Welcome to Part 3 of a 4-part series called “In The Life.” I’d like to share a bit about priorities, balancing, and what life looks like for me right now. We’re chatting about putting first things first and some simple principles to live by. If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, go check those out! Feel free to jump in the conversation and share what your days look like. Thanks for joining me here!
In every schedule, there are anchors and there are exceptions. Anchors keep us stable and grounded when everything else seems to shift. Exceptions are just the reality of life. Stuff happens. Being prepared for stuff to happen, rather than being totally shocked when it does, helps immensely!
Over time, I’ve set up anchors in my days and weeks. They are the inevitable events that I write in my schedule first, and are rarely ever cancelled.
When our foster daughter left us over 2 years ago, I realized how much I missed writing. So, I told my hubby one Friday night, “Hon, I think I might wake up early and head to Starbucks in the morning at 5am so I can write.” He nodded and said, “Okay” in way that sounded to me more like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But that decision established a habit I maintain to this day.
So, my writing anchor means that on Wednesdays and Saturdays I’m awake at 4:40am. (Yes, you read that correctly.) I toss on clothes (whatever I can find, really) and head to my local coffee shop to write. Wednesdays are for blogging. Saturdays are for book writing or preparing for teaching, usually on the topic of identity.
I also need to have a resting anchor. So, on Sundays, I sleep in as much as my kids will allow. And since they’re 7 and 8 now, they’ve learned (thank You, Lord!) to just leave me be those mornings…well…for the most part.
And, for the past few months, I’ve traded childcare with a friend so that one day every week or two I get a full 8 hours to myself, which I devote to my most pressing work at that time: editing a book, preparing for my class, tweaking our websites, and promoting Now Found Ministries / Now Found Publishing. This is a work anchor for me, still fairly new to the schedule, but wonderful nonetheless. My kids get to have a new perspective from a friend I trust, who is also willing to do all those gross science experiments I’m happy to pass on.
These days and the habits I’ve found help me anchor my weeks and fit in those things that feed my soul, which can easily get lost in the day-to-day.
The older I get the more quickly I see a year pass by. The eternity which was the time between Christmases each year as a child now flies by with greater speed. And particular seasons mean changes in our daily routines. Here are a few exceptions throughout our year:
Pear Harvesting – We have a wonderful pear tree in our front yard that easily produces over 500 pears each year. But, the harvest time is only 1-2 months long. So, during those months (which I find myself in right now!), I have to carve out time every couple of days to peel, chop, and cook these pears. For most of the past 7 harvest seasons we’ve lived in this house, I’ve made pear sauce and frozen it in gallon bags to use throughout the year.
Advent and Holidays – Let’s be realistic… “school” in any formal sense just doesn’t happen for us in December. Family is in from out of town. There’s decorating and shopping to be done and parties to plan and attend. And, among my favorite things, we have a little advent tree to go along with our devotional by Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift. It’s a special season and I try to enjoy it with my family rather than feel guilty that we’re setting schoolwork aside.
Vacations – We usually take one long vacation each year and, in recent years, have added some long weekends here and there. We almost always road-trip and we don’t have DVD players in our car (on purpose!). It’s good family time, but our schedule goes out the window the second we pull away from our house.
Concentrated classes/lessons – These are those times when something seems to take over for a few days or even weeks. Like swimming camp that meets every day for two weeks…or when I teach a 3-week class and need to spend extra time running through my notes to prepare. Housework and homeschooling may move to the back burner or be pulled to the bare minimum. Such is life. And it works for us.
Semesters with my group – I am blessed to co-lead a weekly women’s group that meets about 30 weeks per year. My kids go to their classes at church while I have some grown-up time. This time feeds me and allows me to invest in others. And the kids have one more opportunity to see friends and learn from a fresh perspective from people I trust. It’s definitely worth scooting things around in our schedule.
Play-dates – We homeschool. That doesn’t mean we’re hermits. Easily half of my friends home educate, so there are plenty of people we see on a regular basis. Developing and deepening relationships with friends matters!
Illness or “I just have to have a day off” days – Then there are just “those” days. Maybe one of the kids is sick. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’ve just reached mental or emotional burnout and we need to take a break. Since we homeschool year-round, I don’t sweat taking a day off here or there. We may just need to relocate our school time to a new location for the day. Or we may need to do something totally different. Or snuggle and watch a movie. I’ve realized it’s okay for a day or so. Then when the illness has passed or we’ve had a chance to rest, we can jump back in with greater enthusiasm.
Exceptions will always come into play. That is simply part of living. But having some anchors that bring you back after an “exceptional” circumstance will help keep priorities in their rightful place.
What are the exceptions you face in life? Do they tend to derail you or add flavor to your life?
What helps anchor your schedule and protect your priorities?
Welcome to Part 2 of a 4-part series called “In The Life.” I’d like to share a bit about priorities, balancing, and what life looks like for me right now. We’ll chat about putting first things first and some simple principles to live by. Feel free to jump in the conversation and share what your days look like. Thanks for joining me here!
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the proper placement of priorities. But where do we go from there? How do we take the vision and turn it into a mission, executed in day-to-day living?
As for a typical mid-week day…my kids and I use a flexible schedule that I’ve tweaked many times over the years to our present needs. I think in terms of blocks of time rather than a down-to-the-minute agenda. Here’s a look at our typical, daily rhythm (at least for the moment):
Before 7am – Everyone’s up…ideally having some quiet time…and our kids work on their “lists” (age-appropriate responsibilities…such as making their beds, emptying the dishwasher, taking out recycling, and wiping down their bathroom).
7-7:30am – Family breakfast
7:30-8:30am – “Bless the House” (a concept I’ve borrowed from FlyLady, which sounds much more pleasant than “chore-time”). This is when I make my bed, tidy the kitchen, do a quick declutter around our living areas, toss in a load of laundry, and remind the kids to finish their lists.
8:30-10am – My time to exercise. This is new to my schedule (at least in this time block). I’m on week 4. The at-home program I’m using lasts 3 months. I see this more as a kick-in-the-pants to up my energy and intensity. After I’m completed, I imagine this will go down to a daily 30-45 minutes which, for me, is more sustainable long-term. The kids get to play or workout with me.
10am – Snack time for all! Often during snack time we have family devotions. This could mean practicing our verse for the month (based on our family values) or discussing what God has been teaching me lately. The kids eat faster than I do, so once they’re done, I usually give them something school related to get started on, like some independent reading.
10:30am – We head over to our comfy spots in the living room and school time officially begins with our read-aloud. Currently we’re working our way through the Little House on the Prairie series, using an online unit study to dive in deeper to the many opportunities to discuss new vocabulary, science topics, geography and social studies, and to check on their general listening comprehension skills. (We also use the Five in a Row curriculum for this same sort of thing…we’re just on a break for this series.) I’m all about school-time that involves reading and snuggling.
11am – We now walk into our (brand new!) homeschool room we recently (mostly) finished, renovating a small portion of our garage. It’s a fun combination of purple walls and sleek, white counters with turquoise, polka dot chairs. I pull out our spelling curriculum (we use All About Spelling)…which also works on handwriting and listening skills. It’s meant to be used individually with each child, but since my kids are so close on their spelling levels, I teach them together and save myself 20 minutes. (Win-win!)
11:30am – Time for math. No official curriculum here. (I tend to think of us as “eclectic” homeschoolers.) We’ve used all kinds of workbooks and now I’m ready to start teaching them together (again, the blessings of having them so close in age) using logic puzzles and printable math worksheets.
12pm – Official school-time is now over. I know…simple, right? We do life together, so there are plenty of other learning opportunities on the go. And, as they get older, our formal school time will certainly be an area we expand and tweak. But, for now, this is where we’re at. Kids get to play for a bit and then must clean up their rooms and toys before we get lunch going.
12:30pm – Lunch time for the kids. I (finally) go take a shower since I’ve been teaching in my sweaty workout clothes this whole time.
1-2pm – Free time for the kiddos. Lunch time for me.
2-4pm – Naps. Yes, my elementary-aged children still take naps. Most days they last about an hour, and then they can play in their rooms quietly. This is my time to either be super productive and write or edit, call a friend and catch up, or totally veg out and watch TV.
4pm-6:30pm – This is our most varied time of day. Sometimes, we’ll run errands. Sometimes it’s a free-for-all time to play or read. Sometimes I actually cook dinner.
6:30pm (or thereabouts) – We eat dinner as a family and the kids get ready for bed.
8pm – Our ideal bedtime for the kids. Sometimes it’s earlier, sometimes later. But this is our ballpark range. Then Steve and I chat a bit, perhaps have a snack and relax for an hour or two before it’s our bedtime.
That’s our schedule, for now at least. It’s changed more times than I can count and it, certainly, will change again. But having a rhythm to work with rather than just winging-it is a huge help to me as I try to make sure we get the important things done.
And yet, I’ve found that the schedule itself isn’t nearly important as is my Source. If I’m just going through the motions of our schedule – without tapping into God regularly, chatting inwardly with Him, taking the time to jot down gifts in my gratitude journal – then I burn out…fast.
Some days I start off great, fully ready to dive into all that’s on the agenda, but one or both of my kids require…ahem…a little more focus on character development that day. If I’m only focused on the short-term agenda, it feels like we’ve totally derailed. But, if I keep in mind our big picture goals, the larger reasons why we homeschool (to put discipleship, practical training, and academia in their proper places…and most of all to help our kids hear the Voice of God for themselves) then I see the value of those interrupted moments (or hours).
It’s all about my Source. Who or what am I relying upon to walk through today? Who or what are you relying on?
The schedule will change. The ebbing and flowing of life necessitates that. But the Source is what remains secure, anchoring the years and seasons and moments.
Continue reading Part 3: Anchors & Exceptions to see what keeps me secure in my priorities when the stuff of life tries to sway me.