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Writing and Recording Learning Plans

© Beverley Paine

Writing a learning program and recording throughout the first year isn't as daunting as it first looks. I think the problem we all face is this overriding fear that the regulating body we apply to home educate through will reject our application or review reports, but this rarely happens. And if they say 'no', we say 'why not' and they tell us and we say 'okay, we can fix that, how about now?' and they say 'okay' (usually - eventually). It isn't always this easy, neither does it always get this hard: each family has a different experience. However, most of us end up finding the process a lot less intimidating than we thought it would be.

Many families, especially those with children younger than the compulsory school age of 6, simply start educating their children in whatever way they want - usually using a school-at-home approach with a few work books in spelling, grammar and maths with a lot of hands-on art, craft and science activities, plus continuing learning activities as usual about growing bodies, hygiene, cooperative behaviours, getting out and about in the community... learning about other people, places and things (culture!)

The following approach to writing a learning plan is called 'retrospective planning' and is great if you have time to prepare your application, say, for example, over the summer holidays or before your child reaches compulsory school age. But even if you are planning on removing your child from school, say next term, you can start to do this well in advance, and get into the habit of thinking like a home educating parent!

Record what you do in a diary such as my Natural Learning Diary, which includes play and hobby activities as well as structured learning. Just write down what the children do in the boxes, or create your own diary, and then underline or highlight the activities/learning in the different 'subject' areas - maths, science, health, language, etc.

To write a learning plan, simply rewrite what you did under the subject headings... Louise Wilton's two homeschooling planning and recording booklets set this out beautifully as an example of the type of homeschooling learning program that mostly just happens, without a huge amount of worry or planning.

If you do this before your child turns six you will already have a 'report' or 'review' to show the education department officer who comes to interview you during the application process. All you need to do then is to project what you'd like your child to learn or cover in the next 6-12 months. You will have specific goals - eg: learn to write simple sentences, count to 100, build a frog pond (with help), answer the phone appropriately, etc, which may or may not eventuate, but seem sensible and suitable goals for your child over the year ahead. Write these down under the subject headings, if you wish, or just write a long list! This is your learning plan... and most of us find it grows naturally from our diaries and different methods of recording.

I used the curriculum subjects (and their subcategories, eg history, biology, weather, conservation, etc) as very useful in helping me think of goals for each of my children. Then I would add events and activities I knew would happen - eg holiday at Sovereign Hill and the historic goldmining area of Victory (history, geology, occupations); New Year's Eve Pageant participation (The Arts - choreography, costumes, performance); Model Solar Car Challenge (Technology, Science, Health). April's first year of homeschooling was the year Thomas was born, so that covered a lot of learning in Health! As did keeping and breeding guinea pigs a couple of years later...

You can write a page or two for your forward plan, or you can write a dozen. I found that the more I put down on paper about what we were actually doing, based on haphazard but detailed recording, the more confident I felt and the quicker I could relax about the whole planning and recording process.

Recording helped me feel that I was actually teaching my children. It also gave my children confidence, from time to time, that they were actually being educated. This helped them from feeling too different from other children. They weren't just playing at home and doing 'stuff' with mum - it was a 'proper' education. We even did report cards every other year or so!

Recording need only take a few minutes each day. It can be as simple as a checklist (using the lists in the back of my book Getting Started with Homeschooling, see also Articles under Curriculum ) or as detailed as an anecdotal record of what each did and said and how they are learning each day. It's up to you. The education department doesn't enforce any particular style of recording and they are more interested in how you know your child is progressing - showing that through conversation at the interview is more powerful than what you've written down, though your records and your learning plan will jog your memory and help you feel more confident at the time.

A learning plan is simply that - a plan. It's not set in concrete and it doesn't matter if you do something entirely different. As you probably will... Just adapt and adjust and keep the process flowing and flexible!

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

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 supporter 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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