I have a love-hate relationship with planning right now. You see, my anxiety makes planning difficult. It’s hard not worrying about the future when you’re trying to plan for it. And when I start thinking about the things I want to do–positives included, I feel overwhelmed by everything. My head feels like I can’t finish one thought before the next one pops up. So how do I go about planning our days to include times for learning, exploring, working and regular life stuff?
I reverse-plan with seasonal goals.
Yeah, I’ll explain.
I divide the year into four seasons. We live in a lovely, four-season state and I like the idea of three-month chunks of time. The seasons aren’t perfectly aligned, but it’s close enough.
I also have a history of depression during the winter months. Probably I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s quite common and can range in severity. One of the strategies I’m using this year is to try to embrace the changes of the season and create some of my own cozy atmosphere. So basically preparing for each season is important for my own well being.
As the new season approaches, I begin writing a list of goals. This isn’t a ‘To Do’ list. I write them for my (physical, spiritual, emotional, and professional self) and for my kids.
Here’s what I wrote for this Autumn.
- Develop understanding and interest in food, nutrition, and cooking.
- Continue to develop his understanding of time.
- Develop understanding of the four basic math functions
- Be outdoors, observe and record nature.
- Begin learning Arabic letters and sounds.
- Encourage use of fine motor skills (writing, drawing).
- Improve sportsmanship skills when winning/losing.
- Support interests in sciences and geography.
- Encourage her interest in food and cooking.
- Support her interest in creativity, design and aesthetics.
- Spend time outdoors and understand the changing of seasons.
- Give more opportunities for self-sufficiency.
- Increase emotional awareness and learn strategies to manage them.
- Support interest in letters and numbers.
- Begin learning Arabic.
With these guiding me, I start thinking about how we need to structure our week in order to maximize our time. What are our commitments? What do we prioritize? This give me a general guideline for our weeks and days.
For us, Friday is an important day: it’s our Eid of the week! We have Jummah prayers on Friday afternoon. I always want to go, but I didn’t make it a priority and so things would always come up. Making it a priority means that I’ve planned my week around it. On Thursday, the kids take baths and pick out clothes. Friday morning we have a nice brunch and make the day a little better than other days. I’m so happy that I have the opportunity to give my kids these experiences.
As far as the school part goes, I’m still tinkering with a system. And I am sure I’ll never stop. Right now, I have a general idea of topics we might study. I come up with this list based on conversations with the kids and just straight-out asking them what they want to learn about.
It’s helpful to keep a list like this so that I can begin to collect resources and books and not be requesting books from the library at the last minute. We kept running into that problem last spring and this feels like a good way to manage it the onslaught of ideas.
I have this planner book that I love. I searched high and low for a book that would have enough space for me to write everything. I tried having separate home, work and school planners but it didn’t work for me. Also since a lot of “home” life spills out onto “school” life, they really are intertwined.
For the actual planning of activities, I don’t plan much in advance, usually about a week. The problem with planning too much in advance is that you always feel like you are ‘behind.’ For me it’s too stressful to have to keep changing because we decided to take a random turn at some creative inspiration.
Each week I’ll write down a few activity ideas and then when we are actually working I record more thoroughly what we do. I use my planner book, photos, subject notebooks, and this lovely blog to document our learning. I try to make it part of our routine to review what we’ve learned and talk about plans for the next day as we eat dinner. I like the kids to feel like they have some agency in their learning.
Because we keep things child-led and loose, I don’t really see that we have a time for school and a time ‘off’ from school. We go year-round because learning happens all the time.
I can’t say that I’ve found the perfect solution for planning. But this one feels good. For me. Right now. Yall know I’ll keep you updated! How do you plan?