One of the beauties of homeschooling is scheduling freedom, but that also comes at a price. We don’t have anyone else dictating how we use our time, so personal time management is of the utmost importance. If you’re struggling with fitting in everything you want to get done in a week, these quick tips for time management will be helpful in sha Allah.
1. Know yourself
Some of us are naturally morning people, while others drag themselves out of bed each morning to grudgingly get a cup of coffee before they are ready to talk to anyone. Most people recognize their own patterns when they are still in their youth, but sometimes things change, so be mindful of that as well. When I was working a full-time job outside the home, I thought I was a night owl, and I still have a hard time making myself go to bed, but it wasn’t until I removed the 30+ minute drive from my morning that I realized how motivated I am right after breakfast! The drive would always make me more sleepy, so I never noticed how much I could get done if I just got to work right away.
What’s more challenging is keeping up with your kids and finding the best time of day for them. Young children tend to wake up with energy, while teenagers take a bit of coaxing and would generally rather stay up late than wake up early. This may change year to year, which means it may cycle in and out through your own highest motivation time. Such is normal, and it’s best to just roll with it. They will find their own rhythm in their own time. While they are under your wing, it’s just your responsibility to be aware of their best time to get work done.
A tendency of homeschoolers is to want to teach everything, but we fail to realize that’s just not possible. We have to decide what’s most important for them to know. What would be more devastating if our children didn’t know enough about that particular topic? Take all the subjects, and put them into four categories, much like how we categorize actions in Islam:
- Obligatory (Fard)
- Necessary (Wajib)
- Want (Mustahab)
- Bonus (Mubah)
As an example, I could categorize my daughter’s school in such a way (everyone’s will be slightly different based on your family goals):
- Obligatory – Qur’an memorization, fiqh of the pillars, personal care and home maintenance.
- Necessary – Writing, grammar, world history
- Want – Advanced math, geography
- Bonus – Mandarin Chinese, Psychology
Again, these will change year to year based on our goals for that year, but just knowing where everything fits, helps us have proper time management on the things that need our focus.
3. Think what’s holding you back
For most of us, the answer would be that we are overbooked. We spend so much time on the Mubah (bonus) and Mustahab (want) that we neglect the Fard and Wajib. Sure, that pottery class is something that is really fun each week, but is it worth the 30 minute drive each way, and the little kids having to sit and wait? Are we trying to fit in all the supplements in a unit study because they all seem worthwhile, but if we were to categorize them, they wouldn’t rank all that high?
Ask yourself, “How will my child’s life change if I miss this activity?” Tweet this
Will your child’s adult life be compromised if you skip it?
Another common hurdle for homeschool families is that our friends, family, or neighbors don’t understand what homeschooling is, and they see us as simply being home all day with our kids. Many homeschool moms mention how people will just stop by, ask for them to babysit a child for the day, or otherwise treat it as if they aren’t in the middle of something. Sure, homeschooling is flexible, but we all need some predictable quiet time to get things done.
Even if you don’t have a strict homeschool or you unschool, you need some quiet time to explore and dive into things that interest you. You know the people in your life best and how to handle such a situation, but it can help friends and family to think of homeschooling like a work-at-home job. If you worked exclusively from your home (you do!), and you counted on that paycheck to pay the bills, would they be inclined to drop off their kids while they run a few errands? Likely not. In sha Allah it just takes a little education to help those around us to understand our needs.
4. Have time management tools
I love gadgets, apps, or any type of tool that will make me feel like I have the upper hand at accomplishing something. Whether it’s a paper and pen planner, timer, or app, I like to explore various options for making sure everything fits in its own tidy box. Here’s what we use in our own family:
- Google Calendar – Hubby, my teen daughter and I, all share our calendars with each other so we know what each of us has planned.
- Homeschool Planet – Give the 30 day trial a go! I hesitate to pay for a homeschool planner, but the rescheduling feature is invaluable, plus I can make a high school transcript from its grading section.
- Strict Workflow Chrome extension – I use this, and encourage my teen to do so as well. Set the timer for 25 minutes and it blocks you from social media, and any other site you specify. It’s great to get some focused time to complete a task. Then, when that is up, you get a 5 minute timer to browse social media, and give yourself a brain break. I love it to break up long chunks of time.
- Evernote – This is less of a time management tool, and more of an organization tool, but being able to find all sorts of information in one place is pretty awesome. I basically use it like a digital home management binder! I’ve since gotten rid of all my old recipe cards (you know the type you got in the mail for free in the 90’s and early 00’s to promote a larger recipe card collection) because I can take a photo of it and then search for it later since Evernote will index images, even hand written items!
- Google Drive – This is where my teen turns in her typed work. Since we have a mix of Mac and PCs in our house, we were constantly struggling with documents being in the wrong format, and it was a major hassle. Since she can type up her work directly in Google Drive, life has been much easier, alhamdulilah.
Each family will find time management tips that work for them, and it’s fine that all of our days look a little bit different. Life is fluid, so it’s about finding balance between being flexible and predictable. Somewhere along the way, in sha Allah you’ll find a sweet spot that works just right.