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Doing It All: The Struggle for Your Home

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By Beverly S. Krueger

This is the second installment in a three part series on Doing It All. In this article we'll explore the struggle for your home. The first installment is available here, The Struggle for Your Mind.

How are you prioritizing?

Iíve been to seminars and read any number of books that tell you the basics of learning to prioritize. As my husband would say, ďIf you find yourself putting out fires all the time, somethingís wrong.Ē

I prefer to prioritize my life around people. To do that you need to determine what your basic relationship priorities are. My relationship with God comes first. Second, my own health and well being. That means I get the rest I need. I eat healthy foods. I spend time doing things I enjoy. Since a healthy family life can only come with a healthy marriage, number three on my list is my husband. Then come my children, my extended family, friends and at the end my ministry.

You may choose to prioritize differently, but you should know how you prioritize. When you donít, you end up putting things at the top of your to-do-list that are really less important than things farther down on the list. They get there by screaming the loudest.

For example, I have a friend who keeps telling me I should teach a co-op science class. This idea is definitely not screaming at me Do it! Do it! Itís been exceptionally easy to tell her to step back into reality. It can be easy to be talked into doing things when we have no business adding anything to an already jammed schedule. What you do should be on your priority list, not someone elseís list.

Donít let people tell you that you are indispensable. My husband spent 20 years in the military, and I regularly moved my indispensable carcass. I left behind organizations that carried on fine without me. I used to think I was indispensable. I once found myself over burdened with responsibility at a church we attended. I desperately wanted someone to take over part of my responsibilities, but as long as I kept everything going satisfactorily, no one stepped forward. Exhausted I gave up trying and let things start to slide. It took three months, but someone finally stepped forward. This is exactly what they said to me. ďI donít want to hurt your feelings, but I noticed that this ministry isnít really all it could be and I think God has been calling me to do this for quite some time.Ē If youíre busy doing it all, drawing close to burnout, believing that if you donít do it, it wonít get doneÖget over it. If you stop and it doesnít get done, maybe it didnít really need doing any more. If thereís a need, someone will step in and meet the need.

Learn to say no. If you canít do that, learn to say yes to say no. We need you to act as chairman for the annual fundraising cotillion and marathon. Your response, ďIíd love to be a part of that. The cotillion and marathon are a top priority for me. I think I can fit it in. Meetings will have to be at 4:00 AM on Saturday mornings. That wonít be a problem will it?Ē Youíve said yes, but in such a way, that no one is really going to hold you to it.

I have several friends who use their husband as the sounding board on whether they should accept a responsibility or not. If their husband is adamantly opposed, they donít proceed. For those who cannot say no, this can be a useful means of learning to discern when itís right to say no.

A side issue of learning to say no is learning to accept how others do things when youíve chosen to say no. Offering suggestions on how things should be done means in my book, you want to help do them. Iíve learned to keep my mouth shut. If you donít, your little sideline of project consultant will turn into something more. The next thing you know it youíre ordering the table linens and creating 25 floral baskets for centerpieces.

Thatís a brief look at prioritizing your life in general, but how about homeschool prioritizing. Again, this is something that you need to stop and think about. Is babyís nap time the top daily priority for your family, or are you willing to let the baby nap in the car seat while driving to and from a field trip? I canít decide that for you. Are certain subjects of a higher priority? Have you placed such a high priority on getting a certain number of arithmetic pages done each week that you have no time for art once a week? Is that planned or just something that happens? If your anything like me, youíll find that there are too many projects, activities, and books to read to possibly do them in any childís 13 yearís of homeschooling. You need to determine which are most important and do those things first.

Scheduling can be one effective way of getting the most important things done first. I tend to schedule myself intensively when I first start doing something new. My first year of college I would write out schedules for myself that detailed things in five minute increments. 10 minutes for a shower. 5 minutes to brush my hair and teeth. As I begin to feel more comfortable and develop a rhythm or routine, I slowly drop the schedule. This is true of homeschooling. I needed to write myself detailed instructions on what I was going to do each day when I first started out. Of course, I was busily doing school at home that first year, too. Now, I pretty much schedule by list. I use the summer to plan our studies for the next year. I make a list of resources needed and a list of daily lessons for those studies I create myself. At the beginning of the year, I give each child a list every day of what they need to accomplish. Once we settle into a routine, I usually drop the lists. My older kids get lists of all they need to do to complete a given subject. This works for our family.

There are plenty of other ways to schedule yourself. At the Eclectic Homeschool Online (EHO) there are a number of forms available to download that can help you schedule your homeschooling life. We also have a free excel planner created by a homeschool dad. Youíll find in the organization & planning section of our reviews department a number of reviews of homeschool planners. So, whether you want to use your computer or pen and paper there are resources to help you with your schedule. The key is to find a way to schedule yourself that is both useful for you and that you will actually follow. If you hate meticulous details, donít think that a detail driven planner will transform you into a detailed scheduler.

How are you organizing?

In many ways this topic ties in with the last on prioritizing. If you prioritize, you take a giant step forward towards being organized. You canít put a bicycle together properly if you donít have some instructions and donít know what itís supposed to do.

Letís start with organizing your homeschool records. There is no right or wrong way to organizing your homeschooling records. For several years, I used the layer method of organizing all our homeschool papers. The layer method requires an empty box. You fill it with anything you think needs to be saved. The name comes from the inevitable layers that are created allowing you to go back in time through the box if the need ever arises. It never arose at our house, but then we didnít have a portfolio requirement. The layer method works well for younger children, who generate scads of papers. Every so often when the beloved picture of an aardvark is no longer quite as beloved, you can sort and throw all but the cream of the crop. For those who have problems getting rid of any evidence of your childís budding genius, I have heard of parents who lay projects or art work out and then photograph them. Keep the photo and eliminate the bulkier project.

I have in the past kept a grade book and made report cards. I quit doing that years ago. When your focus is on mastery learning grades are virtually meaningless. I found when placing my oldest daughter back in school for eighth grade that the school also thought my report cards were meaningless. It was implied that I couldnít have possibly graded my child in a non-subjective fashion. You need to decide whether keeping a grade book and grades is important to you. Again, if youíre looking for proof of your childrenís abilities, your grades will never suffice. Standardized tests are more effective with relatives and school systems.

Eventually when you get to high school, youíll want to be doing a bit more in the documentation department. The basics youíll need to have available can be found on the high school transcript form available here at EHO. Youíll also want to keep track of awards, special events, and things specific to your childís interests. That could be sports highlights or the like.

Organizing your homeschooling tools.

Homeschooling tools are anything you regularly or irregularly use in your homeschooling. There are a number of ways to go about organizing. My husband belongs to the Ďif youíre not going to need it in the next 6 months pitch it out club.í I on the other hand am a pack rat. Iím the kind of person who will keep a broken toy because sometime in the future I know I will have time to fix it. I usually donít, and so Iíve worked hard on learning to pitch things out.

Key number one. Get rid of what you donít really need. Throw things away immediately, donít set it aside to give you time to think whether you really need it.

Key number two. Create a system for storing what you keep. If you need another bookshelf, plan the expense of purchasing or building one in your homeschooling budget.

In our home, we have 15 full size bookcases, a bookcase built over our bed and another shorter bookcase. We have four metal cabinets in the garage dedicated to science supplies, art supplies and games, and computer stuff. The level of organization on these shelves and in these cabinets varies depending on whether I have been away from home for more than a week. My husband has the habit of moving things about while Iím gone. That makes it a little harder to lay my hands on what Iím looking for, but eventually I can.

While my husband and I and our daughter Emily were in India in January of 2002, a friend looked after the younger three kids. Sheís a very organized person. When they came home, they each had sturdy cardboard boxes with flip close lids for their school materials. The younger two went back to using shelves for their books, but my oldest son has adopted this method for keeping his school supplies in one location. He always knows where his math book is now.

Key number three. Develop the level of organization that makes you happy. You may have heard of the Fly Lady. She has a Yahoo email list and a website dedicated to helping those who have a problem keeping their home clean and in order. A friend was raving about the list, so I joined to see what it was all about. The womanís emails drove me nuts. Iím not a rah, rah kind of person. Salesmen have a hard time with me, because the minute they start their rah, rah pitch they lose me. The Fly Lady lost me almost right away. But, thatís me. I know people that think she is wonderful. You can look her up at groups.yahoo.com by searching for fly lady.

Iíve been reading The Family Manager, which someone donated to the free table at the last homeschool book sale. Thereís a lot in that book that would do me good and itís presented in a way that didnít have me immediately heading for the hills. A quick excerpt gives you a sense of the style in which it is written. ď Öyou need to know where your current picture of a good Family Manager came from, and you need to know yourself, your own style, so you can work on your strengths, compensate for your weaker areas, and choose your priorities.Ē

At EHO, we have a collection of reviews on books that help you organize. This kind of book is great for gleaning ideas that you can use. If getting your home and homeschooling organized is your weak area, I suggest you look into getting advice from those that are good at it. You can win the struggle for your home by setting priorities and organizing in a way thatís meaningful to you and that fits your lifestyle.

Next: The Struggle for Your Family

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