The hyper-organized type A woman inside me likes a schedule. She likes checking things off; it makes her feel accomplished. The relaxed homeschooler, also inside me, knows that a schedule doesn’t count for much. What she needs is a template. And she says as long as the general rhythm of our work and play is good, we are on track.
But successful homeschooling is something else altogether: it is a mental map.
I’ve been reading Charles Duhigg’s new book Smarter, Better, Faster where he mentions the concept of a mental map. The people who are good at what they do, he says, are the ones who spend time dreaming, or better said, telling themselves stories. These stories are their mental maps.
One of his more harrowing examples is that of two plane landings – one that ends in disaster and one successful. The other and perhaps more relevant one to my case here is that of a nurse who spotted a baby in the NICU that “didn’t look right.”
The baby had sepsis, they later found, even though all the machines spit out normal data. If it hadn’t been for the nurse with her mental map of what a healthy baby ought to look like, the child could have died.
As homeschoolers, we should have mental maps of what we want our children to be. We should be spending more time day dreaming and less time planning a schedule. And even less time testing.
Too often, we get our mental maps from others – public schools, with their grade levels and subjects, teachers, questioning us about socialization and if we’re doing it right, various curricula and its scope and sequence. Do we ever stop and dream? Do we consult our mental maps? Do we even have any?
Start with dreaming up a mental map. Tell yourself a story. Then work your way backwards to a schedule. Setting aside all goals, tasks and curricula, what is it you want your child to be like? What is your ideal day with him or her? Start there. Check your days against those maps. They’re the most reliable navigators.