Yesterday, although I am not quite done writing them out yet, I decided to bite the bullet and actually follow them.
In a way I cheated. It was Monday. Mondays are usually the days I spend entirely at H's house, co-schooling and then shuttling kids to scouts and AHG. However, for the last couple of weeks and for a Very Good Reason, we have not been doing school together. So Mondays and Thursdays have been freed up, and I have been using them to catch up on resting, thinking, and once in a while doing a neglected chore or two. Monday's task list was a clean slate.
So. The first thing I did was make a to-do list. Nothing new there. Except that it was a very SHORT to-do list:
(Actual to-do list from yesterday, taken near the end of the day)
I thought to myself, "I only have four hours to do tasks. What tasks should I do?" And that is what I came up with. I used an index card on purpose; it's like eating dinner off a smaller plate. I felt "full" with fewer tasks!
When I was making the list I tried to include some work from each of my four categories:
- Work for school (prepare a Latin translation; buy some curriculum; send an email about history homework)
- Work for the family (buy a gym bag; sort laundry till I find my daughter's AHG uniform; make the kids shovel snow; grocery list)
- Work for others (read some bylaws that I have to vote on this week for an organization that I help lead; remind Mark to move forward on a family service project)
- Creative work (okay, I left that off, but what it amounts to is this blog post that I am writing now).
And look! It is almost all crossed off! I actually got most of that done yesterday.
This felt good.
Here is another thing that felt good: During learning time -- what I really call "school time," I guess, but I am trying to change its name -- I forced myself not to try to do any of the tasks on my list. Instead I sat down and stayed with my kids.
I watched a video about Frederick the Great of Prussia with my 10- and 13-year-olds. I watched the whole thing. And when my 10-y-o had questions about the video, I was right there to hear them, and I wrote them down and afterward we looked up the answers.
I got out the nine-note recorder book and the recorders for my daughter when she suddenly decided it had been too long since she practiced, and let her use them freely all morning.
I let the boys make lunch and clean it up.
I read a picture book to my four-year-old for the first time in weeks.
I led a handwriting lesson and a spelling lesson for all three school aged kids, and I wasn't rushed so I didn't yell at anyone.
I watched another video with the kids about Roman cities (one of those PBS David Macauley ones).
I helped my daughter get ready for her AHG awards ceremony and drove her across town, and took her and her friend out to dinner before the ceremony.
I visited H at her house for a little while before coming home.
It was a good day.
I am in the middle of another day that is so far good, too. I will report back on that one later.
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In the comments, a reader pointed me to this post at Amongst Lovely Things. It's a homeschooling blog, which is why I don't read it regularly, but this post suggests a different way of thinking about the to-do list that I rather like. She calls it "looping:"
The concept is simply this: instead of assigning tasks to certain days of the week, list tasks and then tackle them in order, regardless of what day it is.
Looping can be used wherever there is work that needs to be done regularly. ...Right now I use a looping schedule in our homeschool, for my housework, and for my writing.
Right now this is how I schedule our morning time read-alouds. For example, we're reading All the Swords in England, St. Patrick's Summer, and various plays by Shakespeare. Those are looped during our morning read aloud time (with Shakespeare having a more prominent place on the loop- twice for every once that we're reading the others). Next term I expect that loop to change because I want to read Father Brown, Bible stories, and Our Mother Tongue during morning time.
Another way you could use a looping schedule is to loop various activities within a subject. For example, many homeschoolers have "Fine Arts Fridays." Picture study, composer study, crafts, art instruction, and poetry could be looped to offer a little variety while still making headway through a particular book or curriculum.
Basically, take anything you would otherwise be inclined to schedule into certain days of the week (Monday: history, Tuesday: science, Wednesday: literature.... etc.) and put them on a loop instead. Now instead of feeling behind when the baby gets sick or you are running around putting out life's fires, you still make progress across the curriculum.
I could see this working pretty well for me for household tasks, younger kids' school subjects, and maybe for readalouds, if I ever get back to doing them again. I will think about it. Maybe you will too!
More resolutions next time.