When I only had one school-aged student, I really didn’t plan all that much. I remember planning out Circle Time in a lot of detail — that makes sense because I was putting it together myself. (At that time, Circle Time was me adding things to our day.) This was a long time ago, before AmblesideOnline had their nice, printable grids (like the one at the top of this page). I think I moved the long weekly schedule to some sort of printable list that I divided up into days. I had an Average Day Chart then, too, but it was really simple, mainly reminding me of when I knew various toddlers and babies would demand to be fed.
But all that planning took an hour or two, and it was so loosely planned that it was flexible — it was more like guidelines.
If I was starting over, I would probably make a simple Circle Time plan — Bible, folk songs, etc. — and then just use the grids. The end.
It’d be so little planning that it would hardly be called planning.
These days, as you know, I plan pretty intensely. I’ve laid out everyone’s schedule for all 185 days of our school year. I’ve done my best to figure out who is narrating when and what other people are doing during this time.
Here’s the deal: it is possible that you don’t really need to plan. Or, at least, not very much.
I mean, yes: buy the books and print what needs printing. But the grid schedules are great, especially when you only have one student.
Some people need to plan more than others, and that’s okay.
I need to plan a lot, first and foremost, because I need my days to be simpler. I plan now so that I don’t have to make decisions later. There is nothing like burning out due to Too Many Decisions. The more students you have, and the older they are, the more decisions you might be making.
Another reason I plan is my personality, I think. It really helps me to go over the whole year like that — I know what it looks like, what to expect, what we’re doing — I’ve gotten the big picture worked out. I’ve touched every book and I know where I am or am not ready. I also tend to need someone to boss me around. What I do in the summer is spend time being my own boss in advance so that I can be the worker bee the rest of the year.
Yet another reason is that I’m trying to make sure the days don’t go long. I don’t want all of my children’s time taken up by formal lessons, but if I’m not careful, that is what will happen. I try to work it out like a puzzle in advance so that we can do the most in the least amount of time. Planning helps me see if I need to cut a book here or combine a subject there in order to make sure that we are done by 1 or 2 in the afternoon.
This week, the question arose — why plan? Does everyone need to plan? Am I missing out by not planning so much? I think that you may or may not need to plan so much. Like I said, I planned very little at first, and got more detailed and intense as I added students. If you have one student in first grade, and you’re comparing what you’re doing to what I’m doing with four students (including a high schooler), I have to say that there’s just no comparison!
Planning not only varies from family to family, but changes over the years in one family — there is no one absolute way to plan!
Here is my thought: if you’re not stressed out, if you’re getting the things done, if everything’s running on the rails just fine, then you’re fine! It doesn’t matter how your planning compares with anyone else’s. But if you’re struggling, or you just added a student and now things are breaking down, then maybe more detailed planning is in order.
The point is not the planning. It’s about how things are working out in practice. Planning is just a tool to help.
Get the (almost) weekly digest!
Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.