Judy: Today I've asked Kelly and Jill to sit down with me once again and talk over the topics of goal setting, organization, and time management. I don't know about you, but this is an area in which I sometimes struggle greatly. Yet other times I find that I conquer it, and things run smoothly.
So how about you guys? Is time management something that just comes naturally, or do you find that you struggle with it as a homeschool mom?
Listen to this audio chat with three homeschool moms, Judy, Kelly, and Jill, or continue reading below.
[The following is an edited transcript of the audio recording embedded above and originally published here. It has been modified slightly from the original for better readability in text format.]
Audio length: 10 minutes
Time Management for Homeschool Moms
Jill: I think at some stages of my life, it came naturally, and then at some stages of my life it was like, "Oh my gosh! How am I ever going to organize the crew in this house?!" I think it really changes through time.
Kelly: It's a seasonal thing.
Jill: I think it's a seasonal thing; you are right.
Judy: It's funny. I was talking with a young homeschool mom last night, and she was saying how she really thought she had everything all set to go this year. She has one in school and two toddlers. She said, "My whole plan for organization has just fallen apart. As much as I try to get things done on time and get school started for my daughter, for whatever reason, things seem to be conspiring against me to make that happen."
Probably about a week ago I got up on a Monday morning, ready to start the day, and you know if anything could go wrong that day, it did. We ended up with a car trouble, and somebody in our household got sick. Things just seemed to fall apart right and left. About halfway through the day, I decided to stop fighting and give up on the schedule. I figured we'd try again on Tuesday morning.
Jill: I can remember when we lived in Florida, our laundry was in the unattached garage. At times, I would feel like I was on top of things, and then I would just happen to go into the garage and see the laundry was enormous! I mean the laundry was starting to eat the lawnmower! Oh man, it seems like when you get one thing under control, something else rears its ugly head, and you feel out of control again.
The Homeschool Day is Derailed by the Phone
Kelly: And there's always the phone.
Judy: The phone is probably the greatest time management killer that exists.
Jill: Except with an answering machine! If you're strict, you really can get that monster under control too.
Kelly: That's true, I think in the early years of homeschooling, the phone was like the recess bell. When it rang if, I moved toward it, the boys immediately thought, "Oh! Recess!" And they hit the floor or whatever.
Jill: Yeah I never thought of that, but you're right. That's kind of what it seemed like in our house too.
[Editor's Note: This interview was recorded before mobile phones were as pervasive as they are today. The principles are the same. Our devices can be a distraction unless we are deliberate with boundaries.]
Why Set Homeschool Goals?
Judy: Well I think we can all agree that sticking to a schedule and managing our time well is a challenge for any homeschool mom even if you tend to be organized by nature or if you struggle with organization.
Why are organization and goal setting so important? What's the point of setting goals?
Jill: Well if you don’t set any kind of goal, you have no idea what direction you're going. I think you have to have an overall idea of why you're homeschooling.
- Is it because you live too far from the school, and it was too long to drive?
- Is it because you want to pass on your core beliefs to your children?
- It is a safety issue?
- Do you want to give your child a superior education?
There will be days—there might be weeks—when you'll think, "Why am I doing this?" And it's really nice to go back and remember your reason, refocus, and re-gauge. It helps to have your goals written down and to have something to aim for.
Kelly: Without that target, you've got no opportunity of going in a more direct direction. Have you ever taken your children outside and told them to walk across the field while looking down at their feet? I did this to teach my kids about goals. It took them forever on their circular path! They stopped along the way to check out this or that. When we started again, and I said, "Okay, now look at that tree over there and walk to it." In timing it, of course, they were much faster. But if you're only looking at what's immediately in front of you—what step you're taking now—you're going to get nowhere.
Jill: And you can't really see if you're making any progress if you don’t know what you're aiming for. So if you know what you are aiming for, then you can see you can look back after a year or six months or whatever and say, "Oh gosh, we have made progress towards that goal!" To see that you're making progress means a lot to keep you at a task for any amount of time.
Goals Help You Make it Through February
Judy: I think one thing that you said just a moment ago, Jill, is the key for me when it comes to setting goals and that is write them down. In my homeschooling experience, February is always the worst time of the year. I don't know why it's that month, but for me February is exactly when I start asking myself what you said—"Why am I doing this?"
Jill: If you look back in your notes from October for instance. You can look back and think, "Oh my gosh! Look at how much we've learned since then! Look at how much we are going toward that goal!" Whereas if you didn't jot things down along the way, you would sometimes feel like a failure.
Judy: I agree. So I think we can say that it's a really good idea for our sanity as a homeschooling mom to figure out why it is we're doing this homeschooling thing. Sit down with your spouse and talk through what we hope to accomplish. When we're all done, then write it down.
Setting a Big Goal and Then Breaking it Down
Jill: And the goal can be big. It could be something like I want to raise well equipped adults who'll be able to take their place in society, to be able to do the job that they need to do, whatever that is. Whether they're going to go to college, whether they can get married, whether they're going to have a career—whatever. It could be as big as that at the very top, and then you could gear it down.
Judy: I think that's actually the next step in setting goals—make this nice, big, overarching mission for your homeschool and your parenting. But then you have to start setting very specific, measurable goals because if you only have this big, overarching thing, you can see the tree across the meadow like Kelly said. But then you still have to figure out the most direct path to get there.
A Balanced Goal Setting Structure: Wisdom, Stature, and Favor with God
Jill: Right. I know when we sat down to figure out why we were homeschooling, I mean beside the immediate thing—my child is in a horrible school, and I've got to pull him out before he gets beaten to a pulp—after you do that, we took the verse from the Bible (Luke 2:52), "Jesus grew and wisdom and stature and in the favor with God and man." And we said that is a good list of goals for us to accomplish with our children.
Judy: That's an excellent place to start, I think, and it's very similar to what we've done in our homeschool when you think about growing in wisdom. We set academic goals for our kids each year. My husband and I would take an afternoon or an evening about a month or two before school was set to start to go for a walk in a park or go out to dinner—someplace where we knew we could talk uninterrupted. We would review the past year and set a couple of goals in each category for each child for the coming year:
- wisdom—academic goals
- stature—physical goals
- favor with God—spiritual goals
That gave me, as the teacher, very clear direction so when February rolled around, I could remember why I was doing what I was doing. When it seemed as though Johnny just couldn't get the math concepts down, I would go back and look at those goals and think, "Well, Johnny still needs to work on those math problems. But you know what, that's not one of our overriding academic goals this year. This year our biggest goal for him is to learn to read well. So maybe math, although it's important, is not the goal we set for this year."
Jill: Or maybe even if they're growing somewhat academically, it may not be as fast as you want. But maybe their spiritual life is really growing, or maybe they're developing so many large motor and small motor coordination things. So sometimes they don't need to necessarily excel in all of these areas. I think it evens over a period of time, but in the short term—six months or a year—grown can heavily lean toward one area or the other. I think that's okay.