I do extensive planning in the summer (at the bottom of the page, I’ll include a list of links to the most important of my planning posts from years past). I lay assignments out for every day of the year. At least, I do this to the best of my ability. I don’t print it until the week of, because I know changes might come up, and that means “corrections” in my spreadsheet. But if I have the basics already done, weekend prep consists in little more than comparing the plans to our actual week, making a couple adjustments, and pressing print. I don’t have to make that many decisions, and that helps a lot.
Because Decision Fatigue. It’s a thing.
But you know what else is a thing? Squandering energy through multitasking.
A while back, the American Psychological Association did some research on multitasking. Their conclusion was that multitasking involves something they call “switching costs” and the result is unnecessary time lost — up to 40% of your time lost!
What does this have to do with school planning?
Well, here’s how I know it works for me:
If I plan each week as we go, I spend a long time planning — it takes me at least two hours per week making decisions about which book will be read on which day or what have you. It would actually be more than that because I haven’t tried this approach in years, back when I only had one or two students to plan for. With four students, it’d take even more time!
You see, every time I plan a week, I have to spend time switching back into planning mindset — I have to get my bearings, think about where we’ve been and where we’re going (for each child!) Then, I have to make decisions about what to do each day. Then I have to make sure the spreadsheets were correct. Then I have to print. And so on and so forth. There is energy loss through decision fatigue here, yes, but more than that — there are hours and hours of time lost as well.
In fact, I estimate that, compared to my current method of designing matrices and plugging my curriculum into the boxes, the difference is HUGE! What I do now takes about five hours per child in the summer, plus half an hour total per week — or 48 hours over the course of the year. My guess is that, with all four students, I’d spend about three hours per weekend if I planned week to week, making that 108 hours over the course of the year. That is SIXTY HOURS MORE spent on planning!
Do you think I’m saving energy doing my planning in bulk? You better believe it.
The efficiency of my method has to do with the lack of task switching — meaning I pay little to no switching cost. I spend one day making a time matrix for each child. After those are ready to go, I plan for four hours of time for each child, uninterrupted. I schedule it so that I start after breakfast, for example, and end around lunchtime. Or I start after lunch and end around dinner time (and I order pizza!). I tell my children to play nicely and try not to interrupt because Mommy Is Planning. And then I start. I familiarize myself with the lengths of chapters and other necessary details as I go, and pretty soon, I’m zipping along, plugging in assignments quickly and easily.
(If you have no clue what this all means, there will be links at the bottom, as I said.)
My point is this: I have heard it said that “we are not really managing time; we are managing energy.” The truth is that we’re managing both. Time spent is energy spent, for the most part. If I can spend SIXTY less hours per year on scheduling assignments, that is really saying something.
Now, I’m not saying that my way is the only way. If you have something that is working for you, don’t change it.
But if you feel like you’re spending hours and hours each week on planning out your assignments … maybe you are. And maybe there is a better way. My way is one way. If it doesn’t sound like something that would work for you, I refer you to my friend Pam, homeschool planning expert extraordinaire. Her whole premise is that there is no one right way to plan, which is why she explains every way she can think of!
And now, for my collection of planning posts. These aren’t all of my planning posts, but they are the ones I consider to be most essential, and most representative of what I’m talking about here.
- How to Decide What to Combine
- Preliminary Groundwork
- Creating Simple Matrices and Blank Templates
- Creating Weekly Schedules for the Entire Year
- A New Rhythm for Circle Time
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