Reverse Planning, And How It Changed Our Homeschool!

I have a serious love hate relationship with planning out our homeschool life. I love a well made list with little boxes next to each task. I love seeing all my thoughts organized onto a page. I used to plan our days out to the minute. I had lists for my lists and plans for my plans. I would spend the entire summer planning out lessons and assignments and filling pages and pages of a planner. I did this for years. I am still exhausted thinking about it.


I spent so much time and energy planning that by the time the school year stared I was completely wiped out. I found that all those perfect boxes I wanted to check did nothing but stress me out and make me feel like I was a failure if they didn't get done. I was fighting the natural flow of our days by planning out every minute. I was unhappy, the kids were unhappy, our homeschool and family life was suffering. Something need to change.


I'm a planner, an organizer, a control freak I know this about myself. It can become all consuming if I let it.


The final straw happened a few years ago. It was August, I had spent the entire summer planning out our year. I was anticipating the failure of my plans and dreading starting school with the kids. We were following a Waldorf style homeschool. I had blocks of learning planned, books and projects purchased, pages and pages of plans written and I was miserable. One morning I was sitting on the back porch stressing about how to face another year of homeschooling. I was imagining the tears, both the kid's and mine, the arguments that came because I was disappointed that my plans didn't work out. Like I said I am a planner, an organizer, a control freak. I used to believe it was my super power I could multitask and organize anything. I've come to realize it is more likely a survival, trauma response and not a super power. I needed a break or I was going to break.


So we stopped. Even though we had been homeschooling for years we did another few months of deschooling. I watched my kiddos start to follow their interests, blossom new ones, and learn more than I could have imagined all on their own. All I did was help find them books, or websites, or supplies for whatever they were dong. It was amazing. I immediately threw out my previous plans, like threw them out in the trash. It was really hard for me but I knew it was necessary for my family. We became unschoolers, and I started reverse planning.


Reverse planning is a very simple concept. Instead of writing down what you want to do, you write down what you did. Even more simply put reverse planning is freedom. Now if we wake up and decide we feel like going to the park and library I don't need to look at what I had planned. I will simply write down that we went to the park and library.


The other benefit of reverse planning is that it helps me to see learning in places I never even thought to look. Like building a city on an iPad game, or stacking sticks in the backyard to drive a remote control car over, or simply sitting by the water watching the anemones sway. Unschooling and reverse planning has taken the pressure of checkboxes and unreasonably complicated lists out of our life and we are so much happier because of it. Added bonus you no longer need a fancy expensive planner. A notebook works just fine!


So when I feel the tug to make a list or to "get organized" I will simply take a few deep breaths open my notebook and read back over all the things we have done. It gives me a sense of wonder, accomplishment and excitement for what is to come.

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