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Scheduling Your Day Without Losing Your Mind

The following guest post is from Sarah Mackenzie at Amongst Lovely Things:

Scheduling Your Day Without Losing Your Mind

It happens every summer as I try to craft a daily schedule: I take out a sheet of paper, I scribble out some lines to mark days of the week and hours of the day, and I squeeze. I take all the glorious things and try to wedge them into every nook and cranny of the week until they all fit just so. If I’m lucky, I can make them fit. Barely. But that doesn’t usually happen.

It doesn’t really matter if we have the most beautiful, carefully thought-out plan if there aren’t enough hours in the day to get to it. Look, if God expected us to get 36 hours worth of work done in a day, he would have given us 36 hours to do it. If we have more to do than time to do it in, the simple fact is this: some of what we are doing isn’t on His agenda for us.

Two principles have been especially helpful to me in simplifying the schedule: starting with a time budget and insisting on margin.

1. Start with a time budget.

Tell me this- when you create your family budget, do you begin by listing all the things you’d like to be able to afford? Do you create a master list: a nice mortgage, a new SUV, a family vacation somewhere tropical, a food allowance that allows for eating out every single week? No? Then why on earth do you do it with your time?

Don’t begin planning your day by listing all the things you want to pack in. Begin by looking at what God gave you (I’ll give you a hint: 24 hours, and not all of them are for work). Now consider your non-negotiables. You know: sleep, eat, shower, pray.

See what’s left? You don’t get any more than that, sister.

You have to begin with what you have, and what you have is a fixed amount of time. Doing it any other way is going to be an exercise in both frustration and anxiety, because we always want to do more than we have time to do.

I can’t base my family budget on my desire to spend Christmas in the Bahamas, and I can’t base my homeschool schedule on my desire to do hands-on history, grow an organic vegetable garden, take weekly field trips, and study a new composer and artist every week of the year. I have to consider reality, and usually it’s helpful to start there.

2. Insist on margin.

Once you figure out how much time you have in your daily budget of hours, only fill 80% of it.

Fact: if you plan three hours of schoolwork into three hours of work time, you will never get it done. You’ll be chasing that list of to-do’s and you’ll never ever catch it.

Richard Swenson, author of Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, says that, “Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.”

If anyone can be sure that “unanticipated situations” will arise, it is a homeschooling mother. It’s helpful to allow room for them, even if we can’t necessarily see them coming.

If you want to be a peaceful homeschooling mama and you want interested, engaged students, you have to schedule margin into your day. This is where it gets tricky, of course, because if you’re only going to fill up 80% of your day, you’re going to have to seriously simplify your curriculum; there’s no way around it.

Teaching from Rest

Teaching from Rest

Need some help? I’ve got some ideas for how to simplify your curriculum without lowering your standards in Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace.

Use the code LIFEYOURWAY to get 15% off through July 4th, 2014.

Does your daily routine or schedule include margin?

Sarah Mackenzie is a smitten wife, a homeschooling mama of six (including twins!), and the author of Teaching from Rest: a Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace. She writes about books, babies, and heaps of grace at Amongst Lovely Things and hosts the popular Read-Aloud Revival podcast.