Having a schedule, following a schedule
For many years, we kept a schedule in our home. Then we didn't. I've been mumbling about the loss ever since, and I finally decided to do something about it. Constructing a schedule that covers farm chores, housekeeping, schooling, trips to town and children's activities is a pretty big task — worthy, in my mind, of procrastination and several cups of coffee.
Our schedule runs in 30-minute increments, so that can present some problems when a job takes more or less time than what is allotted. I don't care. I'm militant about the schedule these days. If I went to the trouble of making it, by golly, we're gonna stick with it.
Having a schedule makes sure that everything we need to do is finished by the end of the day. This allows all of us to know who is responsible for which task; what schoolwork must be done; and it also means the children have play and discovery time set aside when they know I will not call them in for laundry folding or dishwasher emptying.
My kids have time set aside to prepare for coming events by choosing clothes or finding equipment before it is time to load the van. I get a nudge that reminds me to put out something for dinner the night before. When we are on schedule, I can't imagine why I ever ran a large family without one.
Even though we successfully used a schedule for years, I resisted starting over. There are those days when a child starts looking something up and becomes entranced with learning. Every few minutes, that child will interrupt what I'm doing to come and tell me another interesting fact about tornadoes or killer whales or some such thing. I knew I could not schedule spontaneity, and I used that as one of many excuses to put off starting work on the schedule.
I want our learning to be free-flowing, uninterrupted by ringing timers and switching tasks. I want chocolate truffles not to be fattening, too.
The truth is, children do learn a lot on their own, but we all need motivation to stick with the hard stuff. They need the reminder that half of the process is settling down long enough to pay attention. Giving everyone a list of things to do with verbal reminders through the day wasn't working for us. The difficult tasks got put off with a smile. Setting a time limit helps the kids focus on what needs to be done, and I don't have to nag. As much.
Children have radar that tells them to ask for help with math when an adult is impossibly busy. Nothing else can be done while waiting, of course. To my children's dismay, the schedule means help is available at set times, right when they have the most difficult subjects. "Get the help while you can," I tell them, "because Mom has a coffee break coming up at 10."
In the time before the schedule (is it safe to refer to that time period as B.S.?), computer time was claimed through the age-old system of "I called it" and "I had it first." Now those arguments are reserved for who gets to play with the Legos and who gets to sit in the middle seat of the van.
Have all the children embraced our new sense of order with a smile and a sigh of relief that they can now be more efficient? Of course not. Am I going to give up? No way. I scheduled the kids to make dinner while I take a break.
Rose Godfrey is a speech pathologist and homeschooling mom in Meridian. Her homeschool blog can be found on the Appeal-Democrat website at appealdemocrat.com.