I've been thinking lately about how important it is for me to have somewhat of a plan for the day and week. It reminds me of my teaching days. Planning was not my forte. Some weeks I would panic midway through - what was I going to do, how was I going to fill the classes?? I had an awesome friend who also taught the same level science and we would chat at lunch about our plans for the week. He had been around for many years and I was a "newbie". So he would offer me an activity, or a film strip, or a Bill Nye about whatever it was we were teaching and suddenly I would have a plan for the rest of the week and I'd breathe a sigh of relief.
I think homeschooling (and in particular Unschooling) can be intimidating to people because it seems so loose and free - and we aren't used to that feeling (especially those of us who grew up in the school system and have had most of our lives scheduled).
There have been stretches of time when I really understand that feeling. Like last summer when Marisol woke up every day and asked, "What are we doing today?" before I even had my morning cup of coffee. (Groan!) Routines and rituals are very helpful to keeping the "flow" of life and creativity going. I looked forward to the fall when she would have classes (CCD, dance, and gymnastics) that would "scaffold" our week. (I simultaneously worried about how all of the activity would affect Gerry - none of the classes were for him and it wouldn't be his choice going to them. Well, we made it through the year - but that's another post I guess...)
I also know how much value there is to having free, unscheduled time. I know how wonderful it is to have a day that is completely unplanned and watch it unfold beautifully before your eyes. There have been many times when a friend or neighbor drops by and we have a wonderful visit or impromptu play date and I am so glad that we were actually home to receive them. However, we can't just sit around waiting for things to happen every day. So what is the magical formula?
Yesterday is a great example of a day I had planned that ended up flowing in a completely different way. It also exemplifies why I LOVE unschooling so much.
So here was the general plan for the day:
In the morning: Go shopping for some things for Marisol's birthday party. It's not for almost 2 more weeks, but we are going to be away this weekend. Also, we want to try and get a couple of things in the store instead of ordering them online, and I want to be sure we can find them. I'm like, trying to do things a little bit in advance! It's pure craziness.
I also wanted to put together a lasagna to deliver to a mama who just had a baby.
In the afternoon: Go to our old neighborhood. Marisol wanted to visit the most adorable puppy that our friend just adopted. I could deliver the lasagna to the mama I mentioned. We could play with the kids' good friends and I could also visit with another friend with young children.
I think this is why having a plan can be beneficial - it gives you purpose and gets you moving. Pretty quickly though, our friends' nanny texted me letting me know they would not be at our old neighborhood park - instead they would be playing at her house. She invited us over to jump on her trampoline.
Now, the kids getting to see their friends was a pretty crucial part of the day, particularly for Gerry who really loves playing with his buddy, Ezzy. Marisol probably still would have been happy to go to our old neighborhood and play because she could have seen the puppy.
I started to shift our plan. I told the kids that we were invited to Amabel's house and that she had a trampoline. They were happy about this. I also told Marisol we probably wouldn't see Truman (the puppy) again this week. She was ok with that.
So now what about my lasagna? I wouldn't be able to deliver it. I decided to make it and I could either freeze it or we could eat it and I'd make a meal for my friend another time. (Luckily I had not told her I was doing this - it was going to be a surprise!)
Marisol wanted me to help her with some writing. The kids had received notebooks and pencils at Ezzy's birthday party the day before. She dragged our little rocking chair to the kitchen and I helped her spell things while prepping food. Gerry was watching "Inspector Gadget" (thank you Arlington Public Library for the free nostalgia!) and playing with his toys.
The rest of the morning consisted of eating, food prep, and playing. We sharpened pencils by hand and I helped Gerry write numbers (1-14) for the first time in his new notebook. All of that was initiated by him. We also wrote his name - my hand over and guiding his. Marisol and I used our "system" to help her drink her smoothie - we play a game on her iPad and then she takes a big gulp.
It became clear pretty quickly that Gerry wasn't on board with shopping. It was also pretty obvious that it would be a time crunch to fit it in with all the activity we had going on. At first Marisol protested with this change - she really wanted to go shopping, but we did some research online on where we can buy some things and got Mike to order one thing that we really need for party prep and she was happy.
Plus she made another batch of her famous doggy treats - this time substituting hot dogs with bacon. Did I mention we were busy in the kitchen??
The afternoon was perfect summer bliss. The kids jumped on the trampoline for a while and then put on swimming suits so Amabel could aim the sprinkler at the trampoline. Best. Idea. Ever. Those 4 kids jumped the afternoon away - only taking a small break for snacks and to warm up. And I got to sit, soak up some rays, and socialize - Mommy Nirvana.
So last night I had 3 tired puppies in our house and I had dinner ready to go into our oven when we got home. Seriously, this day could not have gotten any better. Even though the day didn't go "according to plan" at all, I still think the plan was a crucial part of it's success - That and my willingness to let it go and embrace each new moment as it presented itself.
Letting go of plans is hard sometimes but with practice we can get better at it! It's worth it every time.