By Kyndra Steinmann
It’s been a hectic spring around here. March started out with a quick trip to Virginia to attend HEAV’s LeaderLife conference in Williamsburg. It was worth every minute of driving—but coming from Massachusetts, I did spend two days driving! I was home for a day and then the whole family headed out to Ohio for my grandfather’s funeral—two more days of driving. Home for only two days, my husband left on a business trip for nearly a week while the rest of us stayed home and tried to get back to normal before Holy Week and Easter. I’m exhausted just remembering–and it wreaked havoc with our homeschool schedule and our work habits!
As upheaval often does, the travel and unexpected nature of our days was bad for our schedule and rhythm, and regaining our rhythm showed me some places that needed some rethinking. This is not what I really want to do right now. We’re six weeks away from the end of school, eightish weeks away from our annual trip to Virginia for the HEAV Convention, and breaking everyone in on a new schedule is NEVER an easy task. I thought hard about ignoring the issues and just waiting until I set our new schedule in the fall. Things are working, they just aren’t working well, and I could probably put up with them for a while longer.
The longer I allow the schedule to encourage children in bad habits, the harder my job (and theirs) will be when we go to learn new habits. The fussing when it is chore time, the slowness to get up in the morning, the lessons left undone—these will not correct themselves, and every time I allow them to continue, I am implying that (despite what I say) I am okay with those attitudes and behaviors.
Oh, dear. Really implementing the guideline of “Responsibilities Before Recreation” is going to mean some work for me. It will probably mean giving up my “quiet time” while children nap and read recreationally, since I can predict that some of the children will have to learn by experience that I really do mean that lessons and chores are to be complete and inspected before they may play. Is it really worth it?
Over the years, I have learned that anything I wish to teach the children must be something I really want them to grasp. If I’m not willing to put a serious effort in for the 6-8 weeks it takes to build new habits, then I might as well not start. If I do put the effort in, though, the good fruit of good habits and character will follow, eventually.
So what am I trying to teach and model? The simple idea that taking care of responsibilities early and well, means that our time is free for other pursuits. To do a job or lesson well the first time, and move on.
I’ve said it often, but our schedule says differently. Lessons come first, but after lunch there is free time until chore time at 4:30pm. We all dread chore time—me, because I am trying to keep track of four somewhat reluctant workers and one toddler who is about done with self-control for the day (while making dinner!), and the children because they feel like their free time has been cut short for jobs. No one wants to work and everyone makes that clear in their own unique way. I fuss, give consequences, and often let poorly done jobs slide because I just don’t want to hear another complaint. I’ve known for some time I needed to make a change, but I really didn’t want to sacrifice our mostly smooth mornings to adjusting to change, nor my quiet afternoons to making sure people really were done with lessons and chores.
During the week after Easter, I decided to have a mini “boot camp” (our term for a period of time spent mostly working for Mom in order to practice obedience, doing jobs well, etc.) and just focus on getting the household chores done. Sure enough, one child managed to make their responsibilities last from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., through dawdling, sassing, and other poor behavior twice last week. (Poor behavior gets a mark on my clipboard, and every third mark equals one extra job.) There were tears, and there was yelling from children and mother, but by the end of the week even the slowest workers were knocking out their jobs in a reasonable time frame. It was a clear sign that it is time to change the schedule, despite our nearness to the end of school.
This week we started in with chores until 8:45 am, starting school an hour later than we have been, and pushing lunch back by an hour. Of course, the first day was our co-op and library day, so people were fairly motivated since undone chores on Monday means no new books. Tuesday we had eye doctor appointments in the afternoon, but the morning went smoothly for all but the eldest (11), who is having a hard time with time management at the moment but did finish all his work before supper.
Wednesday will be the real test. We’ll be home all day and I’ll get a chance to see if our afternoons really are more peaceful with chores taken care of early in the day. I am sure if I have the grace to put forth the effort, I will see fruit—in my own ability to patiently correct and teach, and in the children’s understanding of diligence.
UPDATE: With a second full week of this schedule under our belts, I am happy to see that we are getting our work and lessons done with much less fuss than previously. The 10-year-old who struggles to complete her work is still struggling, but she is beginning to see that when she buckles down and completes her chores and lessons in the morning, she has lots of time to do what she’d like in the afternoon. The 11-year-old who hates change of any kind is adjusting fairly well as he also likes having his work done and not hanging over him for later.
Kyndra Steinmann blogs at Sticks, Stones and Chicken Bones about living in a houseful of young children, special needs, discipling hearts, and abundant grace! As a homeschool graduate, she has an especial burden to encourage mothers to know and enjoy their children. Follow her on Facebook, and Pinterest.