Monday, August 1, 2011

How to Create an Overcommitment-Proof School-Year Schedule

I'm over at Heart of the Matter Online today talking about schedules. Come join the fun!


Ssshhhh! Don’t anyone tell my husband the topic of this month’s post or else he might make me read and apply it! We might as well get my confession out of the way right off the bat: I have issues with scheduling. And overcommitting. But, I need to get better at it because I was recently diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Hhmm, I wonder if there’s a correlation . . . Maybe this year I’ll actually follow my own advice and stick to the schedule I create at the beginning of this year. Maybe this year I’ll remember that I’m already booked to capacity before I commit to another big project. Maybe.

Part of the planning process involves outlining a workable schedule for each week and for each day. Have you ever found yourself double booked? I have and it’s not a fun place to be. In addition, my kids—especially when they were younger—found it helpful to have an established routine.

During the summer or at the beginning of the academic year, I find it useful to print off or make a blank weekly time schedule in order to avoid scheduling snafus while I’m planning out our basic weekly agenda. I use a basic template from Microsoft Word or just hand draw six lines on a horizontal piece of paper so that I have a long slot/space for each day. Then I start filling in the blanks with the regular practices, classes, and appointments to which I’ve already committed for the upcoming school year. Subsequently, as more opportunities present themselves, I look on my basic weekly schedule/calendar to see how or if they will fit.

For our family, I have found that the morning hours are the most productive times in which to concentrate and do actual academic work. This means that I have had to say “no” to many outside classes and opportunities that fall before noon. Your family may find that afternoon or even evening hours are the most productive academic times. Whatever time of day is best for your children to focus is the time that you should protect as much as possible and aim not to be out of the house during that time, except for the unavoidable orthodontist and doctor appointments.

When planning a daily schedule, it’s not necessary to plan to complete every subject every day. As a general rule, skill areas such as math, reading, spelling, and handwriting do need to be completed each day in order to reinforce the concepts. On the other hand, content areas such as history, science, and literature can be worked on for fewer, but longer, sessions during the week. For instance, we have done history on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and worked on science on Tuesdays and Thursdays. One afternoon we may focus on music appreciation, and then work on art appreciation another afternoon. This also gives a longer period for projects that may accompany these subjects.

Another thing I try to do is to make sure that I am not out of the house every single afternoon every week by limiting our outside classes to one or two days. I realize that this becomes difficult if you have children in sports that require practices three or four days a week and then have games on top of that, but usually those practices are later in the day, which helps.

Now comes the tricky part: sticking to our basic weekly schedules. When a long-term commitment or big project opportunity presents itself, take a good, hard look at your schedule before agreeing to it. Talk to your spouse to get his input as well (and then follow it). Let’s hold each other up in prayer as we consider the upcoming year’s activities and schedules.