Elbow Room

I did it.  I found the perfect schedule, and it's blank. No half-hour time slots to cram ourselves into.  Nothing written in blood that we are forced to follow.

Just blanks.  And a few check boxes.  A place for the memory verse, some doodles on the bottom, and maybe you can write your recitation on the back.  If it works for you.

This is our 12th year of homeschooling and I've tried everything.  I used to have a box of  index cards on the counter with daily, weekly, monthly and bi-annual tasks to rotate through.  Then I found a book that helped me schedule every waking moment for every member of the family, breaking 24 hours up into half hour slots of slavery...it was great for awhile.

I've used paper planners, online planners, homeschool-specific planners, smart phone planners.  I thrive on having a plan.  I wilt at interruptions.  You are welcome to come knock on my door unannounced - really, I want you to.  But, just please excuse the bewildered look on my face because, well...you weren't on the schedule.

Someone should have told me (and they surely did but I had a schedule to keep) that life is full of surprises that can't be scheduled.   Nursing babies will blow out of their outfit as you head out the door for church.  Children will get the flu on the day that you planned months ago to visit friends.  Your husband will have random days off when work is slow.  Math will take 2 hours on some days. Two.  Hours.  And it will rain in Oregon whenever you plan anything to happen outdoors.

So we have a new page for each day.  Blank and beautiful.  The kids fill theirs in at breakfast time as we talk about the day and it's plans.  There are the basics that will happen everyday, like wake times and meal times and drag-yourself-to-bed times.  The checklist has non-negotiables like chores and brushing your teeth, reading your Bible and making your bed.  But the actual daily schedule has room to flex.  We put in the essentials first.  Some slots we leave blank.  Some days we don't even use the paper...we just do life.

Like today.  Bed time didn't happen til 11 last night.  We turn into pumpkins after 9 PM, but there was an important conversion to have and children of a friend to entertain, so the whole family was up way past the usual time.  Which was worth it, because some things just need to happen regardless of bedtimes.

When I woke the oldest this morning at 8:45, she asked what time it was.

"It's almost 9," I said.

Horrified look on her conditioned-to-keep-a-schedule face.  Wide eyed and very much awake now, she reminded me of all the times the alarm has failed to go off in my life.  We don't like to start out already late.

"It's fine - we'll pretend it's almost 7."  Did I actually say that?  She smiled, so it was worth it.

It's been a breath of fresh air, and the most rewarding part is not how much we are getting done and checking off our list.  The best part of this current schedule is that my kids like it.  They like the responsibility, and it's so good for them to feel some ownership of their day.  They have each (the older 3) said out loud, "I like this, mom."  Those rare words are usually reserved for sugar-related items and brain-disengaging entertainment, so this schedule thing is right up there.

They like it that someone can stop by in the middle of our morning, unexpected, and even though it's not in the schedule we can stop what we're doing and have an early lunch with our visitor.  When our visit is over we revise our schedule a bit and move on.  Nothing missed.

They like that mom isn't pushing them through their day and tapping her stop-watch and reminding them of The Schedule.

I like it, too.  My favorite by-product of the current schedule, aside from the fact that the kids actually like it and are taking initiative,  is that it helps me make decisions.  I am overwhelmed with the questions and pleas of four Sharp Paynes, day in and day out.  The checklist of non-negotiables on their schedule has become a filter for me to answer the requests for computer time, movies, friends, etc...If the most important things haven't been done, then there is no need to ask for extras.

"When God brings the blank space, see that you do not fill it in, but wait." ~ Oswald Chambers

We all need some blank space in our lives, some place for God to pour into.  How do you make elbow room for God?