Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom
A note from Jamie: I’m vacationing with family for a few weeks and will be back later in the month. This post was first published on April 5, 2010. If you’re just getting into the groove of a new homeschooling season, time management may be on your mind. Enjoy!
As homeschooling families, we have lots to get done and not always a lot of time in which to do it.
Duties call to us from all sides, competing for our attention. If we don’t intentionally determine our daily rhythm, we may never get around to what we truly value.
But on the other hand, it’s no fun to live life as a drill sergeant–planning every second and living with eyes constantly on the clock.
So what’s a mother to do?
Use the following ideas to come up with a flexible plan that works for your household.
1. Define your non-negotiables.
Brainstorm and contemplate your family’s priorities–both in regards to education as well as home life and culture.
What are the non-negotiables in terms of your children’s education–math, handwriting, science? Make your schedule suit your life, not someone else’s.
Photo by Jimmie
As we all know, education is just one part of “home education”–the other part is the home.
How can we care for it and still have learning time in the day? What level of cleanliness is needed to bless our family? Which is more important to us–cleaning or cooking meals?
Not everything will fit into our day, especially if we have many little ones underfoot.
We have to choose the important, so we don’t get sidetracked by the tyranny of the urgent.
2. What isn’t a priority, but would be nice?
Don’t forget to consider secondary level subjects as well–they’re not the priority, but they would be nice.
Maybe your daughter wants to take a pottery class, or you really want to paint the garage this spring. How can you decide if you should devote time to these activities?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself.
- Is it the right season?
I recently went through a decluttering binge, in which I completely stressed myself and my family out by taking on a massive project.
Yes, it would be nice to reorganize certain parts of our home. But only too late I came to a realization–it’s just not the right season. What sounded like a good goal in theory actually ended up taking away from our peace and essential priorities.
Not worth it.
This question is also helpful when selecting extracurricular activities for children. Even if it isn’t the right time for a certain activity now, it could work very well in another season.
- Is this really a priority?
If something really is important we’ll find a way to get it done. Therefore it is a priority, and belongs in category number 1 above.
If it isn’t a priority, but you feel (because of guilt or other motives) that it should be–just let it go.
- Is this something I want to do in my free time?
Photo by Darryl Darwent
Our free time as busy homeschooling households is limited. Guard those moments and make sure you choose the activities that most relax you.
So don’t register for a cooking class if you’d rather be reading a novel instead. If a hobby, like gardening, is both productive and refreshing, then go for it. But don’t feel obligated to check off to-do tasks even in your precious spare time.
3. When’s the best time to do what must be done?
After you’ve identified your priorities, the next step is to decide when to do them.
When is your peak time? When is your child’s best time?
Does it work better for the family to start the day off with a fun subject, or does it help the day’s rhythm more to knock out a challenging one and move on to easier subjects or chores later?
Write your priorities on a list and assign a general time to them (morning/afternoon/evening). This will allow you to visualize your day in a more concrete way.
4. Create a flexible rhythm for your day.
If you’d like, you can then take this list and arrange the activities in an ordered sequence for your day.
Do not make this rigid–there’s nothing worse than feeling “behind” at 9 am! So don’t assign specific time slots to your routine unless you know that is the best way for your family to operate.
In most cases, flexibility produces a nicer home atmosphere.
Photo by Travis Isaacs
Make sure there’s a specific time available in your routine for all your essential tasks.
Years ago I could not get into a productive rhythm with laundry in our home. I would get it folded, but it sat in the laundry basket for days. Eventually I realized that I’d never found a good time to put laundry away. Adding that to my routine solved the problem easily, and now 90% of the time it gets put away directly after our daily rest time.
Often what helps most when organizing is seeing how others structure their days. With that in mind, here are some resources to check out as you seek to make the minutes count in your home.
- Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood – Though not directly about homeschooling, my book (shameless plug) devotes a large section to helping mothers come up with a flexible routine for their days. I still use this process and system regularly to keep our homeschooling rhythm flowing.
- Day to Day @ Yarns of the Heart
- Putting It All Together and All in a Day @ Mt. Hope Chronicles
- Spring Learning Goals @ FIMBY
- The Homeschool Post (Volume 4) @ Blue Yonder Ranch
How does your family keep your homeschooling day organized? If you’ve written about it on your blog, please share your link to help others!