Friday, April 27, 2007

Ponderings and Plannings

My old friend Cindy at It’s About the Journey has written a series of posts on planning from an unschool-y perspective:

I am going to use these as thinking material as I go through this process too. Also, I have been thinking about learning over on my other blog.

What Children Know Already

It seems to happen every spring that I start into heavy-duty pondering and planning mode. My husband is a computer game designer, and the process I go through is similar to the process he goes through as he is starting to work on a new game. He walks around with a notebook. He reads a few books or plays a few games. He talks — What if? How about ..? Look at…? To an outsider it might look as if he’s not doing much, it might even look scattered, but from seeing him go through this process every year or so for 25 years now, I know what will happen next. He’ll take his notebook into his office and get very quiet. Then he’ll start talking about nuts and bolts — “how can I ? what can I? Here’s what I’ll…” He starts implementing and problem-solving. At the very end, when he’s finalling, there’s a period when he spends almost the whole day in his office. When he comes out, he’s distracted. He complains about the game, he’s heartily sick of it. He’s putting the last little touches on it, taking it from 80% to 98% (he knows better than to spend these last days on that last 2% because complete perfectionism defeats the purpose of getting the thing done well and out the door. So many game designers have a game that they’ve never gotten out the door so they never actually become real game designers. So that last 2% of perfectionist energy goes to carrying over what he learned to the next game and the next).

Of course, homeschooling is different because it is about my kids’ learning, not primarily what I do to help them learn. But still, I notice that sometimes I feel I’m stalling; my mind’s in wide net mode, catching useless fish as well as the good ones. I’m wandering. I’m reading and getting lots of good ideas, but I don’t know how to fit them in…yet. That’s where I am now. It’s similar to his conceptual stage of planning.

At some point I know it’s time to move on. The instinct usually kicks in several days before I actually follow it. Right now I’m feeling the intuition but I can’t seem…to…get… there. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. At that point I usually ask some of my homeschool friends, “What are you doing next year?” or sometimes answer their similar questions. I just need a way to get where I can dig in.
I think I may have to start rambling on in this blog hoping to pin down some of my planning details. It won’t be pretty. I have to work out senior year for one child, freshman year for another, sixth grade for another, and kindergarten/first grade for my special needs child. Of course, these will be the Big Picture plans and then there will still be the implementation, the course corrections, the little picture logistical details which come up as we go along.
Meanwhile my kids have been reading — going outside — playing DOG with the basketball set-up — playing duplos, designing computer games and storyboards — and heading out to various activities like T ball, music practice and homeschool meeting this afternoon. I am spending time with them still but I feel unfocused, and a bit out of touch with what’s going on in their heads. We have had scrambled meals all week — you know, those ones where you dig through the freezer at 5pm to see what you can scramble together in the least possible amount of time. Never mind optimum nutrition; convenience and calories are the key words.
No point here, just describing what’s happening. Since it’s happened so many times before I think it must be just how things tend to operate. I want it to work FOR me instead of either getting frustrated and guilty about it or using it as an excuse to completely lapse on everything. I’m trying to think in terms of rhythms and not just day to day regimentation. In the long run I see that these pondering, stalling times pay off. There are so many times when I’ve been able to informally guide or mentor my kids because I have adjusted my oxygen mask (in Cindy’s great analogy) before adjusting theirs.

I think Sean has kept up with his checklist but I’m not sure how Kieron is doing. Aidan is so cool — he does his handwriting practice and picking up marble with toes exercise EVERY day. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and the HWT book is on my back. That is a motivated kid.