There’s a common misconception by many non-homeschoolers that what homeschoolers do all day is stay tucked inside their houses reading classical literature and practicing for the National Spelling Bee. This misconception feeds into the whole socialization myth that continues to plague every homeschool mom who ever lived.
Typically the reality is much, much different than the perception for most homeschoolers I know. So we were in good company about late September when I realized that I had filled our schedule for the year with far more activities than I was comfortable squeezing into our week. And yet, I also found myself unable to give up some things due to commitment and totally unwilling to give up all the rest.
Faced with a year of busyness and stress, I started to consciously consider how I might fool myself into thinking I am less busy than I actually am. Or in other words, what is the zen of busy and how can I squeeze it into my life. 😉
Don’t scoff. When I consistently implemented the following principles they really did help. I can feel more at peace in my week without changing a thing in my schedule. Not ideal, but totally doable for the next five months until life slows down. And remember, these are all about perception. You will not be any less busy, but you might just feel that way. Give them a try.
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1. Prepare the night before
This one is an oldie but there’s a reason for that — it really works. Lay out clothes the night before Mass or co-op. Check karate uniforms to make sure all pieces are present and accounted for and tuck them in a safe place. Pack your lunch the night before the field trip. Whatever you can do to make the morning less hectic before it arrives, will help you to feel less rushed when the time comes. That, my friends, is a good thing.
2. Leave early — really early
Much of my perception of busyness comes from the frantic yelling at the kids to get their shoes on and get in the van and the rush to beat all the lights as we speed across town trying not to be late. Not to mention the danger in driving too fast.
Go ahead and make a short list of things you can do while sitting in a parking lot waiting for an event to start: listen to audio books, practice memory work, play a verbal phonics or math game, do a read aloud, etc. Then strive to have that time to use by arriving at your destination ten or fifteen minutes early. Because you are not rushed in the micro sense, you will feel less rushed overall.
3. Clean up your calendar
I mean this in the literal sense. For our large wall chalkboard calendar I erased all other notes that cluttered the edges. The only thing on there now are our activities. For my digital version I set up multiple calendars which I can switch on and off. Looking at all the calendars at one time (birthdays, liturgical year, Matt’s calendar, holidays etc) stresses me out, but if I turn off everything but the ones we use each day, I feel so much more at peace with what we have to do. I turn the others back on when we need them.
If you are using a paper calendar use a pencil to be able to erase instead of filling it with splatters and cross-outs of a pen. Try to write in a small, neat hand and avoid adding visual clutter. If you are at all a visual person this is going to make a huge difference in how you perceive your days.
Having some days totally free in the calendar has helped my perception of how busy I am. I have done this in a couple of ways this year. First we moved multiple activities to the same day. Now we have a couple of days each week that are busier, but we also have a couple of days each week that have no set obligations. I use those wonderful days to recharge. I found that was easier for me than having one activity per day spread across the week.
I did the same thing with cleaning. Instead of using a cleaning system that requires me to do a little each day, now I don’t worry about having to do household chores on the days I am otherwise busy. Instead I give myself a pass for anything beyond the basics and confine my bigger cleaning to days when we don’t leave the house — I just do it a little longer than I used to. This has made such a huge difference for me, not having one more thing to check off (and the accompanying nagging mental clutter) on the days we are on the run.
5. Start the day with quiet time
As often as possible try to begin your day with no noise or distractions. Sit and pray, reconnect with the kids by cuddling or enjoying a leisurely breakfast, work on a hobby. Many days will find us on the couch together or even at the school table working on drawings, the Rainbow Loom, or prepping for the school day. By beginning the day with a few minutes of peace before we start our routine, we feel recharged and rested to begin.
These few tips have been a boon to me. During the times I am feeling overwhelmed I find that if I stop and focus on doing these few tasks, it helps to calm my scattered nerves again.
What about you? Do you have any tips to help you feel less stressed, less overwhelmed, less busy? Please share them in the comments.