Five weeks ago I began our new school year a little bit differently than I have in the past.
I never made out a schedule for our school days.
I had typed up a routine for our days (school 9:00-12:00 and again from 1:00-3:00). I included broad time slots for Bible study, running, morning and afternoon chores, housecleaning, laundry, and cooking, but I did not assign specific times for those activities.
When I was planning this summer, I was so overwhelmed whenever I looked at my children's school material and considered the time it would take to implement, that I just never put anything on paper. I figured that we would just begin school, and I would try a few different things, and then hope for the best.
It didn't work so well. After almost 5 full weeks of school, I felt like I was drowning. Little by little, I kept feeling more and more behind. I was diligent to do school every single day that Jimmy was working. I still washed and dried our clothes (although I got way behind in the folding and putting away), I still cooked supper at night, I still did some house cleaning. But after about 10 days of this--working myself to death all day and feeling like half was left undone--I just chose to stop stressing about it. I reminded myself that my family was more important than my to-do list. So, my attitude improved, but my productivity was still lacking. Not from lack of my working all day, but from less than perfect use of my and my children's time. I had a peace with this busy season of my life, but I still felt like I could do better.
I found that while I was working with one child, I would have 3 other ones who had done all they could do independently, and they were all needing me too. Or someone would be trying to practice their piano while another child was doing a math lesson. Or three children needed the computer for school, all at the same time. I felt like we had a lot of time being wasted, because the children did not have a specific plan for their days. Like we have had in the past.
So last Wednesday, I worked on a 2012 school day schedule. Just creating a table and typing in all of those neat little blocks made me feel so much better! I already felt like I could be the master of my day, instead of putting out fires all day. I patterned the schedule after ones that had worked in the past. Assigning piano practice times, computer times, times with Mama, times alone, times with a sibling, etc.
Thursday, we loosely followed the schedule for the first time. We started 30 minutes late (because I ran 12 miles that morning, and I did not get home until 8:30....and I have us scheduled to begin at 8:00). I had hoped to make up that time by shortening each 30 minute block by 2 or 3 minutes, but then I had to make some important phone calls and do some computer work for Jimmy that had to be done at 11:00 AM, and that used up another 1 hour and 15 minutes of my day. In spite of those two deviations, we still accomplished MORE on that day than we had on previous go with the flow days. I was encouraged!
Friday, we followed the schedule to the minute! I keep my phone handy as a timer, and I had that timer playing the harp alarm every 30 minutes to keep us on task. I worked with all five children, did all subjects, and even remembered to do science with Leah and Sam. Science is on the schedule on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays! In my schedule I made allowances for Mondays when we have to leave the house at 1:00 for piano, and for Tuesdays and Thursdays when we have to leave at 3:10 or 3:30 for XC practice.
For my family, using a schedule is a valuable tool. I am not a slave to the schedule. It is my guide. When things are going smoothly, it allows me to accomplish so much. When life happens and there are disruptions, I can deal with those cheerfully, and then jump back into the schedule where I should be, or just take a few minutes off different activities here and there to make up the difference. I also plan to make adjustments to our schedule as we use it this week. Places where I do not have enough time and places where there is more than enough time will need to be tweaked. When the timer plays, and we are in the middle of a good part of a book, or in the middle of an important math concept, etc, I will allow myself a few minutes to tie up the loose ends. In fact, I set my timer for 28 minute blocks to allow for smooth transitions.
If you find yourself floundering in your days, I encourage you to create and follow a schedule. But don't let it rule you! Don't let it steal your joy! Just let it serve as a guide for you, a tool to assist you in reaching your goals. Serving our Lord, being a help meet for our husbands, lovingly teaching and training our children, cheerfully keeping our home...those are our goals. Let your schedule serve as a means to that end.