Originally Sent: 1/23/2014
January 23, 2014
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“ We Interrupt This Homeschool …”
Maybe you started January 1 with a lovely, new, pristine planner (or calendar or Cozi page) and fresh goals and lists and hopes for 2014. Maybe, if you are like me, you’ve already hit a few glitches!
Because no matter how well—actually, in spite of how well—I’ve planned, interruptions happen. The key to managing interruptions is recognizing if they are because of (1) poor planning, (2) faulty follow-through, or (3) a change in the game plan to accomplish God’s purpose for me today.
Plan with Purpose
I’m passionate about having a plan for my day—a routine—not because it comes naturally to me, but because it doesn’t. And I’ve found that if my home is not running well, my homeschooling is likely suffering, too. I try very hard to stay on top of things, but many days I fly by the seat of my pants (or crash and burn more often than I’d like to admit!). One way I survive is by having a routine in place that allows me to manage much of my day on “autopilot”—to make as many of my daily tasks routine so I can save my decision-making for more critical issues. For example:
• A menu plan for the month (or week, if that is more workable) takes the guesswork out of dinner, and lets me know what to take out of the freezer.
• A lesson plan for the week, even if it’s just lesson or page numbers, helps me stay on track and helps the children move toward independent work.
• Assigning household tasks to specific days relieves the guilt when I’m letting something slide on another day. If Tuesday and Friday are laundry days, I don’t have to feel like a lousy homemaker if the laundry is piled up on Thursday—it’s not laundry day yet!
• A home management training plan helps me to purposefully train my children to help with household responsibilities and to be part of the team.
Finally, build in some margin for the inopportune traffic backup, dishwasher overflow, diaper blowout, milk spill, or toddler meltdown.
Follow the Plan
Build in checkpoints during the day. If you prefer more structure, allocate certain time slots to accomplish certain tasks. If you prefer a more relaxed approach, write your tasks in the order you’d like to accomplish them, then simply give yourself touchpoints. For example, you may want to accomplish these four tasks by lunch, then the next four by afternoon read-aloud time. Or you might set a timer to work at certain tasks, or set an alarm to remind yourself to at least check the routine to see how you are doing.
This will take some diligence and discipline—for the kids and for you. This may mean you only check email in the morning if you’ve built that into the plan, and you stick to the time allotment. Or Facebook is your reward for dinner dishes finished by 9 p.m., and you set the timer for, say, 30 minutes or whatever works best for your family. Or you sew while the children are working on independent work, or are playing nearby.
If you have a business from home that seems to interrupt, build that into your plan as a non-negotiable (as you did with meals), then plug in your other tasks around that. If you continue to run out of time, re-evaluate the time you have allocated to tasks.
Remember that adding something to your to-do list—saying yes to a commitment—means saying no to something else.
No matter how well I plan and how diligent I am to follow through, interruptions happen (and some of them are about three feet tall). This is when the Lord shows me His day. When I think that the wait for the repairman or the visit to the urgent care clinic or the needy neighbor or the needy (or “character-challenged”) child has de-railed my plans, I must recognize that interruptions often are God’s purpose for my day—opportunities for ministry and discipleship of my children and of others. Instead of viewing the interruptions as frustrations to the success of my plans, I need to consider the possibility that they are God’s way of reminding me what is really important today.
I also know that as homeschool parents, we are aware of the curriculum, the requirements, the lesson plans. I do not want anyone reading this to suppose that I do not think academic excellence is important or desirable—yes, we do want our children to achieve their potential. But I want you to remember that you are a parent first—probably a mom—not a teacher. This is your family. Education can still happen in the context of a busy or temporarily distracted family, but “family” doesn’t always happen in the context of school-at-home.
Homeschooling is one aspect of your home discipleship. Your children are always learning. Today, they may learn how to show compassion to a hurting neighbor, or how to make a meal for a shut-in, or how to be patient at the doctor’s office, or how all those parts for the washing machine go back together. They may be reading in the van, or playing word games while they wait somewhere, or reciting memory verses or singing to the shut-in when you deliver the meal, or copying verses about honoring one another and being gentle to one another. The math workbook will still be there tomorrow.
“Listen earnestly to anything they want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” —Catherine Wallace
When Life Broadsides Your Homeschool
Maybe it’s bigger than a sidetracked day. Maybe a major life event has broadsided your homeschool.
It might not be as unsettling as a major illness, house fire, relocation, or caregiving for a relative—it could be a happy event such as a new baby, or a wedding. But you still find yourself way off the path you’d planned.
In many cases, your children have been learning just through the natural processes of life. You may be very surprised at the cognitive progress they have made, even if you’re not where you want to be academically. Children whose parents have had to slow down on the textbook studies because of family crises often do remarkably well on standardized achievement tests. Not only do they usually do acceptably on the tests, but also they have learned valuable lessons in how to live through crisis, how to serve one another under stress, and how to trust in God for each moment.
Again, I am not recommending that you never expect excellence and diligence in formal studies; I am saying don’t let a temporary setback make you quit or panic—you can all learn and grow through it.
God is the Author of New Beginnings
I’ve written this in the past, and it bears repeating here: This is a very big “if,” so please do not allow the enemy to condemn you. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, but there can be conviction to make new choices.
If you happen to be waylaid in your progress because of a shortcoming on your own part, remember that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning.
I am not always as diligent as I wish I were, or as patient, or as discerning, or …. But if they learn nothing else, I want my children to see a mother who is humble and repentant and teachable before the Lord and in front of her family. I need to model a Christ-like attitude (I often fail miserably!).
They need to see a woman who can admit those failings, humble herself to ask forgiveness, and try her best to rely on God to honor her Lord and her family in the future. I need to stay on my knees and in the Word. I pray for my children (even though they are now grown), just as Jesus did for his disciples in John 17.
Start Where You Are Today
You cannot change what you have or haven’t already done over the last year. Just start where you are, ask the Lord to make you a “joyful mother of children,” pray for grace (and wisdom and strength and patience), and move forward.
Grateful for new mercies each day,
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