One of the first things a home schooling mother realizes is that she has all her previous duties to fulfill in addition to teaching her children. After much frustration, irritation, and aggravation, I worked out some principles and tactics that allow me to be a wife to my husband, a teacher to my children, an administrator to run our home, and even a participant in outside activities.
Most of the principles I use to manage my time come from what I learned from my mother and from my Bible reading. I found that there is much wisdom on time management in Proverbs, Titus, and I Timothy. I try to keep my priorities in the following order: God, husband, the kids, my job, and outside ministries.
Some of the principles I use for managing my time:
- Combine trips as much as possible. Wherever I go, I make sure that I hit all the shops I need to in one trip. This reduces gas usage, the time I spend shopping or running errands, and the money I spend by not being out so much.
- Do not feel that your children need to be taking classes for everything. Many women I talk to are stressed because they are constantly driving the kids to sports, music, art, etc. In our family, we have not yet had a child in organized sports because we, as a family, are not willing to sacrifice our family sanity for the schedules that sports teams require.
- Limit your activities just as you do your children’s. Just because an activity is a “good” activity does not make it a “God” activity. Our time is precious, and we need to guard it carefully.
- Re-evaluate your activities and schedule at least once a year. I usually take stock of our school and home life at the end of each school year. I make lots of adjustments, taking time to pray so that I have clear direction as to what I am called to do.
- Use the phone. Much time is wasted going to a store to see if they carry a needed item. I find it a better use of my time to call the store to see if the item I want is carried there.
- Train your children to help around the house. You cannot do it all and survive! Kids can do a lot more than we often expect. My kids all have chores, and though they grumble, they are also proud of themselves for being able to cook and clean.
- Use the VCR. There are some shows I really enjoy and like to watch. If I record the show, I can watch it at a time more convenient for me and skip the commercials. An hour-long show lasts only about 45 minutes without commercials.
- Multi-task! I almost never sit down to watch TV without having some laundry to fold, ironing to do, or papers to grade. I also wash dishes while I heat something up in the microwave. It is amazing how many dishes I can actually wash in the three minutes it takes to heat water for a cup of tea.
- Work smarter, not harder! If I have laundry to wash, clothes to fold, and dinner to start all at the same time, I will start the washer, get dinner into the oven, and then go sit down watching the news while folding the laundry. If I need to mop the kitchen floor, I will just go ahead and mop all the floors, since I already have the mop, bucket, and cleaner ready. Make use of the appliances you own. In earlier days, many homemakers employed maids, cooks, and laundry women. Today, we have crock pots, bread makers, washers, dryers, etc.
- Keep a running list. On the refrigerator I have a list on which to write what I need from the store as I run out/low on things. This practice eliminates time trying to remember or having to go through the house and pantry writing my list on shopping day.
- Organize and eliminate! I try to keep only what we need and go through the house on a periodic basis, pulling unused and outgrown things from our rooms to donate to a good cause. After I declutter, I organize. Much less time is spent looking for art supplies if they are in a designated place. Much less time is spent caring for our home when everything has a place and we only have the things we really need. Do our things have us, or do we have our things?
- Stick to a schedule. We have a pretty standard schedule in our home. It helps me with time management because I do not have to spend time thinking about what I need to do. It also helps me to get from one activity to another. Elizabeth George, author of A Woman after God’s Own Heart, says that this sort of schedule, which she calls “horizontal planning,” conserves and generates energy by cutting down indecision. She suggests that we try to put as many tasks as possible into a routine.
- If your children do have some extra-curricular activities, try to find something that all or most of them can do together but on their own levels. My two daughters are in 4-H. One daughter is 15 years old, and the other one is 10 1/2 old. They each do what they like on their own level, but I only have to drive to one meeting for both of them to be involved in their activities. My boys participate in Scouting, and it works the same way. The kids enjoy the benefits of extra activities, and I am not running myself ragged taking five children to various meetings.
A sample day at my house:
I start my day at 6 a.m. by watching my favorite Bible teacher, Joyce Meyer. I throw in a load of clothes to wash while I fold others as I watch her show, “Life In the Word.” When the show is over at 6:30 a.m., I pop the freshly washed clothes into the dryer and put away the folded ones. I take a moment to read the Proverb for that day and maybe something else from another part of the Bible. I have a short prayer time, and then I get ready for the day.
I make my kids a list detailing their chores for the day and their school assignments. I get ready for work and am out the door by 7:30 a.m. When I get back home at 11:30 a.m., I check on the chores and schoolwork and prepare lunch. After lunch we do schoolwork until it is completed – usually around 3-3:30 p.m.
I often will take a short nap and then prepare dinner while the kids play outside, use the computer, or watch a few favorite TV shows. We eat dinner around 6-6:30 p.m. I try to grade their papers as they complete them but often will have a grading session on Sunday evenings. I try to do my shopping on Saturday mornings when I make the rounds to the grocery store, bread store, and dollar stores. I try to plan ahead, buying gifts when I see good markdowns and stocking up on things we use if there is a good sale.
I am highly scheduled, which enables me to know what I am doing and what free time I have to do other things. Kids’ activities are on Mondays; my Moms’ groups are usually on Tuesdays; we have a local park day and library day on Wednesday afternoons; home church is on Thursdays; Fridays are free; Saturdays are for shopping; and Sundays are church and family day.
Just remember, as you continue to seek godly wisdom on managing your time, God will supply. Your home schooling will be enriched, as will everything else to which you put your hands.