From the HSLDA E-lert Service:


7/15/2010 9:50:28 AM
Home School Legal Defense Association
HSLDA's Homeschooling Thru the Early Years Newsletter--July 2010

HSLDA's Homeschooling Thru the Early Years Newsletter
July 2010 -- Help! I'm Organizationally Challenged!

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As I've spoken with many of you on the phone or via email and shared
with you in person at your state conventions, a recurring theme has
been: Help! I'm committed to homeschooling, but I'm feeling
overwhelmed just by everyday life!

For those of you who were "born organized," you either picked up the
necessary skills sort of by osmosis, or you are quickly able to
assimilate the ideas found in the typical organizing book. But for
others, standard organizing tools sometimes don't make sense, and we
wonder what's wrong with us. So this month, I'd like to share with you
some tools that have helped this mom and other busy moms across the
country to homeschool and get dinner on the table. . . on the same
day. (Even if you are organized by nature, you may have a child who
can benefit from this newsletter!)

Hope for the Organizationally Challenged

I am not naturally organized, at least not on the outside. I am fairly
organized in my head, but I have trouble translating that to the
physical realm because I am very visual, and if I can't see it, it
doesn't exist (i.e., I can't put that away someplace; I might forget
to deal with it). Boy, can that make for a mess!

What I share with you here is not the only way to approach time/life
management or organization, but it has been successful for me and many
with whom I've shared it, so I hope it will encourage you. Here are
three tools that have helped me clear most of the clutter from my desk
and my mind:

> Daily routines--where I can see them
> Workable, categorized to-do lists--where I can see them
> Time reminders--where I can see (and hear) them

Start with a Routine

When you feel so incredibly overwhelmed, start with the basics. What
is getting dropped that just can't? Meals? Bedtimes? Basic
housekeeping? Revisit your routine--I don't mean the sort of schedule
that has you checking the to-do list every eight minutes, or dinging a
bell to move from lunch to naptime. I mean covering at least the
basics and having some regularity to your day. Knowing what comes
next, without having to make one more decision, can be a relief.
Children find security in routine, and we moms can find emotional
freedom in having a basic structure for the day or week.

Don't know where to begin? Mealtimes and bedtimes make a great
framework for a routine. For example: "I'll make a great effort to
have breakfast by 7:30 and then lunch ready at 1:00 and supper at
6:30, and everyone has to be in their rooms by 9:00 p.m., whether they
are in bed or quietly reading or something else safe (depending on
ages)." Then plug everything else in around those times.

It helped us to have a morning start-up time of 8:45 to meet in the living room for
15 minutes of family devotions. I would drop all else at 8:45 to put
on a praise and worship recording, call the kids in, and we'd just
close our eyes and sing one or two songs. Then we'd have a quickie
devotional or Bible/character lesson for about 10 minutes (from a
book and the Bible--no major planning or thinking required), then pray
together, either one of us or anyone who was led to. This gave me a
consistent, prayerful, focused start to my school day, got everyone in
one room, and gave us a launching point. That doesn't mean we didn't
occasionally crash and burn later, but at least we started right!

What has to get done in a typical week in your house? What recurring
activities can you plug into a repeating weekly routine? My goal is to
run on autopilot as much as possible, so I needed a routine that helps
me not have to think too hard.

I made columns on a paper and labeled them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
and so on through the week, and then plugged in each of my essentials on a day of the week. For
example, learning time (homeschooling) was a daily activity, as were
meals, but I could schedule most of the other items on specific days.
The most fundamental household tasks were already part of our
household management system (chore chart), so we already had dishes, daily
bathroom tidying, and other chores covered.

(One important reason for me to have assigned days for most tasks was
to give me liberty on the other days. If Tuesday and Friday are my
laundry days, I don't have to feel "behind" on Wednesday or Thursday
when the pile is three feet high; it isn't laundry day yet!)

I typed each of the daily routines onto a 4x6-inch card and put the
cards into an inexpensive photo flip album; you can often find vinyl
versions at the local dollar store. This flip-album sits in a
conspicuous spot--in my house, near my computer--so I will often be
reminded of my routine for that day. At the end of the day, I simply
flip to the next page to be ready for tomorrow. It is vertical, so I
cannot easily lose it or pile anything on top of it.

A Visual To-Do List

For many years, a notebook-style to-do list worked well for me. I
don't know what happened, but over the years, digging through a
notebook or having to keep a steno-pad list unburied on my desk became
more and more challenging. Setting my month-at-a-glance calendar
upright in a decorative cast iron cookbook stand on my desk was a
starting point--so it couldn't get buried--but turning the pages for
multiple to-do lists was difficult (and we know what happens if we
don't make it easy to do the to-do list; we don't!). I needed to be
able to see multiple upcoming tasks and projects. Enter: The Pocket

The particular model I found is an 11x12-inch vinyl easel with five rows of clear plastic
pockets into which I can insert three 3.5-inch squares of paper
(standard memo cube size) per row. The cards in the left column (see
photo) are household related,
while the center column cards are work related and the right column
are home-business related. I jot tasks onto the cards as I think of
them, and cross them off as they are completed. When the card is
filled, I can turn it over to use the other side; then the card can be
trashed. Because the cards aren't dated, there is no transferring of
tasks from day to day, unless the card gets almost filled and you want
it to look nicer or have more space.

In his book, "Getting Things Done," author David Allen discusses
context lists. While that terminology was foreign to me, my daughter
says this is basically the same concept, just using cards in the
pockets instead of pages in a notebook.

Several moms have commented on how helpful it is for them--or for
their children--to have their to-do lists outlined vertically like
this in a tangible, accessible, and easily compartmentalized format.
If a pocket chart is not an option for you, large self-stick notes on
an easel or standing picture frame could be substituted.

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

My good intentions, routines, and lists did me no good if I didn't
notice the time. I have an incredibly nonexistent concept of time. I
could get something out for dinner, have wonderful intentions, and
still get blindsided by the arrival of my sweet husband at dinnertime.
I needed to set an alarm to start dinner. Better yet--one of those
"his and hers" alarm clocks with two alarms, or more!

What I finally settled upon was one of those alarms designed to remind
elderly patients to take their pills (some of them have up to 24
alarms each day!). The model I
eventually found not only works simply and easily and has six--count
'em, six!--recurring alarms, but I can record a 10-second message for
each alarm setting. At 7:30: "Beep, beep, beep...Good morning! Time to
exercise and pray for your family." A bit later: "Beep, beep,
beep...8:30. Did you take something out for supper? It's time to start
work and pray for the homeschooling families." And so on throughout
the day until, "It's 5:00--time to start supper for your wonderful
husband and pray for his drive home." (This might be even more
effective if I have my wonderful husband actually record the

Maybe you have children who could benefit from impartial "third party"
reminders during the day. They could even record their own so they
would be nagging themselves along the way!

Another homeschooling mom invested in a clock with quarter-hour chimes
to remind her of the passing of time. Another programs her phone to
call herself during the day, and yet another utilizes her computer's
features to send herself timely reminders. Whatever you might choose,
the important thing is to be realistic and consistent.

Make Time for what Matters

Our goal is to glorify God. We can do that better in an orderly home
because we can be more gracious to our children when we aren't rushed
or hunting for the keys or always behind, and we can be calmly
hospitable. We can start our teaching times without the stress of
undone tasks looming large, so we can concentrate on really being with
our children.

Look for ways to bring order to your home, but don't allow
organization to be an idol. Get organized to give you the time and
liberty for relationships.

Gotta go--time to make supper!


Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Early Years coordinator

Additional Resources

Search online for a wide variety of pocket charts, available at
teacher supply stores.

Judith Kolberg suggests more techniques in "Conquering Chronic
Disorganization" and "ADD Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life."

"A Day in Our Homeschool"
Reading about a day in the life of another homeschool family can give
you a few ideas to implement in your own home, or give you
confirmation of something you are already doing (and probably make you
groan in sympathy or give you a laugh or two!).

For more time management tips and organization resources for busy
homeschoolers, visit our website.

-> Who are the nation's best lobbyists?

We don't know that this has ever been determined; but we do know
that HSLDA's Federal Relations Department is the only
national organization lobbying on behalf of homeschoolers on
Capitol Hill.

More reasons to join HSLDA...

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