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    Why Plan for School At All?

    August 3, 2016 by Brandy Vencel

    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.

    Why Plan for School at All

    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.


    If you’re totally lost on how to plan, don’t forget my posts listed here and also Pam’s helpful kit.

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    9 Comments

  • Reply Lynna @ Homeschooling without Training Wheels August 4, 2016 at 5:24 am

    Brandy, thank you for this good, common sense wisdom! Last year I hit a “ceiling” of management ability when I added a fourth school-aged child (a learning-to-read child) to the mix. But instead of becoming more structured, what worked in the end was to become less structured (think Teaching-from-Rest-style looping, whole group discussion instead of lots of individual written assessments, etc.). Now my Facebook and Instagram feed are full of tables strewn with books and resources and bullet journals and I’m wondering if I’m missing something important. Reading this post helped me to settle back into the assurance that what we’re doing now works for us. But you’re right: there definitely are seasons when something in the air tells you a little more planning would benefit everyone!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 4, 2016 at 2:09 pm

      I love this, Lynna — it is counterintuitive to think that becoming less structure would help, but I agree that is what is needed sometimes! ♥ it!

  • Reply Andrea August 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Would you mind sharing how you plan in narrations? I am going to be schooling all 6 of my kids this year. I k ow my Yr 8 will be fine, it’s just getting in 3 others’ narrations (2 in Yr 3.5; 1 in Yr 4) while working with my two in Yr 1. I’m hoping it all kind of falls into place when we get started. Thank you for all your work on your blog. It’s very helpful.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 3, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      I plan in time slots, and the total time allotted is supposed to include narration. What I try to do is set it up so that some students are doing non-narrating things (or reading for a future narration) when I’m listening to a narration. Sometimes a line does build up. I haven’t figured that out perfectly — I’m not sure it’s possible while I am still reading aloud to my youngest.

      But, for example, maybe I do the math lessons with my youngest while A-Age-11 is reading for a narration, O-Age-14 is reading and doing a written narration, and Q-Age-9 is doing some chores. Then, he does his math sheet while I listen to A-Age-11 and Q-Age-9 starts on reading for *her* narration.

      One thing I’m going to try this year is receiving at least one narration per child via voice memo app instead of in person. I think it will cut down on some of the frustration that occurs while waiting, and I can still follow up with questions if needed.

  • Reply Meghan August 3, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Your three reasons for planning are exactly mine as well, though I wouldn’t have been able to express them clearly, especially the one about needing someone to boss me around! This is my first time planning so intensely (and it is almost completely due to your Low-Energy Homeschool Moms series). I used to think I would always be one of those spontaneous, loose-routine types, based on my personality (INFP), and isn’t it great that homeschooling allows you to be so flexible? But now I’m seeing that the Perceiving element of my personality is what paralyzes me in the middle of an ordinary school day. I need that Sovereign (if you will), who has already thought through all the options and made decisions. Otherwise, yes, instant anxiety, depression and burn-out. Thank you so much, Brandy, for this series and for the planning posts. Your shared wisdom made a way for this decision-fatigued mama!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 4, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      I love what you said about needing a Sovereign. SO true! I am an INTP, so pretty close! Except that you are much nicer than I am. I am convinced that INFPs are the nicest people in the world. 😉

      • Reply Meghan August 5, 2016 at 10:50 am

        No kidding?! Well, I am really close to the border between T and F, so maybe that’s why I don’t always feel very nice. Haha.

      • Reply Lynette August 6, 2016 at 7:42 pm

        I totally connect 110% with all you say on planning even as I’m only planning for a year 1 student and 3 little ones. Then, I saw you’re an INTP. I am as well. I had thought through most of those reasons already (because of course I overanalyze everything), but I hadn’t thought of it in terms of “needing a boss” before. That is so good.

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