I’ve written before about planning and will probably do it again in the future. The more people you’re working with, the more important it is to plan.
Plan schoolwork, yes, but plan the housework, too, otherwise something won’t get done and everyone will get frustrated.
First make a list of the things scheduled by outsiders. For instance, when does garbage collection occur? You have to work around their schedule; they won’t work around yours. Know your obligations and plan for them. Your list might include such things as garbage, recycle, scouts, church, 4H…
Next consider other commitments that you can schedule at your convenience: grocery shopping, cutting toddlers’ fingernails, feeding pets…
How frequently you want/need to do housework? Do you clean your bathroom once a week? Daily? How often do you wash laundry (Mt. Neverrest)? How many times a week do you vacuum? Mop the kitchen floor? How often do you wipe mud off the light switches nearest the door? Wash the windows? Mow the lawn? Some jobs need to be done daily (meal prep), some can be done weekly, and some can be done monthly. Make sure you include chore time in your schedule.
For some people, it is enough to post a list on the refrigerator. Look at the list and make sure all the jobs get done. However, if you’re one of those people trying to cram 36 hours into 24, an overwhelming list won’t be enough.
The more you try to do, and the more people you are teaching, the more detailed your schedule needs to be if you want to ensure that everything gets done. I used a simple routine when my kids were very young. As they got older and there was more to juggle, we used a very detailed schedule. Now they are older yet, and can take responsibility for much of their own work, so a detailed schedule is no longer necessary.
To make a schedule, I list everything that needs to get done by each person and determine how much time to allow for every task. In addition to eating/dressing/brushing teach, things that you might want to consider: Bible study, sleeping, making beds, music practice, cleaning bathrooms, washing fingerprints off light switches, cleaning kitchen, cleaning bedrooms, dusting, vacuuming, mopping floors, washing windows and mirrors, caring for animals, folding & putting away clean clothes, helping wash/dry laundry, planning meals, assisting with meal prep, taking out trash, sweeping the ceiling for cobwebs, washing the top of the refrigerator, one-on-one time with parents and siblings, free time, special projects, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, raking leaves, attending club meetings, community service, and schoolwork. If you are responsible for a ministry at your church and find that the phone rings off the hook on Saturday nights or Wednesday afternoons, you might as well plan to be available to field those calls; instead of considering them interruptions or aggravations (or taking your phone off the hook), consider them a routine part of your ministry and allow time for them.
There are a limited number of hours in a day. If any person’s tasks take more time than is available, choices will have to be made. Look at the list of things to be done:
- is the task necessary?
- can it be delegated to someone else?
- can it be done weekly instead of daily?
Pare every person’s list until it can be accomplished within a single day. Next I cut slips of paper and write all the tasks needed for every person: 1” per 20-minutes. That means that if a task takes 30 minutes, it’s written on a 1½” slip of paper; if it takes 40 minutes, it’s on a 2” slip of paper; and if it takes a full hour, it’s on a 3” slip of paper. I also color-code things, so that I can tell by the color who the slip of paper is for.
Juggling all those slips of paper around is the next step. The more people you have, the more challenging it is to schedule everything with no conflicts. Unless you have two pianos and a sound-proof room, only one person can do piano practice at a time. If kids are sharing a book or software, they have to take turns studying that subject. If the whole family is studying a subject together, they have to all be together for the study. If mom is giving one child a spelling test at 9:30, she can’t be helping another child with a science experiment.
To make your juggling project easier, draw a grid on a piece of poster-board– one column to write times in, and one column per person. Rows should be three inches tall to fit the task-slips previously mentioned. Covered this with contact paper.
After I block out times for sleeping and eating, it works best for us if I call one child and have him help me arrange his schedule. We put a little piece of double-backed tape on the back of the task-slips so that they don’t shift out of position. Contact paper on the posterboard makes it possible to easily reposition the task slips and re-use the board year-after-year.
Emphasizing that we have just created a draft that is subject to revision, I call the second child and we arrange that person’s schedule around what has already been planned for the first child. Then the third child gets a turn, and so on until we appear to have a workable schedule. We then try the draft schedule for two days. If modifications are needed, we make them and try again. Once a schedule works for two weeks, we know we have a good schedule.
With a good schedule posted on the wall (everyone can look at the clock and the schedule, and know what they’re supposed to be doing), I also like to have a list of special projects that I’m trying to accomplish. I find myself tackling those projects during my free-time, and feeling like I am accomplishing much more than in the past.
Finally, relax and enjoy your days with your kids. Relish the privilege you have of spending time with your children, being the one who’s teaching them.