If it’s in with the new, then it’s out with the old. . .

On January 4, I wrote, “More than any other teacher on the planet, you can be flexible with your lesson plan and schedule.  If you see a sudden interest arising in your student, then make it a priority, change your schedule, and allow it in your lesson plan.”

So, what does that mean? How do we change our schedule, and allow something new into our lesson plan? In other words, if your plate is already filled to overflowing, how on earth do you add something else?

Great question!  To answer it, may we first step away from academics to some tips from a professional organizer?  This person was paid real money to organize people’s homes and offices, and when she offered a low-cost workshop on organizing, let me tell you that I jumped. . .

Here’s the biggest tip of all—it is so stunning that I don’t want you to miss it!!  Are you ready?

Tip #1 to change your organizing life:
When something new comes into the house (or office), then something else of equal size has to go out.

Do you already see the analogy? Or are you asking, “Huh?  What’s that?”

Maybe I should have started with her preparatory step.

Tip before #1 to change your organizing life:
Everything needs a place.  Everything.

Okay.  If we’re going backwards, maybe I should add this little bit, too.

Tip before Tip before #1 to change your organizing life:
You have a finite space, meaning it’s not expandable.  So, room to room, look at each thing you have.  Is it useful to you?  Is it important and worth keeping? Then keep it. Is it worn out, outdated, no longer useful?  Then get rid of it.

Let me set the steps in order so they make sense.

Look at your stuff and decide what you can keep, based on your space.
Assign a place for each thing you’ve kept.
When you bring something new home, get rid of something else.

Now, let’s apply this very common sense approach to scheduling, lesson planning and flexibility.

What is your daily, weekly, monthly, yearly schedule like?
As you look at it, remember that you have a finite amount of time—it’s not expandable.  Do you have enough time in your schedule for having fun, taking breaks, free time, and family time?  If not, it’s too full!

Now, how does the daily and weekly schedule look? 
Did you remember co-ops, music lessons, trips to the library, grocery shopping, housecleaning, and mealtimes added in?  They have to live within the schedule, so if it’s not going to work on paper, I can promise you it won’t work in real life.

When your kids find something compelling to study, something else needs to drop off the schedule.
Whether it’s learning about King Tut (a potential field trip!) or ice skating (a potential physical education class!), if your kids are interested, it is VALUABLE.  Think of it as a Ming Vase coming into your home.  When you know the value of this treasure, you won’t mind getting rid of that $3.89 vase you picked up at Goodwill five years ago. 

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? 

Your schedule can reflect the things your children consider treasures, rather than looking like an overstuffed storage shed. . . IF you remember that to take in something new, something else has to go out.

Stay relational!


P.S. If you have a copy of our book, "Things We Wish We'd Known," I highly recommend reading Joy Schroeder's article on this topic, beginning on page 106.


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  • Lori Barrett

    Diana, I really struggle with this because, if it’s on the curriculum schedule, we do it! I need that schedule to stay on top of everything we need to report to the state each quarter. I don’t feel like I can follow bunny trails of interest because then we must work doubly hard to catch-up! My heart is telling me to follow a more interest-led homeschool, but I have been struggling for years about how to implement it! Especially in history I could set a time period and have them go to town, but if I’m not reading the books (or don’t have a teacher key), I couldn’t be sure narrations or lapbooks were accurate! Any helpful ideas for middle- and high-schoolers?

    Thank you so much!

    Lori B.
    A fan in NY

  • Lori, you are asking the same question many of us ask as we try to move from “theory” to reality! There is obviously a balance between following the stringent demands of all your curriculum and following a will-o’-the-wisp fancy. . . But when I read your words, “My heart is telling me to follow a more interest-led homeschool,” I hear a course-correction in it.

    One thing we learned with our middle-school and high-school age children was that if they were motivated by their interest in something, they would learn FAR more than I would have ever dreamed of asking them. They have the energy at that point to dive headlong into levels of learning that leave most curriculums in the dust.

    So, the question is HOW do we bring them to that place?

    A few thoughts:
    Let them explore their interests, give them free time to try some new things. Maybe it’s mountain biking, maybe cooking, maybe dance, maybe bass guitar, maybe rock polishing! As they have some time and opportunity to discover what they themselves are interested in, it will help to motivate them.

    Let them have some say in what and how they study. I love to meet families who let their children look at the curriculum and help to make the decision, because I know that those students will have far more motivation, if they’ve had a say in it.

    Let them express what they’ve learned in creative, even unorthodox ways! That can engage even the most reluctant learner, if they have a chance to create something in their own way.

    While having them study the required courses for high-school (if they are doing college prep, etc.), give them opportunity to choose courses to study that have NOTHING to do with the requirements. Scuba diving? (Way too expensive for me, but maybe okay for you?) Japanese Horticulture? Lego architectural design??

    There is the amazing transition that occurs in these middle school and high school years, as you begin to hand over more and more of the reins of their lives to them. One of the best places to do this is in the area of learning, giving them freedom to pursue what is of interest to them.

    So, I am hoping that this has given you some food for thought. I might also mention my book, Reaping the Harvest, which was written specifically for homeschooling families with teens—for both the parents AND the teens to read and discuss.


  • Terri Schnelle

    Lori, Could those Bunny Trails be called electives for your middle and high schoolers? What if you start with the core classes you need to satisfy your state requirements, then add your extra classes/interests as electives to round out your schedule? Just and idea.