Is Homeschooling Hard: Planning and Preparation
There is a reason teachers are given a planning period. There is a reason teachers spend additional time before and after school planning their lessons. It's a LOT of work. Reading ahead in books to anticipate questions about subject matter and vocabulary. Making sure you have all the materials for science experiments and art projects. Finding literature and videos that support your learning. Researching field trip locations. As a homeschooling parent that is all on YOU and it can be overwhelming (I'll touch on this later this week). Many homeschoolers use boxed curriculum sets similar to those you would find in a traditional classroom setting and while that cuts down on the workload some, you still need time to familiarize yourself with the material before presenting it to your child.
The Silver Lining: Deeper Understanding
I've been a teacher in public and private schools. I've seen the look on parents' faces at back to school night as they are bombarded with information, trying to keep track of which teacher expects what and when and for what reasons. I've listened patiently on the phone as parents say things like, "Now, explain the requirements for this assignment to me again." Or, “Why is my child required to participate in this activity?”
As a homeschooler, these expectations are my brainchild. I don't have to track down a teacher to explain assignments. (And thank goodness because this common core thing doesn't seem to be going anywhere and there are way too many parents confused by their second grader's math homework.) I know what my children should be retaining from a lesson or task because I designed it. I understand the objectives and I can then communicate more effectively with my children (and my husband) about what they experienced that day. I don't have to ask, "What did you learn in school today," and decode the shrugged shoulders and "I don't knows.”
For every homeschooler you meet you’ll get a different answer about what the planning process is like. Some parents are able to plan an entire year or semester at a time. Some plan a week at a time, others wake up that day and think to themselves, “What are we doing today?” Me? I plan what I can, when I can. I tend to keep it pretty simple, writing down general themes and ideas in a calendar, pinning activities on Pinterest and saving files on my computer. I created a template that I use every now and then when I'm feeling especially teacher-y. We love unit studies and some (like our dinosaur unit culminating with a camping trip to Dinosaur Valley State Park) are planned and scheduled weeks in advance. Others are sparked by observations we make or questions the boys have and have to be planned in a few days before interest in the subject wanes. And sometimes, we drop everything to do something that was completely unplanned like the time Max asked what a 'hem' was after hearing the word in an audiobook. After I explained it, Isaac asked if they could try to hem something, so after lunch we busted out the sewing machine and hemmed a bunch of scrap fabric. That's flexibility at work and to be honest, some of our best learning takes place without an ounce of prep.