If you know me or have followed my blog at all, you know that I have always tended toward a relaxed, unschool-ish, laissez-faire approach to my kids’ education. You probably also know that I have flirted with curriculum on and off, and that part of me has always longed for a more predictable routine and, yes, even schedule.
At the beginning of last year I had big plans. I made a really impressive Excel spreadsheet that laid out our week for us from 7am to 8pm each day. I scheduled 20 minutes for phonics, 20 minutes for math, etc. It all looked so nice on paper. And parts of it did go smoothly. The kids loved morning recess. Though I usually wanted to use that time to do a few chores.
We gave it the good college try for about a month before I threw in the towel and decided that our homeschool schedule now consisted of a math lesson and some handwriting. Eventually I just insisted on math. And then there was the day it took us two hours of screaming and crying to get through a Saxon math lesson. I should note that only my oldest was required to do school. The other two kids could do whatever they wanted. Which usually involved staring at a screen.
Despite my greatest hopes and desires, most days simply deteriorated into either tears or screens or both. I didn’t feel good about what we were doing, but I didn’t have the energy to change course. “You guys want to play a game? Or read a book? Or go for a walk?” was usually met with “Nah. I’m watching My Little Pony. Or Pokemon. Or Thomas the Train.” And so I spent a little more time scrolling through Facebook.
This isn’t how I imagined homeschooling would be. I imagined science experiments and read alouds and nature walks. And we did those things. We did a lot of great stuff and learned a lot. My kids even learned stuff from My Little Pony and Pokemon and Thomas the Train. I’m not saying they didn’t.
But on those days when we had no plan – no field trip, no co-op, no park days, no play-dates, no science club – we all felt at loose ends. I wanted, as my friend Clea wrote so eloquently, to put the “home” back in our homeschool.
And then a woman whom I like and admire on our local Catholic homeschooling board recommended the book Managers of Their Homes. She described her homeschooling days, and it sounded much closer to my dreams for my family. Now, I know we should keep our eyes on our own paper. I know that what works for her and her 7 girls won’t work for me and my motley crew, but the book promised to help me create a custom schedule for my family.
So with a bit of fear and trepidation, I bought it. And I read it. Slowly. And prayerfully. I watched my anxiety ebb and flow as I processed the lessons. And I began to see the wisdom and the peace of having a predictable daily routine.
What’s great about this book (and I’m not an affiliate so I’m not trying to sell you anything here) is that it really baby steps you through it. It has you think about all of the things you want to fit into your day for yourself and each of your children. It has you prioritize. And it asks you to be realistic about how much time there is in a day. It reminds you that God does not give you more to do than you can fit into the 24 hours in a day He gives you. So if you don’t have enough time, you’re not following God’s plan for you. That one was hard to stomach. My schedules hand’t worked in the past because I didn’t start in the right place – with God’s plan for my family and with respect for the limits on my time.
As I was reading Managers of Their Homes, I was also reading Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (again, not an affiliate). There is much wisdom and gentleness in this book. One of major points was that each interruption to our schedules is a visit from Our Lord. Each time a child needs us to tie a shoe or wipe a bottom or “look at a really cool block tower I just built,” it is Jesus asking us to look up from our own agenda and meet Him in our day.
Reading these two books together really pushed me to think about finding the balance between having a predictable routine and schedule on the one hand, and being a slave to my planner and the clock on the other.
I confess that this is never a line I have walked well. I have some OCD tendencies, am prone to anxiety, like to have everything “under control,” and can become a cruel task master when trying to follow a plan. I tend to waffle between anal- retentive-Type-A-crazy-woman and it-can’t-be-perfect-so-I-give-up-anything-goes sloth.
It has been a constant spiritual battle for me to come to a place where I believe I have a reasonable chance – with much prayer and God’s continued out-pouring of grace – to approach a plan like this without making myself crazy or my family resentful.
If you have ever pined (even secretly) for a more predictable routine to your day, I highly recommend the Managers of Their Homes book. It presents everything in a way that sets you up for success, not crazy making, and it gives you some fun, hands-on tools for creating a schedule that not only looks good on paper, but is based on your real life.
If you’d like some help getting started with thinking about a schedule/routine that will work for you and your family, I’d love to walk you through the process and share what I’ve learned. Check out my Homeschool Consulting page for more information on working with me. it is always my goal to encourage and inspire you on your homeschooling journey.