I don’t know any homeschoolers who don’t have a lot to do.
Cooking, housekeeping, kids’ activities, church and homeschool group responsibilities, and outside work on top of parenting and teaching can keep you really, really busy.
No matter what your situation, you have a lot of tasks to manage–possibly more than you’ve had at any time in your life. If you haven’t found a way of managing your workload efficiently, your tasks may get in the way of your homeschooling.
This week we will focus on managing our to-do’s so they don’t manage us.
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Your Challenge for This Week
#1 Discuss task approaches and choose one to try
All work is managed with a to-do list, whether that list is in your head, on your calendar, or in a fancy app. But just as with curriculum, there are many, many kinds of to-do lists for many different kinds of homeschoolers.
Older children can (and probably should) be included in a discussion of managing tasks. They will be managing to-do’s on their own soon and teaching them how is a wonderful life skill. However, they may want to use a different approach than mom or dad because they have different personalities and workloads. The best approach to try is one that isn’t wildly different than what you’re doing now.
If you’re a paper list maker, you may like a traditional to-do list, a daily/weekly/monthly to-do list, or a paper planner. If you’d like to try something new, consider Personal Kanban.
If you’re a digital person, consider using your calendar for tasks or ToDoist, my current favorite.
If you’re looking for an overall approach to managing your workload, consider Do It Tomorrow or Getting Things Done.
#2 Acquire the materials you need and set them up.
If you’re going to use a notebook and a pen or your calendar, you’re good to go. But if you want a new planner or an app, for example, you’ll need to get them and prep them for use. If you are going to use forms you download, you’ll need to print, copy, and probably 3-hole punch them.
Think about how you will use your approach when you’re away from home. Do you need a small notebook / datebook for your purse? Should you download an app for your phone? How will you make sure that tasks don’t fall through the cracks?
#3 Add a small number of tasks to your list and work on them.
Getting Things Done emphasizes the importance of adding absolutely everything you need or want to do to your list and later deciding that some of the tasks are someday/maybe tasks. Most homeschoolers could come up with thousands of tasks in no time, quickly producing overwhelm.
Whatever approach or list type you use, I recommend against adding every conceivable thing to your list right now. First, look at the upcoming quarter. Is there anything you need to start working on now? Second, look at the upcoming month. If you need to get started on something that is due in the next 30 days, add it to your list. At this point, don’t add things that you’d just like to do, but actually need to. You can add the want-to’s to your list as you find your managing your must-do’s. Third, add tasks that you have to complete this week. Finally, add things you need to get done today.
This may be the one list you work from every day or it may be the main list that you use to create a short list of tasks you want to accomplish today. Remember, that if you have a routine, you don’t have to add regular occurring tasks to your list.
#4 Continue working on your tasks and discuss your likes and dislikes.
I really enjoy buying planners, apps, and pens as well as spending time setting up new systems. That’s why I wrote a year-long series on living productively. But the point of this week’s challenge is to get more of your tasks done, so we have to get busy! Keep working on managing your to-do’s and take time to regularly discuss what’s working and what’s not.
I would love to hear about what you’re trying and whether it’s working for you. Discussing the pros and cons of your task management approach helps you remember that you’re not failing. You just need to keep working out a way to get things done that works for you–even if that means having to change it up frequently so you don’t get bored.
There is no more powerful habit for an organized homeschool than devotional time. We won’t find the peace we want in a pretty bin, but in a relationship with the Prince of Peace.
I did not devote time to prayer and Bible reading until I was very pregnant with my second son. At that time, I attended a Becky Tirabassi seminar as part of a Women of Faith conference. Becky told story after story of answered prayer and beseeched us to make an “appointment with the King” every day.
At the time, sad to say, I was on staff at my church, but had never read the entire Bible. When Becky asked anyone who was fully committed to keeping that important appointment, to stand up, I did. I bought Becky’s Change Your Life Daily Bible
and her My Partner Prayer Notebook and I was on a personal mission. (Becky shares her philosophy in Let Prayer Change Your Life.) I was so motivated to read the Bible through in a year that I even did my reading and prayer time in the hospital after giving birth. I don’t remember anything I read, but I kept my appointment!
I made time for personal devotions that did change my life, but I made a big mistake. I didn’t include my husband in the process. He felt left out of my new habit of Scripture reading and devoted time to prayer. He felt better when I bought him his own Daily Bible. We have changed Bibles since then, but we continue to have a shared habit of reading Scripture in the morning.
We have prayed together at various times of day as we felt led, but having a regular time of praying together is a habit we don’t yet have. Apparently, we’re not alone. Only 4% of couples pray together daily, despite its association with the highest levels of marital satisfaction. Planning time for shared prayer is our goal for this week. I hope you’ll join us!
Christian homeschoolers usually do a great job of teaching the Bible as a part of their curriculum. In our busy lives, it can be harder to find time to pray and read Scripture as a family. We’ve been inconsistent over the years in using formal programs that require supplies for fun activities and more successful reading missionary biographies in the evenings or doing a short devotion in the mornings. My husband will read Scripture and then lead discussion of it, use a regular devotional book, or will join us for our school Bible time. He is not one who likes to be locked into doing the same thing at the same time. We have used Character Building for Families the most consistently because it’s short, meaty, and requires no preparation.
The most powerful family prayer time approach we have used is to each pray about something we are thankful for, something we are sorry for, and something we need help with. We have really been able to feel in touch with our kids’ hearts. Many times I have been upset about something the kids have done earlier in the day, only to be moved by their confession of it in prayer and their request for help from the Holy Spirit to avoid a similar error.
Yet another family devotional practice that has been meaningful for us is to save Christmas cards and pray over a few of them each day. We have the opportunity to share with the children more about family and friends they haven’t met or don’t know well, and to experience answers to prayer, too. We often hear from the prayed-for family soon after we’ve lifted them up to the Lord.
Your Challenge for This Week
#1 Establish a time, place, and an approach to personal devotions
You don’t have to find the perfect time and place, but decide on a time when you are most likely to be able to meet with the Lord undisturbed during this season of your life. Now that I don’t have babies, I have personal devotions in the morning before the kids are up. I get comfortable in a recliner with a great reading light. In the winter, I snuggle under a faux fur blanket. I often have something to drink as well. I want my time with the Lord to be the most appealing part of my day.
In years past, I have had devotional times before bed, in the middle of the night while nursing, and at lunch time. I’ve been in bed, on the couch, and even in my car to connect with God. The time and place that make devotions consistent is what you should choose — not what someone else is doing.
I am currently reading through the Bible using the John MacArthur study Bible, read a variety of daily devotionals (both print and digital) as I feel led, and use Pocket Prayer Pro to organize my prayer time. I’ve changed how I spend this time with God many, many times. The ingredients that I feel are essential are prayer and reading Scripture. I have enjoyed using organized prayer calendars for my husband, children, extended family, and pastors. When I am going through a challenging time, I have been greatly blessed by Streams in the Desert. Before you buy something new, see what you have that haven’t read and just start.
Remember that if your devotions get interrupted, the Lord Himself has allowed it.
#2 Establish a time, place, and an approach to couple devotions.
Talk and pray with your spouse about the best way to spend time with the Lord together. Could you pray together in the morning, on the phone over lunch, or before bed? Would you like to use an organized prayer calendar or a couples devotion? Would you like to read through Scripture together and discuss it? Again, you may already own materials that you could use. Allow your spouse to lead in choosing the approach that is most comfortable for him.
#3 Establish a time, place, and an approach to family devotions.
Connecting family devotions to established routines is most likely to be effective. Could you pray and read Scripture at meal times? Perhaps bedtime is a better option. If you’d like to do devotions that require pre-planning, when could this planning be done and who could be responsible for it? Pray for wisdom about this. The most important thing is to cover the process with grace and be willing to make adjustments until you find what works for your family.
Be sure to share what works for you and your family. You can inspire others with similar situations.
Find all the challenges at the Organize Your Homeschool page and get all the free printables you need here or by clicking the graphic below.