Having Trouble Getting Started with Homeschooling? Stuck in the 'planning stage'?
By Beverley paine
This article was first published in the Winter 2011 issue of Stepping Stones for Home Educators, HEA members' magazine.
“Just wondering if anyone can give me some advice on how to actually "do" home education. Let me clarify... I spend a lot of time researching, talking and generally getting bogged down in intellectual stuff. I am not so great on the actual "doing" of anything.” Noni
I can relate to Noni’s problem. For a long time I was a lot like Rimmer, a character from Red Dwarf, a novel and TV series written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, who needed to pass an examination to further his career on the mining spaceship. He neatly wrote out very organised study schedules, so much so that he never actually had time to do the study required and thus kept failing the exam, much to his chagrin. My life was littered with well organised and clearly articulated but unfulfilled plans.
At some time though, we have to stop and address the real problem, that of avoidance. For me this meant asking myself some hard questions, such as “why was I sabotaging my attempts to do what I wanted?” The answer was related to fear. Since childhood I had been afraid of failing, of not being ‘good enough’ and the high standards I set myself meant that I was never satisfied. I used to quit while in the planning stage, although to me it didn’t look like quitting, just ‘shifting direction’. I would con myself that I wasn’t doing it right and start again, usually using new or ‘better’ different tactics or resources. Instead of doing anything productive I spent my time judging myself.
I’m not going to blame myself entirely for this self-defeating habit. As a child and into my late teens my experience as a school student reinforced this nonsense. More time is spent in schools planning, organising and going over what is supposed to happen in the lesson than actually studying! And as a ten-year-old I had worked out that I could get a better grade by making my work ‘pretty’. I was one of those ‘neat and tidy’ students that had learned how to play the ‘education’ game to my advantage. The amount of thought and effort I put into planning and presenting my work seemed more important than the content. As an adult student I’ve also noticed this tendency.
My advice to Noni is to stop planning and thinking about what you need to do. Instead sit down with your children and ‘be’ with them. Play with them. It could be anything: playing with their toys, a board or card game, or simply being silly making up crazy songs or stories. Take them for a walk. Go shopping. Spend some time wandering along the local creek. Take sketch books and draw what you see. Talk about those things. Notice things that look odd. Ask open ended questions that don’t need answers straight away.
Then, when the children are tucked up in bed after you have read them ten picture books or three chapters from their favourite author, snuggle down on the sofa with a cuppa and a blank page in your notebook and start doodling a map of what you have achieved that day with your children. Do little bubble diagrams and briefly describe each activity. Write down the remarkable things your children said. Somewhere on the page jot down, perhaps in a different colour, your thoughts about what you think your children learned that they didn’t know before. By doing this simple fifteen minute exercise you are creating a permanent record of your homeschooling ‘plan’. The more you do it the more obvious the ‘plan’ hidden in the patterns of words on the pages in your notebook become. Seasoned home educators call it ‘retrospective planning’. Over time you should slowly get control over the conditioned need in you to draw up tidy, organised plans so that you have more time to play and learn!
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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