I have had very few guest posts on my blog, but when my friend Pamela Price offered to write about time management, I jumped at the chance. What homeschool mom doesn’t struggle with having too little time for all that the day demands or all that we would like to accomplish? Secretly hoping to find the answer to my own ongoing struggle, I asked Pamela to share her tips with us.
She is a both a homeschool mom and a WAHM (work at home mom) like me, so her advice is coming straight from real life experience. Here are Pamela’s thoughts on time management with a few of my own thoughts too.
Three Challenges to Successful Time Management for Homeschool Parents
Over time, like all grown-ups with busy schedules, homeschool parents discover that time management is essential to our success. But what barriers keep us from successfully managing our time?
In my experience and research, there are three specific challenges particular to us homeschoolers. Let’s explore them briefly and discuss ways to minimize their impact on our routines and to-do lists.
If it’s not hungry or quarreling kids, it’s often the siren call of technology keeping us from making progress. And then there’s the check that you need to write for your mother’s nursing home and the prescriptions that need to be picked up. In short, distractions are never ceasing.
To minimize everyday distractions, carefully allocate time to your priority to-do items. Use a calendar (electronic or paper) and a to-do list. Tinker with organization systems until you find one that you like as what works for one parent may not be best suited for you and your organizational style.
Note from Jimmie: Yes! Find what works for you. I’m an Evernote drop out, but I rely on printed calendars instead. We are all different. I have a good friend whose method involves stacks of sticky notes. Whatever method works for you is the best method despite what others say.
To manage your time when online, set a timer. You can also use a timer–and a rewards system to reinforce behavior–to encourage kids to stay busy for 5, 10, or 15 minutes (or more as they age) at a time while you pay bills, water plants, or sort mail.
Let’s say that you’re new to homeschooling and are in the middle of teaching a math lesson when one of your kids becomes fascinated with how your hummingbird feeder turns into a prism when the light hits it. You’d really like to finish up the seatwork and get on with your day. Her questions, however, are so good that you feel compelled to talk through light refraction and maybe pull up some kid-safe videos online. Yet if you do that, then your whole schedule will be off for the rest of the day and you feel panicky at losing control. Ugh.
To minimize the impact of serendipitous encounters, avoid overscheduling yourself. Allow space in your routine to allow for opportunities (and, yes, inconveniences) to pop up and be resolved.
Many homeschool moms, anxious to prove their dedication to home education, are prone to glorifying busy–which is counterproductive and draining. Remember: good homeschool time management is about guiding you and your family through the days, not cracking a whip in service to a schedule until you’re frazzled.
Note from Jimmie: Oh my word. You need to stop and read that bold part again. I need to read that again. Let it soak in.
Yes. No whip cracking. Not even in high school.
Unschoolers aren’t off the hook for to have tangents derail them although their more free-flowing style naturally minimizes impact. Sooner or later families encounter real crises that can throw even long-term unschoolers for a loop and disrupt their familiar rhythms. (For a discussion of more complicated issues of chance–such as illness or a family member’s looming or sudden death–please see the “Troubleshooting” chapter in How to Work and Homeschool.)
Lack of Energy
Central to good time management is your enthusiasm for the system that you develop and implement. Yet one cannot continue to pour energy out endlessly, either. Once you’re zapped, odds are that you’ll loosen the reins of schoolwork, childcare, and other responsibilities.
To minimize energy drain on body and brain, you must recharge, be it through prayer, meditation, yoga, walking, kickboxing, napping, extreme trail running or a unique combination of mind-body-soul techniques. Good nutrition is integral, too. I cannot stress this enough: regular self-care is essential to effective time management. Make a point to schedule things that recharge you into your day–even if it’s only for 15 minutes or half an hour. And don’t forget to see your healthcare team annually to minimize the impact of undetected illnesses on your mental and physical health.
Note from Jimmie: Oops. While reading Pamela’s list I kept thinking, “Where’s the coffee and chocolate?” But she’s right. Exercise and eating right are critical. I know when I’ve been lax in this area because of the sluggish thinking and sore neck and shoulders.
These are three of the most common barriers to successful time management for homeschoolers that I’ve encountered. Now, I’d love to hear about your own challenges and how you address or overcome them.
Note from Jimmie: I am a firm believer in leaving cushion in a schedule and planning for disasters. Never, never, never count on waiting until a deadline to finish something. As soon as you do that, an unexpected distraction will appear and steal all the time you expected to spend on that last minute task. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from people with last minute due dates looming. They expected to have all day to work on a project and boom! Life struck again. Schedule buffer into every due date and every big task. And if something is going to take three minutes or less, just do it now instead of even writing it on the to do list.
Pamela has written a book which I will be reviewing later this week. It is titled How to Work and Homeschool. Click the cover image to learn more.