Freedom in the Rules

Amy and I have been chatting a lot about schedules recently.  Largely, as she has already noted, we have both recently moved to new towns and as such we went from having scheduled obligations to having a largely blank calendar.  Now, I’ve had many a day where I lamented signing my kids up for even the best of activities because it has meant getting all four kids into a car and perhaps I didn’t have dinner quite ready and so I could already see the pending chaos that would ensue when we arrived back through that same door hungry, tired, and (likely) with all sorts of stuff that may or may not find its rightful home right away.  I would have thoughts of, “Doesn’t Charlotte say our afternoons should be available for handicrafts, poetry, tea time, good music, reading, and other fruitful leisure?” while creating pictures in my mind of children who would be painting en plein air and enjoying Mozart if only THIS ACTIVITY didn’t hinder them.  It seems silly written out, but I assure you, I have thought this.

Well, after moving 5 times in 15 months and having almost no kids’ activities scheduled during that time, allow me to tell you, it was nothing like my utopian vision of my homeschool. All too often, I would set up a temporary schedule but because the only thing keeping us from veering off schedule was our own discipline (or lack thereof), it was all too easy to change the schedule when even the smallest issue would come up.  There were no hard and fast stops in the day where we had to go, and so we could drag things out, dawdle, or substitute for other items in the schedule without regard to how much time they took.  We didn’t have a rhythm to the day, or enough good habits formed, and it left us feeling like we had both fallen behind and couldn’t figure out where our time went.  Less schoolwork got done, there was more bickering, less quiet, and general unease.  This was not the freedom I had envisioned. 

It reminded me of an extremely good example I had once heard about the need for rules and order. The premise was that if you are going to play baseball, you need the rules.  If each person was to play their own version of baseball, it wouldn’t really be baseball at all.  People would be free to run the bases backward or ignore the foul line.  That would have many consequences: 1. No one would every be very good at baseball, because there would be nothing by which to measure success, 2. No one would enjoy watching it, because they wouldn’t know what was going on or if things were going well or not for their team, 3. Squabbling, disagreement, and general anarchy would ensue with no rules and no authority there to decide if rules were being properly followed.  With the rules of baseball clearly set out and publicly known, we can know when the game is played well, enjoy the game, and know when a play has stepped outside of the boundaries of proper baseball.  It is the rules that create freedom, and not a lack of rules.

Now that we are in a place we plan to be for a while, I am attempting to rebuild enough structure to create checkpoints in the day, while leaving enough time for contemplation, boredom, leisure, and play for every member for the family.  Let me tell you, this is no small task.  I’m sure you’ve tried it, or at least thought about trying it, and it seemed intimidating.  I’ll be sharing some of my attempts, and their varying levels of success here as Amy and I start up a scheduling series of posts.  I will say, that in my first years of homeschooling, I have found some tools to be extremely helpful in my previous plans and schedules, so I thought I would share them here:

  1. Nicole shares a wealth of knowledge and study of CM’s programmes at her site.  I can’t recommend highly enough reading through her posts on planning a schedule for your homeschool.
  2. Pam is also a wonderful resource, and her eBook, The Confident Homeschooler was the key to my wasting a lot less time by creating procedure lists.  This meant that when I was starting a new book, or skill (like dictation, narration, etc), I would plan out what my plan was for that short lesson.  I could then follow the steps until it became a good habit for me and my student.  I can’t tell you how genius this is because all too often I would write down the book, and the time allotted, but when we go to it, I would forget that I had meant to bring out a certain journal or wouldn’t have the materials needed for a written narration, or forget a step altogether such as scaffolding the previous lesson.  Having a list helped me immensely.
  3. A bullet journal.  I use this one because I like that the pages come already numbered, but many people prefer a Moleskine or some other notebook.  I’m not artsy, my pages are not Pinterest-worthy, but I love having all of my lists, brain dumps, random thoughts, appointments, ideas, goals, etc all written down in one place.  I can plan future months, assess previous ones, see if I am following up appropriately, or making progress on goals all in one book.  Cute pens are key for me.
  4. Excel. I used this throughout my working days before I stayed home with the kids and old habits die hard.  I love it for creating neat checklists for the kids, schedules, and chore charts.

And that is really it.  I don’t want to clutter up my time with too many tools, so I stick with trusted sites and items that have stood the test of time.  What are your go-to tools for creating a schedule and a rhythm to your days?
 

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