This is from a recent email from theoldschoolhousemagazine.com.
Chaos to Order: Bringing Organization to Your Homeschool
by Malia Russell
The best-kept secret about home educators is that ALL of us feel overwhelmed at times. Often we feel like we are disappointing ourselves or falling short of some mysterious goal that everyone else seems to reach. We struggle with chaos in our homes yet long for order and peacefulness and productivity we know could come from order.
There are many steps you can take to increase the order in your homeschool and eliminate days of chaos. To help you remember these steps, I created a mathematical formula to help increase order and eliminate chaos that looks like this:
x spiritual disciplines
As you can see from this formula, two major things need to be subtracted in order to increase order: distractions and decisions.
A distraction is anything that diverts us from our goals.
Remove Distractions. A distraction is anything that diverts us from our goals. My primary goals are to be self-controlled and pure, busy at home, kind, and subject to my husband (Titus 2:3-5). In seeking out what the Bible has to say about what my goals should be done, I have also learned that everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way (I Corinthians 14:40) and that I am to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, and strength and teach my children God's commands (Deuteronomy 6:5-9). Research for yourself what the Bible's goals are for you and your children. Spend some time identifying academic goals for each child. Once you know these goals, look at all the distractions in your life and see how you can reduce or eliminate them. The following are some common distractions with tips to help you reduce them.
Calendars. Choose one calendar for all planning. Use a pencil to make appointments and use ink for those things that do not change (birthdays and anniversaries). Teach your children to put calendar items in a designated spot for you to input in your calendar each week.
Computer. Set limits on the amount of time you spend on the computer by using a timer. Protect your family by not having Internet access in private areas. Find a computer-savvy friend and offer him a free dinner to come over and teach you how to do this. Consider a computer with no Internet access for children.
Telephone. Learn how to turn off phone ringers. Set family limits. You may eliminate the phone during school hours, meal times, prayer times, or rest times.
Driving. Plan one errand day for every two (or more) weeks. Make a master list of all the possibilities for errand day. The night before, review your list and get everything necessary in the car, and pack some car snacks, CDs, and portable drinks. When errand day arrives, you'll be ready.
Library. Assign one child to be the library detective, responsible for checking the list from the library, gathering all books, and getting them ready the night before you go.
Books. Organize your personal bookshelves by subject. Children can have their own books in a box or crate they can carry, but for all reference and reading books you have, organizing them by categories helps when you are looking for a particular book. Use broad categories, such as science, history, language, Christian living, and fiction. Keep your system simple. Getting more complex only adds to your workload.
Television. When the TV becomes a distraction, go on a TV fast. You can be strict (no TV at all for four months) or relaxed (TV only on weekends). You can also let the children "earn" their TV time. You can award them five minutes of TV for each school subject or chore completed.
Anything with a plug or batteries.These items are privileges: lamps at night, Game Boys, radios, CD players, and noisy toys. Set limits for these gadgets.
Service. Even good service activities can be a distraction (Luke 10:38-42).
Let's take another look at the formula.
We've looked at eliminating distractions. Next we need to reduce decisions. How many decisions do you make in an average day? According to dictionary.com, making a decision is "the passing of judgment on an issue under consideration." Each decision I make requires energy and attention.
To stop some of the chaos in your home, make some of your decisions ahead of time. You cannot avoid making some decisions daily, but for those you can anticipate, consider the following:
Determine a place for everything. The best thing you can do to eliminate chaos is to designate a place for everything and teach your children to return things to their proper place. In Mary Pride's book School Proof, she suggests that if something is not special enough to you to have its own place, you probably will not be able to find it again when you need it anyway. Get rid of it. Stop deciding where to stash and store stuff. Make a final call on where you want things or else get rid of them.
Schedule for the day and week. By prayerfully creating plans for the week, you eliminate much confusion. Schedules can be detailed or informal or somewhere in the middle. Even if you do not want to create a detailed schedule for everyone, make a rough plan for your toddler's day. Planning ahead for toddlers will increase your ability to keep them happily occupied. Empowering your older children by letting them see what is expected each day will go a long way toward increased independence for them. You will be amazed with what they will accomplish when you are not their academic bottleneck.
Plan meals. By making a meal plan of any sort, you can eliminate the problem of what to have for every meal. Meal plans can be very simple or very detailed. You can make a plan as simple as "chicken on Mondays, beef on Tuesdays, fish on Wednesdays, soup on Thursdays, pizza on Friday." You can rotate several recipes to keep it varied. Store frozen vegetables and side dishes that can fit with many meals. You can also be more detailed by planning each entrée and side dish. The more complicated your food plan is, the more difficult it will be to maintain. Keep it as simple as possible to stay effective.
Organize paperwork. Create one place for all paperwork, and teach your children to bring all loose papers, receipts, and calendar items to this spot. Have a basket for school papers waiting to be graded and one binder for each child. Children can learn to keep all graded papers and artwork in their binders.
Be consistent with rules and consequences. Let your rules be consistent and consequences simple. Decide what training is required for your children to be able to conform easily to the rules of your home.
Organize Schoolwork. Get your calendar and decide what breaks you want to take in your school year and number of weeks your want to be in session. Look at each curriculum subject and divide up the lessons into those weeks. Plan to revisit this plan several times a year to keep your schooling on track or make adjustments.
Now that we've eliminated distractions and decisions, delegation helps us not just reduce chaos but divide it.
Delegation, when done properly, can create a home in which all are blessed by the service of others. There are only a few chores that only you must do. In our home, that means my husband and I must take care of child training and care, paying the bills, meal planning, and the more difficult cooking. Nearly every other job can be done or shared by one or more of the children. The most effective way to delegate is to assign jobs to the youngest members of the family capable of doing the job (even if it will not be done perfectly). This frees older children to do more difficult jobs and helps all improve their skills. You manage most effectively when you do what only you can do while graciously and specifically enlisting the help of your children. You teach and train them for their benefit and for the benefit of all who live in your home.
After you've delegated chores among the members of the family, it's time to think about things to add.
Consider what God's best goals are for you and your family. Here are some questions to prayerfully consider:
Activities. Is this really what God intends for this child or me? How do I know? Does my husband or wife agree? What does God's Word say about this activity?
Curriculum. Is this curriculum functional, user-friendly, able to be used again by other students, and godly?
Service. Is this the best use of our family's time for service? Who am I serving? Am I bringing others or my family closer to Jesus through this activity?
Character development. What is God's standard for our lives? Where does each member fall short? Pick a couple of priorities and let the rest go until you have time to work on these few areas.
Interests. Will this interest last? Is it worth pursuing? How has God uniquely created this child or me to desire this activity?
Major Spiritual Disciplines
x spiritual discipline
If you start with spiritual disciplines, the rest will be so much easier, but most women desperate for help in their homes do not want to hear about spiritual disciplines. It sounds like I am advising you to add more to your ever-growing to-do list. The fact is, if you are wrapped up in Jesus, you can avoid getting upset, getting distracted, and getting overwhelmed. Go ahead and multiply these spiritual disciplines. The rest of the equation will be much easier.
Occasionally. Consider taking a private retreat, a family retreat, or having mom's day out. Attend homeschool conferences or go to hear local speakers.
Weekly. Commit to taking a Sunday Day of Rest that includes worship, Bible study, and small group fellowship. Consider fasting from anything that distracts you from your relationship with the Lord, including food, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, television, media, telephone, computer, eating out, or friends.
Daily. Pray alone and with your spouse. Spend some time daily reading Scriptures. Listen to uplifting, godly music while doing chores, in the car, or during play time. Be certain your book and curriculum choices honor and revere God.
Practice joyfulness. Joy comes from trusting and obeying God's Word and from knowing God is working to accomplish His purpose in all things for the good of those who love Him. Ruth Graham Lotz says, "If all you ever attempt is that which you know you can do, or have the resources for, how will you ever discover what [Jesus} can do?"
x spiritual discipline
If you feel completely overwhelmed, look around and apply this formula. Just start with the area that bothers you most and work at it steadily. Reducing the chaos slowly but surely will help you increase order, peace, and productivity in your home and help you to accomplish the things that you know are most important.
Malia Russell is an author, speaker, the joyful wife to Duncan, and homeschool mother of five children, ages newborn-19. In addition to her duties at home, Malia is the director of: http://www.homemaking911.com.
My personal mission is to love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind, and to serve my husband and raise my children in a way which is pleasing to God.
My ministry mission is to encourage families and share resources to help in many aspects of home management and home education, being a godly wife and mother, and becoming the type of woman God is calling each woman to be. We hope to encourage and equip mothers in the difficult tasks of womanhood, while keeping our focus clearly on the Word of God as the ultimate and final authority. Visit Malia at http://www.homemaking911.com
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