Big Rocks Homeschooling – How to Prioritize What’s Important

project based homeschooling at navigating by joy

One of the many things I love about project-based learning is that it can fit into any homeschool style. This term I have a much more relaxed approach to curriculum – I’m using it as the tool I always intended it to be, instead of being a slave to it – leaving a bigger space for more natural, child-led learning.

The Call of the Familiar (it’s Easiest to Do What You’ve Always Done)

But starting something new – no, sticking with something new – takes commitment. Now that our intense start-of-term enthusiasm has subsided, cold viruses are doing the rounds, and wet weather has kept us indoors for days at a time, there have been mornings when it’s felt so tempting just to snuggle up with the children for quiet English, maths and read alouds. It’s not that I don’t love seeing the children caught up in a wave of passionate creativity; it’s just that the lure of the familiar, the comfortable path of doing what we know, is sometimes hard to resist.

“Big Rocks” Time Management

you can have what you want at navigating by joy homeschooling blogIn his book You Can Have What You Want, supercoach Michael Neill  tells this story about a seminar leader who placed a large jar on the table.

By the side of the jar he placed a bucket of gravel, a bucket of sand, a bucket of water, and three big rocks. He then challenged his participants to  find a way to fit everything on the table into the jar.

After numerous attempts, it became clear that the only way to fit everything in was to start with the big rocks first.  The gravel filled the space between the big rocks, the sand filled the gaps in the gravel,  and the water filled the gaps between the sand.

When it comes to what we choose to make important, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the daily gravel, ground down by the sand, and swept away by the water. What can be tricky is finding ways to prioritize the ‘big rocks’ – those things in your life that matter most. 

Over the summer (using a fantastic process I’ll share in another post) I identified what are the biggest “rocks” that I want to fit into my life. One “rock” was doing more natural (interest and child-led) learning with my children, and project-based homeschooling has been the perfect way to do this. Of course maths and English are important, but (I’m happy to say) doing them has become a comfortable habit – they get done easily without needing to be prioritized.

How to Prioritize Something

Michael Neill suggests that there are three ways of prioritizing something: (1) Do it first (2) Do it now (3) Do it often. Common sense, but a good reminder nonetheless.

And that is how, as well as practising multi-digit subtraction and discussing the beautiful metaphors in Where the Moon Meets the Mountain, last week Cordie experimented with home made light bulbs, and made kites and tepees from wood and hot glue, and Jasper began to learn computer programming with Scratch in between practising his spelling, handwriting, and learning about the differences between rhombuses and trapeziums. 🙂

What are your big rocks?

Things That Help Me Have A Better Day

There are some things that, no matter what else is going on in my life, when I do them, I seem to have a better day.

(Kittens Don't Need Lists)

Here are a few of the things on my list:

  1. Meditating for 15 minutes
  2. Exercising – doing something that gets my heart rate up for at least 10 (ideally 20) minutes
  3. Writing a blog post
  4. Decluttering an area of my house
  5. Spending time outside
  6. Connecting with my friend Sarah
No matter what else is going on in my life, I almost always feel better when I do any or all of these things. (And there are more that I can’t think of right now.)

Having them on this list helps remind me to do them, because they’re not necessarily things I “feel like” doing in the moment.  I don’t wake up in the morning gagging to go for a run or sort out the hall cupboard; when the phone rings, my automatic (introvert) reaction is to recoil, even when I see my best friend’s name come up on the display; and in the depths of winter (or autumn, or early spring…oh ok anytime the sun’s not shining) I really do have to generate myself to leave the comfort of home!   I can even find myself putting off meditating, which I LOVE!  Come to think of it, however much I may procrastinate about doing any of the things on my list, something they all have in common is that I almost always enjoy actually doing them (yes, even sorting out the hall cupboard.  Weird, I know).

I’ve done this exercise (which I learned from Michael Neill; I think he writes about it in his great book You Can Have What You Want) with coaching clients and I’ve noticed that everyone’s list is different.  Lists might include going for a walk in the woods, taking 30  minutes to read over a cappuccino in Starbucks, writing in a journal, meeting up with a group of friends, doing an exercise class, or taking special time out to play with a child or cuddle up with a pet.

What’s on your list?

What Learning Greek Dancing Can Teach Us About Life

I love supercoach Michael Neill‘s coaching tip this week, in which he tells a story about learning the art of Greek dancing (from his mentor George Pransky):

“”What my teacher told me,” George said, “is that all you need to do is get in line.  If you fall out of line, get back in line.”

When George pressed for more details about the specific steps involved, his teacher explained that as long as he stayed in line as best he could, he would pick up the steps naturally as the dance progressed. While he would no doubt have numerous stumbles along the way, before long he would be dancing comfortably and well.

This is reminiscent of how we learned to walk and talk. We hung out with other walkers and talkers, made our mistakes without dwelling on them or consciously trying to learn from them, and before we knew it, our parents couldn’t shut us up or get us to keep still.

This is also in direct opposition to the way many of us try to learn as adults. We want to have the entire process of whatever it is we are trying to learn explained to us up front, and then we want step by step instructions for implementing it.  Generally speaking, this is because we approach learning as an exercise in “mistake limitation”.

While we theoretically understand that we will not do most things well on the first try, when we are learning something new we seem to keep score like golfers – whoever makes the least mistakes wins. Instead of “getting in line”, we try to avoid getting it wrong. And unfortunately, at some point we stumble across the ultimate strategy for mistake limitation and failure avoidance:

If we don’t play, we can’t lose.

The only downside is, if we’re not careful we can wind up without much of a life.  This points to another thing George mentioned in passing that jumped out at me:

Success is more a function of what you take on than the results you achieve.

So what do we do with this information? What is the equivalent of “getting in line” when it comes to the rest of our lives?

For me, it all comes down to our state of mind on a moment by moment basis. Whenever we approach life from our natural state of clarity and well-being (“in line” with our innate health and wisdom), we will make our way through things as best we can, adapting as we go.

From time to time, we will lose our bearings (“fall out of line”) and get caught up in our thinking. In those moments, we obsess about keeping score (i.e. “how we’re doing”) and life seems hard. But as soon as we regain our bearings (“get back into line”), we resume the process of happily stumbling towards higher levels of success and achievement.

Worst case, we enjoy the journey.  Best case, we arrive at some level of what people call “success”.  Either way, we are having fun, learning heaps, and dancing each day from a place of comfort and well-being…”

Lots of lessons – or rather, reminders  -there for me!  The main one – as usual –  is an always-welcome reminder be kind to myself.  In the game that is life, I play pretty big (eg in choosing to home educate my children), which means I lose my bearings quite often.  Those are the times I find myself worrying (and yes, sometimes yelling) that J is never going to learn to write and C will still be having tantrums when she’s 30 (no idea where she gets them from, ahem). It’s good to be reminded that instead of obsessing about the score, all I need do in those moments is get back in line and resume my happy stumbling – most of the time, I love the dance.

My Library Thing

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