Monday, January 31, 2011

Ten Steps to a More Organized Homeschool Schedule

On the heels of “Happy New Year” comes the inevitable question: “What are your resolutions for the new year?” This year, my goal is to organize and manage my homeschool time in a more effective manner. This year, I’m not going to quit on January 2nd, like I do when the scale hasn’t budged other years.

What’s the big deal about time management? When we set goals and get serious about meeting them, that’s what we spend our time doing. When we don’t have goals (either formal or informal), we wander aimlessly through the house while the kids play Nintendo instead of doing school and the laundry piles up. Even saying, “Today, I need to do three loads of laundry after we build a model of the Jamestown Fort,” is setting goals.

While most of us think of things such as reading through the Bible in a year or losing ten pounds as worthy New Year’s resolutions, January is also an excellent time to revisit our educational and time commitment goals. Is the eager-beaver teenager really ready to graduate a year early? How is that new math curriculum working out for the middle schooler? Do we need to spend more one-on-one time teaching the kindergartener how to read?

How about the time we spend cleaning the house? Maybe our counters are sparkling, but our teaching time is languishing. Or, perhaps the reverse is true: our family is feeling smothered under layers of bathtub scum and we store our clean clothes in the dryer, but the four year old can recite the names of the presidents backwards. Now is the time to reevaluate our priorities and how we’re spending our time.

So, what should be our goal in the new year? Balance. Yes, I know that is tricky. What’s more, I’m preaching to myself more than to you. For 2011, let’s make it our goal to organize our time in such a way that it reflects our goals.

How can we take nebulous goals and turn them into a manageable schedule in the middle of the school year? I’d like to propose ten specific steps that will get us well on our way to a balanced, organized schedule.

1. Let’s reflect on our homeschool year to date—organization, time, curricula, learning, relationships, etc. What’s working well so far? What needs to change? This is an excellent journaling exercise for further reflection. Let’s think about how we spend the majority of our time. Does the way we spend our time match what we say is important in our lives? Sometimes, it’s not about setting new priorities; it’s about reorganizing our time.

2. The next step is to keep a log of how we spend our time for a week or so. No fudging! Where are we wasting time? Are there activities that need to be let go? Are there some things we’ve been neglecting in our homeschools that we need to make more of a priority?

3. Now let’s make a list of our priorities—God, family, schoolwork, home business, and so on.

4. Pray, pray, and pray some more. We need to seek the Lord’s guidance; perhaps some of those objectives need to be reevaluated.

5. Based on our list of priorities and what we feel the Lord directing us to do, we can now write a list of goals to work towards this year in our homeschools. In addition, we need to organize a list of tasks that need to be accomplished, and put dates by them (if applicable).

6. Just listing goals is not enough, however. We need to pair them with specific steps that that will help us to achieve our goals.

7. We can’t neglect to consult our spouses. We need to ask, “Where would you like to see me spend my time?”

8. Consulting a godly mentor and/or homeschool friends who have walked the path before us helps to keep us on track and to confirm our goals. “Plans are established by counsel” (Proverbs 20:18a NKVJ).

9. Now we can work on organizing a schedule. This may take time and it may have to be tweaked, so don’t be discouraged if the first draft is a flop.

10. Our final task is to stick with our newly organized homeschool schedule. How is this accomplished? Self-discipline. This is the hard one (at least for me). How do we organize our time based on our goals? Simple (or not!): self-discipline. If we say our highest priority is spending time in God’s Word, but then we roll out of bed at 9:00 a.m.—too late to do more than yawn at the kids to nag them to start school—what does that say about our real priorities? It says that sleeping in is more important than doing devotions. Ouch! Set the alarm clock for a reasonable time and just get up. That’s the first step in accomplishing the rest of our goals.

Let’s make this year’s goal to balance our time wisely and to organize our homeschool time based on our priorities. Remember, while it’s wise to plan and organize, God is the one who really orders our days. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NKJV).

This post can be found in the Jan./Feb. 2011 issue of Home School Enrichment magazine. Just in case you think I've got it all together, here's a true confession for you: I don't! When my issue arrived in the mail, this title was one of the ones features on the cover. I remember thinking, "Oh, that looks good. I'll have to read it because I really need some help in that area." Ooopppsss!!!!