Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Agile and Adaptive Planning for Homeschoolers

I was looking around one day on planning ideas from the corporate world that may fit the homeschool world.   Most of this post is about my thoughts when reading a Wikipedia entry on Agile Software Development.  (accessed 25 October 2017)

Agile software development describes a set of values and principles for software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams.[1] It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.

Adaptive planning is definitely what we need in our home schools.  Children change just as often and often more drastically than the needs of a client would change for a software developer.  We certainly can not hold too tightly to any plan and we need to be flexibly responsive to our "client's" needs.

Most agile development methods break product development work into small increments that minimize the amount of up-front planning and design. Iterations, or sprints, are short time frames (timeboxes) that typically last from one to four weeks.

I find myself planning in small bursts but in 5-6 weeks bursts.  I find that I can in the most part successfully complete my goals in science, history and geography but I do find there is a need to be flexible with maths and language arts as these require understanding before moving on.

Also in looking further into timeboxes I found that the most important factor is the time constraint for the most important part of the project.  It can mean loss of some of the ideal parts but the biggest emphasis is on completing the most important parts within the time frame set.  This is certainly how science, history and geography can be treated.  I may not get every activity done, every map completed or every experiment done in real life but we do keep the most important parts.

Compared to traditional software engineering, agile software development mainly targets complex systems and product development with dynamic, non-deterministic and non-linear characteristics. Accurate estimates, stable plans, and predictions are often hard to get in early stages, and confidence in them is likely to be low.
In looking up the definition of non-deterministic I learned that a deterministic system always produces the same output from a given starting condition or state.  Non-deterministic is definitely how I would describe children.  There is definitely no way they all develop the same way.  So in our homeschool planning we need to take this into account.  In my early days of homeschooling I definitely thought I had found the One and Only curriculum for certain subjects.  Needless to say more money and bookshelf space later I have learned that there isn't any one solution for my whole school.  I have had to flex and not hold too tightly to any plan because my children are "dynamic, non-deterministic and non-linear".    That is sort of what makes it fun.

Scott Ambler states that documentation should be "Just Barely Good Enough" (JBGE),[35] that too much or comprehensive documentation would usually cause waste, and developers rarely trust detailed documentation because it's usually out of sync with code,[34] while too little documentation may also cause problems for maintenance, communication, learning and knowledge sharing.

This part really resonated with me.  I don't know how many times I have planned out a whole year in full detail, printed it and bound it, to only find that it is out of sync with how our school year goes.  I love a plan, don't get me wrong, but I have learned that it is better to have goals for both skills and topics to be covered and then I only put in definite details as we approach each block when I am more aware of our health, our other commitments, our interruptions and our resources.  

It is always useful seeing that the corporate world's ideas on planning can be helpful.  It just takes being reflective and considering how the ideas can help us in our homes.

Best wishes

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