There’s nothing like starting it all over again. Brace yourself.
I spent some time today combing through my schedule and making changes for the new year. I have found that there is a difference between making a schedule and actually doing one. Making a schedule is kind of fussy and artificial, you do it once and then quit. Living a schedule is more natural and necessary. A simple matter of timing your paces and remembering to breathe. It’s the long haul. One foot in front of the other, eye to the prize. Don’t look down. Or perhaps it’s more akin to the rope tied to the barn in the middle of a blizzard. Because face it, some days you really can’t see the giant red barn right in front of you. It’s true. Yet I hear so many girls tell me they could never do a schedule.
Well honey, you’re just not desperate enough.
A schedule isn’t something you can just plop down on paper and do. It’s something you have to wear in like a shoe. Eventually it starts to fit and the next thing you know it’s turned into a handy exoskeleton you can’t live without out. One of the things I’ve only realized lately is that getting up in the morning is dumb. The entire schedule hinges on your ability to get out of bed at the same time, every morning. If you, in your foolish optimism, put down 5:30 – so you could go to the gym (I’ve done this), then you just shot yourself in the foot. Or maybe it’s the kneecap. Bad idea. Stay in bed. I have found that after five kids I tend to sleep like an outlaw anyways, with my boots on and my finger on the trigger. Waiting for the baby to cry or the next child who has to vomit, wants a drink of water, or simply feels the need to ask what we’re having for lunch tomorrow. Have you noticed how you can leap out of bed at the slightest sound? Like an agile, midnight fairy? I remember with my first baby how trying to open one eye in the middle of the night was the sheerest torture. But I have been conditioned. The errors of my ways have been mended. I now sleep with one eye open, as a matter of course. I find that 10:00 to 6:30 gives me enough pseudo-sleep, so that I can rise gracefully from bed and face the morning. 6:00 requires force of will. And there is no guarantee that “will” is anything I might have laying around on any given day. So let’s just skip that part. Splendid.
I seriously walk out of my bedroom and into the bath every morning. I start my bath, brew my tea, check my email, and hop in. I come out awake. Of course, I would rather be one of those people who could shower at night and didn’t have to blow dry their hair every morning. But what can I say, one must keep the coiffure in order. Afterwards I cozy up in my robe and read with the boys at 7:00. I cheer them on while they do their push-ups and crab-walks, then we set the timer and read for 15 minutes. This turns out to be rather important. I found that if I just told the kids to read a chapter it would take them all of two seconds. I wanted them to be able to relax while they read and let it soak in. But apparently they would relax too much, because when I asked them what they read they would have no idea. Now, at the end of the 15 minutes, I have asked that they come to me or Daddy with a verse that taught them something, and then tell us about it. So far this has been great. It’s amazing what they pick out and what they think about it. The other nice thing about a schedule is that eventually you don’t have to tell people to do things, it just becomes a way of life. For the boys, they stumble out of their rooms like zombies, start doing push-ups, and read their Bible. I hope this will be a habit they keep for the rest of their lives. They won’t know what hit them.
Another trick I’v learned is the handy timing of busy work. I need to buy time to dress, do my hair, and make breakfast in the morning. So at 7:30 it’s literature reading. That’s when the boys read the books on their reading list they weren’t too keen on. But too bad, it’s on the list and you’re reading it anyways. And guess what? It’s better than doing math. Everyone agrees. Amen. At 8:00 we do a big breakfast, because I have found it is more convenient to cook in the morning than during the middle of school. After breakfast I need to buy even more time to clear the table, dress the babies, do my make-up, etc. This is when the boys head down to the basement, chant their history sentence, do their Mad Minute worksheets, then switch and do multiplication drills on the computer. All of which they can do without me. At 9:00 they come back up for a quick Bible study where we alternate working on the shorter catechism and memorizing Galatians. Afterwards we belt out a hymn and have prayer. By this point I still don’t have my act together so I send them down to do their math by themselves while I wander about with a crying baby amid spilled orange juice and biscuit crumbs. What the heck? I don’t know what I would do if Daddy didn’t teach their math. Downstairs Jael sits in front of Jehu, so he reads her her directions and they generally self-sustain without me. Gideon, on the other hand, alternates between division and deep space. In any case, they will sit there and quietly do math while listening to Herb Albert for a good hour. The policy is for them to try and do everything they can do before asking questions. Occasionally I will fly by and help them out.
10:00 is my cut-off point. If my bed’s not made yet, too bad. It’s school time and also nap time for Miss Judith. Woot! I have my laundry waiting downstairs from the night before, so I sit on the couch and fold while Jael reads to me. This is painful. Both my boys made it to lesson 6 and then they were shod of me. Jael is here for keeps. I find that if I’m doing something else I’m less likely to beat her. At 11:00 I start to host English lessons on the couch. Jael goes and works on her copybook while the boys classify sentences and write essays. We don’t have any free time in the morning. Sometimes I call clean-up between subjects and we have a break to put away laundry but there is no “getting the wiggles out.” After an hour I switch them to spelling, which is self-explanatory, except for test days. On those days they follow me upstairs and I drill them while I make a cold lunch. After lunch I kick them all outside and lock the door. Seriously. They are not allowed back in until the kitchen is clean. My new policy is to have the whole kitchen done before I check my email and the blogs I follow. Which is the best incentive I could come up with because this is nap time people. Both eyes open is almost all we can hope for at this point. Fortunately I find that, unless it’s beastly cold, the kids will stay outside for the whole hour and a half. They seem to know intuitively that if they come inside they might have to do something. And frankly, they would rather freeze to death. At 2:00 I round them up and send them to chant their timeline and work on their history reading. This is the chance I have to do baking for the day or any other projects. The girls are always there to help me out. In a half hour I switch the boys to journal writing, then on to science and handwriting. As for me, I generally bustle about picking things up behind people and answering questions.
At 4:00 we have a clean-up drill. Each child is assigned a “station.” Jehu does the living room and downstairs bath. Gideon has the whole basement. Jael has her room and upstairs bath. 4:30 is the only time during the whole day that the house actually looks clean. If you come any time before or after this I can guarantee you a war zone. And I’ve been picking up all day. It makes no sense. If we’re on top of everything by 4:30, then I will put on a record and give them an art lesson. This is also when I start my first load of laundry. I can run three loads of wash before it has to be dumped on the couch, so I like that to happen as close to bedtime as possible. I fold it all in the morning. At 5:00 I start dinner. I find that keeping meals early and on time is what is going to make or break you. Late dinners means late clean-up. Which sometimes also means, “I don’t care anymore, I’m going to bed anyways.” Which is bad for business. After dinner Daddy works on piano with Gideon and then does the kids’ math lesson at 7:00. And depending on how the day went, this is my chance to exercise. Wait, wasn’t that what I was doing already?
8:00 is when the kids are in bed reading. This is Daddy Boy’s time to crash. He usually does homework on the computer, then watches soccer, reads about pulleys, and watches rigging videos on YouTube. As for me, it’s my hour to shine. I race the clock to go to bed with a clean house and a mopped floor. My goal is to be in bed by 9:00. My New Years resolution is to read more. If I’m not in bed by nine, it’s because I’m vacuuming. And as fun as it is, it’s really not educational. Odds are if I vacuum too much I will just spiral into senility. It would be a fun way to go. Anyways, if you didn’t notice, this is a bit of a delicate ecosystem. I have to be on my game all day to pull it through. But what’s neat is that it’s molding me. “Long slow obedience in the same direction.” Eventually things start to change. I think that’s what I like most about a schedule. It trains me in faithfulness. Faithfulness is all about the long haul. It’s getting up every day, reading your Bible every day, feeding your family every day, and cleaning up their vile filth…every day. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” As I have started to reap in my life, I realize it is the little seeds I planted years ago. There are no tricks, no instant gratification, no “perfect” schedule. Only obedience. Tables that need washed and beds that need gotten out of. So let’s do it. Happy New Years.