Getting it All Done

A typical day:

I usually get up at 6. Not something I’d planned or expected; I’d never been a morning person. But in order to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder I need to sit in front of a full-spectrum light for 30-45 minutes every morning all through the fall/winter months. That meant getting up earlier than usual in order to fit it into the morning and I discovered a world of quiet and fell in love. Early in the morning, there is no guilt for not doing chores – I’d wake the rest of the family! So that’s when I read and knit and listen to podcasts.  Sometimes I draw and paint.

We homeschool from 9-11. I run, then make lunch. We homeschool from 1:30 til 2:30-3:00. Then I do chores, blog, cook, etc. Evenings are full of the kids’ activities, walking the dog, and full of me collapsing. By that point I’m just all used up and have the ability to eat popcorn, knit, and watch movies.

I don’t get everything done. I ignore a lot of housework. I’m usually so used up that I can’t read serious fiction – it’s flights of fancy and amusement for me. I tend to go through seasons of interest in a craft or obsession, and with the blog only giving you a snapshot, you might think I’m doing X, Y, and Z all the while as I’m posting about Q, when really I’ve dropped them for a while.

I see keeping myself active, passionate, and full of healthy food as being as important as any other parts of my life – a mom without passions hasn’t much of a self to give and without energy she can’t give much:

“Homeschooling mothers can become so wrapped up in the ‘schoolish’ part of homeschooling that they put their own lives and interests on hold as a sacrifice to their children.  As noble as this seems,  [it is] a sort of negligence: withholding who she is – the best part of herself – from our children.  How can she give our children the part of her life that can romance their hearts if she is running on empty?” Monte and Karen Swan


We don’t have a schedule.  Schedules have failed me time and time again.  What we have is a rhythm.  Schedules are rigid and seem so external and authoritarian.   A rhythm is internal, based on what works, is respectful of us as humans rather than clocks.

We used to be very chaotic when the kids were little.  I yearned for something more sustaining.  I built our rhythm by trial and error, finding pieces that made us happy and discarding bits that seemed forced.  I used a simple process I call ‘anchoring’.  With anchoring, you take something that is already happening and already working, and chain something else onto it.  Meals seemed like an obvious place to start as we were all in the same place naturally and I didn’t need to get everyone gathered in, so we added storytime to breakfast.  Then, once that was working, we added something else to storytime.  Link by link, a series of habits simply unfolds through our day. (Mostly.)

The kids are at a stage where days work well when I write up a To Do list for them to cross off. It follows the same rhythm that we’ve been working on over the last years, but lets them know when they are done.  Sandra feels a real sense of accomplishment from seeing her items checked off; Matthias is just happy to be done.


Like so many families, there’s a constant tension between wanting to take advantage of  as many opportunities as we can and having enough broad sweeps of time to regenerate.  We believe that children need empty spaces of time in which to be kids, unstructured and exploring their own thoughts and inclinations.  I have to watch how often we leave the house.  There’s a centeredness, a rooted feeling, that comes when we’re home enough.  Get too busy and I feel like centrifugal force is pushing us apart, not to mention making our hair all tangled and crazy.  How much we can handle changes with each season, each month, so I have to stay tuned in to our signals.

There’s a quote that really helps me sort out this issue: “We should not allow the good things to crowd out the best things.” Valerie Bendt ~ Sometimes I forget that Quiet and Time are best things.  They aren’t as flashy as the others so they don’t demand my attention, but they let me know when we’ve gone long enough on too little.


12 thoughts on “Getting it All Done

  1. Kika says:

    I enjoyed your post. I am much more of a scheduler but am learning to bend and flex according to our needs or seasons of life. I’m learning, too, that I can still meet my need for schedules but make them fit our more natural tendencies. As an example, I enjoy walking on my treadmill but only between about 8-10 pm… my son has started reffing soccer and I’ve realized there is nothing wrong with adjusting our homeschool schedule to allow him more sleep in the morning. Homeschoolers around here are so incredibly busy but I require lots of time at home in order to be happy, peaceful and at my best. I believe that organized activities, while they appear good, are destructive when they replace creative time, time to think reflect and just “be”. I appreciate your writing style and that your posts tend to be thought-provoking.

  2. Bobbi says:

    I very much needed to read this today. Thanks for sharing and for setting my mind at ease that I’m not the only one that feels that centrifugal force when gone too much.

  3. tbird says:

    having had a few chaotic weeks of never being home and thinking I was “doing the right thing” I really needed to hear that the little voice insdie me taht said “no you aren’t, and you know you aren’t!!” was right! Funny, we have done NOTHING this week and we feel fab for it!

  4. Lisa says:

    So many good thoughts here. Your “anchoring” is the advice I hope you pass on to new homeschool moms/young mothers. It’s so true. Example for us–we eat with the tv. Why? We get along and talk a whole lot more! At the table it was too formal and forced for most dinners. Lesson learned–family is what maters.

    “We believe that children need empty spaces of time in which to be kids, unstructured and exploring their own thoughts and inclinations. ”

    You “get it” here. If only this idea would take on in American middle/upper-class suburbia. I shudder at what future criminals, mental patients and just plain mean-self-centered-swine we are growing with no peace, quiet and unstrutured time in the lives of so many kids. 1 sport in a normal “season” [not year round indoor-outdoor–travel-team madness] is plenty for elementary age. Mom and Dad, board games, read-alounds, family crafts, hikes, walks, bike rides, talking to Grandma, going to the park–those really matter. As kids get older and actually HAVE real intersts–up the busyness a little so they can explore their passions. Don’t “build a resume” for a 6 year old. Even 16 year olds need “down time” not a future in workaholism!

    You can see this hit me in a passionate way! We love the “Home” in homeschooling a lot. My d loves her ice skating–where she is “normal” [i.e. a homeschooler], but also craves 4:30 when he best friend gets home from public school. There’s a balance and a rhthym.

    I haven’t structured this very well, but I’m sure you can gage the depths I’m trying to express! 🙂

  5. Amy says:

    Though my schedule is vastly different, the philosophies you shared here line up so closely with ours. Well said, and a post I will return to again. Why does reading your own thoughts written in someone else’s words clarify so many things?

  6. Sarah N. says:

    Wonderful post. I’ve always been a morning person but one of the things I like most about it is the quiet time I have in the morning before anyone else is up.

    I love schedules but rigid ones don’t work for us either. I’ve been focusing on developing a rhythm for our days since the fall. We’ve got some things that are working well – chores after breakfast following by read-aloud time, art and/or nature walk after morning schooly time. We’ve been staying home a lot more lately, enjoying each other and the relaxed, time at home to just be.

  7. Itto says:

    thanks so much for sharing! I love how you put all in words!
    and I also believe a lot in the “anchoring”- thing… so important to stay tuned to oneself…
    xxx greetings from Morocco

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