A long, long, time ago, when phones were dumb, I worked as a technical support specialist for CD-writers. And many times the cause of the trouble was not obvious. Was it the user? Was it the computer? Was it the CD-writer? Could there be a software or driver issue? Or perhaps the CD media itself was at fault? Before I could fix the problem, I had to find it.
We were having that issue in our homeschool as well. Despite my husband’s new, consistent, schedule, we were unable to start on time many days and we were not ending even close to on time. I sorta knew some of the problems: we needed quicker meals, planned in advance. We needed an early start, right after breakfast. And we had to stay focused. But I couldn’t seem to make these things happen. One day, quite by accident, I started using my Bullet Journal as an impromptu time log.
Now, this wasn’t a formal, proper time log. The ones where you dutifully stop every 15 minutes and journal what you’ve been doing. I have never been successful with that style of logging. So I just jotted down what was going on, and about what time it was happening.
The Humble Time Log
Here is February 2nd, with annotations (at this point I was trying three “rounds” of school work with breaks between):
8:15 story @ table, MT [morning time] in living room
9:00 start round one
10:15 starting DB [Dancing Bears] w/ Jonathan [12yo]
10:30 Kids -> break (to ~11am)
Noon Round 2 – only Brendan [Voyage] + CW [copywork] left
* Separate Math Times*
12:30 Round 2 done
~1:30 Round 3 begins
3:10 Done – many delays … mayhem …
4-5pm outside, play @ pond
I shifted things, and addressed problems, as I was able. By February 9th we were doing better:
8:15 Story @ Breakfast (Anna [5yo] story B4 9:00)
9:00 Too long on Latin, shortened [some word I can’t read] to compensate
10:30 Brendan [Voyage] w/ J [12yo]
11:45 Crockpot going – low
12:10 David [10yo] done w/ Story Book of Science – sending to play w/ Anna [5yo]
12:45 D [10yo] solo math
Done on time!
Afternoon Clay modeling
As I attended to my day, patterns emerged – things I could strengthen, replace, or modify:
- We needed to take a later lunch, and be done by lunch, because we were (mentally) done after lunch anyway, so why not make it formal? I decided to have lunch around 1pm.
- I needed a separate time for each kid for math. Period.
- Meals needed to be simple and quick. So I wrote down 5 simple breakfasts, and 5 simple lunches, that my older sons (12yo and 11yo) could make alone. I assigned breakfast to the eldest, an early-bird, and lunch to his 11yo brother (who finishes his school faster).
- My younger two (8yo boy and 5yo girl) play well together, but they need the play broken up a bit. In addition, it worked best to keep them occupied for the first half of school time doing quiet things at the table.
- We had to work together. I needed willing cooperation. So I spoke to my older sons about the importance of staying focused. I reminded them of the benefits: a calm(er) mother who had time to help with math and focus on narrations, and being done with time to play.
- Therefore, I began shifting responsibility to where it belonged: the children. If I had to “work late” (after lunch), then they would be doing one of my chores to “pay” for my time. In addition, we started more strictly enforcing the ‘no screens until school is done’ rule.
The “Ready, fire, aim.” approach worked infinitely better than my usual “Aim, aim, aim, not ready, fail to fire” method. I’ll write more details on our [working] schedule in another post.