Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Confessions: Failing to Work the Plan

I think this is probably my last confession - for a while.  I have lots of other things I am reading, listening to and thinking about right now.  We'll see how all these things come together.

I loved planning.  Sitting down and considering curriculum, thinking about the possibilities, organizing our time and always developing a neat and tidy spreadsheet.  It was very exciting and it gave me hope.  I laugh as I look at my NUMEROUS spreadsheets.  Many planning was flawed for some basic reasons.

Entertaining too many options 

I mentioned this a little bit when I shared all the coops we participated in as a family.  That honestly was just a fraction of the programs I explored and used (if you look at the Meaningful Minutes you will see some of the resources I found - in one season).  They were all great and offered something a little different.  At times I would run two or three math programs, along with a few English/ Language Arts programs simultaneously.  Then I wondered why it didn't fit into our schedule or my kids felt a bit overworked.  It was simply too much.  It also meant that if I was bored with something or felt like it wasn't working (after maybe 3 tries) I always had the "next" thing ready to try.  I agree that you need to use something for AT LEAST six weeks to get a feel for it - but sometimes I would switch much sooner than that.

Planning too far ahead 

I can't tell you how many "plans" I have that lay out our curriculum until the kids all graduate. Countless hours comparing options, skimming programs and looking for new ideas.  Well, one of my kids made it to kindergarten in my home.  I think it is good to know where you are going and have a sense of the options.  However, I shouldn't have been picking middle school readings when my oldest was 6.  I have no idea what his strengths, weaknesses and needs will be in 6 years.  I should have invested in him where he was instead.  I should have invested in my own great books or ideas education as well.  Both of those things would have paid better dividends.

Not implementing the plan 

I have already discussed this a bit, but I often would create the schedule and then expect my kids and life to conform to it seamlessly. Well, that's just not reality.  First off, with a toddler at home chaos is always just around the corner.  Plus, kids will find excuses and reasons not to do what they are supposed to be doing all the time.  I was hoping that by merely inventing a workable plan it would work - on its own.  My misguided expectations often translated into frustration.  My kids are kids and it is my job to help them stay on task - I wasn't always willing to do the work to keep everyone on task. 

I used planning to help me feel in control.  I wanted to know all of my options so that I could be ready for any potential issue.  If there was a problem I had a curriculum for it.  In fact, I often was telling the next person how a curriculum could solve their problems as well.  Together we could feel in control of our circumstances. It fed my pride to be the person who was in the know and helpful.  That's not the goal of homeschooling though.  I missed the mark.

Thinking too far ahead was an effort to shape and control our future.  Knowing where you are going is important but having a specific curriculum for years down the road is unhelpful at best. Know the general path and faithfully stay on it.  Deal with the bends in the road as they come.  I hoped that by mapping everything out I could avoid the bends - with enough research and effort we could stay on the straight path to success.  Spoiler Alert - there is no straight path and often the bends are where the real education happens. 

So it's a bit crazy that I was planning as a control technique and then didn't implement them well.  It flustered and upset me that we couldn't just do what worked out so wonderfully in my head.  Instead of meeting us where we were, I would retreat to create a new plan. I was on the crazy cycle because the next plan failed for the same reason - they were based on ideals, not reality.  I also lost my wonder in the work of the ordinary day and my bad attitude rubbed off on my kids.  I started off well when my oldest kids were young, but somewhere along the way I lost the vision. 

In many ways my plans were breeding discontent in my own life and in our home life.  Always looking for the next thing, the newest schedule, down the line was safe and "helpful" escapism.  Whose going to blame you for trying to improve.  Faithfulness is what was needed and I wasn't always up to the task. I failed to live in the moment and recognize what was enough.  Andrew Kern talks about how at the end of each day of creation God reflected that "It was good" and encourages us to do likewise. Despite all my planning and trying I rarely reflected and felt that it was good. It strained the whole system.

I agree with Cindy Rollins in Mere Motherhood, "often our planning keeps us from living."  That's essentially what it came down to for me.  I preferred my perfect plans and dreams to the messy reality of living with four kids.  You need to have goals, a direction and an outline but you can't choose the dream over the reality. 

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