For teachers, our planners are the roadmaps we rely on to take us through each school year. Carefully, we craft detailed lessons and order them according to an established scope and sequence. Adjustments can be made to better suit our needs, but these changes rarely alter the overall course of things.
And yet, how can we be sure any pre-planning we do will follow a path that remains unknown to us?
We can’t, really.
Still, we put a great deal of work into the plans we make in the hope that things will run smoothly. Then, we struggle to adhere to them and feel defeated when we fall short. It’s often an impossible expectation.
But thankfully, God makes possible what is impossible. And, through what the Lord has shown me, I’ve found it’s possible to be both spontaneous AND prepared—or, more specifically, we can prepare to be spontaneous. List-makers will be happy to know that management and list-making don’t have to be tossed out the window.
How’s that possible? I’m glad you asked…
As I stated in Part 1 of this series, the planner is not meant to be the starting point of our journey nor should it determine the direction we go. That’s really the job of prayer, the promptings of the Spirit, and the observable needs and readiness I see in my child. To respond to these things, we must remain flexible and ready for change.
Yet, for reasons that often reflect where we’ve placed our trust, we adhere to the route we’ve written in our planners and plow ahead come what may. To me, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
After all, who wouldn’t reroute their course when they find a bridge washed out or discover the mountain pass is too perilous to cross?
I was figuring out a lot of these details during my daughter’s Kindergarten year. Most of it was new to us both, so our primary focus at the time needed to be building a relationship with God and exploring our roles as student and mentor. Time was filled with the everyday household “stuff” I’d ask her to help with along with lots of free-play. Activities, experiments, and games to introduce the basics of reading, writing, and counting were also mixed in. But this time was really about learning how to SEEK, LISTEN, and DO, so there wasn’t much of a need for pre-planning. I suppose that’s why the learning journal became a part of the process first.
In time, our activities grew more intentional (according to God’s timetable), so I began jotting down notes in a spiral notebook. They were basically simple lists that answered questions like:
What is my daughter showing interest in?
What strengths should we build upon?
What habits need to be developed and is she ready for it?
What specific academic skill does she need to practice next?
How does God want me to move forward?
Or, is it best to back off for a while?
In this way, my daughter’s education was being built upon her present needs according to a present God.
Fast forward another year…
I decided a second form would come in handy, so I decided to create this “planner page.” I use it to log my daughter’s current learning needs in sections related to life skills, academics, activities, and responses to prayer. I then use these observations to create a “To Do” list for the following day.
There are a couple important points worth mentioning:
- I have space for 6-days worth of lists, but I usually prepare one at a time the night before. I do this to avoid getting wrapped up in lists instead of seeking after God.
- Our “To Do” lists are non-binding—we might get to everything, or we might not. While these lists give us a direction to go in when we start our day, everything on them can be set aside should God present something different.
Of course, having to prep and gather materials on the fly is a legitimate concern. Here is how I deal with that:
- Changing plans doesn’t mean we have to be ready with a prepared lesson and supplies right away. Brainstorming and doing the preparation is something our kids can be involved in as well, making them a part of the whole process from beginning to end. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 14:28-30).
- If there is prep work that has to be done by the adult, there’s no rule that says our inspiration has to be carried out the same day. Take a day or a week to get what you need together and do it later (just don’t wait too long so that interest doesn’t dissipate completely). In the meantime, feed the fire in other ways by talking it up or reading a story.
- When it comes to materials, it’s wise to keep a wide variety of general supplies on hand in bins or cabinets. That way, anything that might be called for in an art activity or science experiment would be available on short notice (see a useful list of Must-Have Materials). Our precious dollars definitely go a lot farther on items like these than they do on expensive curriculum for teaching basic concepts.
So, that’s an overview of how I’ve learned to plan for unknown tomorrows—I do it one day at a time, and homeschooling has never been so God-centered or peace-filled. The most amazing thing is that I’d expected all this short-term planning to keep me scrambling every day. However, using the learning journal and planner notes to create a “To Do” list for the next day is not at all difficult or time consuming. Seriously, it can all be done in a few minutes. Giving this burden over to God has actually simplified what schooling has made unnecessarily complicated!
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Finally, while I love to tell about the ways God has worked in my life and how He has faithfully shown me where to go at every turn, I share this with caution. God may have something more tailored to another person’s circumstances, strengths, and areas of personal growth, so I encourage everyone to seek God first and go in the direction He tells you. My desire here has been merely to illustrate how God comes through in all things, and it’s indeed possible to organize and plan in a God-led learning environment.
There is still one more organizational tool I use that brings my student into the process. I will discuss that in Part 3.