I find that when you call something a “method” it sometimes accidentally gives it street cred.
So last week, when I started talking about The Cactus Method ™️ of homeschool planning on Instagram, mamas started asking me what book it was from and where I had gotten the idea.
So I’m going to tell you that it’s from me, and I just made it up one day.
There. The truth is finally out.
Hold on loosely …
Anyway, the “cactus method” of homeschool planning is simply an idea I have that when you plan your week or day, you need to hold on to those plans loosely, like how you would hold a cactus.
(Originally I said a porcupine or cactus, but it quickly occurred to me how little control you would have if you were holding a porcupine.)
The porcupine is really more in control in that specific scenario, and so it doesn’t work for the metaphor.
But a cactus – that’s all about you, baby. You can hold a cactus however you want, but I suggest you hold it gently.
Certainly don’t squeeze – my goodness.
So with that in mind, I go into my homeschool days with a plan, but not a schedule. And I guess I kind of figure after 12 years that things are going to come up, and plans might change, and there will be days when things just don’t really work at all, i.e. the kitten gets insane diarrhea on the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.
(This is how God/the Universe likes to keep me in my place – by reminding me that YES! I am in charge! But also, not really!)
How to use The Cactus Method
So every morning, I look at my planner.
And then I figure out what we can realistically do today, and then still think we can do more than we can.
But, I write a general plan on our desktop chalkboard.
This is saving a lot of sanity around here, because:
- it forces me to plan the day, at least loosely
- I don’t have to keep our plans in my head
- everyone can see what we need to do
- everyone isn’t asking me what we are doing every 8 minutes
Planning for your personality
Now, if all I had to do was follow the plan, I think that would probably be easy.
But I am squishy and sensitive.
I’m an INFJ – and INFJs take everyone’s feelings into account ALL THE TIME.
I’m also an Enneagram 9.
Our tagline should basically be, “I don’t know. What do YOU want to do?”
This used to mean that sometimes my kids would wake cranky, or out of sorts and I would start making up special breakfast plates and filibustering in order to get our day going.
But now I have a tween and a teen, and when teens and tweens get “out of sorts” that can be surly AFF (as fancy Frenchmen.)
My whole strategy for getting people to the table this year has been “delicious breakfast food.”
Because just like how they say the biggest thing with exercise is just putting on your gear, or the biggest thing with yoga is rolling out your mat, the biggest thing with surly wildebeest tweens and teens is just getting them to the table and putting some protein in their face-holes.
(Also maybe avoid eye contact.)
You can see how all of this is a recipe for The Cactus Method©, right?
I’m also going to share one other tip, and that’s to CREATE MARGIN. Because kids have interests and passions, and if we make time for those things, everyone is happier.
So another key component of the cactus schooling method (#copyright #trademark) is asking your kids, “What do you want to do today?”
In order to be able to fulfill those requests/dreams, however, you can’t have your day packed full of things YOU want to do.
I’ve long believed this to be true, but recently I was talking to a friend who has graduated two kids, and those kids are now pursuing their passions via college and thriving, so even though I made up the cactus method (#allrightsreserved), I think there is something to it.
Finally, you may be asking yourself how to keep track of things if you are “planning” so loosely.
- Write them in your planner in erasable pen.
- Use your chalkboard (it has an eraser for a reason).
- In your bullet journal, or planner, or any notebook, you can create a Big Picture Planning Page. (BPPP)
- Then, each week, as you sit down to plan, you can mark out what you would like to do each day.
Remember – this is a general idea, and you are not tied to these things.
This is not a blood oath situation.
- Then, leave room for margin. Leave room for emergency kitten vet visits and leaky toilets and surly AFF kids and hobbies and interests.
Then, repeat after me: We don’t have control over what our kids learn or retain.
We do have control over the tone of our days, and how we treat our people, and those things are more important anyway.
So hold that plan like a cactus. Put it down entirely if you need to. (Some days you WILL need to.)
Thank you for coming to my Cactus Method TEDtalk.
#thecactusmethod #cactusschooling #stopchanting
And laughed aloud…I love your writing and sense of humour/use of Rob Swanson memes/#stopchanting
I love it! I like to tell people that I always plan in pencil and my erasers are all worn off for a reason. I think the cactus method makes total sense, friend, and I’m keeping this is my back-pocket for the next time we change things up out of the blue (like we did the second week of school with history this year).
Keep sharing these jewels! We need them!
Yes! More of this please! Teens and tweens and cactus schooling. Brilliant. #yougetallthecredit
Michele Palmer says
Totally LOL’ing!!! Kara you are a hilarious writer. Thank you for injecting some hilarity in this awesome TEDtalk.
My kids would be thrilled if I asked them what they wanted to do. This mama needs to loosen the reigns.
Thank you for reminding us that we cannot control what our kids retain, but we can control the vibe in our homes. That message is so crucial.
I love it!
and I love you!
Thank you for the giggles.
Brett Spore says
Totally agree with your method and love your humor.
Lol! This is awesome! I love the concept and it’s one I’m trying to develop in my life. Now I have a perfect visual reminder.
Amelia Doyle says
This is awesome and strangely appeals to my love of sometimes toss in the air teaching while maintaining a balance of “you have until 2 o’clock tomorrow to finish that project” / “oh, you want to wait until Friday morning? okay, that’s fine with me”
Thank goodness I have a great friend who encouraged me to join some inspiring groups.
I think this is the best mama/homeschool blog post I’ve ever read…and I’ve read a lot! I am also an INFJ….not an easy personality to have. It’s my greatest weakness and my greatest strength! Cactus planning is an amazing thought and you should whip that book out STAT! Love how you write… surly AFF is fantastic! Distance high five!