There is no end to the inspirational quotes and graphics we find on social media about planning— you know, like..
“A goal without a plan is just a wish…” (Antoince de Saint-Exupery)
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” (Benjamin Franklin)
We could literally go on and on together, sharing planning quotes that have encouraged us to put pen to paper and solidify how we intend to tackle our goals and objectives each day.
One of the very first things I purchased when I decided to homeschool was a PLANNER, as a matter of fact— and then I proceeded to make the first big mistake of my homeschool career with it— but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Before we dive in too deep, let me remind you that homeschooling for the heart of your kiddos is a 365 day a year, 24 hour a day pursuit. You really are going to need a good working plan for those days— because within them, you’ll need to find time for schooling, managing the household, food prep, etc… all within the same space— which can get tricky if you’re not careful.
I’ve thought often how Jesus said that no man can serve two masters… now, I know that He wasn’t referring to homeschooling and running a home, but the principle stays the same. It’s hard to split your attention between competing interests and do either of them well.
David has taught me a lot in this area, because my tendency is to place everything on the same level of importance. And, when I do that, I am very apt to get overwhelmed, irritable, defeated, and generally “Momzilla-ish.”
And that where we find our next anchor—> **Understanding your calling will give you direction for how to prioritize and plan your days.**
Plus, by having your mission statement to work from, you’ll actually be able to see how the seemingly competing interests of cleaning the house and teaching the children aren’t really competing interests at all. They’re actually just different parts of the whole.
So, if my goal is to homeschool for the Heart of my children, then how does that determine how I plan my days? And, how should I respond when my beautifully planned day.. well… isn’t?
For illustration’s sake, let me tell you about my big planning mistake of 2010. I think we can all learn a lesson or two from the new homeschooling me at this point.
“It was July of 2010, and I was so extremely, ridiculously, overwhelmingly excited about starting to school my children at home that I was ready to jump into the deep end of everything I knew was associated with being a teacher. First and foremost on my agenda at that point— LESSON PLANS!!
I had already purchased a beautiful planner— with lots of sweet quotes and design elements that made my heart sing— and I was ready to use it. SOOOOO, I took an entire week, stealing every moment I could with the lesson plans provided with the box curriculum I purchased, and entered them for each of my 3 currently homeschooling children on the dated boxes in my planner… IN INK…. for the entire school year.
Yeah, I was feeling pretty accomplished.
I was feeling pretty accomplished that is until about mid-morning on the first day of school when I realized that everything I had written down… in ink… for the entire year was already off schedule.
That set off a series of arrows and x’s that graffitied my beautiful planner and tore my heart in pieces. All those arrows and x’s screamed at me what I was already afraid of… I clearly couldn’t do this! I had failed my children already.
That thought then set off the frantic, “GET BACK ON MAMA’S SCHEDULE!” days that were, honestly, good for no one. By God’s grace, I abandoned the frightening looking marked-up planner and started over within a month or so, writing reasonable lesson plans on a weekly basis… and in pencil.
Since I am clearly not a fast learner, another time when the kids were a little older, I handed my four young children a printout of a spreadsheet I had designed for them that broke down what I expected them to do every half hour segment of the day— from the time they got up until their bedtime.
By nature, I don’t like disorder, so when my perfectly conceived, well-planned, half-hour increment days started going off the rails, I found myself struggling to stay focused and not to react to my children in a way that showed them how irritated and disappointed I was about the whole thing.
I wish I could say I never failed, but there were way too many times that my schedule-mania self was not only driving me crazy and completely overwhelming my children— but it was also setting us both up to fail.
What I kept forgetting in my drive to make our homeschool run as well as I assumed everyone else’s does (I mean, have you SEEN all that those Instagram homeschoolers do in a day?!?) was that I needed to make lots of allowances for teachable moments, conversations, answering questions, diving deeper, learning together, reading together, growing together— AND even cleaning up the house together.
When I first wrote that year long, ink-splattered planner, I had no idea that any given day could be completely derailed by an interesting discussion or fun activity, but as I got a clearer view of my mission, I found that those were actually the moments that were most worthy of my focus. Those were the moments that gave me access to the very hearts I was so passionately pursuing.
So, what are some principles you can use when planning your homeschool days? (Because we all know that “planning is the prelude to any successful action,”? Right?)
First— do find a planner that you love. It really is a fun part of homeschooling, so I don’t want you to think in any way that I am downplaying that. You can use a planner specifically made for the homeschool market— or even a general planner you find at Walmart. You can use a physical, paper planner- or a digital one. You can even create your own via a bullet journal or elaborate spreadsheet. But whatever form your ideal planner takes, make sure you’re setting it up with your overarching mission in mind.
Next, you may have to change the way you look at your schedule. It didn’t take a long time for me to abandon that strict moment-by-moment approach to my schedule to more of a routine-based plan. That little switch in how I approached my days gave me a better handle on my time— and fewer complete failure days. As I got to know my children better and our relationships grew deeper, I was able to discern certain things about when they worked better than other times. So, I was able to start setting up our routines to play to their strengths. Perhaps I would spend early moments doing higher-level thinking subjects with the ones who were better equipped to tackle those in the morning, while others were still so groggy in the morning that I knew that if we tackled math at 9 am, they wouldn’t never retain much. For them, we moved their harder classes to later in the day. Maybe they had some responsibilities to do in the mornings, and heavier classwork later. I started building more flexibility into our schedule— but always with the expectation that what I assigned would still need to get done.
Added schedule flexibility also affords us the opportunity to serve others, meet needs when we see them, and get involved in church, community or other activities that also plays a role in shaping our children into well-rounded young men and ladies who think of others before themselves. That’s just another way planning with your mission in mind comes in to play when you change the way you look at your schedule.
Third—make sure that you’re building in time for accountability for them and margin for yourself. The way you homeschool and set up your days will look VERY different when your children are younger than they will when your kiddos are in high school, so I’m trying to give principles here that will span both extremes. When my children were younger, I would try to get through with any instruction I needed to do with them by lunchtime or shortly thereafter if possible. That type of a schedule would give me time in the afternoon for follow-ups, taking care of the house, prepping dinner, and so forth. But, as they got older, they often weren’t done with their work by that time, so I had to be sure that even though I removed myself from the situation, I was keeping them accountable for moving forward with their work.
Building in some time for checking in on them is really important. I would set a timer on my watch or phone to serve as a physical reminder for me to make my rounds while they were working, thus giving them a little more accountability to finish the assignments.
You also need to build in time for margin for yourself. We are often our own biggest enemy, aren’t we— afraid to say no to things, overbooking ourselves and our families, expecting things from ourselves that no one could possibly accomplish in a day— and running ourselves into the ground as we go.
Far too many homeschool parents completely burn out and fizzle in their mission because they failed to build some time for margin into their schedule.
Several years ago, my husband challenged me to take a time inventory of everything I was doing or expected to do in a week. He wanted me to think about all the things I was doing, assign a time to each one, and then see where I stood. Through that little Sunday-afternoon project, I discovered that I was so overbooked that if I gave proper attention to each thing, I would have way too little time to sleep and only about 3 hours each week that wasn’t taken with something specific. I had absolutely NO margin for error because I had grafted into my schedule things that weren’t part of God’s plan for me and my family… at least not at that time in my life. So, with his help, I started prioritizing the things that only I can do— spending time with the Lord, being David’s Wife, parenting, homeschooling, managing our home— and I began to systematically cut everything that someone else could do.
You’ve probably noticed that the ones who cry loudest get the most attention— and when we’re overbooked like that, way too often the ones crying loudest are not the ones that should be getting the most attention. So, a marginless life often leads to knicks in your relationships with your children as they see themselves as a nuisance or a hindrance to what you really want to be doing. *
* GULP * * I can’t tell you how many times I have seen that look of sadness and disappointment in little eyes that snapped me from my fervor and reminded me of my mission. We absolutely MUST build in time for margin and focus primarily on the things we alone are called to do.
Finally, give yourself grace for those messed up seasons. God has lessons for you in those times that you’d never get in text books. So, when trials come— or even exciting times like new babies being born or weddings to plan— acknowledge up front that you may need to adjust your expectations for those seasons. You simply can’t get through everything you’re used to if you’re heading to doctors appointments 3 times a week— or if mama’s been placed on bedrest or something. Use those times for kinder, gentler homeschooling— read a lot, cuddle a lot, switch to unit studies or lap books, maybe… listen to audio books— simply enjoy learning and don’t stress about it— God will tie all those loose ends together in His own time, so trust the process!
**Planning your days, weeks, months, and even homeschool years with your mission in view will absolutely alleviate a lot of stress and give you a lot of freedom to walk through the awesome doors God opens for you.** Towards the end of our first year of homeschooling, God gave us the privilege of taking the kids on a mission trip to Poland as we explored setting up a Kingdom business there through the mission David leads. While we were there, we didn’t do any math or language arts— BUT, we did study Copernicus IN HIS HOUSE in Torun, Poland. We learned a lot about history and culture— none of those lessons would have ever been learned the same way through books— and had I been so focused on that year-long planner I wrote in July, we would have missed every single one of them… and likely wouldn’t have even taken the kids on the mission trip anyway. Oh, how their lives would have been changed for the worse if that had been the case!!
So, plan your days with your mission mind, building in flexibility and room for margin— and lay them all at the feet of Jesus in prayer before you start each day and listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit when you need to take a detour from your plans. That will make for a well-run, well-planned homeschool.
We’re getting really close to the end of the class!! In our next lesson, we’ll talk about setting up your classroom and what THINGS you’re actually going to need to homeschool well! See you there!
Planning your days, weeks, months, and even homeschool years with your mission in view will absolutely alleviate a lot of stress and give you a lot of freedom to walk through the awesome doors God opens for you.