This is probably most helpful for people who have an eclectic kind of style like us but it might also be helpful for those deschooling or even doing distance education as you plan out your weeks.
I've shared before that we have pretty much found that an eclectic style of learning has been the style that has best fit out family. It means we can pick and choose to use different resources that personally suit our children and their needs in learning. (The amazing Kelly from FEARLESS HOMESCHOOL has a fantastic post all about STYLES OF HOMESCHOOLING HERE).
So, you know that you are an eclectic-style-kind-of-family but practically speaking, how do you make this work? How can you have some semblance of order or predictability (which in our neurodivergent family is very important) whilst keeping things fun, tailored and flexible? Sound impossible? We've been doing this for years and it has worked for us. I'm not saying it'll therefore be the right fit for you but I share what has worked for us in case there may be something helpful here that might also help you.
FIRST A LITTLE NOTE ABOUT RHYTHMS AND SEASONS
Rhythms describe for us a pattern of behaviours that follow on from each other and are based around activities or actions rather than times. We are less on a time schedule and more on a pattern of habits. For instance, in the morning, we wake up when we wake up rather than to a timer. We have a set of morning actions (we have breakfast, get dressed, make the bed, do our allocated chores, brush teeth, etc). I usually throw on a load of washing, chuck a meal in the slow cooker, return emails and do a little tidying up or have a shower while the kids are reading over their breakfast etc. Then we are ready to sit down at our learning room table together and tackle our first part of our learning day.
When the kids were younger, we had set morning learning rhythms which you can read about HERE. As the seasons of life changed, so did our rhythms and days. We initially started out with more structure 13 years ago than we do now. Some of the reason behind that is that I've learned to DESCHOOL MYSELF (check out Kelly's course HERE (afflink) if you are keen to learn more about the deschooling process). Another reason is that my younger 2 kiddos now learning at home are much more comfortable with our current way of planning out our week.
Life flows in seasons and sometimes the seasons called for more structure and sometimes for less. Having the flexibility to learn with life has taught us a lot.
Monday morning is our planning day. It has become a weekly anchor for us. We have a giant white board (LIKE THIS ONE) and after doing our morning rhythm, we head into our learning room (usually with a cuppa in hand for me). We talk about things we want to get done this week. We all get a chance to suggest things.
I usually write each child's name on a portion of the board (when we had 5 kids learning at home I'd write it on the board and then they'd copy down their list in case the board got 'accidentally' wiped off - yes that happened many times here!). Under each child's name, we write a KLA (key learning area/subject) heading like 'maths' and then some activities or lessons from a workbook or a maths game they want to play. This is where I write down things I want them to do but involve them so it's able to be done in a way that suits them too. For instance, I might want them to work on fractions. Instead of just opening up to a textbook and telling them to do problems on pages 15-17, I might ask them, "How do you guys want to learn about fractions this week?" Zippi loves playing with a fractions manipulatives set we have had for years and so she might opt for that. Sometimes they'll just answer with, "I don't know" which is fair enough because I don't expect them to but I want to ask for their input in case they do ;)
If they don't know, I'll jump onto my private Pinterest boards, will go through our RESOURCE CUPBOARD or might do a search online for something that will help us cover the thing we need to investigate or learn about. I just facilitate that to happen.
We continue writing down activities under the KLA or subject headings and often I'll write down next to it if it's a task that the child can do independently, with me, or if it's a 'learning in a group' kind of activity. This helps them on the days that I'm feeling particularly unwell (which happens when you are HOMESCHOOLING WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS or even if you are just in a particularly hard season of life). They know what they can go on with until I can help them next. I've seen this as a really valuable skill that my older 3 now have as teens in their workplaces. We are often told that they have a way of carrying on with work and this makes me happy to hear.
Top Tip: Choose different whiteboard markers for different children. If you don't have a whiteboard, use a planner sheet that everybody can see.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO WRITE DOWN ON THE BOARD?
Well, there are a couple of things I use to help guide us. Here's a little list I sometimes use.
1. The NESA STAGE STATEMENTS. The statements are a little edu-speakish so if it's your first time reading through them, go gently on yourself, print off the statements and use a highlighter if you need to, to really make as much sense of it as you can. 2. Another thing I do is create a 'LET'S PREP & PLAN' document that takes me through prompts (and takes the kids through prompts too!) about what we might want to learn about, places we might want to visit, things we might want to cook, books we might like to read, etc. I use this about once every 6 months. This planning document is super helpful for me to refer back to when I'm feeling a little stale. You can find the document in our That Homeschool Life Membership (it costs $7 a month and you can opt out at any time. People tell me it is worth joining just for this one document but there are over 500 printables in our Resource Library now - shameless plug over ;) ) 3. I LET THE RESOURCES GUIDE US. We continue on with using a resource that we particularly like (for example Story of the World for history) and we will keep on working through that book. 4. Sometimes we RABBIT-TRAIL AND SOMETIMES THEY ARE THE BEST LESSONS. The learning sometimes just flows and we go with it. I adjust the board to include what we have covered so I don't forget.
5. We go through our PRINTABLES FOLDER and allow the kids to choose the templates they'd like to work through that week. Sometimes it sparks an idea that they didn't realise was just lying under the surface the whole time!
INCLUDE IT ALL ON THE BOARD
Remember that learning happens all the time! We include everything on the board: books to read aloud together, family shopping adventures, taking a pet to the vet, plans to bake things, nature walks or visits to see friends even. It's all learning and can actually ALL fall under a KLA stage statement!
Of course there are extra things that pop up that we didn't plan on doing and some things don't get done so we carry them over to the following week or will drop it altogether for another time if we feel it's not right to pursue it. That's the beauty of a flexible homeschooling life.
When the kids were all learning at home, I often started the three older kids off on a maths lesson that they were doing independently or they might be doing an English task like writing a letter to a pen pal or grandparent, working on spelling words (writing them out or spelling them out using magnets on a fridge or something else fun like playing Boggle etc). While they were doing their tasks, I'd be doing an activity with the younger two. It might be setting up kinetic sand for them to bury animals in, getting them outside painting or reading them a story. Filling the younger ones' cups was important to do whilst the older ones were busy doing something on their own. As the older ones hit the teen years, they were often enrolled in some kind of online short course or were working on a project that would keep them busy in the mornings.
Over time I also set up some little toddler boxes that the younger two could work on independently. This took time of course for them to be able to be old enough to engage with. In the meantime, I did lots of pre-school style games and activities with them. Now that they're older, those 'toddler boxes' have now turned into using KIWI CO TINKER CRATE BOXES (afflink) which we also love!
(That baby in the highchair is going to be 10 in less than a fortnight!)
(And here is that 'baby in the highchair' reading a story he wrote yesterday to his big sister)
A LAST LITTLE WORD
If homeschooling over the past 13 years has taught me anything at all it is that these days dissolve really quickly. I can't pinpoint how it happened but it has and here I am now with three homeschool grads and only the 2 younger ones at home. Our days are different to when we had 5 at home learning together (and yes fighting together, melting down together, crying together, being impatient together - ME included!)
If the days are going to fly by, you may as well work on finding a rhythm and a way of being that actually fits you well, I reckon.
Take the time to work it out. It'll pay off in the long run and the kids will be learning as you go along too. They will be learning how to manage their time well, how to make mistakes, how to communicate, how to repair....all while you try and work through to find a way of living and learning that works best for you all. Sending hugs your way,