Monday, May 26, 2008

Schooling Without a Schedule?

When people hear I am the mom of a large, military, home-schooling family they often assume our house either, 1. runs like boot camp or 2. exists in total chaos. I assume their perception depends on if they focus on the word “large” or on the word “military”.

By nature I am by nature a perfectionist. I created and followed brilliant, color-coded, MOTH-like (Managers of Their Homes) schedules and chore charts before MOTH was published. I am a RECOVERING Perfectionist.

I love my lists, schedules and charts. What caused me to curb my scheduling impulses? One day I heard myself actually say, “If you would all just sit there naked on the couch and not eat anything for a day, I could stay on schedule.” ::blush::

I was making my children neurotic with my need to organize and plan. Everything had to be in its place; everyone had to STICK TO THE SCHEDULE. I would chase around after them, pick up dishes before they were finished, and move newspapers when they got up to get a new glass of milk. When a child was slow to pick up a school concept, my gut would twist with anxiety because we were “off the schedule”. The problem was NOT the chart; the problem was my personality and my “get it all done on schedule” focus.

I desperately needed to add mercy and grace to my schedules and plans. I had to relax my standard. I no longer aim for perfection - excellence will do. In some seasons of our life, I loosely define “excellence”.

While I personally love schedules, I find that with our lifestyle and various personalities (read: busy chaplain’s family where mom is often pregnant or up all night with a little one, homeschooling with toddlers and preschoolers), it is better for us to focus on ROUTINE rather than a strict schedule. With a schedule, I find myself stressed when we are “behind”; with a routine, we are always right where we need to be. With a schedule, I often miss times of interaction, play, and truly teachable moments because I am rushing to reach point X before the timer goes off; with a routine, I am at ease to match our pace to our current needs. Routine allows me to I listen more for His still, small voice.

In our home, we each have well-defined routines. Some of us are structure-lovers, and we begin the routine at the same time every day and progress through it in a very methodical and orderly fashion. Others are more relaxed in the routine.

There are still times when color-coded charts enticingly attempt to seduce me. About two years ago, I actually ordered Managers of Their Homes and breathed in the charts, color-coded…be still my racing heart. I took the matter to prayer and was called to adjust my ROUTINE, rather than implement a new schedule. I lovingly blessed another with MOTH. A great tool, by the way….just not for us.

It’s my strong conviction that each Mom needs to go to God with her responsibilities and frustrations to see what creative solutions He drops into her heart. God has gently showed me that in the past my trust and dependence shifted from Him to MY SCHEDULE. My personality feels secure, purposeful, and productive with lists, charts, and schedules. Instead, God invites me to seek His heart daily and to walk by the revelation and in the strength of His spirit for that day. These really have been the key to our style of schooling. For these reasons, I hesitate to share our exact routine.

I realize that God can use others’ concrete ideas to speak to us, and so, I’ll share a few tips I’ve gleaned on my journey. Please, do not try to imitate ME – seek His heart, and implement His plan for your family. Pray about each item in your routine or on your schedule. I ruthlessly trim outside opportunities and ministries in order to give us TIME and flexibility to change plans as He directs. If you add something to your schedule for next year, force yourself to subtract something of equal time from your current schedule. This can be painful. We look for opportunities with firm begin and end dates. For example, eight weeks of drama or nine weeks of Co-op sports. In this way, if we find something is not right for us, we aren’t committed to a full year.

I was invited to share our family schedule for a handout that was given to new homeschoolers. I share that here if you want nuts and bolts.

If you can implement schedules without being consumed by them, they are probably for you. If, like me, you are a recovering perfectionist, you may be surprised what God will teach you if you live life without a strict schedule. It’s been exhilarating for me. My children rejoice that they are no longer hungry and starving on the couch, in a picture perfect home, with an efficiency expert standing over them with charts and stopwatches. I had a moment of great glee when I heard someone describe me recently as the “queen of hands on homeschooling” and a “spontaneous type”. YES! That’s grace!

In closing, these words of Nichole Nordeman’s song, Legacy, sweetly remind me of the legacy I’m striving to build in this season of my life.

...I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough?
To make a mark on things
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace
Who blessed Your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy...

©2008 D.R.G.

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