It is 8 o’clock on a summer morning and only two children are awake! Our summer days have taken on a rhythm that allows the children to sleep and waken slowly, or to bounce from bed to pursue reading, or Lego creations, or bug hunting while I drink my tea and do a bit of this and that. Our days are full but unhurried as we work and play with a timetable to guide and assure that there is time for each of the “next things” that will occur.
With so many thinking about homeschooling or feeling overwhelmed by all of the turmoil in our current national life; I thought it might be helpful to think about schedules and how they can help or hinder us.
Schedules that Hinder
When the children were small I was keen to have a schedule. I naturally procrastinate and putter, and a schedule, I thought, would keep me on track and organize the children into doing what they should, when they should. I spent hours writing down a timetable in 15 minute increments and even more hours fussing and fuming when life didn’t fall neatly into those increments. Some days a task or lesson took five minutes and I had time on my hands and other days 55 minutes wouldn’t have been enough to accomplish even a part of the same task. My schedule was the most important thing and when the people the schedule was intended to regulate, didn’t regulate I was thrown into a frustrated tizzy!
This use of schedule while tidy and organized, forgot that the relationships and the atmosphere were more important than the tasks and neglected to serve those relationships. I adjusted and adjusted what we did, but the end was always frustration and tears because my goal for our schedule was to regulate behaviors rather than to provide space for building relationships while working at various tasks together or spending individual time on personal endeavors.
My schedule was a great hinderance to peaceful and joyful motherhood and family life because I was asking it to solve problems that were rooted in attitude and relationship.
Schedule as a Provider of Peace
Gradually, through study and prayer, I came to see that the schedule was intended as a tool that would release me from constant decision making over important minutia so that my attention could be free to focus on persons. The timetable mattered in the same way that the files in a file cabinet matter. It enabled me to see that there was time enough for everything without having to hurry.
A block of time could be allotted for lessons or housekeeping and with a simple list of tasks that would fit within that time frame we could do as many or as few as that day’s relationships allowed. Each day has its appointed tasks and if someone is sick or my insomnia has left me seriously sleep deprived we do fewer things within a block.
Certain tasks (math, for instance) should be done daily, and within the time table there is ample time for those and for the riches and extras, but if a math lesson is super difficult and needs to borrow some time from Art or Laundry Folding it is not a huge deal. The timetable will give us space in which to “catch up” or another person will pitch in to help finish the task.
As each person knows their piece of the puzzle there is far less decision fatigue for everyone and while I still have to do a fair bit of follow up with certain children to be sure that tasks are done well, there is less push back as they don’t feel that I am fussing and driving them so much. The schedule provides us with structure that frees us to work at our allotted tasks or to play in peace as we know that there is time available for what we are doing and for the other things that we need or want to do. The schedule serves us.
As I often do during the summer I am going to do a little series of three or four videos over the next week. These videos will be a small class on schedule making; with some of the things I’ve learned over the years and some practical application and hand outs. As I usually do, I’ll do them on Facebook Live but then save the videos to Youtube and post them here along with any handouts.