I think I know you. Like me, you are convinced the Christian classical idea is good for your family, but in practice it means long days, hard work, and utter madness on the day before community. If you have children in more than one program you find yourself stretched and you are torn between responsibility for teaching each child, keeping a clean house, providing hospitality, and keeping appointments. I have been living this life for over five years and I have been actively trying to balance my high expectations with the truth that gravity exerts a constant force to pull them down. As one who has benefitted from Classical Conversations in spite of my flawed execution, I would like to offer my sisters and brothers what I have learned.
- Remember your true mission. It is not to get everything done. It is to train your children in the way they should go. It is to disciple them when they rise and go to bed, in the home and on the road. It is to lead them to habitually trust and obey Christ, to grow in grace and wisdom. If we complete the work, but fail to get at the heart of the gospel, we have missed the mark.
- Mastery is not everything. Strong familiarity will often meet the case. For example, in Challenge III, if students have not mastered Latin vocabulary or complex grammar, they are able, nonetheless, to translate Caesar because they are familiar enough with the concepts to recognize them. Foundations parents, unless your child is willing to become a Memory Master, beware pushing him into it out of a sense of pride. What is best for your own child? You know the nature of your child better than anyone else. Some students will be able to master everything. Others need to spend their time differently.
- Learn personal time management. There are many productivity approaches out there. What’s Best Next (memorable for its tongue-tying title) interprets the best of all of them through the filter of the gospel. Read it, taking a full semester to work it out if you need to. First, he tells us to identify our particular mission so we make better choices. Then, he offers practical advice. Watch for a full review next month.
- Keep a To Do list for the day and for the week. Also, capture upcoming tasks in a sensible system. I use OneNote and Any.do. Do what you can. At the end of the day praise God for what you accomplished. This, more than any other tip, will help you to sleep rested and joyful.
- Create a structure for the week, using either blocks of time for your work or an order that you follow regardless of the time. This gives structure to a list which can otherwise haunt you, especially if you have more on it than you can accomplish in a day. (We all do.) Create blocks of time in your calendar for the kinds of things you need to do. Thereafter, when setting up appointments, treat those blocks as obligations and work around them. Leave an afternoon open for errands. Shop monthly rather than weekly. Be sure to give yourself a block of time for office work, calls, letters, bill paying, and so on.
- Break the work into portions. Teach your children to list the tasks they need to do for each strand. After community day, write out the assignments in a four-day grid or make a list for each subject. Try this: break up each subject into its tasks and write them each on a sticky note. Tack each day’s sticky notes on a white board according to this particular week’s schedule. Each day take down the day’s work. As the task is completed, crumple it up and throw it out. Conquered!
- Set blocks of time for your own study. Parent-teachers who are also directors need to study, too. Do this with your student when you can (e.g., listen to an audio book of your reading assignment; do math together; mark up your philosophy book together and compare notes). Directors also need time to learn new material, attend training, and work on administrative tasks. Arrange a schedule with the counsel of your spouse, and include time alone with your spouse each week.
- Take a true rest on Sunday. Use Saturday as your day of rest if you need to, but avoid the temptation to work nonstop from one community day to another. Set Sundays apart. At the very least this reminds us our souls belong to God, not to school.
- Limit field trips, but bless the interruptions of babies, widowed in-laws, and hurting friends. Some needs we cannot ignore. A home school was never meant to be a private pocket in the culture; we are called to serve. Surely our heavenly Father puts stress on us at times so we may learn to live in His strength. Draw on His resources.
- Enforce a sensible policy for Internet use. No computers in the morning. Limit and monitor their use. Computer games and the wide ocean of the Internet entice us to waste the precious life we have. Seek a solution for your family.
The truth is, I do not get it all done. However, I work hard because I want to make the most of this fantastic opportunity to equip my children for the day when I am not around to pad the corners of life for them.
Do you have other personal management ideas to share? Comment below.