Ah, yes, the best laid plans... often go awry.
Which made me start thinking about schedules all over again.
A homeschool mama really needs to have one - without a plan in place, each day would be chaos. And there are many days when we are able to stick with the regularly-scheduled program. BUT....that really is only half of the picture. There are just as many days when life happens and the schedule gets hopelessly off-track.
This used to be a huge source of stress for me & a major contributor to mid-school-year burnout...which, incidentally, usually happens right around this time of year when we all have cabin fever. Let's be honest, a homeschooling mother bears a lot of pressure to make sure that all of the children's lessons are done well, meanwhile keeping up with everything else that must be attended to (housekeeping, shopping, clothes, meals, bills, serving at church, etc.). I have had many seasons when these things would overwhelm me - especially when I have a schedule in place. It is even worse knowing what we should be doing, and having circumstances prevent them from being carried out according to the plan. I still have days like these...but there is one little thing that I've learned to do (besides trying really hard to keep to a schedule!) that has helped out so much.
It was actually the suggestion of my husband, who has the gift of organization, efficiency, and time-management - all the things that I am challenged in! We laugh sometimes about how well our strengths and weaknesses compliment each other, because he is very practical and business-minded while I am more creative and aesthetics-minded, and he's learned a few good things from me, too! But now I am digressing.
I have to give him credit here - he rarely ever points out the things I'm sure I could be doing differently or how to do things better. But I remember one particular day a few years ago. I'm pretty sure I had gotten far enough behind in the laundry that he didn't have any clean work clothes for the next day, dinner was going to be cold cereal (yes, this happens on occasion at my house - just being honest here!!), and the house was a disaster. He wasn't upset by any of this at all (I'm not kidding, he really is an awesome husband!), but as I was crying to him about not being able to get anything done, he offered one suggestion.
Rather than looking around at my situation, getting overwhelmed & thinking to myself, "I can't do _______ (fill in the blank with whatever task was at hand) because of __________ (fill in the blank with - crying baby, uncooperative kiddos, not enough time, etc.)...
Instead, I should learn to ask myself - given this challenging circumstance, what can I do to still accomplish this task?
I think I may have laughed when he first said this because it seems like such a simple little thing. But let me tell you, this piece of advice changed forever the success of my family's days.
On those inevitable crazy days that I know are going to happen, I forget all about schedules and go into "plan B mode." I make a quick prioritized list of the things that really must be done (school, dinner, laundry, whatever else) and start at the top. Then I really do ask myself, "what can I do to make this happen right now?" (No, not out loud!)
I have learned that there is almost always a creative solution to be found, if I look for one. My challenges usually have something to do with my two-year old Little Monkey and baby Peanut...so I've learned to do things like - use a baby sling; alternate school-times between the older kiddos while the other one plays with Little Monkey in another room; do math during naptimes; do math in the bathroom while a very active toddler is happy (and contained!) in the bathtub; cook dinner during morning lessons because we're all in the kitchen anyway; have one of the older kiddos do a load of laundry while I am busy with something else; bring schoolwork in the car and to doctor's offices, etc.; use the playpen; grocery shop at night after the kiddos are in bed....the list could go on forever.
Days like these will never be pretty, and things will still be chaotic...but at the end of the day I will have peace knowing that the important things were attended to, and have hope that tomorrow will be better!
So why am I writing all of this? I remember when I first began homeschooling, one of my favorite books was Real Life Homeschooling, by Rhonda Barfield. It is an excellent book and I recommend it. It is simply a collection of interviews of different homeschooling families, outlining what their days ideally look like, their ideal schedules, and how they go about their homeschooling lifestyle. I must've read this book a hundred times! More than anything, I wanted to be successful at homeschooling - and to have a happy, peaceful home...but at that time, it seemed nearly impossible for me to have both, like I had read about. As helpful as it is to see other families' schedules, it truly isn't the whole picture of what a day in a homeschooling home is really like!
It is my hope that any new homeschooling mamas who might read this will be encouraged to know that all homeschooling families (at least, all the homeschooling families that I know!) struggle to make it all work. Homeschooling is challenging at times and is hard work! Keep on trying - it gets much easier with time and practice, and as you figure out what works for your family. In time you, too, will see the rewards of your efforts - in the joy, love and closeness between the members of your family as well as the evidence of their growing knowledge and characters as a result of your teaching. I know, because it has happened for me.
Have a blessed homeschooling day!
This post is linked up at Women Living Well