ARE “PLANNERS” THE ANSWER TO ORDER vs CHAOS?
Just a note here about something that pops up regularly amongst home educators. There seems to be a natural desire for “order”. I guess it's because the opposite of “order” is “chaos”. A chaotic life is the fastest way to burnout. And so when a home educating mum reads encouraging or informative home ed books she will often gladly and sometimes desperately grab at things headed: “lesson plan”, “curriculum”, “scope and sequence”, “daily planner”, “easy-plan system” and on it goes. I KNOW this to be true because I have done it myself! Usually in the depths of winter, when everyone is suffering from cabin fever, the washing basket is overflowing, damp washing adorns all hangable surfaces, the rain has been relentless for weeks, our house feels a lot smaller than it did last year, the clutter is taking over even though I was sure we'd just had a major clean-out, our routine has gone completely mad, nothing is being accomplished and nobody is able to settle nicely to a task.
Order is from God. He didn't create the world in chaos. That wouldn't have worked! And we need order. But before you send away for an expensive lesson planner, or a new curriculum in a desperate grasp to retain some order think REALLY hard about what you are doing now that isn't working and WHY it isn't working. Talk to someone about it – often you'll figure out a plan all by yourself! Many people put down their precious money on SOMEONE ELSE'S IDEA OF WHAT YOUR CHILDREN SHOULD BE LEARNING – when they could have better spent that money on a massive Lego set or a scientific microscope!
There are people who call themselves “Planner Junkies”. If they are happy, I'm happy for them! If you don't believe me just google “Homeschooling Planners” or “Household Planners” - people are making LOTS OF MONEY from this racket! And other people are sitting at home looking at a great big thick binders with pretty covers, full of pages that require you to write down every item of clothing in your wardrobe so you never waste money on doubling up, or losing something in the back of your drawers. Or a weekly plan for teaching your child each letter of the alphabet/a specific colour/character trait/ – with a poem and a song for each one, from now till 8 months ahead. Or a master shopping list and how many of each item you still have in your pantry at any given time ...
Ok, maybe I exaggerated a little. But you go and see for yourself what people like to plan. If you see a planner you like and you KNOW you will use it, please get it!
However, if, like me, you desire order and simplicity, and are attracted by terms like FRUGAL, EASY and JUST FOR YOU - read on!
This is pretty much the easiest and cheapest organising system I've used or seen.
Get a ring binder, a lined refill and some dividers. Beccause we have a small house, with very few available surfaces to keep my folder open on I have used an A5 2-ring binder. To fill it I bought two A5 pads and neatly punched holes in them. This was a lot cheaper than buying ready-made A5 paper with holes already punched in it. Then I bought a pack of coloured cardboard and made my own dividers.
Name the dividers something like:
WE WANT TO DO
THINGS WE SAID OR DID
In WE LIKE ask your children what they like to do and make lists! Come back to it again the next week and add to it. Add to it during the following weeks as something comes up in natural conversation. Note down what the children like to play with at certain stages, and also if you notice something you'd like to buy for them, or save up for that they would enjoy.
Record visits to friends, outings to various places, shops, library, great books you've enjoyed, things you have listened to etc. Go back through this list from time to time to remind yourself what the children liked doing/seeing/listening to. This can also prompt you to organise yourself a little better to make visits that will tie in with interests your children have i.e., visiting local historic sites, beachcombing, local walking tracks, photographic outings, bus trips, train trips etc. You might like to stick tickets or photos in here too.
Another really great thing to put under this section is a list of all the meals and favourite snacks and baking your family likes. This list may change, everyone may go off anzac biscuits one day (I don't think so!!). You can cross it off if they do, but cross it out neatly because later everyone may decide they like them again.
It can be fun looking at lists you made ages ago (not shopping lists that are designed to be taken out to the supermarket – not left on the kitchen table – used, then thrown away - unless you are wise enough to make a MASTER SHOPPING LIST which you photocopy - highly recommended!) but REAL lists, like one I found on the pantry door under some lovely artwork that I'd stuck over the top: finish deck, plant trees along south boundary … These were jobs I hoped would be finished by 2006 … most of them have actually been done now (six years later!) – that gives me a feeling of progress! If I had made that list in my folder I would have put it under the following section:
WE WANT TO DO - yes, make lists! Things to do around the home – short term and long term; places you'd like to visit; friends you want to catch up with; notes taken from books, websites, blogs or ideas/inspriation you gain when talking to friends. If your children are going through a phase – say cryogenics - then get them to draw a picture of what they think a cryogenic laboratory would look like, date it, and put it into this part of your folder!
If you hear of a book/website you might like to read, write the title and author/other details down here.
A list of Bible references to verses you'd like to memorize can go here too. Tick or cross off when you have written them onto an index card and got them into your memorization system.
Just a note here about getting good ideas from books: I have been inclined, in the past, to read a book too quickly. If it looks good after the first chapter, I'm so excited about getting good information that I run through it, promising myself that I will come back and make notes on the very best bits so I don't forget them. Well, inevitably something else catches my attention when I have finished the book and I never get back to it to make notes. Learn from my mistake! Don't do this!! If you're reading something encouraging or inspirational STOP AND MAKE NOTES – put them in this “WE WANT TO DO” portion of your notebook. Many times I have read a book – for example a book of art activities for children – and I have found ONE good idea that I'd like to try sometime. Well, this is the place that I will now record this amazing idea before it gets lost in time and space!
THINGS WE SAID OR DID should be available to quickly write down precious things the children say or do that you know you will forget! The other day I was organising everyone for a trip into town. I called down the hallway to one of our older boys “Do you have any library books that need to be returned?” Our 2 year old, who was already buckled into his carseat called out from the van “No! I'm too little!” Now I won't forget that because I've written it here! We actually have quite a large quantity of “Childlike Quotes” - I haven't written them all down - we only remember them because the older ones think they are so funny they repeat them from time to time. Much safer to write them down I think!
You might like to quickly note major achievements here also – riding a bike on 2-wheels, putting own gumboots on, tying shoes by self, showing great patience and hospitality with a difficult visitor ...
PEOPLE etc is like an address book, but give each person a decent amount of room – say quarter or half a page. Write their name, address, phone number, email, children's names, any birthdays you know of (and also note down ideas for presents as they come up naturally during the year - such as “likes beads and wire to make things with”)
The “etc” of this part is for any other information you might need to refer back to such as user names for various websites, a list of organisations you like to donate money to and their bank account details …
OTHER INFORMATION well – my section here is blank, but it feels comfortable to have a “safety net” where I can put information that might not fit anywhere else!
HEALTH My system involves a bit of double-handling, yours doesn't have to – and of course, you might be the sort of person who loves to put this on the computer. Once again – I stress that you should do what works for you and your family!
I have a page for each person, and then a page for the whole family in date order showing who was ill and when, and if we needed to take anything for it. When people have a cold I just write “A cold” but if it's more serious I write more detail. It's ever so easy to forget how long ago things happened if you don't write them down. If I was asked when Daddy cut the top of his thumb off at work I might guess … 2 or 3 years ago? But looking on Daddy's health page I see it was 5 years ago!
Setting up this sort of system can be time consuming; or fun, depending on what sort of person you are! One of our children loves to read back through to see what we've been up to! It actually makes more sense of “time” when a child can see what happened and when during their lifetime. And that's another page you can insert here somewhere – perhaps under OTHER INFORMATION: a timeline showing your life as a family: when the first child was born, when you got the cat, when the dog died, when you had a big holiday or moved house, when the next baby came along, when the goat had a kid, when the first chicks were born ... We once made a similar timeline that we put on the wall for a while, but a page inside your planner would be neat and be there longer for the children to read/add to. Yes, excellent idea – I'm just off to do that right now!
This simple and easy little system won't work UNLESS YOU USE IT! Have your folder out where you can see it all the time. Keep a pen or pencil RIGHT WITH IT all the time.
This planner might seem too simple for some people. Well – it is simple but it works! Feel free to make it more complicated/detailed if that suits you better!