Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Unschooler Meets a Schedule

For twenty years of homeschooling, we looked at "school" as part of life. People read. People solve problems. People learn what they need to know. All those educational activities (the fun ones and the not-so-fun necessary ones too) just had to fit into real life. "School" was done during summer, during Christmas break, on weekends, in the evenings, just as frequently and easily and naturally as it was done during typical school-day hours.

Now Gary is working away from home during the days Monday through Friday. Now we are attending chapel each M-F morning that our congregation's academy is in session. Now the kids have schooled friends, and homeschooling friends who operate on a Sept-to-May, M-F, 8-3:00 calendar. Their free time affects our schedule. My youngest two students also need more help from me with their schoolwork, be it cracking the whip motivational encouragement or some hand-holding. So this year we are trying to be more schooly, more organized, more scheduled, etc.

I'm dyin' here.

What's really getting to me is the priorities. When there is a list of daily textbooky and workbooky school assignments, it seems that the checklist takes priority over real-life needs which are actually more important. I resent it when I feel naughty to work in the garden instead of grade a math lesson. I get cranky when I think that taking the car in for an oil change is detracting from history or logic class. Mowing and supper-prep should not be seen as "interferences" with schoolwork. I could never understand homeschool moms who didn't have time for a fieldtrip because they'd get "behind" in their schoolwork. But now, even though I know better, those illogical feelings have become my own thoughts.

Getting on a schedule and sticking to it presents its own struggles and benefits. But the part that is super-hard is how it messes with my mind, how it rearranges my whole view of what things in life are Most Important and need to be tackled as top priority each day.

And then, on top of that, I find that it almost gives us permission to unplug our brains on days the conventional schools aren't in session.

There must be a middle ground. Somewhere.

How does a person commit herself to a schedule intended to serve good ends, submitting to the schedule's demands when she doesn't feel like it, and yet not let the schedule become task-master, keeping it in its place as a mere servant to the goals?


  1. I make sure we have one day a week that is scheduled with very few subjects and is more of a make-up day or free day if we have everything else done. M-Th I work on cleaning and sewing so that I can easily drop whatever I'm doing to help with a math lesson or check the kids' work. Since dd is much better about working on stuff herself I have her check everything she can so that I just have to record the grade. Fridays are our make-up days, sometimes I actually have the time to go further in a subject than I have planned, but usually I just make sure we are where we need to be for Monday.

    I learned very quickly that I can't schedule too much outside the home if I want to keep up on everything at home. In order to do school we need to be home, so it can be a sacrifice but well worth it for my sanity. I don't see it as submitting to the schedule's demands as much as time management. That doesn't mean that we don't do things during the week, it just means that I have a minimum of 2-3 hours set aside for school. I can clean or sew or do other things during that time but the activities must be close by so that I can jump in and help the kids with their work.

    I honestly don't believe this would work nearly as well for us if my kids weren't responsible for a number of chores around the house.

  2. nathan fischer9/29/2009 4:54 PM

    Uh, Susan, you're a perfectionist... :-) If I make a schedule, it is quite honestly impossible for me not to essentially throw myself into it, let the schedule "run me", etc. I've *never* been able to do a half-and-half kind of thing, meet in a middle ground, so to speak. Maybe I've *sort of* done that by saying, "On this day, I have to remember to do this." But that's not really a schedule...

    I'm not sure all of this has quite so much to do with your schedule as it does with you (possibly) being a perfectionist. I've known a lot of people who have schedules that fit quite well with their everyday lives, and they don't let them 'run' their lives. I've never figured out how they did it. Then again, like I said, it's kind of impossible for me to even begin thinking that way once I try to get myself on a schedule.

    I don't know if you're quite the perfectionist I am. I definitely don't seem a perfectionist to a lot of people, but mostly because I'm a "defeated perfectionist" (as Kevin Lemin would say) - if I can't do it perfectly, then I don't try nearly as hard as I should. When I try to live by a schedule, I end up scheduling my entire life. If I don't schedule my whole life, then what isn't scheduled revolves entirely around the schedule.

    I'm quite certain that's me being a perfectionist. Dunno if it applies to you, too... But you might take that into consideration.

    (Along that vein, having a schedule that involves more than just yourself also requires that the other people involved be just as determined to stick with [or let slide when need be] the schedule. If they're not, then I, at least, just get frustrated and eventually give up...)

  3. I know exactly what you are going through! It is a huge mind adjustment, that I, too, have found difficult to reconcile.

    I even have a harder time "scheduling" if others I know seem to be able to do it without trouble!

    I think that my mind is chaotic so, like Nathan, it has to be an all-or-nothing proposition. I can't figure out the happy-medium thing others seem to have.

    No help at all am I? LOL

    I find attaching activities to activities works for us. (This works so well when Dad is not home!) Math always after breakfast, reading always after lunch...unless there is laundry to hang or a screaming baby to change. See? I am no help at all.