Planning From Behind

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I’m a planner. There’s just something about making plans and checking boxes that really gets me going. I also love to teach, to see those lightbulbs go off when a curiosity is satisfied. Trouble is, when you are homeschooling multiple kids, things don’t always, or often, go as planned. Even with the best intentions, we can squash our children’s natural learning potential in favor of completing a curriculum or following a standard.

I Used to Plan Ahead

(Spoiler alert: it didn’t work out so great.)

In my early years of homeschooling, I planned ahead these brilliant and engaging lessons for the kids — often following a curriculum or laid out progression. I was sure to include all the major subjects. I would plan weeks, sometimes months in advance. And I’m embarrassed to say I would engage in battles of will with my kids, sometimes even threatening them (“no TV until math is done!”) to try to keep my homeschool running according to plan.

Planning Ahead » Focusing on Failures

Not only was I coercing them into what I believed was learning, but I was placing undo stress on myself. I was focusing on our failures and shortcomings rather than celebrating our accomplishments. There were many days I’d find the vibe just wasn’t right, kids weren’t interested in what I had planned (which I just remembered I wrote about last year), or we wanted to splash in the creek all day and not learn about the solar system. I would feel like I failed if we didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do. I would struggle with how to fit it all in, and with feelings of not having done enough.

Planning From Behind Revolutionized My Homeschool

Then I started planning from behind. This simple concept revolutionized my homeschool and completely changed my mindset. I went from feeling like I was failing to being so proud of all that we were accomplishing. I felt more comfortable following my children’s lead if they were creating a cookie business rather than doing a page in their math book. Sure, we aren’t learning science in any particular order and we haven’t memorized all the state capitals, but overall we are accomplishing A LOT and it’s getting done in an organic fashion where the kids are the true drivers of the process. And perhaps most importantly, I feel like I’ve finally got a handle on this and can relax and enjoy all the learning happening rather than feeling defeated at the end of the day.

Planning From Behind: The Basic Steps

If you are struggling with the same things I was, planning from behind is worth a try. Here’s how this works.

Step 1: Gather lots of stuff.

Gather materials: math and writing workbooks, encyclopedias, craft kits, science kits, history books, subscription boxes, magazines, educational videos, games, non-fiction books, mad libs, maps, field guides, drawing books, etc. Keep your curriculum, especially the open and go stuff. You already have all the things. So this step is easy!

Step 2: Do things you enjoy.

Gently nudge in those subjects that feel boring and hard. Balance that with lots of play — and choices. Kids love choices. Offer them options.

Step 3: Write down what you did.

I like to organize my planner by subject so I can see at a glance that we are touching on everything over time. Some days all the boxes are filled, some days only a few. That’s ok! Use that to guide what you offer the kids to do the following day or week. I also keep a section for “outside” because I’m trying to log 1000 hours outside. I promise you will be amazed at all your children are learning and how accomplished you feel!

Step 4: Show off.

Show the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and public school mom friends! Show your partners! Try putting your notes into a paragraph and you will look like the most accomplished homeschool mom on the planet!

Here’s a sample of my planner, which I purchased from Amazon:

Sarah's Planner

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