Behind the Scenes

Seven is a really big number.

Seven is a really big number.

I’ve recently started a new schooling system. With the advent of my Prince turning SEVEN (shock, disbelief) I have felt the need to take my relaxed, interest-led, natural learning method a notch up the formality rating. Whilst I still absolutely believe in the benefits and necessity of keeping learning fun, relaxed and relevant, I also have found that some days my kids need a little prompting. With their limited world view there are some things they don’t learn about, simply because they don’t know about it. This is where I come in! I see my role as ‘Chief Instigator and Inspirator‘. (Yes, I know that’s not a word.  But it should be.)

When I let my children learn naturally, I am usually surprised at how much of what they do would be classified as ‘official schooling’ if I had instigated and formalised the learning which happens. For example, yesterday Prince saw a French book lying around so he picked it up and began reading. Sitting next to him, I peered over his shoulder and pointed out that if he read the helpful translation lists at the top and bottom of the pages he would then be able to understand the cartoon strips. With a little help he then read two pages of French conversation, practicing pronunciation and extending his vocabulary! This is my ideal:  unprompted interaction between kids/parents/tools produces effective learning.

But natural learning is not what this post is about.  Why?

Whilst I see first-hand the benefits of learning as opportunity and desire present themselves, I have also seen that there are some things I’d like my children to know which don’t come up in our everyday life very often. Also, there are some days when I feel we have done very little learning of any kind, and although I am comfortable with this every now and then, I desire to foster a habit of industrious activity rather than laziness. SO! Here is my new and improved ‘Natural Learning with a Structured Twist’: It’s very simple really. I started by drawing up a Monday – Friday timetable. Under each day I put in topics that I think are important to make sure we hit from time to time. Over a few weeks I tweaked this until I ended up with this:

My super-secret, under-cover Spring '13 timetable!

My super-secret, under-cover Spring ’13 timetable!

Now, I know how formal this looks. But looks can be deceiving. The key to keeping this natural is this: KEEP IT SECRET! I don’t let my kids know that behind the scenes of our seeming unstructured day is a chart which prompts Mommy to casually say, “Hey guys!  Let’s play ‘Flags of the Word’ together!’ on Tuesday. Or that when I start playing a French computer program on Wednesday, and they just happen to be sitting close by, I am actually taking advantage of their inability to stay away from electronic media, and capitalising on the attention I know they immediately pay to All Things Computerised.  As they listen and – usually – come and join in with me, they are absorbing new words, better accents and French sentence structures without any idea that they are ‘being schooled’. When I write maths problems on our activity board for ‘fun’, this is exactly what they think it is – little do they know that it is actually Friday’s ‘Basic Skills’. In reality, this is not a timetable for the kids – it’s for me.  I am kept accountable through the structure, then implement it through life in as natural a way a possible.

Another key to the natural flow of this new system is flexibility.  One of the joys of home education is it’s flexible nature, and I never want to lose this.  If we don’t get to History on Monday – never mind.  We’ll pick it up on Tuesday… or next week.. or we’ll do double another time… or we’ll forget about it.  Since we don’t break the year up into terms and holidays, but rather school throughout the year (and indeed, the days and weeks), there is no pressure to make sure we cover every thing, every day.  If we miss something, I can always put it down to an inset day 🙂

Reading is Princess's newest learning passion!

Reading is Princess’s newest learning passion!

Lastly, I hold to my belief that children learn best when they are self-motivated and interested. If a child is showing a new passion for music, then take time to indulge that for a while, even if it means cutting back on writing. If, as happened to us, a recent trip to France sparked an enthusiasm for French, then this is a great time to become immersed in French books, programs and conversation. If science needs to take a back seat for a while, so be it. You can always come back to those subjects you left behind, but you can’t always recapture the spark of excitement which lives in your child temporarily.  Don’t miss it – nurture it!

I know that formality, structure, and curriculums are the favourite choice of many home-educating families. But if you’re looking for something a little more natural, then maybe you want to create your own Behind the Scenes timetable.  And maybe you have some other great ideas for keeping the balance between structure and freedom?  Please share them with us all 🙂



  1. Wanda said,

    July 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I love this idea! I am jumping into the world of homeschooling this summer and have been bouncing around different ideas. While my kids already know and understand the structure that the world has put on learning, I’d like it to be more fun, a family experience, than structured. So this might be a great way to keep me on track (something I’ll desperately need) while letting the kids think that they’re getting off easy.

    • DeneM said,

      July 3, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      How exciting to be starting your journey! I simply LOVE home learning with my kids, and I’m sure you will too 🙂 Let me know if this idea works out for you – I’d love your feedback on any changes/extra ideas/revisions you might have!

Leave me a comment! I love to hear from my readers :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: