical education without being legalistically bound to the recommendations that classical experts have compiled.
Along the way, I have read from a wealth of brilliant, wise, and good educational experts. But like the Chesterton quote above, I have found that the more that I have studied education, the less I have understood it. The more scrutiny I have applied, the less focus I have been able to muster.
In November of 2015, I read Teaching from Rest, and it was a game changer for me. This incredible little book was absolutely on point: not one of us is the master of our homeschool. Our homeschool does not belong just to us. It belongs first and last to Him. And, because He showers us with tender mercy and boundless love, we can absolutely trust Him with the details of all things – our homeschool notwithstanding.
As I have leaned into the Holy Spirit I have marveled at the confidence He has gifted to me. Eric Liddell, Olympic runner, said: “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” While I cannot run (really, me running is laughable), I think that I know what Liddell means. When I rest in the Holy Spirit and pray my way through my planning, I feel His pleasure. When I summon my little chicks to the patio for our summer patio school and we are learning beautiful things, I feel His pleasure. When I consciously avoid the comparison game, I feel His pleasure. When we are enjoying beautiful and excellent books that He has led me to, I feel His pleasure.
Now, all of that said, I do know how helpful it is to take a peek at someone else’s plan. I know how just seeing how someone else plans things can help us tweak our planning tools, inspire us to try something new, and encourage us to plan what is right for our family’s unique needs. So, in the hopes that this will be encouraging and not competition inducing, inspiring and not overwhelming, I will offer you a peek at my humble plan. It’s not perfect. It will likely change a little. I will love parts of it and I will regret other parts. I will fail to follow it exactly. But, my plan is a tool in my homeschool tool kit – not a tyrant or taskmaster.
You may wonder how I make the curricular choices that I make. A combination of factors: there are core subjects my husband and I simply think are important. There are key principles my husband and I desire to instill in our children. There are things that simply seem like a good idea. Because we practice a relaxed classical approach, we adhere to the basic classical form, but we interpret it into our situation.
You will notice that there are a number of Childcraft books referenced in this plan. The reason for this is because I think that the Childcraft books are some of the most brilliant elementary school resources available. They are like living books in that they are conversational, they are intelligently designed to respect the child, and they absolutely cultivate wonder and awe for their subject matter. I use Childcraft in lieu of textbooks, but in addition to solid living books.
My July-September plan is a roadmap – not a law. The October-December is a work in progress where I am catching ideas for the next planning cycle.
Generally, we run a 3 day cycle. This means that no matter how many days per week we actually meet (usually between 5-6), we just know if we are on day 1, 2, or 3. This allows me to have a vision for our next few days, spread some things out, hit things in good balance, but also not be too distracted by detailed schedule plans.