. . . Or What to Do When Plan A Fails.
The day will come. It is inevitable. It often happens in about January, or, if things go well, it might be as late as March or April; but it will come. It is the day when, in spite of all your efforts, EVERYTHING goes wrong.
The list of things that could happen that day is long. The flu could immobilize the entire family (except Mom, of course). The baby could stuff something up his nose, requiring a trip to the doctor (Where did he get that bean?). The washing machine might break in the middle of your biggest wash day. Someone (but no one confesses) could stop up the toilet, and it will take more than a plunger to fix the problem. The dog might eat the lesson plans….
I am sure you have your own creative list. This is the day when the temptation looms large to hoist the white flag and plan to rush the kids out the door to the nearest school bus stop the very next morning.
May I propose an alternative? It is time to take a Teacher Workshop Day. “Professional” teachers do it. Why can a home school mom not do the same? After all, we are at least as professional in our commitment to do the best for our children, but there is the guilt factor –- the guilty feelings we have if we are not doing “school” when we already feel behind for the year. Will the kids possibly finish that last workbook page before summer arrives? Only in a home school can the student have to repeat a grade because the teacher had trouble finishing the schoolwork!
Taking a day (more if you need it) to step back and regroup can do wonders for your attitude, not to mention your schedule. Rather than causing you to fall farther behind, the day can refresh you and give you the incentive you need to keep-on-keeping-on. In fact, Teacher Workshop Days, planned in advance and incorporated into your schedule, can be powerful tools to bring balance into your very busy life; but they happen by default when there is an emergency as well.
I named my days Ketchup Days, both for the pun “catch-up” and for the condiment. That day I would plan a simple meal that took little-to-no preparation. Hot dogs were a favorite with my boys; hence, the ketchup title. No matter what you serve, it is not the day to bake bread, try a new recipe, or have company that evening. Have a few very simple meal ingredients or frozen meals on hand that can be saved for those emergency days.
Major jobs around the house should be put aside for the day unless a major job is what you have planned for your catch-up day. Only the most essential chores should be done. If the day is happening due to an emergency, you probably have your hands full dealing with the thing causing you to switch to Plan B.
However, if your ketchup day is one that you have planned, keep a list of non-emergency projects that allows you to select an item that you can accomplish that day. This list should include those “around-to-it” chores for which you never seem to have time, such as cleaning a closet, sorting through the kids’ outgrown clothes, working on the pile of mending, sewing a new dress, reducing the size of the pile of papers on your desk or kitchen counter…. The list is long, but it is most helpful when it contains at least some of those projects that you say you will get done but never do.
Whatever you choose, concentrate on that job for the moment and finish it. If it is a larger project, if absolutely necessary, break it into parts so you can set it aside and come back to it another time or day. Enlist the children in the project if at all possible. If they are too young to help you, find a special toy, game, music, video, or project for them to do –- something they do not do on a regular day around the house and something that does not require your full attention on them while they do it. A “special day” box of things can be assembled and only brought out on these occasions.
If you have a mixture of ages in your family, let the older children do something special with the younger ones. If all your children are young, you might ask a grandparent or a friend to help you by watching the children and doing something special with them. Be willing to help your friend in the same way.
By dispersing Teacher Workshop Days throughout your school year, you actually accomplish more and rid yourself of that nagging feeling that there are so many things that you never seem to get done. You will not get it ALL done, but you will be able to look back over the school year and realize that even some of those never-have-time jobs were accomplished.
A similar day to Ketchup Day is EDIT Day – Easy Does IT Day. The difference is that on EDIT Day you take the day (or part of it) to do something enjoyable. A few EDIT Days sprinkled into your school year can preserve sanity at times. These days have to be planned, or they do not happen! The rules are the same as Ketchup Day except that the goal is a relaxing break: simple meals, only necessary chores, fun things with the kids, maybe even a bubble bath or a nap if your day can be arranged properly.
Home education is not a “project”; it is a lifestyle, and we are in it for the long haul. It is so easy to lose sight of that in the day-to-day routine, but by pacing ourselves within our own schedule rather than trying to fit into one superimposed on us from elsewhere, we will more often be able to stay with Plan A instead of being forced to move to Plan B. It is the “professional” thing to do.