Friday, August 24, 2007

Learning plan execution

When I went back and read through what I've posted about the kids' learning plans so far, it dawned on me that they look pretty structured and schoolish. To someone looking in from the outside it might look as though I've sat down with each child and said "Okay, what are you going to do for math this year? And what are you gonna do to improve your handwriting?" and so on. Like we've devised a plan to "cover" each area systematically.

The actual process is far from that. The real questions I ask them are basically of three types:
  1. Is there anything you'd like me to help you structure into your upcoming few months?
  2. Do you have any thoughts on how I as your parent and we as a family should be allocating time and money to help you pursue what you're interested in?
  3. Is there anything new that you're interested in that I could help you figure out ways to pursue?
When it comes time to write down the plans, especially for the middle kids who are part of the SelfDesign program, I flesh out each subject heading with things derived from the natural rhythms and interests and routines that make up the kids' lives. For instance, I know that Noah will continue to enjoy watching the science-related DVDs that we rent through the colder months, and that all the kids will continue to enjoy historical fiction readalouds. We don't need to discuss those things when we do our brainstorming. I just slot that stuff in after the fact.

As for the implementation of the plan, we think of it more as a beacon than a path or a destination. My child may end up heading for the beacon, or may wander off in a totally different direction, and that's fine. In three or four months, we'll get together and look over the plan again and I'll say "Hey, here's what you said before, but you've gone in a rather different direction. Are you still interested in this area that hasn't been pursued? Do you want to refocus on it at all?" Sometimes my child will say "nah, I don't want to do that anymore."

But one of the reason I find the Learning Plan so helpful is that often the answer is not "nah..." Often they answer is "Hey, yeah, I do want to do that. I guess I just kind of got busy with other stuff and then forgot about it. I'd really like to get busy with that now."


  1. Funny, unlike you, it is the LP process and seasonal/annual reviews that I hate. I love the O4L's (but I have only 2 children in it - the only two who have ever been eligible). That process has been very useful for me. But I LOVE your questions. I'm going to use them and I think a nice time at a coffee shop to discuss might go over very well.... maybe I'll even start to like learning plans.... well... maybe...

  2. We do the same sort of thing but we call the learning plan a Compass. We are working on these right now and I LOVE seeing the things my children are interested in and want to do and learn!

  3. You plans didn't sound schoolish to me; they sounded like a guide--that might be followed to a tee, maybe followed loosely, or maybe abandoned altogether if something else of interest came along.

    I too like your questions, and I like that they are simple and basic and the details you intuite as their mother, thus not overwhelming them and not making learning such a deliberate thing.

    I am learning a lot from these posts.


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