There’s a saying about homeschooling: “The hardest part of homeschooling is staying home”. It’s true! Especially when you’re plugged into a local homeschool support group as big as ours. We belong to Living Water Home Educators (www.lwhe.org) which currently has 175 member families with well over 300 kids. Between the co-ops & classes, sports, field trips, clubs, parties, gatherings, competitions and fellowship opportunities, add to that some non-homeschool related activities from church and other extra-curricular activities, and then pile on some library visits and various doctor appointments, we find ourselves hard-pressed to find any time for schooling at home! That statement assumes that we sign up for ALL of it which, of course, is an impossibility as much as we’d like to be able to do it all.
I discovered early on that it was waaaaaaay to easy to sign up for things as they became known. I use my computer for just about everything including keeping my calendar so I would check my online calendar (I use Microsoft Outlook’s Calendar feature which also syncs with my iPhone nicely) and if there was an opening that day I’d sign us up for it! That was all well and good until I realized that week after week we were signed up for something just about every day of the week and sometimes even two events per day if there was a doctor or therapy appointment. It got so bad that my kids would whine “Again??? Do we have to?!?!” whenever I excitedly announced our plans for the day. So the first challenge quickly became how to maintain some of the “white space” in our busy calendar so we could get some of the basics covered in our homeschool as well as temper our schedule so that we could enjoy some much needed down time.
The second challenge was keeping my husband informed on where we were on any given day. Since he runs his business right next door to us, he has the flexibility to pop in at any given time, hang out for a bit, or take the kids to lunch, bowling or to a movie, as his erratic business schedule permits. Often times he would come home and not know where on earth we were!
The solution to both challenges turned out to be a really simple idea that a fellow homeschool mom shared with me in scheduling her weeks: a large desk pad calendar hung prominently on a wall that is easily seen by everyone. For us, that prominent wall happens to be our coat closet door next to our home’s entrance. I hang it with a series of four velcro dots lined at both the top and bottom edges of the backside of the calendar.
The desk pad calendar we use is BIG: about 22″ wide by 17″ tall. You can get them from any office supply store for $5-$6, although this year we’re using one that was given to our business by one of our vendors. Each page covers the entire month so the squares for each of the days is sufficiently large enough to write multiple appointments in them. For each month, I pencil in (it’s important to use a pencil – NOT A PEN) all of our existing recurring activities (eg. the kid’s program at church on Wednesday night) as well as any known doctor appointments and birthday parties. Then, before I would commit to participating in any other activities, I FIRST consult my computer’s daily calendar to see if the timeslot is available and, if it was, I would THEN consult my prominently hung desk pad calendar to see if there is adequate “white space” left in that week. If there is, then I sign us up for the activity but if there isn’t, then I don’t commit to the activity and the balance of our homeschool universe is preserved.
My husband loves consulting the calendar on his way out the door in the morning to give him a better idea of what our homeschool day is going to look like…and when he forgets to consult it and unexpectedly pops in during the day to find no one is at home, the calendar reminds him of where we are.
This method of keeping everyone in the know and balancing weekly schedules isn’t just for homeschooling families; it can be used for public- or private-schooled families as well. For those families, the crunch time begins immediately AFTER school lets out in trying to fit in all those appointments and extra-curricular activities before the kids have to get to bed. It’s equally important for EVERY family to maintain a healthy balance of down-time and keep everyone on the same page, as it were.