One of the most difficult things for me with homeschooling has been sticking to a schedule and getting everything I plan accomplished. Even though I have homeschooled for over six years, I have found that the more I learn, the less I feel I know. Sadly, there is no perfect way – no magic pill – that will fix all your issues and make teaching at home EASY. There are lots of reasons why I struggle with my schedule… perfectionism (lists too long and goals too high), distraction (hyperfocusing/rabbit trails and not staying on task), lack of preparation (not gathering books or materials in a timely fashion or failing to look at the bigger picture to limit time on unit studies), etc. Of course, you also have to factor in moving, hardships, financial woes, and any other major life-situation you might find yourself in while homeschooling. Even over-scheduling outings, field trips, sports, play dates, and extra curricular classes or lessons (that are GOOD for the kids) can kill a well-planned academic year.
In keeping with the theme of January: “Resolutions”, I decided to really work hard on getting our schedule disaster fixed. We put one of my new year resolutions to the test and revamped our school schedule. We prayed ourselves up and watched as God helped us get our school list accomplished almost entirely (and on time) for two days in a row! The kids really were pumped up since we have desperately struggled to keep on an early and consistent schedule since we started this school year. It was great to finally taste victory!
You see, for two years in Arkansas my husband worked nights, evenings, weekends, and got odd days off – sometimes not even consecutive days off. Our weeks were 3-4 day weeks and usually not normal schoolish hours. We often were starting school after lunch when my husband left the house and ending near 11pm at night before he got home…. then we would stay up until midnight or later goofing off with Daddy before bed… and wake up really late the next morning. Two solid years of that is enough to really ruin a person’s internal clock (and make a homeschool mom feel like a complete failure). I knew when we moved home to Texas that getting back into a daytime routine was going to be work… but I had no idea HOW MUCH WORK it would turn out to be.
Aside from Mommy’s first week of school pregnancy loss… we were off to a great start this year. Soon after we began, though, the frequent illnesses and adjustments to the pollen and allergies of the area began to slow us down. One of the kids had also become a grump in the mornings (I’m not naming anyone in particular… but you know who you are). Getting my routine to stick was hard. It seemed like every time we had a holiday, illness, field trip, or day off… the following week got more and more out of whack. Attitudes were slipping (even mine). Mom really had to fight to keep from sleeping in and staying up late on the computer. My brain wasn’t wanting to turn off until after midnight. I wasn’t spending enough time on preparation for the week. I was allowing us to fall into our old habit of going off on tangents instead of sticking to our topic. Library books started getting turned in late. Papers were starting to stack up and not get graded until later. The school year was unraveling…
I knew the answer to my prayers about school would come… but only after I resolved to change, spent time with the Lord asking Him to help, and corrected the issues that caused us to not get things done.
1 Corinthians 14:40 ~ But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
God is the God of order. We have an orderly solar system and planet. What if God was late with the sunrise? What if he was late with the seasons? What if HE started allowing Himself to slip up on the job and we never knew where our next meal would come from? What if something heavenly DIDN’T get DONE? It makes sense to want to be consistent and reliable. Surely there’s a way (better than my way) that we can follow to get some goals accomplished in our school day. Surely there’s a way to motivate all of us to quickly work (hard) so that we ALL have free time at the end of each day. I was wondering how other homeschool moms had time to quilt and scrapbook and play Bunko when I was fretting over the things not checked off on my list and stressed until bedtime.
When school started up again after Christmas break, we fell into our old patterns. We had a rotten first week. It was a perfect example of why “OUR WAY DOESN’T WORK”. So I sat the kids down and talked about our God of order and why we should be orderly like HE is orderly. A big part of why we should try and be like Him is out of honor for who He is. Honor happens to be our unit study we are on right now with KONOS. I asked the kids if it was honorable to be late to work. (No, Daddy would get fired.) Then I asked them if it was honorable to be late to church. (No, that doesn’t show respect to God or others.)… then I asked if it was honorable to be late to school? The answer was no again. The children really seemed to grasp the concept and we all prayed about it together.
We talked about our frustrations with the current schedule. We talked about what was physically possible to get done and how long each assignment took. After we penciled in our new plan, the kids began to feel like they were helping out and really started to come up with some great ideas. Each of us saw different positives to the new schedule. Morgan liked seeing more time with Daddy in the schedule (and more time for art). She asked her daddy to wake her up so that we could do devotional and Bible with him before we started our day. Kaden was excited about getting thirty minutes of free time after he finished his chores; before we started school. We also talked about setting up a Lego self for him so he wouldn’t have to clean up all his Legos before school started if he was in the middle of creating something. Mom liked the idea that EVERYONE would get free time and computer time… and we would be moving ahead at light speed with school goals. Looking forward to an evening walk before 5pm each day was something we all smiled about.
I’m sure our new plan won’t be “perfection”… but it is a start. If we can manage to make it work with God’s help at least 2-3 days a week we will be coming out on top. At least now all of us have an idea of what our problem areas are, and what we can do to get back on track when we falter.
To make things easier, I re-did the assignment sheet. The children and I sat down and used a notebook to discuss and brainstorm on how the day would fall in to place. They enjoyed helping me figure out the times and order of the subjects we would cover and when. After we had our rough draft, I updated the assignment sheet with the “bell schedule”. It is similar to my rainbow schedule from last year, but much earlier and we changed a few of the smaller daily assignments up. Morgan liked the rainbow method, so she also had me add color to the list. It helps her to see the subjects grouped together by color if they are in the same hour.
The kids were amazed that we actually were able to complete mama’s list for once (Kaden said it made him feel really good about himself). They were both thanking and praising God for the super days we had Thursday and Friday last week.
Here’s what I did:
– involved the kids in the process to CHANGE… to get them involved, help them understand, and teach them character
– spent more time preparing each day (the night before, the morning of, and during the day)
– reordered the assignments to fit realistic goals and to better flow with the day
– added times to our assignment chart so that we could keep an eye on our daily progress
– remind the kids as the time is passing during the day so they can gauge where we should be
– pray with the kids about God giving us success
Here’s what God did:
– listened to our prayer
– gave us the success we desired
– blessed the kids with the joy of a job well done and pumped up their self esteem
– showed me a better way to get the list checked off without a meltdown
– multiplied our efforts and improved our school year
– gave us hope that we can continue in this better way
We are all looking forward to getting up at 6am tomorrow. Funny how the tables have turned. Morgan even got up at 7am this morning, got dressed for church on her own, brushed her teeth, fixed her hair, CLEANED HER ROOM, put her shoes on, ate a quick breakfast, picked up her mess in the kitchen… and then at 7:45, she came and asked if she could get on the computer before church. She did it because she saw the benefit in getting up early and having a goal set in mind… she prepared ahead of time and accomplished what she set out for. That is what I have been praying for them… that they would find the desire INSIDE of themselves to please God and their parents… and to feel GOOD about their assignments JUST BECAUSE THEY worked hard and got them done.
I’m thrilled that I am seeing my scheduling prayers answered. I’ll let you know how the rest of the school year goes. If we can have more days like last Thursday and Friday, we might earn ourselves a REAL 2.5 month summer this year! Boy, wouldn’t that be a blessing?!
Check back tomorrow and I’ll share the actual schedule with you…