4 Reasons Why I Don’t Lesson Plan

Having lessons planned out in advance would make it harder for me to say yes to opportunities, yes to extra review, and yes to rabbit trails. And lesson planning takes time away from my family, without giving me any saved time in return.

I don’t spend time lesson planning because …

1.  … not planning ahead allows me to adapt to my children’s needs in the moment.

It happens at least once a month. One of my students will be moving along well in math or spelling or whatever, when suddenly he gets stuck. He’ll attempt the work like any normal day, and he’ll get large portions of it wrong. He doesn’t know what to do. He ends up with tears, or growling, or whining (or all three!) in frustration. There is no way he can move on to the next concept the next day.

I can’t always predict which lesson or concept will trip which child up. I may have 5 students and over 15 years’ experience homeschooling, but finding a student struggling with a concept comes as a complete surprise at least a third of the time.

2.  … I never know when we’ll hit upon a rabbit trail.

What do you do when your child asks what a chipmunk looks like or why there are 360 degrees in a circle? What if she wants to know what kind of clothes Chinese women wore traditionally? Do you tell her not now, there are spelling words to write?

Sometimes yes, you tell her not now. You do need to make progress in spelling (and grammar, and math, and history, and everything else). However, as much as possible I like to take my children’s in-the-moment interests and expand upon them. I’m not saying to take a child’s random question about vinegaroons and turn it into a three week unit study on arachnids. Who has time (or enthusiasm) for that?

Rather, I take the time to find the answer to her question right then, or soon after, and even answer a few questions about the topic that she didn’t ask. Google is a POWERFUL homeschool tool.

Usually these rabbit trails last only a few minutes and then we go back to our daily work. However, sometimes they become much bigger. It would never have been on the lesson plan for math that day, but there was no way I was stopping my son from finding out how much more food you get with a 20 inch pizza versus a 14 inch pizza. He took it even further and found, for himself, the mathematical constant that if you double the diameter of a circle you quadruple its area. He also learned the word quadruple that day too! That kind of learning cannot be planned ahead. You have to take advantage of it in the moment, or you lose the opportunity.

3.  … not assigning lessons in advanced allows me and my children to be of service to others when the opportunity arises.

Last month, a widower friend of ours asked if he could hire my 17 year old daughter and one of her brothers for Monday morning. He has Lily out to clean his house once every month or two and one or more of my boys out to do some heavy lifting or yard work. This is a way to help a brother in Christ, but also a way for the kids to earn some spending money. I didn’t want to say no.

Then, the next afternoon, my husband asked me if he could have the boys to help him and our oldest son put in a sprinkler line at church. Having the two boys to help would make the whole process go a lot quicker, and time is an issue with this project. Also, I feel working with their father and older brother is a worthwhile experience. Again, I didn’t want to say no.

However, if I had lesson plans all written out even a week in advanced, it would have been much more difficult to say yes to both.

4.  … it’s unnecessary.

All curriculum I’ve ever seen comes with some sort of schedule, plan, or at least an order to progress in. Why should I spend time redoing what the curriculum already has?

In math, spelling, grammar, and other things, we simply do the next thing. After one page/lesson/exercise/whatever is finished, do the next. After one concept is mastered, teach the next. There is no planning needed. Inputting “Exercise 1”, “Exercise 2”, etc. into a lesson book or software would require a fair amount of time, but it won’t save me a moment of time later.

In review, spending time lesson planning isn’t the best use of my time for my family.

Having lessons planned out in advance would make it harder for me to say yes to opportunities, yes to extra review, and yes to rabbit trails. And lesson planning takes time away from my family, without giving me any saved time in return.

Since I have seen a plethora of “how to lesson plan” and “why you should lesson plan” and “see my beautiful lesson plans” blog posts, I realize that I am going against the flow by not lesson planning. However, not lesson planning has worked well for me for the last 15 years.

So, do YOU lesson plan? Has it helped you save time? Be a better teacher? Has it helped in some other way? I’d love to hear from you.

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1 thought on “4 Reasons Why I Don’t Lesson Plan”

  1. “All curriculum I’ve ever seen comes with some sort of schedule, plan, or at least an order to progress in. Why should I spend time redoing what the curriculum already has?” Exactly! And even when doing eclectic things, I find that I really don’t need to plan out how much work to do daily. I just come up with a listing of books in order for the year, and then follow that. And we do however much we do. Making plans resulted in me cramming read-alouds down their throats instead of being able to follow rabbit trails or take a day off to help someone etc…! The one year I planned was SO stressful, that I moved on to the “doing the next thing” method and haven’t looked back.

    I do have an inner box-checker that needs to be satisfied though, and I do that by printing a blank schedule page that has a small space for each subject. It’s like a journal-schedule. I write a chapter number, page numbers, lesson number or whatever we did in that space, AFTER we’ve done it. I can easily see that we’re on track because we are doing school daily and we’re not forgetting a subject for long bouts of time (something I was deeply afraid of doing when I started homeschooling, because if math wasn’t written down, I might forget to do math!). If we take the day off and go on a field trip, I just draw a line through all the boxes and write the field trip down. Sometimes it’s fun to look through the pages for the year to see what we’ve done (and with a high schooler, it helps me remember activities or books read that I want to keep track of at the end of the year).

    I do take about a weekend to come up with some rough plans for the year (like, the order of my read-alouds if I’m not using a plan like Sonlight). I do have a rough daily plan (so I don’t have to try to teach geometry to student A and spelling to student B at the same time, for example!), but not an elaborate plan. I wrote some about what I do in my Teacher Binder post here: http://hopeforhomeschool.blogspot.com/2012/08/organization-teacher-binder.html

    Love your blog!

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