Planning – Oh The Places We’ll Go

28 Apr

This afternoon I’ve been planning ahead a little and I thought I’d share what my thinking looks like when I plan.

My planning is definitely not linear.  Well there is a basic ‘this-then-that’ skeleton to my planning (eg.  studying History chronologically, following the topics in our Science text etc), but where we head after the initial topic can be anyone guess because I’m not restrained by a curriculum in most areas.

You see, we embrace tangents and follow our interests.  I don’t know what homeschool philosophy this would fall under but it’s just how our curiosity works.  It’s how we learn best in our everyday life.  One question leads to another and then another.  Then we bounce along following them, not looking for an end but enjoying the journey.

If my boys learn nothing else from their years of homeschooling, it’s this pattern of inquiry that I want the boys to take away – to have questions, to seek answers, and to find more questions to seek answers to.

I suppose it differs from unschooling in that it’s not child led.  I don’t plop them in the midst of an intriguing world and say go and discover.  I feel that’s an unrealistic approach to discovery that leads to rather narrow results.

I prefer to lead my students to the good stuff.  I pique their interests with a topic and usually a great book that I know will set us off on a journey.  I lead the way by enticing my little learners with a banquet of things to experience.  I go ahead and exclaim, “Come and look at this”.  Experience has taught my little men that they should follow eagerly.  And even when they aren’t really interested in the current topic they follow along anyway as they’ve learned that it’s not all that bad, the company is pretty good, and before long something will sparks a new interest for them.

The key is to be a fellow learner, and a passionate leader.  Things would fall apart if I stood behind them and pointed out the direction I wanted them to go, gave them a nudge and then sat back and didn’t journey with them.  There’s a lot of that kind of homeschooling happening.  But it won’t work.  Our job isn’t to fill their heads with information but to kindle their desire to learn more.  We’re creating habits of learning and inquiry, through modeling and sharing our own love of learning.  At least that’s how I view it.

So what planning did I do today.  Well it started with Tchaikovsky.  He’s the composer I have selected to study this year.  No rhyme or reason about it.  He was just the next composer from the Classical Kids cd range that we love.  My goal in learning about the composers isn’t to know everything about all of the composers but to enjoy and appreciate classical music.  Learning about the people who gave us this music invites us to share their love of music.  When we hear their names we remember their music and when we hear their music we remember their stories.

In addition to the Classical Kids cd on Tchaikovsky I have several children’s non-fiction books about the composer, several audios about his life (interwoven with his music) that I will download, and also a picture book inspired by his story.

Of course you can’t study Tchaikovsky without learning about his famous ballets, like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.  I doubt my boys will be thrilled with the ballets but who knows.  No one knows what they’ll like until exposed to it.  So we’ll borrow dvds of the ballets from the library and read picture books that tell the stories they are based on.  We’ll dig as deep as our interest takes us and then move on.

Tchaikovsky naturally leads to an interest in Russia, which is perfect since we’re currently studying WW1 and are curious about what was happening in Russia, before, during and after the war.  We know the Russians were an Ally, and that they fought the Germans on the eastern front, but then, in the books we’ve been reading, Russia just seems to drop out of the war and the German troops head over and strengthen the Western Front.  So little is mentioned about the Russians.  The boys (and I) want to know what happened.  I know there was a revolution but beyond that I know very little.  Certainly not enough to quench our desire to know more.  So I’ve selected a book, “Anastasia” (Royal Diaries series) to immerse ourselves in so we can frame our next questions to direct our search for answers.  (I’ve also bought “Angel of the Square“)

Who knows we may develop an interest in knowing more about the last Tsar and the mysteries surrounding Anastasia Romanov.  I’ve bookmarked a stack of dvd options if our interest leads us that way.  I must say, I’m already curious.  Hubby may be too so we may go this way purely for our own knowledge.  The boys can’t help but sit and watch what we’re watching, so they may quickly be drawn in like moths to a flame…maybe.  🙂  (I can pretty much guarantee we won’t be bothering with the Disney version of her story.  The boys have been burned by Disney’s horrible representation of historic characters time and time again.  That’s the beauty of reading the book before the movie!)

Russia is such a forgotten country when we study the cultures of the world.  Since I know so little about it there are so many questions to answer in my mind.  Just googling around Amazon I found books about Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great, Stalin…all people I am aware of but really couldn’t tell you much about.  So we may read some of these books.  We’ll see where our interests take us.

Of course you can’t study Russia without learning a little about life in communist Russia.  So we’ll read “Breaking Stalin’s Nose”, “The Wall” and the “Ivan” series by Myrna Grant.

Then there’s the land of Russia and it’s people.  I’m betting youtube or the local library will have videos we can watch to see what Russia looks like.   We may explore the Kremlin or St Basil’s Cathedral, because we should at least know what they are and recognise them.  Gosh there may even be other amazing places in Russia we don’t even know about yet.  Actually, I’m pretty sure my in-laws gave us some Russian currency after their trip through Russia.

We’ll mostly use fictional books as our launching pads but these nearly always led us to search for more information in non-fiction books.  And we love watching documentaries about the things we’ve read about.  It’s pretty much all we watch on tv nowadays.  What we learn we share in discussions or narrations and then in writing on topics of interests.  Occasionally a hands on project will lend itself nicely to our current topic.  The hunger for knowledge and the thrill of the hunt is more than enough to lead our way.  And children seeing parents modelling the love of learning is enough to get them at least curious about this learning thing…even if they are allergic to pencil and paper.

Tchaikovsky could take us other places.  These are just some options I’ve considered.  Who knows how deep or how broad we’ll go.  It depends on our interest at the time.  Something else may catch our attention and lead us elsewhere.   This freedom is the best thing about not being too heavily yoked by curriculum.

Dr Seus said it best:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”


Posted by on April 28, 2013 in Planning and Registration


8 responses to “Planning – Oh The Places We’ll Go

  1. Petra

    April 28, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Yay Dr Seus!!! There really aren’t enough hours in the day are there – so much to learn and so little time!

  2. Jen in Oz

    April 28, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    I have a couple of Myrna Grant books. They are fiction, about a young Christian boy in Russia, and were Sunday School prizes when I was about 11 years old. If you any trouble getting the whole series I have the hidden bible and the secret in the suitcase ones.

    Also just as an aside I know you have a lot of books. Do you regularly cull, have you found duds? What do you do if books are not interesting to read? Do you keep them due to content matter, or if they not good quality they go on to a new home?

    I have an urge to cull my shelves but I am just not sure if I have the guts to discard books when I have been taught that they are precious.

    Bedt wishes
    Jen in NSW

    • Jen in Oz

      April 28, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      Oops, didn’t mention in my first paragraph that they are the Ivan ones you have been looking at. Tablet commenting is not particularly easy.

      Best wishes
      Jen in NSW

    • Tracey

      April 28, 2013 at 10:37 pm

      God already provided the Ivan series but thanks for offering. I had them in my wishlist for months last year, liking the blurb but at that point not having a reason to spend $50-$70 on the whole series. Every time I bought something I was terribly tempted to add them. Then at Lifeline I found the whole set on a shelf, just sitting and waiting for me to take them home for 50c a book!!

      And yes I do/have culled books. If I read something and don’t like it it doesn’t stay. I’ve even put books straight into the bin, not wanting to pass on such trash. As my boys grow I pass on their younger books to family and friends, keeping only the very best books to share with my grandkids one day (we still have a whole bookshelf full of picture books!) And as my belief about what is a good book matures and changes I get rid of books that no longer pull on my heart strings. A lot of modern published books got dumped in the last big cull. As I buy better and better non-fiction titles I look at what I have and often find that there’s older books I snagged at Lifeline that no longer have value in my shelves, especially when something better is there to take their place.

      Culling is hard so find a time when you’re in a culling mood, otherwise you end up keeping too much. It also helps to find the books good homes, if they are worthy of passing on. I often pass things onto my sister and it’s much easier to do that knowing I’m helping build her shelves and if I really have parted with something I needed, I can borrow it back. Heheheh. Let me tell you, little Aria already has enough books to keep her going for her first five years!! Hehehehe.

      Only the good books are precious so dump the ho-hum stuff to make room for more treasures.

  3. Elsa

    April 29, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Loved your brain thoughts and tangents here Tracey. Life is so like that. Looks like a wonderful term ahead!

  4. rebecca

    April 29, 2013 at 1:25 am

    we love the classical kids series, all fantastic. Alex’s favourite is Beethoven, such a great way to introduce kids to classical music. Another favourite is The story of classical music,, Aled Jones the narrator used to sing in boys choir, and his voice is still so attractive:) He also did another one called the famous composer,, all good stuff too.

    I love your selections on the russian books, we read Peter, but will now search for the rest. hopefully there might still be some 50c bargin out there!

  5. Susan

    April 29, 2013 at 9:44 am

    We had some of the Ivan books when I was in highschool and seem to remember they were a good read. I’d forgotten all about that series. I wonder whatever happened to the books our family had.

  6. Jen in NSW

    October 5, 2013 at 5:48 am

    I was just looking through my bookshelves and found another author who does children’s fiction about Russia. Her name is Anita Deyneka and the book I have is published by david C. Cook in 1979. The title is Alexi and the Mountain Treasure, Mystery and Courage on the Russian-Chinese Border.

    It might be a little late now for your boys if you have moved on but thought it may interest you anyway.

    Best wishes
    Jen in NSW


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