Glancing at a nearby bookcase, I immediately spy the titles Organizing from the Inside Out, The Tyranny of the Urgent, and The Family Manager staring back at me. And, since I'm sitting near one of the smallest of my many bookcases, I must admit that these books represent only a fraction of my current organization and time management collection (not to mention the many titles I've gotten rid of over the years). Can you relate?
Managing a household, caring for children, and educating said children is definitely a full load. Add in business responsibilities, outside activities, hobbies, church involvement and Bible studies, hospitality . . . well, the list doesn't really end, does it? And that's where we find ourselves perusing the "Find More Hours in Your Day" section of the bookstore in search of a solution. There are so many good and important things to do there just has to be a way to fit them all in, right?
Now, please don't go getting your hopes up that I have the answer for you, because I don't. (Best to get that out of the way right at the beginning!) However, I do have one idea that could be of some assistance with the universal lack-of-time situation. I have realized that, with a little forethought, I can make homeschooling work in my favor.
This revelation hit me during a recent phone conversation with my long-time friend and business partner. She casually mentioned that she and her oldest girls were heading out to Scrapbooking Class. "You're what!?" I asked, unable to help myself. You see, while I and several of my friends have scrapbooked (or at least tried to fit it in) for years, this particular pal has shown no interest whatsoever. I won't go so far as to say that she regarded it with disdain, but she may have been close. I think her comments were along the lines of, "I just don't see how I would ever manage to have time for something like that." So, to hear that she was heading out the door to scrapbook most certainly required an explanation.
She then explained her brilliant line of thought. Her girls love crafts. She is not crafty, doesn't like the mess, and has difficulty finding the time. Therefore, if they all attend a Scrapbooking Class together, she meets their need to be "crafty" and ends up with something useful to show for their time, and they enjoy an evening together. Granted, it's not earth-shattering, but it's those little things that make a difference.
For instance, I remember laughing out loud at myself and glancing around in embarrassment, hoping no one had seen me, when I recognized a time-waster at one of my first jobs. I worked as a bookkeeper for a department store and completed each task exactly as I had been trained by the previous employee. Each week I prepared a stack of reports, three hole punched them, and filed them in the appropriate binders. My amusement surfaced when I realized that I was three-hole-punching each individual piece of paper, putting it in the binder, then punching the next piece and doing the same. Why I wasn't punching the whole stack at once, I have no idea!--other than the fact that I just hadn't thought about it and was simply doing as I'd been shown.
So I decided to put some thought into ways homeschooling could work to my benefit. Since I tend to focus on creative, hands-on learning whenever possible, much of my teaching already involves real-life learning. I might have my children calculate gas mileage, determine the best buy in the grocery store, or track the temperature or rainfall. I only needed to change my approach slightly to find some time savers.
Rather than focusing on what real-life activity would teach my children a specific skill, I made a list of all the things I wished I had time to do. Once I had several items listed, I could consider what lessons could be incorporated into that activity. Surprisingly, I discovered a great many ways that my children could help me in my "to do" list and learn at the same time.
Below are just a few of the ideas I came up with:
• Organize bookshelves. Have students sort and classify books by genre or subject, alphabetically or using the Dewey Decimal system. Do the same with videos and CD's.
• Help teach younger siblings. Have older children create educational games or flashcards for younger children. This is a great way for them to review, plus, those games that I'm always "planning" to create, but never actually get to, become a reality.
• Menu planning. Assign the creation of a rotating menu plan. A child can determine family favorites, incorporate required food groups and develop a plan for Mom to use in shopping and meal preparation. (There are many methods for this--have your student research and determine what he or she thinks is the best approach.)
• Write recipe cards. Make good use of handwriting practice by having your student copy all those clipped-out recipes onto cards.
• Gardening. Older children can plan, plant and harvest a garden. This could be as elaborate as a full plot or as simple as a container garden.
• Landscaping. Last year my 16-year-old son took it upon himself to spruce up our lawn. He checked out several books on lawn care, bought some fertilizer and seed, and gave us the best looking lawn we'd had in years. Do you have any landscaping projects a child could take charge of?
• Cooking and baking. Would you like to try bulk cooking, but just don't have the time to organize it? Let an older child plan the shopping list and cooking for several batches of one or two dishes. Students can practice fractions by preparing several batches of those baking mixes you've wanted to put together but never quite found the time to prepare.
• Family tree. Put a child in charge of researching and filling out a family history.
• Make gifts. Create calendars, photo collages, knit scarves or blankets, sew, build birdhouses, etc. Use a craft or hobby to create gifts for others or items you need around the home.
This is pretty exciting! With a little consideration and planning on my part, I can teach my children and accomplish those items on my "to do" list in one fell swoop. Not only that, but my children are able to see the fruits of their labor and recognize that they are a vital and integral part of our household. What could be better than that?
Dena Wood is a homeschooling mom of five and resides in eastern Washington State. She is co-owner of www.TriggerMemorySystem.com, specializing in non-traditional learning materials, and creators of www.TimesTales.com, a multiplication memorization system. She and her partners also operate www.CreativeHomeschooling.com, which offers creative learning tips and ideas.
This article was originally published in the May/June '07 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine, a national publication dedicated to encouraging and equipping Christian homeschoolers. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com