The winter doldrums are here. As I wrote in my previous post about feeling some homeschooling burnout, sometimes I really just depend on habit to carry me through.
Habits, I notice, are easier to engage in if you already have in place systems which support those habits.
One most people can relate to is exercise. On days when you don’t have the motivation to work out, your habit keeps you going, but if getting to the gym is too onerous and you haven’t made it easy to get a workout, then you won’t do it. If eating healthy is your goal and you have junk food lying around your house, you haven’t perfected your systems. And you are setting yourself up for failure.
The same goes for homeschooling.
You can have your goals and a list of the curriculum you plan to teach for the year, but if you haven’t done the prep work that comes with homeschooling, it will be much harder to get it done. Not only will it feel harder and take longer, without sufficient prep work, you won’t know if you’re going to get it done on time.
I’m not talking about planning
I love stationery as much as the next homeschooling mom. But I am not referring here to a planner or journal. Filling out a year with what we’re going to accomplish each week just does not work for me.
I enjoy the segues, the rabbit trails, that are part of every good education and I hate walking on a pre-prescribed straight path, even if that path has been chosen by me. There is too much beauty and diversity in this unschooling world to stick to a lesson plan or any such predetermined schedule.
If we let go of the spontaneity & internal motivation that drives our homeschool, we lose control over our education.
So here’s what we do instead.
A strategic meeting
Recently, I was listening to a seminar about goal setting. You know, right, that I love integrating business ideas into our homeschool? Well, here’s one that I thought was pretty straightforward. A sticker chart.
Oh, I hear the groans already. But bear with me.
What is a sticker chart, really? It is a visual motivating incentive given to an individual with the hope of accomplishing a goal.
It is the same as giving yourself check marks on the calendar on days you work out, or having a no-spend week to get back on track with the budget or doing The Whole 30 to jump start your weight loss goals.
So I had a strategic meeting with my children to set some learning goals.
I told them where we wanted to be in 3 months, what actions I needed them to focus on to get us there and what small tasks they needed to accomplish to get us there. Each time they accomplished a task (they had their own options as to how to do so) they received a sticker.
There were small wins and big wins – at the end of a line, say, they received a small party. At the end of the year, they got to pick what we did for the big celebration.
The chart hangs on our fridge. It tells a story within 10 seconds of seeing it. And the children love it.
The planning in our homeschool included learning each child’s gifts and challenges and taking these into consideration when picking books and activities; the prep was giving them free rein over their choices when it came to accomplishing our common goals.
Without one or the other, our homeschool would fail.
Prepping our curriculum, daily tasks and our plan in this way keeps us engaged, motivated and free to indulge in our creativity as we learn. It also teaches us habits of intrinsic motivation and other ways to gamify our education so that it truly becomes our own – habits that will in the future be helpful no matter what the children do.