I seem to be getting more and more “how do you do it all” questions lately. I think we’re all looking for the magic secret ingredient that will suddenly make our super-long to-do list possible. It seems like others are doing more and we feel inadequate.
Here’s the secret you knew all along: I’m not doing as much as you probably think I am. My to do list is always longer than I can accomplish. I feel the pressure of things left undone. I feel inadequate to what’s on my plate a lot of the time.
I also know that’s a misperception and bad attitude more than a true state.
Different people also have different energy levels and different operating modes. We don’t do ourselves or our families any favors when we compare ourselves to others. We each need to think about who we are, how we function, and how to arrange life in light of those realities.
I am a doer. Having projects makes me happy. I need projects to balance out the daily hum-drum because for me a regular daily routine is draining but a challenging project is invigorating.
So, I will share my weekly time budget – a strategy I recommend in both Simplified Organization: Learning to Love What Must Be Done and Work the Plan – but I also think it’s important for each of us to look at what kind of a person we are rather than compare ourselves to others. Put some time into whatever you find life-giving and invigorating so you can have a replenished self to pour into the other parts of your life that require more out of you.
I think a weekly time budget is a useful exercise because we have different responsibilities and plates to keep spinning, but if we don’t budget time to take care of those things, we’ll always feel behind and like we are making judgment calls we shouldn’t have to make. A prime example of this for me last year was grocery shopping.
Groceries have to be procured, but I didn’t have a place for it on the plan. I thought I had enough margin built in for it to just happen whenever it needed to happen. I did have margin built in. But grocery shopping is rather essential and regular, and so needed a regular and reserved spot in the plan. Just as with a money budget, when I wasn’t reserving any time for grocery shopping, it always felt like I was skimping and scraping to make it happen rather than doing the right thing at the right time.
So, here’s my time budget, with all it’s color-coding detail:
Sunday is not on the time budget at all because it is a day of rest – for church, rest, and fellowship with friends.
pink is personal or down time
purple is online & writing time (productive online time, that is)
orange is school time
green is housework, errands, & meals
blue is margin, for hanging out or for doing what needs to be done
I’m not afraid to leave off blog posting, skip a monthly newsletter, not do this that or the other thing that was on the plan because I didn’t have the time for it. I am ok with overplanning and then reprioritizing on the fly. I rather like having the options to work from and picking and choosing.
If having something on the plan that you can’t get to stresses you out, you’re going to prefer a different set up and more culling of the list from the outset. I’m ok with deleting on the fly as well as checking off the box.
Having time blocks reserved for school allows me to shut off the mental ticker that likes to think up blog post ideas or things I might try online, having time blocks for housework makes me realize that it’s only a short bit of time I have to focus on it rather than letting it grow to be something that takes all day.
I find a weekly time budget to be a very helpful exercise, a way to wrap my mind around my responsibilities and how they fit together.
Well, our full fall schedule is in full swing and my inbox is showing it. So much to stay on top of! These last couple weeks our school routine has been top priority, so blog updates fell to the wayside. On top of that, I had a terrible head cold last week that made me feel like I was falling even more behind, but now that it’s clear so is my perception of the situation. Funny how that works.
But I have so many things to update you with! I’ll try to limit myself to the standard 7.
We’re reading good books, including more narration. That feels good. I’ve had two children move up to the next level of math – this is, after all, our 10th week of school and they ended last year 3/4 of the way through. One of the perks of not caring where you are in your math book when you end or begin the year is that you get the injection of a small win – moving up a level – in the midst of hum drum school weeks.
Actually, I love it when we finish math books at random parts of the year because it’s another infusion of newness that sparks joy. It also is a definite sign to the student that they are making progress, and sometimes they need that assurance more on the 10th-week-in than the 1st.
I know we all love to swap logistics ideas, so in October I’ll be focusing on practical homeschooling and keeping-up-the-house posts. I’m working on a post about our weekly time budget for Monday.
My current strategy for the “keeping up the house” schtick? Have other people into your house every single day of the week! Yikes!
The Scholé Sisters newsletter will be sent out this afternoon. If you’d like to receive a concentrated dose of encouragement to stay the course and homeschool from a state of rest, you’ll want to make sure you’re on the list. You can sign up here.
~ 6 ~
Between the cold, being out of town, and actually doing the homeschooling, I haven’t been on Periscope much. However, I did hop on Tuesday to talk about “rolling with the punches” and persevering when plans get off track – because that’s what they do.
Work the Plan enrollment is closed until January 1, but you can still see one sample video there and get on the list to be notified when it’s available again.
~ 7 ~
~ Free reads in our home this week ~
You know how I said I let my oldest off the hook for reading Ben Hur because he thought it was boring? First we tried the audio version instead of the book, but still it wasn’t speaking to him and he was stalled out on any reading. So I cut him loose without fuss or guilt.
Now my second-born grabbed that ipod with Ben Hur on audio and is halfway through, talking about how much he likes it. I’m not sure if there’s some element of simple contrariness in there, but it’s amusing either way.
I have had so many requests the last few weeks for a closer view of my teacher checklist. So here it is, as promised, in all its tiny-font glory. This is my master homeschool checklist that keeps us on track throughout the week – provided I look at it and follow it. I’m hoping that writing about it thoroughly here will not only help you streamline your own checklist, but also help me commit again to not only making the list, but actually look at it and use it.
You can download a pdf view of the checklist by clicking on any of the images.
I’ve been using a printed weekly checklist for several years now. I keep it on a clipboard and it lives on the kitchen counter during the school day. I’ve adapted it a little bit every year, and this year in particular I feel very pleased with it. After a few years, I know what is helpful, what isn’t, and what works for me.
This works for me. But it might not work for you. So take everything with a pinch of salt and always adapt to your own preferences, workflow, and situation.
My homeschool checklist: The top row
The first row in my weekly list is for the little things outside school time that help smooth the way. Did we do our morning chores? Did I turn on our current composer during breakfast or chore time? Did I put the kids’ math pages on their clipboards? Did we put our books and papers away before lunch? Did we do a general EHAP of the house in the late afternoon?
I fill in the circles like I’m taking a standardized test. I like the neat appearance that gives, and of course I use a purple pen.
My homeschool checklist: My active teaching time
The next row in my table – because this is just a table in a word processor – is for the subjects I’m actively involved in that day.
The first item, of course, is our Morning Time. The circle next to Morning Convocation is for whether or not we had the time at all. Then the circled letters underneath are for each of the pieces: index card (art/coloring & Morning Meeting), binder, playlist, and reading. Some days we skip a piece, so this helps me keep track of whether or not I’m consistency missing a particular piece or whether or not I cut corners that day.
Then comes the list of the things I do with my 5yo & 7yo. Couch time means our read alouds, their reading practice, and phonics. We do that together on the couch. Then we move to the table for handwriting & spelling. After we do spelling, I write down which day they did.
After that comes anything I do one-on-one with my older boys. These are not the same every day, so having the reminder of what I’m doing with them helps make it happen.
The last items in this row are the group lessons I teach. On Tuesday & Thursday afternoons I do Elementary Lessons, which amounts to a second Morning Time with my older kids and my friend’s (and neighbor!) older kids while she reads to and supervises the younger set. This is where the bulk of our read aloud lesson time and content work happens. Again, the main circle is what I mark off after it happens, and then the letters tell whether or not we completed all the pieces: Geography, mapwork, History, Anatomy, Shakespeare, Bible, Plutarch. Each of these takes 10-20 minutes, because I’m doing my best to implement Brandy’s slow reading approach this year. They also have a writing assignment (homework!) on Thursdays that is due on Tuesdays; that’s what the paragraph circles are for.
Wednesday is Language & Logic, where we’re doing grammar, Art of Argument, & Grammar of Poetry together with friends.
My homeschool checklist: Tracking independent work
Each of my students has their own checklist which they work off of, but I keep track of it all on my list. That way, at the end of the week, I have a record on one page of what was done by everybody for the whole week. There’s not room to have a line with each student’s name, so after I print it, I mark each students’ section with a color-code highlighter like this:
Last year I grouped items by subject and had kids’ initials under that, but I like this arrangement more because then I can see at a glance if one particular child is done with his day or not. The student fills out his own checklist when he completes it, but I mark off their work on my checklist after checking the work and acknowledging that it was done. Only expect what you inspect and all that. If I’m not paying attention, a week might go by and it turns out they haven’t been doing cursive practice or Bible or what have you. This section is my reminder that it’s my responsibility to stay on top of their work and ensure it’s being done.
My homeschool checklist: The weekly section
This year my seventh grader has a number of weekly assignments not assigned to particular days. So I have those tracked in this last section of my list. It’s just like the independent work section, but these items simply have to be completed by Friday and can be done at my oldest’s discretion. He’s learning time management principles by baby steps.
For my 5th grader, we do a Monday Meeting where we test his typing speed, he chooses 3 books to read (one history, one science, one story – he doesn’t have to finish, it just continues to be his pick until he has finished),
Lastly, I keep a section for my weekly prep checklist. These are the pages I need to print or pull out each week so we are ready to roll through our school plans without hiccups – or, at least, with fewer hiccups.
At the very bottom of the page is a Proverb I find most applicable to my role as a homeschool mom: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I need to remember that my tone dictates the kids’ reactions more often than not, and that’s something I can and should control.
My homeschool checklists: Practices that make it work
I never fill in specifics ahead of time. The list says the subject, but not the particular assignment. I write in the particular assignment after it’s finished. This makes the list a template that I can print off quickly and use right away without a lot of weekly prep, it means at the end of the week it’s an accurate record, and it means we’re not ever “behind” on our plans. If something doesn’t happen on a day, I draw a line through it. So I have an honest testimonial about the week on Friday. There are always line-outs somewhere; it’s just a fact of life. Here is an example of last weeks (although this is not typical, because it was the launch week for Work the Plan I purposefully made it a lighter week for my direct-instruction time.
I scan the previous one, make any adjustments, and print a new one on Friday afternoon. This is like a weekly review for our homeschool specifically. Sometimes it doesn’t happen until Saturday evening or Monday morning, but it doesn’t take a lot of time to scan our record and print a fresh sheet.
I keep it highly visible. It has to sit on the kitchen bar counter during the school day so I am confronted with it often. It is my cue to keep going, to not cut corners and “just call it good.” That is my tendency, and it’s one that every year I get a little bit better at overcoming – and, shockingly, it shows in how well we memorize, how much we read, and how far the children progress in math. Huh. Consistency works. Who knew?
I use it as a prompt to keep up with what my older kids are working on. It’s easy to shuffle responsibility off on these kids that are starting to look and sound like responsible parties. But they need the safeguard of accountability. They need to know Mom cares and Mom will check to keep them from cutting corners and calling it good, just like me. When I have to mark off each subject as finished for the day, it reminds me to pay attention and not let them drift. It’s not all punitive, either. Checking in means I have the opportunity to tell them “Good job!” and have conversations with them about their reading. Not all accountability is a bummer; or, at least, it shouldn’t be.
My homeschool checklist: Do you have more questions?
There you have it. Six photos and 1500 words on one weekly checklist. Do you have still more questions? Do you have your own blog posts with pictures of your homeschool checklist? Share them in the comments, please!
There has been such a great response to Work the Plan this week. Thank you so much for your support and kind words. I especially appreciated these bits from emails sent by readers:
“I feel like I have a boost in my abilities to attack and conquer life every time I encounter whatever-it-is you’ve written.”
As well as this from Cheryl F.:
Thank you so much for seeing into my daily life by examining your own so closely and then sharing your insight. You have been a huge blessing to me since I stumbled upon your blog a couple of years ago. This is just a thank you from one tired, overwhelmed, optimistic, hard-working, productivity-literature-loving, Christian mom to another.
Thank you for all the encouraging and grateful emails these last couple weeks. I save them and I appreciate them. :)
~ 1 ~
So I have to admit that Tuesday – the day Work the Plan launched – was pretty much a day off school, unless the kids staring at my real-time stats to see where visitors to the site were coming from counts as geography. We did Morning Time, math, and piano practice and called it good. Being a wee bit distracted, we celebrated by getting popsicles and pizza from Costco. :)
However, Thursday was our first day back to Elementary Lessons, and we’re all excited to be together again with a new fresh pile of books!
~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
So, Tuesday was a wash as far as school went, but I made myself plow through a list of housekeeping between checking how things were doing and making sure I wasn’t getting urgent customer service emails.
It’s always ironic, but in spending so much time writing about working the plan, my housework plan had to give to the writing plan. But Tuesday, launch day, I caught it all up so we can start our more-full school schedule next week (we’ve added piano lessons, Elementary Lessons twice a week, another friend coming to do lessons with us some mornings, an evening club for the boys one afternoon a week, and a story time with Nana for the two youngest on Friday mornings).
It’s good to have my extra projects wrapped up, because I’m not going to have the brain space for extra writing for awhile!
~ 3 ~
I put all the resources for my Paper v. Digital Planning webinar – the video, chat box, cheat sheet, and quiz – all together in one convenient spot. If you already signed up for the webinar, you can click the replay link and now instead of just watching the replay, you’ll have access to everything right in one handy spot.
If you haven’t signed up, you can do so here:
And I do encourage you to do so because I’m going to add another video and cheat sheet to it next week and then move it into Work the Plan as part of the course material.
So if you wanted to check it out, do so soon because it won’t be available much longer!
~ 4 ~
It was a doozy of a week for podcasts! Pam had Brandy on the Your Morning Basket podcast, talking about reading aloud in Morning Time, and Brandy – of course – dropped wisdom without even realizing it.
We’re trying a slow-reading approach this year in our Elementary Lessons – which is basically a second Morning Time for older students only where we do our reading. And it’s Brandy’s fault. Well, that and I did a “fast, broad sweep” approach last year with modern history and found that the kids’ attention was not as good and their retention was worse after long stretches of reading, even though the books were good books. So, we’ll give the slow approach (with more narration) a go this year.
I’ve been on a big podcast kick for a number of months now, perhaps even a year, while listening to fewer audio books. I will still have a core set of podcasts I listen to, of course, but I have been noticing that my attention has been diminishing as I hop from thing to thing and do not require sustained attention to one topic for long. So I got Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Ancient World (the adult history book) on Audible (26 hours!) and we’ll see how long that takes me to move through. We’re reading about ancient times this year in school, so it will be a good parallel.
I’ve received a number of requests for a look at my weekly list, our school schedule, and other such nitty-gritty posts, so I have declared October the month of nitty-gritty homeschool posts. I am not doing 31 days of posting here in October like I have before, but at least once a week there’ll be a close-in view of our homeschooling flows.
And Monday I’ll share my current homeschool weekly master list, as promised. :) It’s the time where we’re all looking for better ideas than the ones we started off with, but remember that no list is going to magic away the necessity of simply putting in the work, as Brandy wrote.
In fact, we’re going to do a free webinar (because Google Hangouts on Air and chat boxes are just too much fun) on October 9th called Work Your Homeschool Plan. Stay tuned for more details!
You can subscribe by email to make sure you don’t miss anything:
~ 7 ~
Free reads in our home this week:
Ben Hur was on my 12-year-old’s 7th grade book list, but he was stalled on it for 3 weeks. I asked him on yet another Monday what book he was reading and when it was still Ben Hur, I asked if he liked it. Nope. He thought it was exceedingly boring.
I shrugged. “It was a book I thought you might like, but if you don’t, you don’t have to finish it. You can come back to it when you’re older maybe and see if you like it then.” And then he chose a different book to start on with relief.
The book list I gave him was only to get him to try some books he wouldn’t pick up on his own, but forced reading is not as effective as free reading, so we’ll drop that one for him for now and move on. No big deal.
I think we all want a little more sanity, right? Beginning with the end in mind is essential to not driving ourselves crazy. Unless we know the direction we’re going, we never know if we’re making good choices or on the right path. So we fall prey to self-doubt, stress, worry, and simply spinning our wheels going nowhere.
While we might see the need to begin with the end in mind in big areas of responsibility like homemaking and homeschooling, we can even apply the same principles and vision to organizing.
What is the end?
a final part of something, especially a period of time, an activity, or a story
the furthest or most extreme part or point of something
a goal or result that one seeks to achieve
Begin with the goal in mind
The goal of organizing is to give all things a home.
It’s easy to get distracted by big organizing projects like labeling shelves and decluttering, as if the goal is simply to have a photo-worthy set up or less stuff. But both those projects should be done in order to work toward the real goal of having homes for everything.
Decluttering is important because not everything in our house is worthy of finding a place for. We need to get rid of junk, not find a home for it. Our houses have limited space and so we need to keep our stuff within the limits we have in our situation – that’s decluttering.
Once we’ve decluttered, we’re not done. Next, all those things we are keeping need appointed places so that we can EHAP, we can put everything in its place because everything has a place.
It’s a long-term project for many of us, not an overnight overhaul, but finding a place for everything is what we’re working toward as we organize.
Then, it’s just a matter of putting everything in it’s place. Simple, right? ;)
Begin with the extreme point in mind
The point of organizing is to be prepared.
And why does everything need a home? Why do we make lists and plans?
It’s so we are prepared. It’s not so we can control what happens, because we can’t. Rather, being organized is about being prepared for what life tosses our way.
No matter how organized we are, we ultimately do not control outcomes. God controls the future and nothing we do can wrest that control from His hands. We can’t earn our desired outcome by trying hard enough or figuring out the right formula.
Rather, planning and organizing is a way of stewarding our gifts and our situations, presenting an offering of service and thanksgiving to God. He then may do what He sees fit and we can trust that it will work out to the good.
Begin with the final story in mind
The final story of organizing is service.
What story should our organizing be telling? If our organization efforts were the main character in a story, what would the story be about? About a control freak? About a stressed out and anxious sort? About someone who is always dissatisfied and discontent?
The story our organizing should be telling is one of service. We shouldn’t get organized so that we look impressive, but so that we can better serve our family, our church, and ultimately our God. That’s the true end, the real point.
So whether or not our organization is “successful” is less about how it all looks or how it makes us feel, but about making us effective and active servants in the kingdom of God.
Getting organized is only preliminary work, not the real work. That doesn’t make it unimportant or a waste of time, but it does mean that we can’t sigh, sit back, and think we’ve done the hard part once we have our lists in order. Having our stuff in order is only getting us to the starting line with running shoes and a water bottle. Next comes the actual race.
We’re better equipped to run the race, but the race is there to be run.
One interesting thing that I have found after a number of years of homeschooling on 6-week terms is how much pressure it takes off the early weeks. Schooling in July feels like bonus time. We get a groove with our basics and iron out the kinks. Then new stuff starts as we enter our second term and we get another opportunity to step back, evaluate, and change up what didn’t work out the way I envisioned.
So, over the weekend I totally changed up my own teacher checklist because it was just not flowing for me. This one seems to work much better. I have a section for the me-led lessons of the day at the top, then a section for stuff I need to make sure each kid does, grouped by kid rather than by subject. Then at the bottom are the independent weekly items that I need to check in with by Friday to make sure they’re happening. It’s a trick getting it all on one page, but I managed.
I’ve also decided that a purple flair pen is my favorite for filling in check marks, and I like filling in circles standardized-test style rather than making checks. It looks neat and clean as I go along making the empty bubbles purple.
~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
I took a meal to a family this week. Doesn’t it look all nice and packaged up ready to go? Brandy pesters me off and on about writing up tips for taking people meals, but my decision not to do so was confirmed this week.
I spilled the soup (hot broth through the not-actually sealed foil) on myself while getting it into the car. I changed, so I was later than I said I’d be.
When I made the turn into the neighborhood, I saw broth spilling out of the corner of the box like a little water fountain.
I have an inside source for foil pans. One lady at church buys frozen meals and hates to throw things away, so she gives me her foil pans. I use them for taking meals to people, because if you need a meal, you don’t need to be washing and keeping track of other people’s dishes.
Thankfully, the bread was on top of the foil disaster, so it did not get wet. It was all still fine when I got there – I just left the box in my car. I thought I was taking chicken soup, but it was more of a chicken veggie medley casserole by the time they got it.
I use the oil-cleansing method. I first read about it on The Art of Simple and decided to try it out because I’ve never found a face cleanser I liked. I’m not sure why exactly, but I do like this method. It’s good, but it’s no miracle – I still get blemishes. I like the face-steaming step. It’s simple, not messy or drippy, and it’s the perfect end-of-day relaxing practice.
I was going to link the oils to Amazon, but all of them are way more expensive. I just get mine from the pharmacy section at WalMart and I use the same olive oil I cook with. Not organic, nothing special, but it works.
Anyway, my 12-year-old son did not agree and had opted for returning to doing nothing. I didn’t think this was a good option. He countered with asking if I could do anything about the smell of the tea tree oil. So then I thought to ask Sarah, from Third Day Naturals, who is a reader here, what she’d recommend and she confirmed that the peppermint-tea-tree-oil soap would be great for face washing.
He has an easier time using bar soap and the peppermint completely overpowers the tea tree oil. And it seems to be working well, too.
Like so many things in life, of course, what’s going to work best is what you’ll do. Finding out what you’ll do can take some trial and error, but it’s worth the effort.
~ 4 ~
We had a Women of Grace meeting last night, and I dropped the ball on arranging refreshments. Being chair pretty much means “send in announcements,” “lead meetings,” and “fill in anywhere you don’t get volunteers.” So, I brought treats to the meeting:
Dove chocolate-covered cherries
Pretty easy and delicious.
I thought I’d share a few “women’s ministry coordinating” tips I’ve learned in the last 5 or so years I’ve been chair.
We’ll call it Simplified Women’s Ministry:
Announcements for annual events can be written once, then each year just change the dates.
Send in all the bulletin announcements for an event in a batch at once.
Same for handouts, invitations, and sign-ups: Just make one, then change the dates each year.
Use Google forms for an online annual sign-up option – the submissions automatically get put into a spreadsheet, which makes it easy to share volunteers with the right coordinators.
Google forms can be copied, too – so each year I copy the document, change the dates, and we’re set to go again.
Conduct “board meetings” by email and that only when there’s actually business.
We have a great body full of helpers, which makes being in charge (that is, finding & coordinating volunteers and delegating jobs) much easier and less stressful.
~ 5 ~
Allison Burr of Truth Beauty Goodness launched The Straight Stick podcast this week. The theme quote for the podcast is from Tozer:
The best way to prove that a stick is crooked is to set a straight one beside it. No words need to be spoken.
Isn’t that an awesome quote? It’s great. And, it also makes me giggle as a podcast theme quote.
I’m looking forward to these short episodes to spur us on to faithful family life!
Ilse has taken a shining to Mr. Putter, of which I heartily approve. It’s right at her level, not challenging, but not easy, and she enjoys reading them (aloud) over and over again. She’s our current car audio book, and I think it’s time to swap her library material, before the whole car just joins in the story because we all have it memorized.
But Mr. Putter is great. I love Cynthia Rylant, and every time I have a budding reader, I am so grateful for her!