Homeschool Planning 101: Values – Setting a Strong Foundation
It’s August already. How did this happen? I’m finally settling in to plan for the upcoming school year. My mind keeps trying to get me to nail down curriculum and start scribbling notes on a calendar, but I know I’m not ready yet. I’ve done that before, and those plans always fall flat. Why? Because without a vision and an understanding of what I’m trying to do, I’m not going to follow through on anything. Instead, I need to start by setting my vision for the year.
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Everything Starts With Values
I recently read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I read it because some friends were reading it, but there was a powerful moment in the beginning that got me hooked on the process. In the book, she talks about imagining your ideal space. Why do you want a clean house? What would you do there? How would it feel? How does it look in your imagination?
Once I had that image in my mind of a streamlined area where I had plenty of mental energy to write and plenty of physical space to make messy art projects, I knew exactly what I had to do to start getting my things in order. I’ve been going through my things for the last two months and discarding or donating huge numbers of items, and my home is starting to feel like… well, a home. But without that image in my mind of my ideal space, I don’t think I would have started. Who cares about cleaning up if you don’t know why you’re doing it?
Likewise, who cares about homeschooling if you have no vision for what you’re doing?
If you know why you are homeschooling and you know what you hope to get out of it for yourself and your kids, then the rest of it gets to be a lot easier. It’s easier to see what curriculum you need, or how to manage your activities, or how to schedule those daily events.
Find the Center You Orbit Around
When I do group presentations to help homeschoolers plan, I like to use the image of the solar system as a symbol of values. When we plan for a year, we’re actually planning for one orbit of the earth around the sun. But without that center, the earth wouldn’t orbit at all. We’d be floating randomly out in space, which is what some of my homeschool years have felt like.
Don’t do it! Figure out what planet you’re on and what bright star you’re orbiting around. This will help you tremendously as you plan for your year.
I’ve written an entire section about this in my book Blueprint Homeschooling, and it includes several exercises you can do to discover your values. Here on the blog, I’ll summarize it to a single question:
Why do you homeschool?
Ask yourself this question. Ask your spouse. Ask your kids. See if you can’t figure out some reason you’ve decided to embark on this insane adventure. What are the main reasons you’re homeschooling rather than going with other public or private education options? What in the world are you trying to achieve or accomplish by homeschooling?
Your answers will help you start to visualize what you want your homeschool experience to look like. Keep in mind that those values are different from family to family. The reason I homeschool is very different even from some of my best homeschool friends. But knowing my own values helps me understand that others have different values, too. It helps me appreciate all our different strengths and abilities in the homeschool community.
Make It Visible
I stumbled on the magic of visible values a couple of years into my homeschool journey. I was having a mid-year freak out about whether or not my kids measured up to whatever random level I thought they should measure up to. My husband is an incredibly patient man who listens to me when I have an existential crisis like this, but after several days of it, he was getting tired. He finally pointed to a quote I had hanging on the fridge. It was from John Holt’s Learning All the Time and said:
Real learning is a process of discovery, and if we want it to happen we must create the kinds of conditions in which discoveries are made. We know what these are. They include time, leisure, freedom and a lack of pressure.
At that time in my kids’ development, I valued freedom and time more than anything. I wanted them to be discovering things on their own and exploring and observing. Having that quote there helped me see the sun again and remember why I was doing this thing.
The image on the left is an illustration I cut out from a magazine years ago. It’s the quote that currently hangs in my homeschool area and helps keep me sane. If you can’t read the text, it says, “The only real ill-doing is the deprivation of knowledge.” This is a quote by Plato. It reminds me to be honest and to help my children research things. It reminds me to present as many sides as possible of different events and ideas. In our current stage, learning is about acquiring as much knowledge as possible.
I still have some work to do to discover if our values might be different for this coming year. I’m thinking about using a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
If you need more examples, I have a Pinterest board devoted to Homeschool Values quotes and images. I try to add to it as I see new ideas that catch my attention.
Need more ideas for keeping your values visible? Here are a few:
- Have the kids make a poster of your favorite quote or verse.
- Write them on post-it notes that you hang on the fridge, bathroom mirror, or by your computer.
- Buy a refrigerator magnet that contains your quote/idea.
- Write it on a white board.
- Craft it with wooden letters or stencils.
- Make a collage that includes images of your values, and display it in your school room.
Those are just a few ideas. I include several pages of quotes and possible values in the values section of Blueprint Homeschooling, so feel free to check it out if you feel like you want to learn more about this!
I hope that you’ll take the time to really chew on your family values and figure out what your vision is for your year. I think you’ll find that it helps to have a “big picture” before you get down to the nitty-gritty of all the details.
If you have values set for your upcoming homeschool year, would you share them here in the comments? I’d love to know what others have as their main values.