When you started this homeschool journey, what were your hopes and dreams?
Did you look forward to the freedom to go outside and play with your children on beautiful days? Did you long for the adventure of travel and learning by seeing historic and natural sights?
When I first decided to start homeschooling, I loved the idea of learning from experiences and educational travel. I loved the freedom to tailor the education to the interests and needs of my children.
But I was nervous. I didn’t know what I was doing. I wanted someone to give me a plan.
So, I bought a boxed curriculum. Everything was planned out for us by day. It seemed great! It would hold my hand and tell me what to do each and every day.
I didn’t have to plan. I felt reassured.
Then, about 7 weeks in, I started to hate the boxed curriculum.
Sometimes the weather was beautiful and the kids wanted to go on a nature walk instead of doing the science experiment listed in the curriculum. Sometimes we were invited to meet up with homeschooled friends for a field trip, so we didn’t have time to do everything on the list for that day.
Once the kids hated the book that was assigned (and, honestly, I wasn’t crazy about it either).
I didn’t know what to do. This curriculum was not cheap and I didn’t want to waste money.
But it stressed me out each day to look at that schedule that we weren’t exactly following.
I knew in my heart that this was not what we wanted from homeschooling.
We wanted the freedom to learn through experiences. We wanted the flexibility to choose books that the kids enjoyed. We wanted the opportunity to take field trips and learn from travel whenever possible.
The boxed curriculum was boxing us in!
With great regret and a little fear, I threw out the boxed curriculum and started to forge my own path. I read every book about homeschooling I could find, I talked to friends who homeschooled, I drew on what I knew about the psychology of learning and education.
And, I still didn’t quite know what to do.
I tried various homeschooling methods. The boxed curriculum, more school-at-home approach was too structured and rigid for us. We tried unschooling, but that was too unstructured for our family.
I wanted to provide a good academic foundation while giving my children freedom to pursue their interests and learn in ways they’d find engaging and fun.
Plan For Flexibility
After some trial and error, I learned that the best way to plan is to plan for flexibility. Let me explain.
I learned that you can use a boxed curriculum, but not follow it exactly. It can be the framework or outline of what you’ll cover, but you can choose how to cover the material.
If the curriculum is teaching about the Civil War using a book your kids hate, you don’t have to keep slogging through! Choose another book, watch a documentary, or take a field trip to a history museum.
Make Learning Fun!
If the curriculum says that your child should read a book and then answer questions about it, but your child is groaning about that, modify it!
Instead of answering boring questions where they are just parroting back the information they read in the book, have them apply the learning in some way.
If they like Minecraft, have them build a model of something they read about or a model of a scene from the book. They could do the same with Lego or a drawing if they’d prefer that.
Instead of forcing children to memorize multiplication tables by reciting them repeatedly or using flash cards, play a game that uses multiplication or find songs that reinforce the ones they struggle with.
Change the Schedule
You can also follow a boxed curriculum, but spread out the material over a longer period of time or rearrange it any other way you want.
Do your kids enjoy completing all of their weekly math in one day? Why not?
Do they want to spend an entire afternoon doing science experiments and reading about science instead of spreading that lesson across the week? Do it!
You Have Options in Your Homeschool
As a homeschool parent, you have options for how you teach (and what you teach, but that’s a topic for another post).
I also learned that it was best to lay out a general plan of what we were going to cover each week but then allow flexibility in how they learned each subject. It is often best to plan by week instead of by day so that you have the flexibility to deal with appointments or unexpected events that come up. You can cover more one day and less the next if needed and still cover the week’s material.
Use a Rotating List of Subjects
Another way we now plan for flexibility is to use a rotating list of other subjects. The core subjects, such as math, reading, and perhaps language, will be covered all or most school days. The other subjects can be put on a rotating list. Each day do your core subjects. Then do the items from the rotating list that you have time to cover that day.
Math was a struggle that day and your child is exhausted? You can choose to do fewer (or no) rotating subjects. Maybe the core subjects were a breeze and you have extra time. Then do more from the rotating list. It’s up to you.
This allows you to be more relaxed about your homeschool days. If a great opportunity comes up to go on a hike with friends in the early afternoon, simply remove the rotating subjects from your schedule for that day and free up time.
Sometimes, you might simply shift the entire day to the next day to accommodate a field trip. That’s okay too!
Relax, You’ve Got This!
Most importantly, don’t stress over it so much. I know that your child’s education is important to you. I know that you don’t want to fail them or feel like they are falling behind. So, build in some structure and have a plan for what you’ll cover. But build in flexibility. Don’t be boxed in by your curriculum. Allow freedom to pursue interests. Jump at the chance to do fun things with your kids when the opportunity comes up!
To learn more about planning for flexibility and freedom, get my free guide to Homeschool Planning for Flexibility and Freedom (and some planning templates too).