Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Truth About Schedules

I suffer from chronic depression. One of the things that makes that worse is lack of structure in my life. But the flip side is that when I'm overscheduled, I'm seriously stressed. I constantly walk a tightrope when it comes to structure without rigidity. My kids obviously feel the effects of my little circus act and, sadly, suffer the ill-effects when my foot slips from the wire.

Last summer we "played with" homeschooling. Being type A, I had lessons planned down to the minute. In the end, the rigidity of my self-imposed schedule put us all off of homeschooling. But it's still been very much on my mind and in my heart. Which is why it seemed like kismet when I made friends with an unschooler online this year. Unschooling suits mine and my children's natural inclinations much more than "classroom at home" homeschooling.

But one of my reservations about unschooling initially was the lack of structure. Over the past couple of weeks I've been thinking, praying, and experimenting. Finally tonight I stumbled upon an epiphany. Quite simply, we can have a flexible schedule. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Duh, Mari! Aren't you supposed to be smart???" And yes, thank you, I believe I am pretty smart. But one of my major flaws (should I save this for the Plank Pullin' meme?) is that I tend to think of real-world things in very black or white terms. My thinking has always been, "I need schedule. Therefore I will schedule every minute of every day and follow it strictly," or "I hate schedules even though I need them. Therefore I will do what I want except when outside forces impose a schedule upon me."

What I decided today and will experiment with for a while until we make it work is that I can create a loose (hour by hour, broad) schedule and follow it unless something more absorbing comes up. So I started by relaxing the summer schedule I had started with. It looks something like this:
9 AM - up and at 'em. Eat breakfast, clean up, get ready to face the day!
10 AM - Outside time before it really heats up out there. Do whatever we want outdoors in the fresh air
11 AM - Back inside for a little housework. Do whatever needs to be done to make the house a friendly place to be
12 PM - lunch
1 PM - kitchen time. I try to do a little cooking or baking daily even if it's to give away or put in the freezer for the future. The girls love to help and can do whatever they want in the kitchen with me
2 PM - creative time. Already mentioned this in an earlier blog post. Anything that's creative is a-ok, individually or together
3 PM - get our bodies moving. If anyone wants to brave the beginning of the hot part of the day, they're welcome to do so. Otherwise, we have workout DVDs, exercise equipment, and music all over the place. As long as your body is moving, you're doing fine
4 PM - free time to pursue whatever interests you
6 PM - Mom's putting dinner on. Do you want to help or keep pursuing your own interests?
12 PM - bedtime so we can face another day well-rested

And here's where the epiphany comes in: if we're doing creative time (or whatever) and everybody's having fun and doesn't want to do something else, who's making us?? We can be the boss of the schedule instead of the other way around! This kind of schedule can give us some structure to make me feel like I'm doing something and keep the kids from getting into boredom fights (you know the ones I'm talking about - the kind where they pick at each other just because they have nothing better to do) but if we get engrossed in a project, we can see it through until we're done with it.


  1. How did your schedule experiment go?

  2. It was great until early July when rehearsals for the play Shannen was in that I managed suddenly sucked up so much of our time and energy that we kind of fell off the wagon. Five-6 hour daily rehearsals make it hard to want to do much of anything with the rest of your time. Play is over as of last week but we haven't gotten back on the wagon.