Homeschool TIme Management
Time Management principles
Waldorf Tips on Time Management
Family Time Management
Importance of Routines
Probably by this time in the year you have some sort of daily homeschool routine, but perhaps it is beginning to seem a little boring by now, or you are having trouble getting back on track after the holidays. If that is true, you are not alone! It might be a good time to think about why and how we schedule our homeschool days.
First, briefly, WHY. A routine, no matter how loose and informal, is extremely useful when more than one person is working together. In families, it helps kids to know what is expected at different times of the day, and helps a mother pace herself so as not to become exhausted or let too much time slip by in less important things. It provides security and a sense of rhythm so things do not drift or get too hurried and frantic.
Secondly, HOW. In all I've heard about homeschool routines, there seems to be two approaches. One is top-down -- to start by listing all the things that need to be done in a day, and then find places for each thing to fit. The second approach starts from the other end -- you start by looking at how the day already flows in your household, and then find places to fit the extra things you need to do.
Many homeschoolers use a combination of the approaches when planning or revising their schedules. One homeschool mom uses a system of attaching things to "anchors" in her family's day. For example, knowing that your family eats breakfast every day, you might anchor chores to breakfast -- the children might make their beds, say their morning offering and tidy their rooms before they come to breakfast, and brush their teeth and get out their books right after breakfast. So a natural inevitable activity becomes associated with something else. For years I read aloud while the kids ate breakfast and then it was easy to work from there into handwriting or religious education. Other moms put on a music CD at lunch time or have math right before morning Mass.
At present we are using a card system to remind the kids what to do in the morning hours. Each kid has a set of cards with instructions like "make bed"; "math"; "bring in firewood". When they are done with their AM (morning cards), they put them in the "DONE" envelope and put it on my desk and when I have checked them, they are free to take a break. They have a similar set of cards for their evening chores. When the kids were younger, I had a poster with drawings of their various morning chores to remind them of what they were supposed to do. If the first couple of hours in a day are used constructively, it seems to help the rest of the day go better.
I've found it helpful to focus on working with different kids at different times in the day. I get my 4th and 7th graders started with their schoolwork in the morning, and then work with my 2 high schoolers in the later morning or early afternoon. The kindergartener and preschooler get to have some one on one time before breakfast, and also later in the day.
Of course, a routine is a servant, not a master. When I am getting frustrated by days when things are not going according to plan, it helps me to remember Jesus in His ministry. Sometimes He would be intending to withdraw to pray or rest and people would come after Him, begging for help or wanting to argue or ask questions. This "interruptions" became ways to demonstrate God's glory, and He accepted them in that spirit. Our routines are a way to ensure we are "doing the next thing" but they do not have to be perfect in order to be effective. I remind myself of the 80/20 rule. This principle states that 20 percent of what you do in the day has 80 percent of the importance. The other 80 percent of the things you do add up to only 20 percent of the day's value. Periodically I stop and reflect what the crucial 20 percent in my life is right now. Prayer is always first. Relationships with my family are way up there too. Of all the academic subjects, religious formation, math, reading and writing are key; the other subjects can sometimes be put aside or completed more quickly or combined for efficiency.
St Maximilian Kolbe stated a principle of activity as follows: Preparation -- Action -- Conclusion. This reminds me how to approach my day. I start preparing the day before by laying things out that I know I will need ready; this avoids too much rushing early the next day. In the morning, I try to get up in time to spend a few minutes praying, reflecting and planning ahead. This gives me momentum during the day so I can accomplish what I need to and have some "down time" when I need it. In the evening, I spend some time thinking over what has happened and what I could have improved on, before turning my thoughts to the next day. Indeed, all long-term and short-term goals can be approached this way, but if I only remember the Preparation-Action-Conclusion formula for my daily routine, it trickles by itself into my approach to other things.