When Life Gives You Lemons, Try Post- Planning

When we take homeschooling moms through our Homeschool Harmony course, one of our main objectives is to help them distill their values, academic and goals, practical skills, and family traditions into what is most important. Once we name what is truly most important, it can make our days go so much more smoothly. We are able to focus on putting the “big rocks” in first, and therefore often find we have room for smaller rocks and pebbles. Even when we don’t have room for everything, we will go to bed at night feeling accomplished because the most important things were kept in the limelight.

But what about the days when all is lost? Not necessarily because of a tragedy or trauma (see this wonderful 4-Steps to Recovering Your Homeschool Day After a Crisis when you’re needing to climb out a true hole), but just because things have gotten mismanaged at home? Or maybe Mom’s ADHD is acting up, or you’re in a busy season of life? What if things are so chaotic you can’t even consider concepts of “big and small rocks” because you can’t even find a clean “jar” to put the rocks into?

That’s how my week has been. I was supposed to write a blog post on how to decide what your big rocks in homeschooling are, and how to work on keeping those front and center. But the week got away from me. We had a big holiday this week, I had 2 side jobs pop up, my husband was overcommitted at work, we had an out of town obligation, and my mother in law is going to turn 70 this weekend. This is about the third week of similar magnitude. I cannot even remember what my homeschooling priorities are.

What I do during these times where I start to worry all is lost (and all I am is a loser – to quote my favorite 80’s movie!) is look at what has been going right. Post-planning, or noticing what you’re learning without even trying, is a helpful hack.

I learned post-planning back when my oldest 3 boys were little and in a home-based charter school in California. Back then, we were given a lot of freedom to learn whatever we wanted to, but we were supposed to turn in a list of everything we accomplished so that our liaison teacher could translate our learning into educationese, crossing off California State Standards as we met them. I started writing down everything my kids were learning, and I was astonished by the lists we made. Midway through the year, our teacher pulled me aside and suggested I might be overwhelming the kids with too much information. But the truth was, we never spent more than an hour a day doing seat work. We were reading books and living life–learning was simply inevitable.

So yesterday, as an exercise in making myself feel less bad about our overwhelmingly busy week, I started thinking about all the wonderful things my kids had learned just that day and the day before, without us really trying. I suddenly realized how much of an anchor our homeschool co-op is for our family – how much of a “big rock” it is. Our co-op, also called Chasing Wonder, meets weekly for 3 hours. There is no mandatory homework, besides the reading of a novel every 6 weeks. We pack a lot of interesting learning into our co-op time, and I can for certain count all of this learning in my post-planning! My children are inspired by things we learn at co-op and want to learn more. We have a “showcase” time at co-op, where students can show and tell what they did at home to expand on ideas that popped up in co-op. Knowing it is coming motivates my kids to put something they’ve learned down on paper (with words or as an art project).

So here are some things I jotted down in my post-planning session:

  1. In co-op, we learned about value in art and studied a famous artwork, we looked into the various geographical regions of Georgia, we practiced group projects and public speaking, we recited monologues from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, we practiced rhythm in verse, we had fun with formal v. informal language, we moved our bodies with stretching and cardio, and we practiced playing the ukulele.
  2. While driving around, my son wondered why we can sometimes see the moon during the day? We had to google and figure it out.
  3. My son also wanted to know how big the moon was compared to earth, and what the earth looked like from the moon.
  4. We went to a do-it-yourself dog bathing place and learned about grooming animals.
  5. We visited the library. 
  6. My children have spent hours reading the books they checked out.
  7. My daughter is reading a book about a young woman who was a slave in colonial America, and that has brought up a lot of difficult observations and discussions.
  8. We learned that the gold rush in Georgia took place nearly 20 years before the one in California did.
  9. We watched a video on the science of ziplines, learning about friction and Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion.
  10. Each student designed a vacation brochure to the Blue Ridge Region of Georgia, to show off at co-op next week. They used research skills, practiced graphic arts layouts, and practiced handwriting.
  11. My son wanted to look up “poop” (gross!) in a science book we had. That prompted him to ask for videos showing the inside of our digestive systems, and 20 minutes later I now know all I ever wanted to know about pill cameras, endoscopies, and colonoscopies. Thank goodness for YouTube!
  12. We learned about watersheds, what “precipitation” means, and the location of the highest mountain in Georgia.
  13. They learned about botulism when Mom left the homemade broth on the counter all night and had to throw it away.
  14. My son spent the money he earned selling homemade crafts, budgeting how to spend. When he paid me with cash we took time to practice counting back change in a formal way.

I know we learned even more than what is listed here, but these are the first ideas that popped into my head. 

If you take a few days or a few weeks off of formal schoolwork, consider post-planning by making a list of what your children learned at the end of each day. You might just be surprised! It might be things they learned at church, from a YouTube video, or from a fictional story. Maybe they noticed the flora and flauna in your front yard or the celestial bodies in the sky. Human beings were made to learn. It takes a lot of work to stand in a child’s way of learning. On those days when you as the homeschool parent cannot get it together, I promise you–your children will still be learning. 

Next week, I’ll pull out my Homeschool Refresh notebook and REFRESH my memory of what our family’s “big rocks” are for this season. I really enjoyed sitting down with the notebook to think through my values, academic goals, practical skills, and family traditions. I know reviewing what I thought through deeply before will re-inspire me, and help me organize my days into a way that feels peaceful.

But for this week, I’m just happy learning is all around us!