Why Lesson Plans Don’t Work Part 2

by ChristinaPilkington on May 25, 2011 · 0 comments

Post image for Why Lesson Plans Don’t Work Part 2

When I wrote last week about why lesson plans don’t work, I realized this position would be a bit controversial since almost all schools, including many homeschooling families, rely on lesson plans. But I feel it’s important to get the message out that most learning doesn’t need to be strictly pre-planned; in fact, in most cases it actually impedes natural learning.   

In part two of this series, I’ll share with you how lesson plans don’t allow  for periods of reflection or time for children to process what they’ve learned; they also can’t predict how long your child will be interested in a topic.

True deep learning involves periods of reflection, a time which often looks as if no learning is taking place, and extended time to delve deeply in a topic instead of superficially skimming the surface. 

Ten years ago when I was getting my master’s degree I remember wanting to do one thing: get my teacher’s certificate as soon as possible, so I could start working as soon as possible.  So, I crammed in as many classes as I could. I knew how to play the school game; I studied enough to earn A’s and B’s and then promptly forgot almost everything I had “learned.” 

Schools ask kids to cram information in quickly, too.  They insist that kids move from reading, math, writing, history, science, physical education, fine arts, or computers all in one day.

So, what if a child is excited about writing a story? She’s given it a lot of thought, constructed an elaborate plotline and would probably spend half the day working on it, but most likely there’ll be some adult who will ask her to put the story away after 40 minutes and take out her math worksheet.  By the time she’s able to work on her story again, she’s lost her momentum (as I writer I know how important that is!), and she may not want to begin again when she knows she’ll just be interrupted within a short period of time.  

The topic of ADHD is hotly debated, and there’s no doubt that some children have serious neurological disabilities, but most children simply haven’t been given enough time to develop their attention. They’re shuffled back and forth from subject to subject, lesson to lesson, so they don’t develop the habit of sticking with one thing for too long. They can’t allow themselves to care about what they’re doing because they know it’ll just be taken away from them soon.

OPTION: When your child finds something fascinating or when he wants to work on a project for hours at a time, let him! Find as many resources that you can about that topic, or very closely related topics, and offer those to him.

I’m the type of person who dives deeply into a topic and pretty much lives it for weeks or months at a time. I learn it very quickly and well. Then, it’s as if I’ve had my fill and I want to move on. I may stick close to the same topic, branching out slightly, or I may learn about something entirely different. And then months or even years later, I find myself returning to the same topic; now I can connect it with so many new things that I have a deeper understanding and knowledge of that subject, even though I haven’t read about it in a while.

If I was only allowed a little time to read or write or learn about a subject and had to fit it around six or seven other things I “needed” to learn, I’d quickly lose interest. Maybe your child is the same way. If she is, let her live and breathe dogs, or dancing or whatever it is that holds her attention. She’ll soon become an expert and feel a sense of pride and ownership of her learning.

Children and adults also need time to reflect on what they’ve learned. You can’t plan for this as it’s impossible to know how much time a person will need. Maybe it will be a day, maybe a week, or maybe several months.

My daughter learned to read in giant leaps.  She’d take my finger and run it under the words in her books and be very upset if I wouldn’t do it. Then, out of the blue, she’d swat my hand if I tried to do the same thing she’d begged me to do earlier. She wanted nothing to do with books for a few months, which left me worried I’d done something wrong. But then, about five months later, she picked up her first chapter book and read it. She needed that time for her brain to do some unconscious processing.

OPTION: When you see your child just wanting to be quiet, go off by himself, or stop doing something he normally loves to do, give him the space he needs. Obviously, be concerned if other things in his behavior also seem off, but if he seems happy and content, maybe he needs some processing time. You might suggest going to new places or taking long walks or watching movies together. This isn’t a period of wasted time.  This time needs to be respected and valued just as much as the time when the learning is more visible to you.

It’s great to have lists of ideas about topics or subjects that would be fun to explore in the new few months, but when you start rigidly planning everything out in detail you’ll often experience frustration when life and your children don’t want to jump on board with your plans.

Your plans should make life rich and joyous, not tie you down or leave you feeling inadequate.  How do you feel about your current plans?  Would you be open to the unexpected if it offered you greater possibilities than what you’re currently doing? 


To read the first part of this series click here.

I’d love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment below or send me an e-mail at chris@christinapilkington.com. Sign up at the home page to be on my mailing lists and have each new post sent to your e-mail.

Photo Credit: Schristia

Share on Facebook

Previous post:

Next post: