There seems to be a general assumption that if you homeschool, you must be incredibly well-organized and you must spend a good portion of your time developing lesson plans. Which makes sense at a certain level. After all, teachers are expected to have concrete lesson plans and know what will be covered and when. Chaos would ensue otherwise and required knowledge might be missed.
Luckily, the fact that I am not running a school but rather learning with my kids at home gives me much more flexibility. Given that I tend to be a person who likes to keep my options open and I have a natural resistance to too much structure and formal planning, this is a good thing.
In my earlier years, I saw this aspect of my personality as a personal failing on my part which I desperately wanted to "fix." I was convinced that if only I could find the "right system" all my struggles would magically disappear and my life would flow easily and smoothly. My struggles were a sign that I was doing something wrong.
I have since come to the realization that life, on the whole, becomes so much easier when I accept myself and work with my natural way of doing things rather than fighting against my nature. The more I try to force myself to change in order to fit someone else's system, the more disconnected I become from my own personal truth.
This does not mean that I don't look for better ways to do things, but rather that I recognize that I can't fundamentally change who I am. Thus I need to look first at understanding how I naturally work and then find an approach that works with rather than against myself (I take a similar approach when working with my kids.)
How to Make Homeschooling Work Without a Plan
Start With What You Enjoy
Let go of the idea that there are things that you "should" be doing with your kids and instead find things that you want to do with them. That almost feels like sacrilege, doesn't it?
Looking back, my "thing" was children's literature. I loved reading Kid Lit blogs and finding good books to read aloud and listen to in the car. It did not feel like planning or "work" thus it was easy for me to feel like it did not "count" as part of our homeschooling. But I can see now how much it added to the atmosphere of our home and how much it was the foundation of our homeschooling.
So ask yourself: what do you find exciting and enjoyable and easy to do with your kids? Start there and do more of that.
Add in What Your Kids Enjoy
Look at what makes your kids excited. Go deeper into what they are drawn to naturally and enjoy. Again, start with what comes easy!
If that includes electronics get curious about what specifically it is that they are drawn to—my oldest loved the story aspects of his games and was drawn to historical games like Age of Empires (he's now a history major). My youngest liked games because it was a way to stay connected with his friends. He also found that competing in tournaments challenged him and helped him perfect skills.
All of these are additional pieces of information which can help you understand them better as well as gain insights into how they naturally learn.
Explore Your Personal Definition of a "Good Education"
If you do want more of an overview and general idea of what you want to cover, then take the time to focus on developing your own personal definition of what makes up a "good education." What does that look like? Why is it important to you? Don't limit yourself to academics, but consider everything that you feel is important for raising healthy, happy children—down time, exercise, freedom to explore—the sky is the limit when it comes to our homeschool.
Too often we focus on "what" we should be doing rather than being clear on "why" we are doing it. Once we are more clear about why we feel certain aspects are important, we can fill in any gaps around the edges as needed.
Look at It As an Experiment, Not a Test
Instead of trying to find "the answer," look at the process as a series of experiments. Don't be afraid to try things and see if they work. If they don't, you have learned something and have more information about what works for your kids and what does not.
Truth is that their learning will ebb and flow over the years and winds up looking really messy. But that is the beauty and the magic of homeschooling.
Go Beyond box Checking
See homeschooling as a way to expose them to interesting things rather just than just checking boxes off an educational checklist. It seems paradoxical, but the more you focus on the things they are drawn to, the easier it is to fit in the other things they are not as interested in. Focus on how you can create engagement with the material rather than simply "getting through the material." It is a subtle shift, but a powerful one.
I describe my approach to homeschooling mostly as "conversations and winging it." Truthfully, I never completely escaped the worry about whether I was doing "enough." It is only after watching my boys, especially my oldest (who at eight loved learning but hated to be taught,) come into their own that I have realized that it was less about having a plan and more about the discoveries we made along the way.