Written by Jamie Erickson of The Unlikely Homeschool
As a self-professed word nerd, all of my conversations somehow start and end with, “I read in a book once…” Well-written stories have shaped nearly every second of my thirty-nine years, giving me examples of both the personal and the practical of life.
For instance, I discovered how to be a good friend as I sat with Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood. I began looking for possibilities while tub diving with Mary Poppins. And I figured out just how hard was too hard to squeeze a tube of toothpaste during the quiet rebellion of my pal Ramona Quimby.
I learned all the most important things from my childhood books.
Caroline Ingalls’ Productivity Hack
Now, as an adult, while re-reading all these old favorites to my own kids, I’m rediscovering their simple but timeless truths.
An adult lens definitely has a way of revealing different angles of each story that I never noticed before. Recently while revisiting the Little House on the Prairie series, I stumbled upon a productivity hack that has revolutionized my days.
Perhaps you remember the simple schedule that Ma Ingalls implemented each week?
- Wash on Mondays
- Iron on Tuesdays
- Mend on Wednesdays
- Churn on Thursdays
- Clean on Fridays
- Bake on Saturdays
- Rest on Sundays
Caroline Ingalls didn’t use an elaborate spreadsheet or even a paper planner to get her life in order. She didn’t have an app or an assistant, or really any of the conveniences of our modern mothering.
The Never-Ending Tasks of Motherhood
As a homeschooling, work-at-home mom, I have a lot of balls in the air on any given week–lesson plans to make, home-keeping chores to accomplish, volunteer projects to plan, church responsibilities to oversee, and work deadlines to complete.
Each day can easily find me trying to do all of them with excellence and in the process, doing most of them with aggressive mediocrity. I’m only one person, after all. I don’t have enough hands, enough time, enough energy for all of those things.
So many of my tasks seem endless and never-ending. And because of that, it’s very easy to feel defeated even before I’ve begun any of them. An ongoing job that’s never officially done to completion can make me feel like a hamster on a wheel, getting nowhere fast.
But instead of contemplating a forfeit because I can’t check a chore off a list or because the moment I finish one task another one suddenly pops us, I’ve decided to redefine “done.” That’s what Caroline Ingalls did.
She never once got to permanently cross-out “churn butter” or indefinitely check-off “mend” from her TO DO list because those jobs were on-going. They weighed on her time week-in and week-out. On paper, she was never “done” with anything.
Yet she understood the power of small wins, of daily victories. Instead of trying to do it all half-heartedly, she set aside time each day to do one thing well.
And in doing so, she gained forward motion on everything.
Themed Work Days for the Modern Mom
Obviously, my modern-day hustle looks different to hers. But my system is exactly the same.
It goes without saying that homeschooling takes up a great chunk of the day and is a non-negotiable line-item on the schedule. (You’re a homeschool mom. You understand.) But after school, I usually have around two hours of time to work on other things.
And here’s where I steal a play from Ma’s playbook. I assign each of my non-homeschooling jobs to a particular day of the week:
- Write on Mondays
- Run errands on Tuesdays
- Podcast on Wednesdays
- Write on Thursdays
- Bake on Fridays
- Clean on Saturdays
- Menu plan and Worship on Sundays
Throughout the week, I keep a running list of small tasks that need to get done under each category. For instance, on Thursday, if I find a stack of books piled up at the foot of my bed that need to be re-shelved in the home library, I can try to tackle the mess right away or I can add it to my Saturday cleaning list.
Then on Saturday when it’s time to clean, I consult my list to get immediate direction. I don’t have to waste any time stuck in mental lethargy trying to remember what needs to be cleaned or organized. I just consult my Saturday list and get going. If I meet the time goal–if I put my head down and do the work, I get to claim the small victory of calling my cleaning complete even if something on my short list never gets accomplished.
Your weekly responsibilities might look quite a bit different from mine. Maybe you work outside the home. Maybe you have lots of family commitments or volunteer responsibilities. No matter.
If you find yourself stuck in overwhelm, discouraged by all the un-checked boxes and loose-ends of life, allow Ma Ingall’s chore list to gently walk you down Mt. Never Rest.
Checking a list doesn’t have to be the end game. Weekly forward motion is the old, but new “done.”
A note from Jamie (Martin, that is!): If you are drenched in doubt, filled with fear, and need more tips on how to juggle home and school, you NEED Jamie (Erickson’s) new book, which releases today!
Here’s how I described Homeschool Bravely: How to Squash Doubt, Trust God, and Teach Your Child With Confidence:
“Jamie Erickson offers us both a beautiful pep talk and a strategic battle plan to keep us moving forward in grace and freedom, discarding perfection and fear as we go.” ~ Jamie C. Martin
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