Let me tell you about my “busy.”
It’s 11am. And even though I’ve been up since 7am, I haven’t eaten yet.
I haven’t started teaching the lessons for today yet either. I know I need to start preparing lunch instead of lessons at this point, because if I don’t eat-something-now I may just collapse.
I make a quick sandwich and begin eating.
The 3-year-old sees it and begins whining for food too (I’m never allowed to eat anything without one of the children thinking that they should be given what I have) and the baby works herself from a fuss to a full cry.
Our schedule spiraled out of control all because I was daring enough to take a shower this morning.
All of this chaos keeps me busy. Constantly fighting to keep just a step ahead of the next task, mess, or meal.
This is the type of busy that causes 24-hours to fly by and feel like nothing has been accomplished, and it is often to blame for not planning or setting goals. This is the busy that most often keeps me from my priorities: “inside busy.”
“Outside busy” can be just as troublesome; it is the plague on our culture to book our calendars with good things that take us out of the house.
So, how can I get homeschool planning accomplished if I can’t even make time to eat breakfast?
Homeschool planning guides say something like:
Set an appointment with yourself and ask your spouse to take care of the kids in order for you to focus on planning for the next week.
I tried this.
But it was discouraging because it basically never worked. The “inside busy” always distracted me, derailed my schedule, and discouraged me that I would never have a moment to restfully plan ahead.
And even though my husband is my greatest support, our “outside busy” keeps us from being able to find a concrete time that I can count on to get this task done.
Last year I floundered with our plans. We didn’t have curricula that was highly structured so I could get away with not charting our week or our days. Each day could be planned on the fly. (But I did record everything we did in our Bullet Journals.)
But not so this year. We have dedicated ourselves to a more disciplined path, and with that path comes a higher standard of planning ahead.
So, how do I manage to plan when I have to compete with inside and outside busy?
I write down anything I can whenever I can, and it helps me get a little bit done here and there. This was hard at first because I despised having to leave the task unfinished. At first, I also struggled to pick up where I left off. But over time this became normal and helped me understand our rhythms even more accurately which leads me to the second tip for planning.
I’m writing a little bit while snuggling the newborn. It’s possible; be creative!
Second, refuse to be distracted by bad planning.
- Planning is not just arbitrarily writing activities and times in my calendar and then crossing my fingers that it will work.
- Planning is not writing the same schedule over and over every week without actually using it.
- Planning is not best accomplished the day of or spontaneously.
- Planning is not pushing on to the next lesson. Neglecting the child’s understanding of the subject and moving on to more and more lessons without allowing time for the child to master the subject is not good planning.
Third, focus on taking baby steps toward the goal.
Like I said in the first point, writing what I can when I can is a baby step toward the overall goal of writing a weekly homeschool plan.
Start planning earlier than your deadline. I need to have all my plans laid out by Sunday evening in order to start the new week on Monday. I used to wait until Sunday afternoon to plan, but after a busy morning at church and a full belly from Sunday lunch I tend to forget how important it is to be productive. So, I finally learned to start planning for the next week on Thursday. By that time in our current week, I have a good handle on what we’ve done and what we won’t be able to do. I am able to see clearly what pace we are currently working at and adjust for the next week – either faster or slower.
Fourth, set a general plan for the month and keep an eye on it.
Before we start our 6-week term, I write out how many lessons we need to accomplish in each subject. I have already calculated an approximate number of lessons we need to work through for each term in order to finish each subject by the end of our school year. But I only write the lessons in the calendar one month at a time. (I explain this in detail in a video which I will publish soon!)
Fifth, know your week.
Remember this “homeschool stuff” isn’t just added on top of your life – homeschooling is a lifestyle. In order to best accomplish your goals for leading your child in the learning life, you need to know what demands on your time you are going to face for the week. Each week is a little bit different in every home. There are appointments, plans with friends, extra trips to the grocery store, etc. If you know in advance that any of these things are coming up, then they need to be accounted for in your lesson plan.
Watch this video to see what I mean.
I use my Bullet Journal to chart my week. I write out each day of the week on the left hand side of the page, and then I list the events of that day along with what meal I plan to make for dinner.
These are the 2 major variables: where we need to go and what will be for dinner.
These two parts of my day account for the bulk of what consumes my time. If we have a doctor’s appointment for example, it isn’t just that time of day that we are “busy” but at least an hour beforehand in prep to leave the house. Also, we require a transition period once we get home. I have to be prepared for what I’m going to ask my children to do when we arrive back home. This has to be flexible and take into account their energy level, hunger, and time of day. It’s important that I don’t push them too hard nor neglect them because I failed to plan. (Let me know in the comments if this is confusing and I can explain more about how I plan for our transitions.)
The same idea is true for dinner. Writing out that we will have pork barbecue sandwiches on Monday night requires more than just 30 minutes before 5:00pm to assemble. Every single dinner meal goes through a thorough “how long will this really take to make” process. There are days when I know I will have time in the morning to prep a crock pot meal and mornings when I won’t. I chart out our Outside the House appointments and then factor in how much time each meal requires. (Again, if it would be helpful to have this explained in more detail, I would be happy to share.)
Finally, always think a day ahead.
Because of the lessons in the evening and morning courses by Crystal Paine, I have been trained to plan ahead. I can’t tell you how life changing this little shift has been! Instead of packing the diaper bag on our way out the door, I pack the night before. Instead of writing the agenda the morning of, I write it the night before – this helps to double check our week’s plan one more time too. I take account of our daily timeline for the next day but this time with a lot more perspective. For example, on Monday evening I look at the Week Plan and see that I want to run a couple errands before the library for our “Tuesday Plan.” But Monday was a very tiring day. We had a busy Sunday and needed more rest Monday to recover which means that we didn’t finish our Monday household chores. So, I move my errands to the next opening in our schedule and try to lessen the amount of time out of the house because I know 2 things: #1 we won’t have the energy to run around town, and #2 if we don’t make time for our chores then our home gets out of balance.
The bottom line is that planning requires consistent, daily management. If you will do the daily work of thinking through your responsibilities, then the weekly spread will come together quickly and practically.
Practice makes permanent! Keep planning and it will become a habit regardless of how busy you are.
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