So we're back for our second installment of Octa101, a little whimsy where I answer whatever questions you care to throw my way.
One of the predominant questions I received was about our schedule with this many people populating my day-to-day world. The one disclaimer I must issue in any discussion of scheduling is this: I aspire. As in, try. As in, have lofty goals. As in, having a target...but not always hitting it.
Perhaps the greatest thing I have realized when it comes to steering this ship is that it takes an ironic blend of planning and flexibility. If I don't plan at all, we absolutely run aground as my whims and creative bursts spin wildly. If I get too attached to the planning, I can tend to become rigid and am just asking for a rigidity beating. Things always come up, little crisis and changes that must be incorporated into the texture of our days. So my guiding principal is this: flexible planning.
One of the unusual things about the fact that I am walking out this journey of raising a large family is that I don't have a need to control. I generally don't care what movie to go to. I don't have to pick the restaurant. I'm fine with someone else having a strong preference. I simply don't want to be controlled. Throw a control freak in my path who wants to wrest all the spontaneity out of something and I'm bound to throw a yellow flag. But there is definitely a level of control that I have learned I need to exercise when it comes to keeping order in my home. It actually has not been an easy thing for me to lay out our daily plan and then enforce it. I'm much more egalitarian in nature. And because I don't need someone hovering over me to insure I complete a task, it bothers me somewhat to have to do so with some of my students. But need it they do from time to time.
I posted about our fall schedule here. And as always is the case, I have made adaptations to this schedule, based on the twins' development and recent penchant for getting into everything. We've also had to incorporate extensive physical and occupational therapy into our days, along with 4 of 8's continuing Auditory Verbal Therapy. While I have read many resources over the years in trying to design the 'perfect' schedule for our large family, I have found that our decision to allow our kids to follow their bliss in various extracurricular activities, along with the realities of therapy schedules, makes for a crazy quilt of days, useful and beautiful to be sure, but lacking in the geometric symmetry my spreadsheets would prefer.
So I offer our spring schedule for your perusal. In this season, a few key pieces comprise the big blocks of our days. I write, blog and develop my speaking material on the fly, early in the mornings, during lunch, after kids are in bed. Photography occurs when the scene strikes. The twins are generally up by 7:30 am and I begin breakfast prep at that time. About 9 am, I get a couple of the kids rolling on school work and a couple of others help me with chores and with monitoring the twins. After a period of time, I swap out helpers. We eat lunch about 11:30, the kids all then play outside for a while and then the twins go down for nap at 1 pm. And that's when we really kick it into high gear. Because in this season, those two hours the twins are asleep are gold. We school and school hard during this time. I have the kids work somewhat independently in the mornings, with general instructions and oversight from me. But those two nap hours in the afternoon are critical for my keeping a count of our scholastic pulse. It was about December that the wheels came off my ability to keep everybody working at the table and to keep the twins content and playing happily. Once 8 of 8 figured out there was stuff in the cabinets to be excavated and 7 of 8 realized there was lipstick in the house, all bets were off.
Once the twins get up, the carnival begins. I keep the rest of the crew with their noses in the books and try to keep the twins from peeling the drywall off the studs. Beginning in the late afternoon/early evening, I begin the driving routine, hitting dance and soccer practices. I actually have come to find this time somewhat relaxing as the twins are strapped in their car seats and can only pillage as far as their strapped-in little appendages can reach. I do 'big' cooking about twice a month and pop a meal in the oven as I begin the carpool process. Our evenings are never the same, each night having different commitments at different locations. We do try to eat dinner as a family a couple of night a week, but it often looks as though I'm running a Luby's cafeteria. The twins and younger kids hit the tub at 7:45 pm and the babies are generally in bed by 8:30 pm. A couple of times of week, I make late runs to the dance school to pick up 2 of 8. With Mike's business, I never know what time he will be home in the evening, so I try to not place expectations of his involvement in dinner or car pool.
And then we start all over again the next day.
I've had a lot of questions about homeschool as well, and so this post is a bit of blend. I do plan to address your homeschool questions more specifically in a different post. So now that I've meandered a bit through our daily 'aspire' routine, let me distill scheduling down to this: we identify our big rocks and then allow the pebbles of other activities to fill the spaces that are left. The big rocks are school, therapy, chores, dance, soccer, playtime, church, running, writing, photography, meals and naps and bedtimes. And while it doesn't look all that Herculean to me, I can understand how overwhelming and wild it can look from the outside. But there is a little secret to all this.
We've built this one at a time (until the bonus round of twins). It's kind of like mountaineers who esteem to climb the highest peaks. They hike to the base camp, spend some time acclimating, climb to the next camp and acclimate again. For every attempt they make for the summit, they have spent triple the time allowing their bodies to adjust to the higher altitudes, allowing their red blood cell counts to build so they can have the stamina they need. And so it is with us. Our entree into homeschooling began with one kid. Our entree into dance began with one kid. And as our endurance developed, more were added. It somehow all works, not because I have developed the magic schedule with the magic principles printed on the perfect spreadsheets. It works because we traffic heavily in grace, in the slow climb, in the moderate acclimation to the altitudes at which we are operating. It doesn't get all done. But a lot of it gets done.