Sunday, September 11, 2011

Who's the (wo)man with the master plan?

This past week I had a freak out over "kidschool" or what we call "learning time." Put simply, it is the time in the morning when we do a little structured learning. It is the part of our day that looks the most like school. My problem was... well, the usual. What if I screw my kid up forever? What if I don't teach him what he needs to know? What's the best program, what are the best books? I do this about once a year. I don't know why. This time, however, I did not act rashly (like buying tons of curriculum or overhauling everything...). Instead, I pulled out A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion in the hopes that I could find some guidance there. An right there, in chapter 8, I found my answer.

Chapter 8 is entitled, "Seeing the Whole Picture." On page 78, Diann Jeppson starts talking about a "master plan," and how to create one for your family. I realized that was my problem--I was feeling out of sorts and chaotic, like a chicken without a head, because I had no path to follow. A while back, before Last Year (which threw everything into craziness), we had developed a family master plan, but things changed so much that it got lost, we just completely lost our vision. Now, we are starting to get that vision back, but we need to get more specific.

Mrs. Jeppson lists nine key elements that an effective master plan must have. They are 1) Classics (your list, not someone elses. These are the books YOUR family thinks are classics); 2) Cultural Literacy, breadth and depth (you can look at E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge series to get a good feel for topics you can cover with your kids, and make a list from there); 3) Academic Programs (specific materials, books, curricula that will help your family); 4) Adult Skills (think--life skills, things like cooking or auto mechanics or folding laundry, that will help your child when he is an adult); 5) Organizational Programs (Scouts, 4-H, camps, etc.--these don't have to be what the kids are doing TODAY. In Core phase you want to limit these things a bit. But think about what will be important to the family in the future); 6) Experience (these are things you want your child to be able to do before adulthood, like public speaking, or speaking a foreign language, or anything that you feel is important); 7) God (Whatever your spiritual background or practices are, whatever your religion, even if you feel you have no religion, think about how you care for your spirit in you home, and ways you can help your kids to do so); 8) Family Relationships (what are your family traditions? what's important to you, to keep your family connections strong?); 9) Places to Go (What do you want your kids to experience in their lives outside the home? Trips, adventures, etc). I encourage you to read this chapter of the book, because it really is helpful and insightful.

When we look in depth at our family values in this way, it can help us see what we need to expose our kids to. For example, I know that to us, self-sufficiency and homesteading are important. So we will look at ways we can teach these things to our son. I know I love the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I expect I will be drawing from them a lot along the way (I just finished re-reading the series, and was surprised to see how much I had not picked up on before, the difference in what they are to me now versus when I first read them in the 2nd grade). Almost every academic subject can be touched upon just with the idea of taking care of yourself, supporting yourself, and loving the land on which you live.

Having a master plan makes it easier to say yes or no to things. If I feel pressured about something, and I worry about it, I can just ask myself, "Is this important to us? Is this a part of our family's mission, our plan?" If not, I can set it aside. If it is, I can make room for it.

Everyone's family is different. Some families think everyone should be well-versed in taxonomy, others think children should be service oriented, still others want their family to be athletic. Every family is different, which is why you should write the master plan of YOUR family, not anyone else's. If you rely too much on someone else's plan, I think you run the risk of constantly feeling like you are missing something, or that something else must be better, or constantly second guessing yourself.

So, at today's FEC, we'll be working hard on writing our master plan. Wish us luck :).

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