Have you heard the advice about getting up early and getting your most important tasks done before noon? It’s great advice until it’s taken too far.
Since my family are not super early risers who get up and moving before 7 a.m., I decided I could get housework and homeschool done in the morning. This arrangement would leave me and the children free in the afternoons for playing at the park and reading books together.
So I sat down with a schedule and planned. My goal was to cook a hot breakfast every morning and have it on the table by 8 a.m. I would clean the house, complete weekly chores, and finish the day’s homeschool lessons by noon. Our afternoons would be free. In theory anyways.
However, I quickly learned that tight schedules and kids don’t mix. Breakfast wasn’t on the table at 8 o'clock sharp after the late nights at dance, finishing what I hadn't earlier, and completing orders for my small business. We had no room in the schedule for the mornings when my husband wanted to linger over his coffee and chat, or play with the kids before another trip out of town.
Even something as simple as the dog throwing up sent us careening off schedule. There wasn’t time for my kids to savor over a good book or spend extra time on difficult math problems. We were on a strict time schedule to reach that goal of a free afternoon.
Our homeschool schedule had become a prison, and we were the inmates.
Through my failure, I learned two vital lessons about scheduling our school day.
Plan Buffer Time
Now, I make sure there is buffer time planned into our day. We need time for the many problems that inevitably pop up. I need to be available for teenage shenanigans, a husband who loves to chat, and pre teen daughter drama.
To do this, I round up on our schedule. If breakfast, chores, and clean up ideally take an hour and a half, I schedule for two hours.
On a good day, our core academic subjects require two - three hours. I plan to spend three and a half - four hours instead. The extra hour gives us time to read that extra chapter, persevere through a difficult writing lesson, or even just enjoy a few minutes of free time.
Having buffer time in the mornings even gives me the freedom to drink a coffee on the back porch, take a trip to the bathroom before the kids wake up, or linger over a book of my own. All before starting the homeschool day. I get the time to truly enjoy homeschooling, because I'm not operating at breakneck speed to accomplish everything on an unattainable schedule.
Reduce Your Expectations
In order to have this buffer during my mornings, I had to reduce my expectations for what actually could be accomplished. I no longer plan to cook a hot breakfast, deep clean the house, teach every subject, and keep a smile on my face all before noon.
Now we still occasionally enjoy a hot breakfast, and we do some morning chores rather than deep clean the house. The morning homeschool has been reduced to the core subjects of language arts, math, science, and history. Geography, STEM and art are rotated through leisurely afternoons, or on fun Fridays instead of crammed into a frantic morning.
We’re now able to accomplish all of our homeschool lessons without rushing through the day or leaving subjects undone. We don’t reach noon exhausted, snappy, and ready for a nap. Well somedays it just can't be helped.
Reducing expectations and planning buffer time into my day has given us time to enjoy both homeschooling and being together as a family. We've learned to appreciate the small little moments that used to create chaos, and send our day careening off course.