Saturday, May 26, 2012

Writing it All Down

It is Memorial Day weekend and here in the California mountains, we are getting snow!    Also, tomorrow is Pentecost, and I am finishing my novena.   Praying for all of your intentions.

Finishing up with the first item on my summer preparation checklist:     Then, next week, I will go on to the next item.   I had no idea I would think of so much to say on this topic!

Think and Brainstorm!

This can be done many ways, and not everyone does it the way I am describing.  But while praying for discernment, it is very useful to keep track of what you are discerning, so that is what this post is about.  

Please Note!  If anyone tried to do ALL of this their brain would probably fry and they would never get around to actually homeschooling or even paying attention to their kids.   These are just a few ways of approaching brainstorming. I do this differently every year and sometimes don't really spend much time on it at all because I already feel like I have things set. This year I felt like I needed to start from the ground up, after a year full of transitions. 

Brainstorming and thinking can take as much or as little time as you have.  I find late evening and early morning, right after prayer, to be the best times to reflect on how life is going in general.   Specific ideas come all day -- when I'm cooking, when I'm going to the post office, when I'm noticing a habit issue with one of my kids. 

This year I used a small lined pad and I would just write everything I could think of.   For a couple of weeks I took it everywhere with me.
It felt very good to start from scratch with a blank pad and just write whatever came to my mind, like free writing with the topic of "homeschooling and family life next year".  .

Looking back at the first of my notebooks from this spring, I can see that I was trying to get regrounded.  I had just spent almost two months in Alaska.  I was trying to phase back into my home routine.  It reminded me of how when Aidan used to have to go often to the hospital I would stay with him there, and then when we got home I would wander around shell-shocked for a while, like I'd just been dropped into someone else's life.  Chari feels something like that periodically after a 12 hour nursing shift, and she calls it Post Traumatic Work Syndrome. It's a little like that, except the syndrome was related to emotional life events and change of scenario and schedule.   So I started with listing all my different areas that I needed to keep in mind-- because I was overwhelmed -- and then brainstormed how to keep them all straight so nothing huge dropped through the gaps. 

After a while, later in the notebook,  I started brainstorming lists about the kids.... the possibilities for their next year's curriculum, my highschooler's vocational preparation activities, our summer plans, things like that.

GTD calls this a Mindsweep.    You are letting whatever is preoccupying you out of your brain and onto paper, so your brain processing units are freed up and you can "see" the issue (which often looms bigger before it's articulated). 

During this brainstorming time, everything is allowed to stay open-ended.  You can just write lists of questions.   For example, I devoted a page to trying to figure out options for Kieron's math next year.   (I am still trying to work that out, actually, but writing down all my questions and possibilities did clarify what I was looking for). 

Basically I made lists, lots and lots of lists.  I just want to have it written down!  Later I can go through and organize what I've written, and get rid of the repetition.  If you get overwhelmed with the flood of ideas, this 4real thread on Decluttering the Mind has helpful ideas.

If you have trouble coming up with anything at all, there are various brainstorming resources online.  Here is one from the Writing Center.    Also, for me, going for a walk, or washing dishes, or vacuuming, often gets ideas going faster than I can find a pen to write them down. 

Maybe you use a curriculum that is already prepared.  Still, it may be good to think and brainstorm about your own family, your circumstances, what local activities you might want to do, and so on.   

I usually visit more blogs and forums during this time, collecting ideas.    Diigo has been really helpful in organizing these for me (HT Erin).   There are usually way more ideas than I can use, which is fine at this stage, because it's all about possibilities.

In the past I've used some more "planned" brainstorming ideas.   I'll post a few resources that I didn't use this year, at least not specifically, but have used in other years.

Goal Planning Sheet (PDF)

I made this goal planning sheet a few years ago after seeing one that Chari uses with her kids.  She sits down with them and they fill it out together.    Over here I put some links to goal-setting resources on the internet.

One of my goals is to get my kids more involved in their own academic planning, especially the highschooler, so this goal sheet helps.  I will probably sit down with him soon  now that I have my own list of possibilities and ideas listed out for him, and see if he has strong opinions in any direction. 

Even longer ago I made these Considerations to help me think about my homeschool.  I don't necessarily sit down and work through them one by one, but I do keep the general categories in mind as I brainstorm.

I made the printable form using a brochure template from MS Word.   I like experimenting with templates.  

These are links to an article I wrote for the Kolbe Academy newsletter several years back:
I am including the article because it talks about spending time with your family and observing them.   This to me is the core along with prayer.

And the other core  ("other core" sounds strange, like having two hearts, but I really  mean another aspect of the single core) is what Jacques Maritain called "purifying the source" -- he was speaking of the artist, but I think it applies to the homeschooling mother too:

What matters most, and is essential, is the fact that love -- I don't mean any kind of love, I mean love of Charity -- when it takes hold of man, makes the entire subjectivity purer, and consequently, the creative source also purer. As François Mauriac put it, to purify the source is the only way.

A purified source is not,..... a source which is timid or prudent, or with an admixture of chemicals. A purified source springs from the depths of man's substance, and is as wild and irrepressible as any other; but it has no mud. This is the work of self-discipline and the cultivation of moral virtues, but first of all of transforming love.
I just read something similar in The Christian Mother (public domain at Google), from the preface by Archbishop James Gibbons of Baltimore:

If the mother be a true Christian—if she show forth in her own life the habit of the virtues which she desires to instil into the hearts of her children—how nobly and how successfully will she fulfil her mission! 

The child is by nature an imitator. If the model set before him is good, there is reason to hope that the copy will be so likewise. Do mothers realize this?.... h! that all mothers would bear in mind that if they desire their children to become true Christians they must present in their own lives the models of which the children will be the living copies.

Which brings us back again to prayer and the Sacraments!  Without Him, nothing turns out right!   With Him, ordinary human actions gain value!   On my classical list, a member quoted this from Josemaria Escriva which I have been pondering:

"You are writing to me in the kitchen, by the stove. It is early afternoon. It is cold. By your side, your younger sister — the last one to discover the divine folly of living her Christian vocation to the full — is peeling potatoes. To all appearances — you think — her work is the same as before. And yet, what a difference there is! —It is true: before she only peeled potatoes, now, she is sanctifying herself peeling potatoes."


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Timely reminder. I'm still full of ideas, but have been drifting over to that pile of books that are crying out to be used in plans. Whenever I skip this step I find myself with too many plans and not enough direction. I'm going to settle in a quiet room right now with a pad of paper. Need more self-disciple. Jacques Maritain is a favorite, although I've only read a few of his books. "Existence and the Existent" was life changing for me.

  3. Willa, I get that shell-shocked feeling after a run of bad nights with my toddler. It's hard, then, to focus but, like you say, writing ideas down really does help. At the moment, I'm trying to get our routine back on track so that the plans don't go out the window. Thank you for sharing your strategies.

    God bless:-)


We love hearing from our readers. Please share your thoughts or just say hello!