Why plan? Or, is planning a good thing?

In several  places, women are questioning whether it is appropriate to plan at all or whether they are over-planning and wasting time, energy, and more importantly, focus on the children. When we plan, does our purpose become fulfilling the plan instead of meeting the needs of the children? Is it unrealistic to plan?

I was thinking about this a great deal last weekend. Am I wasting my time making detailed plans? Am I over-planning? Am I making it about my plans and not about the kids? And I came up with a couple of thoughts.

If I had someone else's syllabi (like MODG) for each of my children and a KONOS volume to supplement for hands-on, and if I let myself run through the Real Learning blogroll regularly looking to implement some of  the good ideas that pop up there, would people (and I) question the complexity of my plans? Maybe. But probably not.It is seemingly reasonable to have some sort of lesson plans, though we often hear advice not to let those plans be a slave master. And that, too, is very reasonable advice. If I "just" had seven sets of MODG syllabi (one for every child in my house expecting to be educated this year), would that seem excessive? I don't think so. It's reasonable to have a  plan for everyone unless you are absolutely philosophically opposed to plans at all. Those plans could be Sonlight or KONOS or MODG or STAA or Kolbe or Oak Meadow or four different levels of Five in a Row, depending on my educational philosophy, but no matter what it was, I'd need to consider every child.

I have a degree in curriculum planning and development. It's what I've loved to do since before I had children. My idea of a good time in college was to sit in the children's section of the library in Charlottesville and write unit studies with my best college buddy, alternately planning my wedding. First to the Eric Carle section, then to the bridal books. Now to Beatrix Potter, then to Bride magazine. It was a glorious year!

Now, I have a multi-level brood of my own. I know what works in my house and I know that we dissolve into chaos if we get up in the morning and don't have a sense of where we're going. I also know that I can't manage seven different syllabi, no matter how great the program. I'm going to have to tweak and tailor and spend a great deal of time making someone else's plan fit my family. And I'm going to have to do it while nursing a baby,  on very little sleep.I know that it's not good enough for me to have a booklist and send everyone off to learn on their own. I need to keep my children close to me--both the ones who want to be with me every waking moment and those who would like to wander off and do nothing while holding an open book.  So, for me, it makes good sense to spend a chunk of time thinking things out in advance and writing my own plan to fit my own family. It's easier to tweak something that is organically mine, written for my own children from the beginning, than it is to make someone else's work fit my family. But that's just me.

I like multi-level plans across the subject areas so that we can all benefit from each other's experience. I like having a few too many things up my sleeve so that I never have a child look at me, wanting to do something more, only to be met with my blank stare and then my frantic scurrying to find the right resource. In my opinion, that doesn't make the plans or the home education atmosphere all about me, it makes it very much about each individual in the context of our family.This is a big family. There are a lot of different needs and abilities here. I can't "wing it." I'm just not good at winging. My household functions best and my children thrive when we have the structure and the suggestion of a plan. My husband likes to see it, all written out on the blog. He can touch base at any hour, from any where in the world.

Does that mean I think that everyone should spend their summers writing their own lesson plans? No. It absolutely does not. This is what I do. I love to do it. Other people scrapbook, write novels, grow gigantic gardens, design websites, run swim teams, teach Vacation Bible School. I'm a curriculum geek. Someone else might buy plans (or use my plans, which are shared for free) and they are very comfortable making them work for their families and very grateful that someone who loves to plan shared her gifts. My friend the accountant uses my plans. She would no more endeavor to write plans from scratch than I would endeavor to do the taxes for my husband's business. We all have different gifts.

For the sixth time, I'm expecting a baby early in the school year. Even my very first baby, born in September, impacted the school year. I was employed and in charge of curriculum for 25 first graders. I spent that summer writing airtight plans to cover my maternity leave. Believe me, the sub was very grateful that I was not of the philosophy that somehow plans preculde the child. I won't have maternity leave this time. I will be the "sub"--there to ensure that my children welcome this baby with joy, all the while knowing that I've planned for their needs.

So, do you need a "daily detail" or should you fuss with your curriculum after the plan is purchased?

I have no idea.

I don't live in your home. I'm not married to your husband. I don't know your children the way that you do. And I don't know your teaching style. I don't know how God has equipped you to educate your children. I don't know what resources He wants you to use. I don't know how He sees your days.

But I do know that He will give us each the grace sufficient to figure it all out.