“The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Are Apt to Go Awry”
Veteran homeschoolers know, and new homeschoolers will soon learn, that sometimes “life” interferes with “school”. It’s two weeks into the new school year. You’ve been cruising along on schedule. Suddenly, the baby gets a cold, you have scheduled your bi-yearly dental appointments and found five cavities, you agreed to serve on the church's Sunday School Planning Committee, your husband is working major overtime, and everyone (beginning with you) has developed a crazy, bad, stressed-out attitude.
This situation, or a very similar one, has presented itself to me many times in the past thirteen years of homeschooling. So, let's develop a plan of action!
1) Take a deep breath, grab a cup of tea, and sit down. Really!! As your fractured nerves settle you’ll realize that “life happens”. Some upheaval is inevitable. I remember vividly being a newly married young woman and telling my mother-in-law, “Mom, we JUST got a little money saved and then something happened and we had to spend it. I feel like we go two steps forward and take one step back.” She smiled and calmly replied, “Honey, that’s life.” You may not LIKE your current situation, but freaking out, being short with the kids, or curling into a ball will NOT make it better or different. So, BREATHE and prepare to sort out fact from fiction.
2) Solomon 2:15 says it is, “the little foxes that spoil the vineyards,” When we are stressed, our PERCEPTION of the situation can become blown out proportion to the actual facts. It is, generally, not one BIG thing bothering us, but several LITTLE things. So, grab a piece of paper to go along with that cup of tea. Make two columns. List of your current commitments and what is bothering you on the left hand side. Maybe you’ve explained long division to your third grader three times and he/she is still having trouble grasping the concept or your toddler is happy for the first fifteen minutes of the school day and is very unhappy or demanding for the next two hours. Perhaps you have overscheduled your free time for the next couple of weeks.
3) Look at your list. Determine which things you have control over and which you cannot control. Use the right hand side of the paper to brainstorm possible solutions to each dilemna. If a sick child is causing part of the stress, you don’t have a lot of control over that. But, you CAN change your homeschool routine to accommodate that child’s needs. You can rock a child, who needs extra “Mom time” while reading a great book aloud to the rest of the kids. You can ask older siblings to help the younger ones stay on task. The fifth grader can tutor the first grader in math or English. Dad can help in the evenings after supper. Always recognize that family comes FIRST. If the toddler is unhappy, maybe he/she needs some more interesting “school only” toys or educational activities to work on. When my youngest sons watched the “big boys” do school, what they wanted most was to feel included. They wanted to “do school” too. Give them something to do and then give them lots of praise for a job well done.
4) Next, prioritize. You may see that the calendar is over-booked. You can call the head of that church committee and says, “I’m so sorry. But, my schedule this week will not allow me to attend that meeting. But, I would love to have an e-mail containing notes from the meeting sent to me later this week.” Don’t’ be afraid to prune that commitment list! Do what you must, to have time as a family. Note: reading to them during school time rarely counts as quality reading time. I have had more than one child say, “Mom can you read me a book?” I reply, “I read to you during school time.” “Mom, that’s NOT reading time. That’s school time.” You are still a mom, not just their primary educator.
5) I tell new Homeschooling moms to decide what is necessary, what is optimal, and what is extra. “Necessary” things MUST be done. We need to eat three times a day (seven or eight times a day if you are raising teenage boys). We don’t need to eat a five course gourmet meal. Decide what you can do to lighten your load with meal preparation. Make frequent use of children to prep food, set the table, clear the table, and do dishes. “Optimal” things are still important. In a perfect day, we would get them done. But, some days optimal things may go by the wayside. And that’s okay! “Extral” things are just that – the extras. This is a prime area for pruning when you are overwrought with “life”.
6) Finally, “this, too, shall pass”. Crazy times rarely last forever and they seem to pass more quickly when we change our attitude, reorganize our schedule, and prioritize our time.