Why is it that when you are home everyone thinks you have a lot of time on your hands? Homemaking itself can take the entire day, then adding in homeschooling means we are often scrambling to find time to fit everything in. Here are some principles for homeschool scheduling success I have learned as the mom of 15 children:
1. Detailed schedules make women looney.
There is a book that has circulated in homeschool circles that suggests a method of creating a master schedule. I actually owned this book and studied it closely.
It drove me crazy. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me, and with my entire family, even my entire family line.
I tried sitting down and figuring out how I could fit our day into neat little squares on a paper. Much to my chagrine, my creative, energetic children (and sanguine husband) kept leaping out of the boxes.
Remember: Perfectionism leads to chaos because unmet expectations bring disappointment and frustration.
We need goals, such as a list of things we’d like to get done before noon. But when we put specific times to these goals we are setting ourselves up for failure.
I have created a schedule that I even put online (mostly to give those who are just starting out what it can look like), but this is only a framework, a set of goals, if you will. It is not a taskmaster, it is my slave.
Allowing the Holy Spirit room to orchestrate our days is the best way to go. When we allow Him to direct and guide, even the broken pieces find a useful place and peace reigns in our hearts.
Don’t have time to read? You can listen to (mostly) the same information here:
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2. Make your “to-do” list into a prayer list.
To some of us, check-off lists are deadly. In our minds writing something down means it is in stone, and if we don’t check an item off, we are failures.
There was a time when I had seven children under ten. Every day was full of surprises, and any plans I made were sure to be circumvented by one interruption after another. Still, I needed to keep up on the laundry and make sure everyone was eating and the bills were paid.
That is when the Lord taught me a very simple thing: Instead of making a “to-do” list every day, I made a prayer list. I wrote down all of the things that I thought needed to be done and then asked the Holy Spirit to help me get the real priorities done. Then I put the list away and went about my business, allowing my day to unfold before me.
You know what? It was amazing just what I was able to accomplish. At the end of the day I would pick up the list and check each item off that I had done. I began to notice that the items I didn’t check off weren’t important after all!
3. Include room for “overflow.”
In my schedule are four days for academics. On these days I take time to have official, directed times of reading aloud and discussing, and they have lists of tasks they need to accomplish. If we do not get to all that’s on the list daily, I have a day, it is now Friday, where we can catch up on items that are essential (there are things that aren’t essential, and if we don’t get to these no one worries).
This also gives the children an incentive. If they can get their regular work done on the first four days, they will have nothing left on the fifth day and it becomes free for them.
4. Put the most important first.
Funny, but Bible study and prayer seemed always to be pushed out of our schedule. We would sit down and get engrossed in our read aloud, or some algebra problems, and then the babies would cry and the milk would spill and the toilet would clog, and before we knew it it would be time for lunch, then clean up, then naps, then shuffling people around, and the best would have been obliterated by the mediocre and the necessary.
Now I put the Bible and prayer FIRST!
There are other things I put at the beginning as well, such as the novel we are reading aloud. Then come the tools of learning, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Then come things such as science, history, foreign language, etc.
In my experience, if children can read, write, and do basic ciphering, they have a better chance of teaching themselves the rest, even if we don’t always get to it.
5. Keep a notepad with you at all times.
If I am wearing an apron, I keep a notepad in the pocket. If I am in the kitchen I keep my planner or a notepad and pen on the counter. I use these to jot down notes and ideas as they come to me while I am working. I even get ideas for blog posts this way.
There is even an app on my android phone I sometimes use in an emergency.
6. Use a planner.
What would I do without my planner? Especially as my children have aged, I need a place to keep track of all of the activity that goes on. I even keep track of who we visited with when and what we talked about for later reference.
I can also make note of things such as repairmen and medical appointments.
My own experience with planners has been a journey. Here is a link to a snapshot of my journey a few years ago (I have since gone totally with a totally DIY planner in a dot grid journal).
7. Keep meals and shopping simple.
When we are knee-deep in study is no time to try new recipes and make fancy dinners. The crock pot and easy fixin’s are the norm then.
Make a list of your family’s favorite meals and then think of ways you could streamline these so they would take less time to make (such as cooking the meat ahead of time, or pre-assembling ingredients).
Write the list of your possible meals and keep it in a place that is easily accessible, especially on those days when things get crazy. Make sure you include a few meals that can be thrown together quickly with pantry staples, such as spaghetti.
Amy Maryon’s YouTube channel is one place I go when I need some inspiration. The types of meals and the methods she uses are down-to-earth and the Holy Spirit flows out from her.
8. Declutter and simplify.
Clutter can be too many old shoes or magazines, or it can be too many activities, too many friends, too many apps on our phones.
I like Don Aslett’s idea: If it doesn’t add to your life, it subtracts from you life.
Take the time to get rid of those things that are stealing from you, and you will find you have more time in the end.
9. Put it in your plan to keep things picked up.
There is an old saying that has helped me immensely over the years:
Many hands make light work.
Certainly loads of children can make loads of mess, but they can also be an army to help. Make it a part of your routine to pick up the night before so you don’t wake up behind.
Then, have quick clean ups as you go along, at least three a day. Use a timer to keep everyone on track and try having competitions to make it more fun.
Here are some more of my thoughts on this subject. You can also read more in my book, Glorious Mothering.
10. Set aside a day for deep cleaning.
Homeschooling fills most days to the brim, so there isn’t room for things such as wiping down doors and light fixtures and cleaning under couch cushions. I like to take my “overflow” day and make sure the underneaths are being taken care of.
11. Take breaks to catch up on life.
A sabbath rest doesn’t necessarily mean we sit and do nothing. It is a “resting” from your work. God gave us sabbaths as a gift, we should take advantage of them, and homeschooling is no exception.
Pure academics aren’t the only things children need. If that were true, public schools would be turning out geniuses. The genius of homeschooling is that it keeps children tied to the realities of life, and we must never allow book learning to crowd out the opportunity to apply what they are learning.
12. Do errands in “batches.”
If at all possible, keep your appointments corralled. Other than emergencies, I keep dental, medical, and repair appointments pushed to either our overflow day or the weeks where we are not doing focused academics.
I also try and do as many errands as I can all at once. This includes the library, the post office, and dropping off give-aways.
13. Make sure you take time to record.
Sometimes we are so engrossed in what we are doing that we forget to do the paperwork! This is a serious thing for those of us who are required by law to have proofs.
A number of years ago I developed a system that kept track of all the learning going on without taking up too much of my day, and I have actually published it as The Record Book. I scribble in this book at the close of the day as part of my bedtime routine.
14. Use a check-off sheet for each child.
Children do best when they have clear direction. This is why it’s a great idea to have some sort of system in place that tells them what they are supposed to do in sequential order. In the past I have done all sorts of things. Below is a video of just one:
15. Clothe yourself in humility.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”James 4:13-15 NKJV
There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.Proverbs 19:21 NKJV
Folks don’t realize this about me, but my main focus is not on the largeness of my family, or the fact that I homeschool, or what I do online. My focus is on my Loving Heavenly Father. It is His will that led me to all these things, and as long as I keep my eyes on Jesus, the rest is gravy.
This is why the most important thing I can share is that we keep our true position foremost in our minds. We are not in a place to understand the times or the plans God has for us. Each day is an offering, a pleasing aroma to His glory.
And we can trust Him. Why? Because He doesn’t lie, and He told us over and over that His plans for us are GOOD.