Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A House of Order, Part 2: Sticking to your plan

By Melanie Skelton
Part 1 of this series focused on mapping out your curriculum. I hope you all have a great plan mapped out and are jumping into a new school year with the same enthusiasm we are. Now it is time to face the reality. Somebody is going to try to foil your plan.
Who? The list of possibilities is endless – your children, your mother, your neighbor, other home educators, or even yourself. It will most likely be a combination of all of these.

How? Your children will want to watch television or play rather than get to work Your mother may call in the middle of the great project you are doing or book you are reading with the children. Your neighbor may knock on the door and need some great favor or want to visit. Other home educators may lure you into too many activities outside of your home, leaving little time for what really matters. And you…well, I can’t say what your weaknesses are, but I foil my own plan by checking e-mail, answering the phone, planning appointments or starting projects all during the hours I planned to do school with my children. I usually only plan to spend a few minutes doing these things and then we will get right to school. But the reality is that at the end of an unfocused day I don’t feel the same sense of peace and accomplishment as when I have truly spent quality time with my children exploring the subjects of the day.

So how do we avoid these interruptions that can devastate a great school day? We must choose. Most interruptions can wait. I understand that there may be situations where there is a true emergency or urgent situation that needs attention, but these are the exception. I repeat… most interruptions can wait.
Establish firm habits with your children concerning television or other distractions from school work. Charlotte Mason says that “habit, in the hands of the mother, is as his wheel to the potter, his knife to the carver-the instrument by means of which she turns out the design she has already conceived in her brain.” Habit is a powerful tool in helping children to remain focused on learning. As the parent you can instill this habit lovingly. The key is consistency. This is where it becomes critical to eliminate the other interruptions from your life so that you are not being pulled away from your children at a moment when your attention will make the difference.

Help the people who are close to you understand that you will not answer the telephone, door or e-mail during the hours you choose to do school. One friend puts a stop sign up on her door as a friendly reminder that school is in session. Owning an answering machine or subscribing to voicemail will allow you to monitor your messages in case there is a situation that is a true emergency. I check my messages when I have given my children a ten minute break. Otherwise, we let the phone ring.

Choose activities in your home school community carefully. In our community there are always classes in art, drama, language, geography and more. Some offer co-op groups for boys, girls, teens, preschooler or a combination. We see chess clubs, nature clubs and clubs for anything else a person can dream up as well as sports opportunities. Convincing yourself that activities like these are providing most of what your child needs in their education is concerning. Over the years and through many co-ops and activities I have come to the conclusion that my children learn best at home. Believe me, I’ve tried to justify every kind of co-op I could create join or create. In the end, it has never been as effective as what I can do with my children at home on a focused day. There may be a place for carefully selected activities in your plan. But these types of activities have sometime been my largest interruptions from accomplishing my goals with my children. If you choose to participate in these types of activities, try to choose ones that are at the beginning or ending of the week, in the afternoon, or at times when it will conflict the least with your plan.

How do we keep from foiling our own plans? This is probably the biggest question. In the end, I am the person who decides whether to answer the phone, check the e-mail or to justify working on that project “just for a minute”. Habit, again, is a powerful master. You just have to decide to change the habit that is keeping you from achieving the plan you have set out to accomplish, and then stick to it. If this change is too overwhelming, change one little habit or part of a habit at a time. It is better to make a slow change and have it be permanent than to get discouraged with an overwhelming plan. Remember that your children are worth it. Habits you establish now will pay off later.

As a final note, enjoy the ride. All of this habit changing and choosing to stay home with your children doesn’t mean you can’t have fun; quite the opposite. You will find that as you create a “House of Order” by having a plan and having control of that plan you will find other ways to be flexible, enjoy your children and treasure each moment.

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