Homeschool planning for relaxed leadership education

There is a baggie full of vermiculite in my refrigerator right now. I didn’t even know what vermiculite was until Kathryn asked to go buy it. She’s had such success with growing maple trees from seeds that she wanted to do it with redbud trees, too, but didn’t know how. So she researched it, recruited little sis to help with the process, and now we wait — possibly til next spring — to see if it worked.

That’s what homeschooling looks like in our house. All year round, all the time.

I know it’s possible to allow for all this unscheduled learning while being more intentional with some aspects of learning, but it still surprises me how hard it has been for me to stretch my brain around out of the box “schooling.” I told Kathryn I’ll be so curious to see what she does with her kids because she plans to be a second-generation homeschooler and she won’t have the same conventional ideas to overcome in her own thinking. I told her that for me, it’s like not only learning a new language but trying to UN-learn English.

summertime trampoline

I’m so glad, though, to have long ago released the school-at-home mentality. That’s not what I ever wanted for our home learning environment, but it’s what most public school kids turned homeschoolers (like me) tend to default to. I sat down with one of my good friends last weekend to talk through homeschool ideas in practicality. She was my first homeschool friend; her eldest and my then-only Kathryn are the same age and we met when they were preschoolers. Angela and I have spent many hours over the past decade discussing the ins and outs of homeschooling and it’s lovely to have each other as a sounding board.

Anyway, it seems the talk this time of year in homeschooling circles both on and offline is usually about planning. So I’m sharing what we do, since it might be helpful to those like us who are trying to navigate a style of homeschooling that falls somewhere between unschooling and traditional education.

Planning our homeschool year:

Last year Kathryn was in the Love of Learning phase of Leadership Education but I feel she’s ready to move into Transition to Scholar. Once place where Leadership Education philosophy and I part ways is with the necessity of Scholar Phase; I believe it’s rare for any student to need to spend 10-12 hours a day studying. As long as my kids learn how to learn, they’ll be well equipped if a time ever comes when they need to do that much studying.

{This learning lifestyle would be easier if the concept of grade level didn’t exist but in our world it does so I downplay it but it’s impossible to ignore when we participate in church activities, homeschool enrichment classes, etc.}

Throughout the year I bookmark possibilities, ideas, books, curricula we might want to use in the future. There’s SO much good stuff out there. Too much, sometimes! So the first thing I do in homeschool planning is make a tentative list of possibilities. I’ve always asked Kathryn’s input but this year we are stepping up her involvement. For all intents and purposes, she is high school level this year, which means she has a bigger part in choosing what she learns.

coffee date on instagram

We started with a coffee-and-bagel date to discuss ideas of what she’d like to study. I explained what I expect of her this year: namely, that I won’t need to badger her to do what she needs to do, from chores to school work. We talked through her goals, strengths, and things to work on — inspired by the ideas of the six month compass. I made sure this was a fun, positive time. We decided we’d have a coffee date about every other week to have a little one-on-one time and to check in on how everything is going from both of our perspectives.

At our next coffee chat, I shared what resources I think would be best for her this year and listened to her opinions on it. We talked about daily schedules and how much is reasonable to do in any given week. We talked about how to have a balance so we keep things relaxed and leave plenty of time for hobbies and such.

Planning for elementary age or Core Phase kids:

little kids

In the Leadership Education model, the elementary age kids are in Core Phase. I discussed how we do Core Phase in more detail a few months ago. Mostly, it means simply letting them just be kids, unschooling, and teaching them our values and our family culture. Honestly, I don’t do a whole lot of planning to do with this age. However, I know they’ll want to be doing what big sis Kathryn does, so I’ve put together some ideas for studying the same topics scaled back to their level.

I don’t feel the little ones are ready to answer those introspective “compass” questions so I did that myself on their behalf during one of my quiet times on the porch; I’ll gradually work into letting them answer for themselves in the years to come, but this gives me a good focus beyond academics.

I’ll share specifics of our upcoming year, with planned resources, in a future post!