What to Do On Those Days When You Just Don’t Wanna…

Do you ever have those days? When you have your to-do list ready to go with important and/or urgent items on it, and you are just not motivated to do any of it? Even the smallest task just seems like too much – too hard, too boring, too required?

According to Gretchen Rubin’s framework of tendencies, some people are Rebels and this is their ongoing relationship with their to-do list – no list (even one they’ve made themselves) is going to push them around. They’ll do what they want when they’re good and ready.

I’m not a Rebel (I took the quiz!) but I do understand that feeling. While I can usually get done the things I need to, especially if there’s accountability to someone else involved, there are definitely some days when I just don’t want to!

So what do you do on days like those, so that you don’t let your lack of motivation derail not just your day but that of your whole family? Or not just this one day, but the whole week of work that’s related to it – if you have  projects that build from day to day?

This is definitely something I’m still working on, and so this is by no means a definitive solution. But this is what I do.

  • First, I pause and pray. “Thank you Jesus for this day and all the blessings and crosses I will encounter today. Help me to turn to you whenever I need help.” Often, this will shift my mood enough that I can get started, or at least get to step 2.
  • Next, I make a list. Or, if I already have a list, I pull it out and see if it needs reordering or prioritizing. Or maybe I’ll add a couple of throwaway tasks on it just to get that feeling of success from checking off a task. (Note to self: next time, add “pause and pray” to the list!)

What I do next depends on what kind of task list I’m staring at.

  • If it’s just a regular day and the sheer monotony of it is what’s keeping me from getting started, I figure out a rewarding task I can add to my list for after the more boring tasks are done. Usually that’s a new book to read or maybe an art project, or even a computer game (if that’s what it takes).
  • If there’s one task that I’m really reluctant to do, I might opt for the “eat the frog” strategy and try to get that done first so that it’s out of the way. For me, the task I most dislike involves making phone calls, especially phone calls related to paying bills, so I tend to put those off. But when I decide it’s time to eat that frog, I’ll gather all the papers I need, and starting with the most straightforward one, call each one and deal with it until they are all done. The first one’s the hardest, but once I’ve done that, I can usually keep going until I’m done with all of them.
  • On other days, it’s the sheer volume of tasks that is overwhelming. In that case, I tend to start with doing the easiest things first. If I have already checked off a bunch of items, even small items, I psychologically feel more up to tackling something harder or more time consuming. Also, I try to not add more than three major tasks to my list every day. I do have my daily and weekly task lists that are all the routine stuff, but I try to make sure that I’m not adding so much extra stuff that those basics don’t get done.
  • Usually, the overwhelm comes from tackling a big project – or not tackling it. For example, my schoolroom reorganization is my current project, and it’s on hold at the moment because I figured out that the next step is one that needs to be done by my husband. So every time I walk by that room, I get a little bit overwhelmed by the clutter in there because we took down all the stuff that wasn’t working and we haven’t relocated it yet. In that case, I try to find a small step I can take to make progress even if it’s imperceptible to anyone else.

The biggest danger on days like these is to let things slide and write the day off, figuring you’ll pick up the slack tomorrow. Lack of motivation is a bad reason for not doing the work because motivation is so fleeting. If we only work when we want to, well… we might end up where we want to, but the chances are lower than if we work whether we feel like it or not.

Especially with homeschooling, where things tend to have squishy deadlines or commitments involved.  Often no one else knows what we intended to accomplish versus what we actually did. This is a good thing in that we get to set the course of our studies, but it can be a bad thing if we let ourselves coast rather than pushing ourselves higher and farther. Momentum will get us further than motivation will, and keeping that momentum going by pushing through the hard days is the best way to build our perseverance muscles.

Of course, if we’re having to push through every day, that could be a sign that something needs changing, and we might have to reevaluate our plans and our priorities. That’s a topic for a different post, though.

How do you get past lack of motivation and do what needs to be done? Especially when “need” is a squishy term that doesn’t reflect actual deadlines or consequences?

Thoughts on Bible Memory Work

We’re a few weeks into our latest attempt at regular copywork. Like I said in my previous post, we are each picking one verse from the Sunday Mass readings and writing it every day for that week. Each person picks the verse that most stood out to them. In practice, for my reluctant writers, this often means the shortest verse that they can remember. But, hey, it’s a step in the right direction.

There are a few aspects of this practice I want to draw more attention to because I think they make it even more useful than copywork in general. Specifically, the fact that we are copying/memorizing Bible verses, and that those verses come from the Mass readings.

One of the tropes we hear time and again is that Catholics don’t know their Bibles. I contend that this isn’t as true as people think it is. Yes, we could all stand to spend more time studying the Word of God; there’s no end to the riches that can be mined from Scripture study. Still, this idea that Catholics are worse off in this area than Protestants is I think based on a fallacy – the fallacy that being able to quote chapter and verse is the only form of knowledge worth having.

Protestants focus on Bible memory from a very young age, learning key verses by heart and knowing where to find them. There’s also a lot of emphasis on spending time privately reading the Bible, so they tend to know its structure and order very well.

On the other hand, Catholics have a completely different approach to Bible knowledge. For most of us, our scripture knowledge comes mainly from the Mass, and for some of us, from the Rosary as well. This can lead to a deep knowledge of Scripture, but in practice it tends to mean that certain passages are really familiar while other ones remain obscure.

And I think the parts we tend to skip over are the same ones that Protestants tend to emphasize – the Psalms, the Old Testament prophets, and the letters of St. Paul and the other letters in the New Testament. So, when confronted by someone who can drop citations like Romans 8:28 or Philippians 4:4 into casual conversation, we can feel like we don’t know the Bible as well as they do. But, if they quote the actual words, we can usually join in to finish it. We know the verse – just not the citation.

So, that was my motivation for doing Scripture copywork in the first place – to add that chapter and verse knowledge to the familiar verses that we already know. I want my children to know the Bible, and to know that they know it!

But I really like picking the verse for the week from the Mass readings for what is kind of the opposite reason. When we hear the readings at Mass, and then hear a homily based on them, the priest usually at least attempts to explain how the three readings go together or at least how the Old Testament reading is fulfilled in the Gospel. This understanding that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old is a key insight that is kind of intuitive to us because we hear it almost every Sunday. But, without the Missal organizing those readings for us, it would take years of independent study to make the connection between, say, a prophecy of Isaiah about the suffering servant, and Jesus’ passion.

The Church has already done the heavy lifting of interpreting the Scriptures. While there is certainly always room for more layers of meaning for us to uncover, this authentic, authoritative teaching is the foundation layer. So, I like that, when we are picking our verses, some of us pick from the Gospel, others from the Psalm, and at least subconsciously, our minds are realizing that these verses fit together; that they are meant to complement each other.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I always find it such an everyday miracle when God answers a question or problem I place before him through the daily Mass readings. These are the same readings that every Catholic in the world is reading that day (or hearing at Mass); they were picked years ago according to the three year cycle – and yet, somehow the answer to my prayer is right in there when I look for it!

This is the kind of Bible knowledge I want my kids to have – not just knowing the words of the Bible, but knowing that God is still talking to us personally every day through His living Word.

10 11 Things I’m Thankful For Today

Because our minds are trained to notice the bad rather than the good unless we train them otherwise. And being grateful for the simple basic things is just as important as remembering to thank God for great blessings granted.

So, today I’m thankful for:

  1. Sunshine
  2. Good health
  3. Happy children
  4. A loving marriage
  5. Freedom to homeschool
  6. Divine Mercy
  7. Great books
  8. Answered prayers
  9. Unanswered prayers (ala Garth Brooks)
  10. Laughter, especially that of my children
  11. Nourishing food.

Towards a More Functional Schoolroom – Part 1

The Problems:

This might not be an exhaustive list, but they’re the main ones, or at least the most obvious.

  1. Desk gets too cluttered with homeless items that don’t belong there.
  2. Stuff gets left out rather than being promptly put away.
  3. Need a solution for different types of paper – kids’ original projects, kids’ projects from religious ed. or co-op, reference information, cards and letters, printer paper, scrap paper that can be reused.
  4. Need a solution for “junk” – this might just be “throw it all away.”
  5. Need a solution for hanging posters – they keep falling off our wall when hung with sticky-tak
  6. Need storage for over-sized objects that don’t fit on bookshelves or in filing cabinets
  7. Need homes for office supplies, craft supplies – in-use and spares
  8. Board games need more space and reorganization

I can think of a few of these that can be handled with just quick tweaks:

  • Adding a daily “quick cleanup in the office” to everyone’s chore list should result in fewer out of control messes being made.
  • We could nail the posters up on the wall so we’re not constantly trying to stick them back up when they fall down.

I also came up with a (somewhat complicated) plan that might solve a few of these problems at once.

We have basic shelves on L brackets installed up high around the room to house our board game collection. We still have room on one wall where we could install another of these. That might give us enough room where putting board games away is easy rather than a complicated game of box-tetris, made harder by the fact that I have to stand on a step-stoool while playing it.

tower of boxes
Box-Tetris – or is it Box-Jenga?

But, even better, we installed a similar shelf down low on one wall to hold things like our globe and kid microscope. This worked well at first, but lately has become just another clutter magnet. If we took this shelf down and used it as our last board game shelf, we could put something else on that wall instead.

Specifically, I could use the shelf of cubbies that’s sitting unused in our upstairs office, and it could hold all or at least most of our office supplies. I could even label the individual cubbies so putting things where they belong is easier.

There are difficulties involved in implementing this plan, the first one being that my husband will need to have the free time to do all the shelf uninstalling and reinstalling. Also, the low shelf is a little bit narrower and almost a foot shorter than the ones up high. Still, it does seem like it would be a good solution.

Sorting through all the paper is a thornier problem.

via GIPHY

I think each kid having their own shelf is a good start. I need to give them each a magazine holder for loose papers to keep on that shelf. Then I need to figure out how many levels of storage they need. Obviously, they need something to hold works in progress – their lidded plastic boxes work fairly well for that, although they don’t fit on the bookshelf, which is disappointing.

Then we need archives, but do we need archives by year, archives by subject, some hybrid of the two, or some other system entirely? In the past, we had files by subject in their crates, but that was never an effective system. I think the best thing might be to digitally archive things every year, and then have them pick their favorite things to go into a “forever” box. Except for Coll who already has a box full of archived notebooks, and who seems to go through a new one every couple of weeks. He might need some designated archive space in the basement.

I’m leaning towards one alphabetized filing cabinet for reference papers. I have the dividers; I have tons of hanging folders and manila folders; and I can easily re-file the things that are already in there (mostly office supplies) to hang alphabetically. So instructions for things like board games, etc. can go right after the folder of index cards. Or, if my cubbies idea works to hold all the office supplies we need, the filing cabinet could just hold the papers. I wouldn’t mess with our financial papers yet. Those have their own (albeit overstuffed) drawer. This could also be an alternate option for holding the kids’ archived paper.

Printer paper can go in the living room with the printer.

I do like having scrap paper handy for list-making, doodling, scribbling, junk printing, etc. I think the key is to have one single designated container for it, and to have a strict policy of throwing away any used paper that cannot be held in it. And for that one container to be fairly small, so the stack of scrap paper is never too large.

That seems like a reasonable plan that will help make some measurable progress in the room. I still need to figure out ideas for how to keep random stuff from taking over the desk; what to do with the various “junk” items; and where to put the oversize items (like trifold poster boards, large writing pads, etc. so they are easily accessible when needed but out of the way when not.

Does your house also seem to have an endless influx of paper? How do you handle it all, without resorting to say, a bonfire?

Our Schoolroom Needs Some Love

We have a room designated as our schoolroom, but we almost never use it. It’s a great space, with lots of good reasons why we should be using it. South facing windows give us lots of natural light. It’s lined with bookshelves, and all our nonfiction books are available for easy reference or just dipping into. The desk is one my husband built with a large plywood top over four filing cabinets, and we use some cool swivel chairs we found at IKEA.

So why aren’t we using it? I think there are a few different factors that come into play, some related to the space, some related to how we do school. So switching things up to make better use of the schoolroom is going to need some change in process as well as changing stuff in the room itself.

First of all, a lot of our formal schoolwork is done on the computer – math, original writing, etc. And, since the laptops are my husband’s and mine, rather than ones belonging to the kids, they need to stay in the living room. A lot of the other school stuff is done at the dining room table – I like a captive mealtime audience when I read aloud. 🙂 Or we listen to an audio book using either the TV or the Echo – both in the living room. So, the only things that get done in the schoolroom are things like copywork, art projects, and independent reading. Still, I’d like to make sure that the room works well for those tasks, in addition to trying to move some of the other tasks to that space as well.

I can’t move the TV to the schoolroom, but I could move the Echo. Also, I could play CDs on a computer using a Bluetooth speaker rather than the TV. And, if we could get enough old laptops working well enough for the kids to be able to do schoolwork on them (even if they’re not powerful or fast enough to do any fun stuff on), we could give each kid their own laptop and keep those permanently on the schoolroom desk.

That desk is the biggest problem. That wonderful, large open surface that’s great for craft projects and creativity is also the biggest magnet for clutter! Any object without a home gets dumped on it “just for now.”

Until recently, another problem was storing each kid’s individual stuff. I used to have crates for each of them with hanging files, but that was just too much effort for them to independently put their stuff away every day. So things got piled up, or dumped on the floor, or stuffed into random boxes after we did a desperation clean when people were coming over.

I recently switched things around and gave them each one shelf of a bookcase to keep their stuff on, as well as a lidded box that they can keep loose papers in. This has seemed to work reasonably well, in that there does not seem to be as much new paper clutter being created, despite them working on new projects almost every day. Putting stuff on a shelf is much easier than filing it in a file, and even a messy shelf is better than paper all over the floor.

Last weekend, we did a big cleanup where we picked up and put away or threw away everything that was on the floor, and then everything that was already on the desk. Then I went through all the space in the room, pulling out everything that wasn’t a book – the books mostly have homes already, so moving them isn’t a priority right now. All the office/school supplies went into a large box. Other things got grouped into large groups of like things, and everything that did not clearly belong in that room got moved to the basement. (Cleaning the basement is a very large project that we will tackle at some point in the future.)

So now, I have some empty shelves and other spaces, and a desk full of random objects that need homes. I want to make sure I’m only keeping the necessary things, ones that add value to our lives. So, I want to plan my process out on paper before I start making too many changes in the room. I’m going to spend the next few posts figuring this out. I’ll try to post pictures as we go along too.

The Case For Copywork

It’s no secret that I tend towards unschooling as my philosophy of education. I think learning is best when it’s internally motivated, and that forced learning is little better, in the long term, than no learning at all. How many things did you learn in school because it was what you were assigned to learn? And how quickly did you forget them once the test they were evaluated on was past?

Even so, the one “schoolish” task I do strongly encourage, dare I say require, from my kids, is copywork. This is where we – and I do participate myself – find a noteworthy passage from something we are reading, and copy it into a notebook. In the past we have copied poems, Bible verses, the national anthem, our student oath for karate, and various interesting quotes from different books.

These days, we are copying one verse that stands out to us from the Sunday Mass readings. We each pick our own, although the same verse might appeal to several of us. Then we just copy that verse out into our notebooks. We do the same verse every day for that week so we can memorize the verse as part of our practice.

Rereading the description I just wrote, I realize that I just opened myself up to criticism from both ends of the homeschooling spectrum. So why do I think copywork is a good thing, even for unschoolers, and what benefits do I think we are gaining from this practice?

First of all, I think copywork is a really good way to strengthen the physical strength and skill for writing by hand. I have terrible handwriting, despite being forced to do handwriting practice all through elementary school. But, since we had to take handwritten notes all through high school, as well as handwritten exams, I did learn to be decently fluent in my writing skills, and reasonably legible. The best way to get better at writing is to write, and writing for a purpose is more satisfying than writing for the sake of practicing writing.

Still, the flip side of that is that when you are writing for the sake of capturing something that has inspired your imagination, it is important to capture those thoughts quickly, efficiently, without stopping to worry about spelling, grammar, beauty of expression, etc. Those things come with the editing and polishing of future drafts. A lot of professional authors refer to first drafts as their “vomit draft” or “$#%! draft.” The editing and polishing is a necessary step but it has to come later, or the ideas might never be captured at all.

My kids have tons of ideas for stories and things they want to create. If I forced them to use paper and pen for all those ideas, only a fraction of them would be saved on paper. Letting them use a computer for those ideas lets more of them make it onto the hard drive, and many of them are being worked on every day. So, I want to let them keep using the computer for all their original writing.

Side note: I am currently forcing myself to write even my first drafts on the computer because my own habit is to write things longhand and then copy to the computer for editing. This was fine for college papers (because as an engineer, I only had to write a few of those), but for a blog where I mean to publish several times a week, that is far too labor intensive a process for sustainability.

So, if I want them doing all their original writing on the computer, but also want them to have a reasonable facility of writing by hand, why not buy the handwriting practice books and let them use those? Because, honestly, copywork does much more than just handwriting practice.

First of all, the act of choosing the material to copy is a skill in itself. In fact, it seems every day I read a new article on the benefits of commonplacing, and the way we do copywork is a gentle precursor to this. I am narrowing the scope of what they can choose from so they are not overwhelmed, but within that scope they can choose as they please. They learn to find the selection that best appeals to them from a longer reading.

Also, doing it this way, they are always reading their verse in context and so they remember it in context, which is much better than quotes learned in isolation. And writing the same verse everyday for a week is a gentle way to memorize them without the need for flashcards, endless repetition or other fancy memorization techniques. And if they need a reminder, all the previous verses are right there in the same notebook for easy lookup.

In addition to memory and handwriting, it helps improve spelling, and since the text we are copying, whether it’s the Bible or any other published document, is usually written in more complex and formal language than we use in everyday speech, it also helps develop their vocabulary, their ear for language, and for beauty of expression. And, since I have a son who tends towards perfectionism, and gets frustrated when his skills don’t match his ambitions, it also helps us have regular conversations about humility, perseverance and the importance of a growth mindset.

All those benefits, and all I’m doing is reminding them once a week to pick a verse, and once a day to copy it down! It’s so much value for the effort involved, it’s almost harder not to do it!

But perhaps, the unschoolers might say, even all those benefits do not make it all right to force your children into an educational activity. I think there’s leeway here in what counts as coercion vs. encouragement. My children are always reluctant to try new activities, but some of the things they really enjoy doing are things I had to compel them to try the first time.

Similarly, I keep reminding them that it takes several tastes of a new food before our brain is familiar enough with it to know if we like it or not – I don’t force them to eat things they don’t like, but I do ask them to taste everything I make, so they notice for themselves that their tastes change over time.

Their taste for copywork is developing the same way. It started out as bitter medicine that they would do anything to avoid; but now it’s something they do willingly, even if not always enthusiastically. But then again, how many of the many tasks we adults do everyday are done because of our genuine enthusiasm for them rather than just because we recognize that doing them makes our life more pleasant than not doing them?

On the whole, I think the benefits of doing copywork outweigh the disadvantages, which is why it stays in our routine for the foreseeable future.

Books, Books, Books!

Today was the annual used book sale at our church.

I love used book sales. I should probably rephrase that — I have a used book sale problem! Or maybe just a used book problem – it hits me at flea markets and yard sales too. It’s just really hard to pass up books when they’re at these insanely low prices. Seriously, 50c for any paperback?

Even when I go to the IHM convention every year, the first vendor I always hit is the used book section from Seton – but those are still used-textbook prices, so I do have a little bit more restraint there. This morning I was able to pick up one of the apologetics books by Fr. Laux, something I’ve eyed at the Seton sales several times, for 50c. Score for me!

I love sales like these because even the most expensive items are well below my pain threshold for purchases. For used books, this threshold seems to be about $3.

I’ve often joked that if I would be that stupid protagonist in a horror movie. The one who found a used book on sale with big warning signs all over it that it was cursed. Everyone who’s ever read it has died within a week. I’d be the one who says, “I know, but it’s on sale for $1.99! How could I not buy it?”

Of course, reading all these used books is another story. I have such a big backlog of unread books that it will take me years to read them all. Homeschooling is my bad excuse for being willing to buy more despite this – if the kids become interested in a topic, I want to have books on hand they can consult. And I want an extensive library of classics for when they are ready to read them.

Meanwhile, my house kind of looks like this…

I’m getting better, though – I didn’t even glance at the fiction section this time. I have enough casual fiction books I haven’t read yet, and I need to finish those and donate them before I buy new ones.

Do you love used books like I do? Do you have any strategies for book sales to keep you from ending up with too many books you don’t need? Can you actually have too many books? (If you think so, you’re not welcome here! Kidding! Kidding! )

Allergies, Meltdowns, and the GAPS Diet

So last post I talked about all the changes we made to our schedule, and how that’s changed since I last posted.

Today I want to tell you about some of the other challenges we’ve been facing and what we’ve been trying to do about them.

So, the biggest challenge we’ve faced from the beginning is certain health related issued among the boys, most especially food allergies and severe eczema. And while we’ve been to several dermatologists and been given lots of prescriptions for stronger and stronger steroids, I’ve never seen enough improvement on them to justify worrying about their long term side effects.

So I’ve always erred on the side of treating the skin with things that soothe the itchiness and dryness and then focused on trying to internally heal the kids with better nutrition. Sadly, this is a hard road to follow given the ubiquity of junk food at most kid-related events. But in recent months, our efforts had slackened. We had reintroduced corn into the kids’ diets, and that had reopened the door to many processed foods that they hadn’t been able to have before. It quickly got out of hand because the busyness of our schedule combined with the convenience of the foods led to them being far too large a part of our every day diet rather than an occasional treat or backup.

The problem with this was itchier skin and flareups. But even more marked was the change in behavior. The kids were irritable, touchy, quick to fly into rages or crying fits, and just generally not fun to be around. (And let’s be honest, I wasn’t coping too well with their behavior because my own diet was equally horrible.)

So, right after Thanksgiving, I decided the best plan was to put us all on a healing diet – specifically the GAPS diet. This plan was created by a doctor in an effort to treat her own autistic son. The idea is that a lot of disease is caused by so-called “Leaky gut syndrome,” where damage to the intestinal lining leads to food particles being allowed into the bloodstream that don’t belong there, resulting in health problems ranging from IBS to food allergies to ADHD to autism. But, when you eat a diet of healing foods, you can slowly repair the gut lining, allowing the body to regain its balance and even heal food allergies.

If you’ve only heard one thing about the GAPS diet, it’s probably the fact that you drink a lot of broth on it. This is true, and it’s surprisingly hard. We’ve never been much of a soup-eating family, and trying to come up with variations that everyone will eat has been really challenging. A couple of my kids will drink the broth straight from a mug. I actually enjoy this myself – I kicked my coffee habit by switching it out for broth in the mornings.

But really, it’s hard to figure out a cycle where I can make the broth and have it available to drink without either running out or not having any pots left to cook in, or not having any room in the refrigerator for anything else because of the large containers of broth in it. Sometimes I had all three problems at once! And it did feel like I was perpetually either cooking, washing dishes or looking for new recipes.

Still, we’ve kinda-sorta stuck to it for more than two months now – and this despite what feels like a million colds and other viruses that have hit us since Christmas. And I am seeing noticeable improvements in the children’s mood and behavior (and my own, honestly). We’re eating a diet with so many more vegetables in it. They snack on peppers and cucumbers, and I cannot keep up with the demand for fruit! And their skin is better too, although there’s so much existing damage that it’s hard to tell how long it might be before the improvement is noticeable to other people.

I’m still hoping to start implementing the other parts of the protocol that we haven’t yet – mainly fermented foods and vegetable juices. Perhaps I will plan on introducing those after Easter, when the additional struggle of having to abstain from meat once a week is lifted. Fridays are hard!

I’m hopeful that this diet and related efforts will finally result in real sustained better health for all of us, and so I’m willing to continue making the sacrifices that it is forcing us to make. I’ll probably talk about our progress intermittently as the year goes on.

What We’ve Been Doing During my Blogging Hiatus

I realized that my last couple of posts didn’t really address anything about the six months of silence on this blog, and I decided I should probably post an update of where we are now compared to where we were when I last posted.

We started the fall with a schedule that was insanely busy. In addition to keeping up our academic studies, we were doing karate twice a week, archery once a week, P.E. at the Y twice a week, joined a new music and drama group that met once a week and had a performance at the end of the term, joined a new Charlotte Mason co-op that met every other week, and to top it all off, Mega (my oldest) started speech therapy to correct some difficulties with his enunciation. In addition, in the evenings were Bible study once a week, and then parish council and other meetings for either me or my husband a few times a month.

We only managed that schedule for a month.

Speech therapy is showing good results and we are still in it, although we are progressing towards graduating from it. We love our new co-op and are sticking with it for the foreseeable future. We did music and drama for the semester, and while most of the kids liked it, they didn’t love it enough to keep doing it for the rest of the year. P.E. kept changing their schedules around, so we went in the months that worked for us, then stopped when flu season started to ramp up. We’ll probably pick that back up in April, but only once a week rather than twice.

Karate was the area of biggest struggle for us. Mega and I both love it and are really committed to it. The younger boys are rather less interested. Meanwhile, four year old Blue, who is too young to participate, loves being there and would often wander onto the floor, and I’d have to stop what I was doing to get her back where she was supposed to be. Then our dojo decided that the class we were in was too small to be profitable, and so they wanted us to move to a different one. The new time happened to put us at the end of our busiest day – one where we had already done archery, music and drama, and often where I had to attend a parish council meeting at class time. This led to a highly stressful situation where I was forcing unmotivated kids to go to an activity that only one of them wanted to be at. After a month of that, we decided that taking a break from it was our best option while we regrouped and figured out a better schedule. We ended up pausing karate for that whole semester.

In January, Mega and I went back to it, but at a class time that was later in the evening so my husband could watch the other kids and they could stay home. This has worked well, although it does mean I had to drop my weekly Bible study, and I miss that. Karate does help both my body and mind, though, and it gives me one-on-one time with my oldest, something we don’t get a lot of other opportunities for. I also still hope to get the younger kids back into it at some point, but not until the end of this semester at the earliest. If I can figure out a way to get a daytime Bible study going, my own schedule would be all set!

That’s scheduling. I guess I’ll talk about everything else in my next post.

The Trouble with Interval Planning

In my last post I talked about how I set up our school year, and how I break it down into terms based on the liturgical year.

While I like the interval part of interval planning, I still get stuck on the actual planning part – when do I actually plan for my next term, gather my resources, lesson plan, etc.?

Granted, I don’t do a lot of lesson planning – I find that the more I’ve invested into a particular course of action, the more personally I take it when the kids don’t think it’s as awesome as I do. It’s far better for everyone’s mental health if I choose and scatter resources with a light hand, and allow them to choose what they engage with and to what depth.

Still, it is nice to have a general idea of what I’d like to get done, even accounting for the fact that a planned project might have to give way to a passion project. So how do I get that set up, so I’m not scrambling for Lenten resources the night before Ash Wednesday?

Fair warning – I have not solved this yet. It’s a discussion of what I’ve done so far, what worked well, what worked less well, and what I might try next. (Stay tuned for updates as things progress!)

So Mystie Winckler, from whom I learned of this concept, suggests doing most of your planning in a break week that happens in between intervals. That is what I’ve been trying to do these past few months since I started to implement this schedule, and it’s worked with mixed results. I’ve been better about planning interval-long projects, such as a long book to read aloud every day. Also, I’ve been fairly on the ball with remembering important dates, such as feast days, famous people’s birthdays, even Hallmark holidays.

But a lot of things really do need to be planned further in advance than that, and those are the things that I tend to miss out on. Field trips, for example, or projects that require supplies other than things found around the house. And while a lot of these don’t necessarily need to be done at a particular time of the year, I’d feel a lot more accomplished if I did get them done within the term where they make the most sense.

I think the solution might be something along the lines of planning a couple of terms ahead. In other words, be thinking about summer term now, and add ideas to some kind of planning document that I can then consult during my end of term break week. Obviously, since I haven’t done this yet, the upcoming Easter term will need to also be planned during this week, but hopefully I can get a little bit ahead, and then progress from there. I don’t KNOW that this will work, but it seems to me like the best road forward, so it’s what I’m going to try next.