No matter how structured your day, you'll need flexibility in your homeschool plan. Some kids thrive on very rigid structure, because they know with absolute certainty what comes next. Others like some structure, while still others are free flowing, rejecting all structure. This post applies more to those of us who have our little plans for the week, semester, whatever.
We love our plans, don't we? We like to think that we're going to finish Math, English and History on a given day, but then our kids decide they're going to throw a monkey wrench in to the works and focus on the dreaded... something else. Let's face it, even the most un-focused child will occasionally decide to zero in on something interesting, and it's usually something other than what you had planned.
So what do you do?
One of the biggest mistakes I have made (and sometimes still make) is in not allowing my kids to explore their interests. I have tried to corral them into doing what I wanted, when I wanted, but in reality I should have let them obsessively look up birds and other critters. I should have let them stop working to create things, and I should not have forced them to sit down with me to "do their work." They were horribly distracted, and it was a waste of a day!
In fighting their instincts to learn in "unconventional" ways, I turned a day that could have been filled with learning and fun into a chore. We have structure in our day, and we need it, because there are things that must be done daily. But do those things have to be done now? We homeschool so that we can educate our kids in the way that is most beneficial to them, not for someone else to pat us on the head, and say, "Good job."
A better solution is to talk with your kids, help them understand what must be done, and help them figure out how to explore their interests in a way that accomplishes at least some of those goals while satisfying their curiosity. The level of understanding will of course vary with the maturity level, but most kids can understand at least some of the ideas. This is a lesson that they can carry through their lives, to know what must be done, what should be done, and what's optional, and to prioritize them. When you give your kids some of the control over their learning, they'll take a bigger part in making a successful homeschool day.
I know that some of you reading this are still worried that your kids won't keep up with what their public school counterparts are doing. I confess, I worry sometimes too. I know it's not a problem, and that they're at or ahead of "grade level," but what I try to remember is that childhood is a journey, not a series of benchmarks. Break away from the institutionalized school model, and get some fresh air. Every child is different, and learns a little differently, and every child has different needs.
So stop worrying about what the neighbors will think if your kids are out front in their pjs, collecting bugs to study, or have decided to re-enact Valley Forge with a cardboard boat. They're learning!
Leading a life of balance starts with understanding what must be done, what should be done, what is optional, and prioritizing them. Teaching your kids this while they're young enough to integrate it is vital to their growth, and heck, you may even learn something!
What do YOU do when your kids chuck your well-laid plan out the window? Tell us in the comments!