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Not all those who wander are lost

One of the main benefits of home education is leaving space to wander.

That might mean a physical wander – an afternoon nature walk, a break outside when tempers are fraying, picking fresh peas for an afternoon snack – or it might mean a mental wander, time to follow the rabbit trail of a new idea, time to look up the answer to the question right then, time to read the new book or play the new game as soon as it comes out. It could be a wander down a new craft, a new sport, a new endeavour. It could be a wander to allow time to sift the threads of new connections and weave them into something more solid.

Wandering is time spent for its own sake, not merely for getting to an end result. And we need it. It isn’t a time when education isn’t happening. It’s a core part of learning and growing.

Call it masterly inactivity, scholé, rest, contemplation, play, exploration, or margin, the fact is unscheduled – not only unscheduled but protected – time is important to us all. But it doesn’t happen as easily as you might think.

It seems strange, but when I leave the time for ‘things to just happen’ to, well…. just happen…. it often doesn’t. Instead it gets filled with chores, or arguments, or catching up on the ‘schoolwork’ I really meant us to get to but it kinda didn’t happen earlier, and not because anything good was going on. Or it gets filled with all the good opportunities that turn up and somehow become a fixture, until the ‘good’ becomes all consuming and crowds out the time for rest.

So what’s the answer?

It sounds weird, but trust me here. The solution – at least the one I’ve found – to wanting time to wander, is making a plan. And (at least most of the time) sticking to it.

It’s the plan that gives you the confidence that what needs to be done, will get done, and shows you that you do have the time to wander – because that’s part of the plan too. A plan isn’t a straitjacket that ties you to a certain book at a certain time six months from now. It’s a statement of what’s important to you and how you’re going to show that in your life.

And it doesn’t need to be complicated. ‘Wednesdays are a stay at home day’ is a plan. ‘We’re going to read aloud before bed each night’ is a plan. And yes, a seven subject booklist, or multiple GCSE syllabuses broken down over two years, are plans too. You just pick the level that works for where you are, and where you want to go.

Want to explore this more with me? I’ve released the talk I gave at Learn Free this year as The Planning and Review Workshop. Check it out in the store!

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