Julie Lyles Carr: School Daze 102

Thursday, August 28, 2008

School Daze 102

When people hear I homeschool...and then they hear the number of students (8, for you latecomers), I am met with unearned admiration...or questions about my sanity (which, though a little offensive, may be valid).  And then, regardless of initial response, the next question is usually, "How?"

The "How?" question is a good one..and one that defies a simple explanation.  The short answer is "with heavy caffeine abuse."  The longer answer involves spreadsheets.  Since you're here, I'm gonna assume you would like to see the spreadsheet answer.

When I get ready to figure out the navigation for this unwieldy Carnival Cruise we call family life, it can often look like I am plotting the take-over of a small country.  2 of 8 and I lay out laptops, spreadsheets, lists of goals, lists of dance schedules, therapy schedules, soccer schedules, menus and the like.  It takes a.long.time.  And one of the grand ironies of my life is that, even with all this pre-planning, even with these super-human spreadsheet skills, people still tend to think that we are a bit unorganized and chaotic.  Oh, honey.  This IS organized.  You couldn't even imagine what it would be like if we didn't plot it out so carefully.  The fact that we make it anywhere within 10 minutes of the start time should be seen as a modern miracle.  The fact that we often show up in clean underwear and matching shoes should make all those Virgin-Mary-Visage-In-My-Lays-Potato-Chip news items pale in comparison.  Trust me, it takes a high, high level of organization to appear only this slightly unorganized and chaotic.

I've tinkered with many a system and finally feel that now, yes, a full decade into the homeschool venture, that I have finally hit upon what works for us.  I quit trying to schedule exactly one hour for math, 'cuz one kid can whiz through math in 14 minutes and another is going to begin puberty before we really have the multiplication table for 9's thoroughly memorized.  I finally figured out that reading and computer times have to be on the list.  I finally figured out that PBS is going to count as an educational pit-stop each day.  I've learned how to philosophically make a spreadsheet flexible.  I finally figured out how to live in that duality.

So to that end, I humbly submit the end product of SummerSpreadSheetSummit '08.  You will note the 1 of 8 does not appear on the school schedule...her college classes and work schedule and the rest take her away from the house quite a bit during the day, so we simplified the schedule to reflect the kids schooling at the dining table each day.  The chore chart is a proud achievement--it took some long hours and maneuvering to get it workable with all of the extra-curricular that we do.

The basic principles of these schedules come from the excellent books Managers of Their Homes and Managers of Their Chores from Titus2.com.  However, because our family life involves a great deal of travel, extensive therapy schedules for 4 and 7 of 8 and heavy involvement in many extra-curricular activities, I done a great deal of modification from the basic ideas represented in these books.  And therein lies another valuable lesson--I made myself a little crazy at first, years ago, when I first began developing these type schedules, because I was too legalistic in their application.  Again, there's that valuable lesson--spreadsheet flexibility.

The MR and ER designations on the chore charts stand for Morning Routine and Evening Routine, which are printed out and posted.  The daily schedule, chore charts and assignment sheets for each child are also included in notebooks, which each kid keeps in their backpack.  I also made sheets which spell out exactly what I mean by Clean the Bathroom and Dust the Downstairs.  I have found that taking the time to type it up and print it out tends to lessen the negotiation process and also clearly states what the expectation for a particular chore is.

And there's probably the best thing I could pass along--the need to set the standard and then hold up the standard.  I read somewhere a quote from a homeschool mom that said, "You can't expect what you won't inspect." Wow.  That has often been the failing of many of my scheduling and chore list endeavors.  I somehow think that taking the time and planning it all out and typing it up in a cute font will somehow render my children willing and able to take the baton and run.  So far, I've only got one kid who exhibits this ability.  The rest have to be checked up on and checked up on and checked...well, you get the idea.  And I've had to make my peace with that.

Now, don't be mislead.  While I would love to tell you that everyday we make all of this happen, that would not.be.keeping.it.real.  Instead, we at least have a goal out there, we at least have a common vision.  And we often get most of it done.  And in the doing, it's equipping my kids to know how to structure their days, how to structure their work, how to structure the details of life that require attention and time, and in so doing, leave time to chase dreams, practice a hobby, read a good book and play a fun game.  The stuff of living; chores, learning, playing, sleeping, loving, dreaming, creating.

school schedule 001
The older kids often do some schoolwork/homework in the evening between activities.

chore 001

4 of 8's schedule/chore/assignment folder...

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