Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ten Tips for a Terrific Home School Year, part 4

We officially started back to school on Monday!  Do you want to know what I dreaded the most about starting back to school?  Getting back into a schedule.  Do you want to know what I was looking forward to the most?  Getting back into a schedule!  ;)

Although I was reluctant to give up the free time and flexibility of summer, I also looked forward to the comfortable structure of having a routine or schedule in place, and knowing that the children would be constructively occupied throughout the bulk of the day.

The problem is, being on a school schedule means I have less time for blogging, working on my Lilla Rose business, selling books on Ebay (my newest "pastime"), exercising, and other such activities . . .  which explains, at least in part, why this post is a bit slow in coming.  (I trust you have not been holding your breath since reading Tip #3  . . . waiting for Tip #4 to be posted!!)  ;)

The fourth tip for having a terrific school year is to give your day tracks to run on by implementing a daily schedule or routine that guides your daily activities.

Tip #4.  Give your day a backbone.

As much as we may resist living on a schedule, I find that our days need a backbone.  Without a skeleton to give it shape, our days end up evolving into amoeba-like creatures, with no reliable form or shape, constantly morphing into directions that distract us from our real goals.

I have tried both ends of the spectrum -- from a very-structured, color-coded schedule that controlled our use of time in thirty-minute increments all day long to a free-spirited approach to our day that ignored the clock and let our day unfold naturally.  I find that both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages; however, as in every area of the Christian life, balance is the key.  From my experience, I believe that the ideal amount of structure lies on the spectrum somewhere between the two extremes.  

The truth is that we get a lot more accomplished when we are on a schedule and everyone knows what to expect from the day.  Having tracks to run on keeps the train moving smoothly down the tracks headed for a defined destination.  It also lets all the passengers know what to expect.

However, home and family life, unlike train stations, tends to defy schedules.  That's why we must allow enough flexibility and freedom to avoid frustration.

The appropriate balance will probably vary from family to family.  I've found that the more children you have, the more structure you need to reign in the chaos.  However, I've also discovered that as my children got older, it became harder and harder to stay on a schedule.  I found I was pulled away from home more, because I had to take kids to their jobs, outside classes, church activities, sports practices, service opportunities, etc., while also trying to keep younger students on task at home, and handling various emergencies, such as a phone call saying, "Mom I locked the keys in the car. Can you come to the college now and drop off the spare keys?"

However, in spite of the challenges, it is simply a fact that some type of daily schedule or routine increases productivity in the home, keeps everything running more smoothly, and helps children feel more secure in knowing and complying with what is expected of them.

There are many ways to create a daily schedule.  Let me know if you are interested, and I will explore this topic more in future posts.  (I consider myself somewhat of an expert, simply because I've created at least a hundred schedules through the years!)  For now, start by establishing rising times, bedtimes, and nap times (if applicable).  Add in meal times, including meal prep and clean up.  This simple structure will anchor your days.  Then, you can begin to build on these anchors by linking various activities to these anchors, such as, reading the Bible before Breakfast, doing chores after breakfast, reading aloud during lunch, etc.   


Do you have a school schedule or routine in place?  If not, begin to create one by observing what is working now in your home and writing it down.  Then, start adding in what you would like to accomplish and when.  Work on it gradually, until you have a workable plan.  Don't be afraid to move things around and keep working on it until it "fits."

If you already have a schedule, evaluate its effectiveness.  What needs changed?  Identify problem areas and brainstorm solutions.  Tweak as needed.

I'd love it if you'd share your scheduling successes and challenges here in the comments section . . . or over on my Facebook page, where we can discuss solutions together.

And, I'm very interested in your thoughts on schedules in general.  Please speak up!  

If you've missed the first three posts in this series, you can click on the links below to catch up:

Tip #1:  Know why you are homeschooling.

Tip #2:  Set your priorities.

Tip #3:  Start slowly and finish strong.

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