One homeschooling question that I have gotten a lot lately is, “how do you manage your time?” As I’m writing to you about time management, I’m cuddled under a blanket. Our region is experiencing the worst cold weather in decades. Public schools are cancelled, and have been, off and on for what seems like an eternity. If our family was still enrolled in public school, we’d be looking at 5-8 make up days by now. Some are built into our district’s calendar. Others will be made up in June, I’m assuming. Aside from that, the district would have to declare “an act of God.” We can and do homeschool through any weather event. It’s one way homeschooling allows us to manage our time. We can keep a regular routine with similar anchors in our day. It works well for our kids, who thrive on routine. It especially works with kids and families who manage ADHD.
Our daily routine can vary slightly, depending on what we have going on. We have a window of time for our kids to wake-up, ranging from 7:15-8:30 AM and a window for bedtime, from 8:00-9:00. Those time frames are something we absolutely honor, because of a window of time for a medication for one of our children. It does help us to keep a few of the same anchors in our day, but we don’t have a defined start and stop time. Our anchors are the order of operations, so to speak. No matter what, every morning, we have time for hugs, breakfast, some wake up free time, hygiene and chore duties, and we show up at our homeschool ready to learn. No matter what, our evenings consist of a shower/bath hygiene routine, pajamas, and tuck ins. We may not read every single night, but the kids go to bed with full bellies, clean bodies, hugs, kisses, and full tanks, emotionally. Today we eased into our morning. It’s hard to feel productive with -50° wind chills. Some mornings we jump right into school. School rarely lasts past lunchtime and it’s one of our favorite times of the day. Our afternoons are for free play. Our evenings are for family and sometimes friends. Our nights are for recapping the day and going to bed knowing we are loved and cherished.
We “outsource” some of what we count as school and we take school with us when we travel. The kids participate in a few dance classes. They are involved in “after school” church sponsored activities. They are both in a local theatrical production. Bi-weekly they attend a group with other homeschooling kids. These outings cover some of our PE, Art, Science, and Bible subjects. We do not over schedule our kids in activities and sports. Activities don’t exceed three of the seven days of the week.
There are days we block off as family days and they are non-negotiable for activities. The days can vary, season to season. My husband and I decided that we aren’t on this Earth to provide a magical childhood 24/7. They are able to pleasantly maintain and enjoy the activities they are involved in without feeling rundown and cranky. We are able to do the same, because we have said “no” to more. It is important for us, that our children understand the time, money, effort on their part, and time commitment from all of us, when they chose an activity. We block off time for ourselves, and I talk about that here. It is important for us, that they see us taking time for our marriage as we spend “Mom & Dad time” together.
A few of you have asked what I do while school is going on. Am I teaching, solidly for x amount of hours? Absolutely not! Is your child’s teacher standing in front of the classroom talking for 7.5 hours? No. He or she has a lot of other tasks to juggle while teaching. There are times I’m giving instruction. There are times when we work as a group and times when the kids are working independently. I can deal with laundry load switches (I try to wash a load first thing in the morning as part of my laundry routine). I can tidy up slightly but I stay within sight of them because I want them to know that their school time matters to me. I do avoid checking emails, taking phone calls, writing, managing social media, and meal prep while they are in school. It’s important that they see my investment in their education. It’s also important to me, to respect boundaries I have set in place for when I am work-at-home Darcy, teach-at-home Teacher Mom, and stay-at-home Mom.
I absolutely love spending this time with my children and being available to them. Plus, there’s a lot of interaction between us during our homeschool time together. We have the best conversations. They are comfortable opening up to me, whether sharing a triumph or frustration. I didn’t bring them home, to just sit them in a corner with some workbooks. We worked hard to deschool them to understand that they can work on their own, in a competition with no one. There’s nothing to hurry through. There’s no rush to make it on time to art class or to the cafeteria line. Also, there’s nothing more important than their education going on during our school time, and I work to protect that time.
Because my husband and I look at homeschooling our children as a lifestyle change (that we love), we have really embraced all we can do to make the day run smoothly and happily. I am able to teach, parent, keep my home running the way we are most comfortable. I have a partner who shares the load equally with me, while also working 40-60 hours outside of our home. We want to protect our time together, our time with our young children, and our time with our whole family. We say no when we need to, to other commitments or favors. I spent a lot of years worrying about disappointing other people. That’s no longer an issue. The people that can’t hear “no” aren’t your people.
As far as running our household while teaching, writing, and working from home, I keep it all in my head and in my planner. Actually, I have a system of planning materials that really only make sense to me, but I’m happy to share my method. I delegate like the CEO of any organization would. That’s my short answer. I have an extremely helpful spouse and children who are also a big part of the household chores. I did jot down what I think every room needs at certain intervals and I printed it to keep in my master binder. Let me know if you’d like to see something like that to customize for your own home or if you’d like to see what my planning system looks like. I love to share!
I personally don’t do well with printed schedules or routines for cleaning. I will totally sabotage my own work, since I’m so “all or nothing.” Blocks of time do work well though. I have learned to let some things slide. Other things are non negotiable. I thrive in neat, tidy, fresh spaces, so I like to keep my home clean and organized. I like aesthetic and I like using cleaning products that are better for the Earth. I like to go to bed with a clean kitchen sink and countertops. I don’t like dirty toilets and bathroom sinks. I try to keep our laundry caught up. My kids are expected to keep their rooms clean and their beds made.
My husband and I have come up with a great master list and meal plan that we rotate seasonally it has saved our family so much money and time. I shared our January through March rotation here. That’s one way we take back time for our family. We are not scurrying around for meal solutions after the busyness of our days and we are no longer running out to restaurants or ordering carry out as part of our day. I keep meals simple and hearty in the Winter. Prep time is minimal, and really, we all do enjoy time in the kitchen together.
As far as school related stuff, I work off of monthly plans I have been refining since we started homeschooling. Those plans get broken down into bullet lists divided by subject. We check stuff off as we go/make a pretty basic list of what we are accomplishing. I have four weekly folders/bins that I shove resources in as I come across them. I have loved creating our first year of curriculum. It has allowed our “traditional” second and third grader to do a mix of 2nd, 3rd, and some 4th grade work. Next year we are using a boxed curriculum, geared toward age ranges. They will be working at an 8-11 year age range in a literature based curriculum. I’ll talk about our curriculum choice and teaching similar aged children together in a later post.
To sum it all up…our mornings run so much smoother as homeschoolers (and we had pretty great mornings in public school!) Our bedtime routine is relaxed and stress free, because we aren’t in a state of rushing. The largest portion of our day is spent together, although I do give myself a huge margin of time weekly for personal growth, rest, dedicated work time, and date time with my husband. The kids spend an appropriate amount of time with screens/educational games. They create and play. They leave the house a few times a week for activities with friends and family. Our home remains fairly clean and organized. Everyone is fed three meals a day. We are all able to enjoy the “extras” that used to stress us out and cut into our family time and bedtime. Thanks for joining us as we continue to declutter our spaces.
My favorite planner can be found here!