Saturday, September 20, 2008

Three Weeks In

It's been three weeks since the Viking household all went back to school.

DaHubby started the first full time semester as required by the new scholarship he was awarded as part of the new nuclear energy program at Lake Michigan College. He's attending 12 hours of lecture a week while still maintaining 45 hours a week at work.

And, at Flicka's request, we began her second year of "homeschool preschool" the same day as Daddy's first class. Meanwhile, this is Pojke's first time experience with "school."

So, in anticipation of all this change, of all this activity, and of all the time DaHubby would be absent due to work and school, I decided to buckle down with a strict schedule for a while. My ADD makes this extremely hard to do but extremely necessary for accountability, productivity, and all our sanities! LOL

I had heard several folks (most recently The Happy Housewife) sing the praises of the "Managers of Their Homes" or MOTH system of scheduling for homeschooling parents. Now, there are plenty of reviews out there - some good; some scathing - so I'll leave that up to Amazon and Google but I thought I'd reflect on what the process of getting ready for and implementing our schedule for three weeks has taught us.

With being brand new homeschoolers and with only an hour or so per day for actual planned schooling, this was more about getting me organized than the anything. I read through a copy of MOTH that I got through interlibrary loan with our local library. It's a quick, easy read and immediately struck me as very similar to the Dave Ramsey books I've been reading in several ways.

Dave Ramsey repeats over and over and over on his radio show, DVD's, and books about budgeting with the idea in mind that "every dollar has a name" in your budget before the month begins. The most important thing to remember when trying to figure out a monthly budget is that every dollar has a name on paper on purpose. Spend all your money before the month begins." MOTH is pretty much a system where every chunk of time has a name before the day or week begins.

Our experience with Financial Peace University required us to step out of our brains for a bit, out of our financial habits, take a fresh unbiased look at our spending, reflect on what we had been doing, and think outside our box about how to fix the financial hole we had dug.

MOTH requires you to start with a list of your activities and makes you prioritize them. The old adage that if something is important to you, you will make time for it is true. "Suddenly" I've had more time for Bible reading, snuggling the kids, and other activities that just a few months ago I was always wishing I had time for.

In a DR-styled budget, your bills are prioritized from most important to least. You take the money you earn and go down the list. When you run out of money, you draw a line. And, those creditors "below the line" just don't get paid that month. You have to come up with another plan for those.

Well, MOTH requires you to take your "income" of minutes in a day, start at the top of your priorities, and go down the list 'til you run out of minutes. When you are out of minutes, those activities "below the line" are cut...or another activity somewhere has to sacrifice some time for you to add it.

It took about two days of time here and there for me to sort out a homemade Excel chart of our day (I couldn't use the ones in the book since it's a library book, of course). And, there are already things I would tweak but some observations:

One - before this system, I spent WAY WAY WAY too much time at the computer. Not a major revelation but I'm one of those "show me in concrete" type of girls so having only so much time each day for computer time showed me how much additional time I was giving to my technology and not to my kids, home, and hubby.

Two - I have never spent more time on my hands and knees and at the Vikings' level playing and interacting than I have in the last three weeks. LOL And, the results of that attention have been A-MAZ-ING! There are still sibling battles over ME but overall their behavior has been significantly improved. And, my fear of "daddy's-gone acting out" has been a waste of time. The kids miss him greatly day to day but we've made it a priority and set aside time for the kids (individually and together) to have Daddy's attention.

Three - I find myself having more joy and peace as well as being more in the moment the last week or two. When I know everything is accounted for, everything has a time and a place to get done, I'm able to enjoy what I'm doing right at that moment without my mind wandering off to what's coming up and/or what we're missing.

Now, that being said, life happens as it does for any mom with little ones (or even older ones) and this has not turned into some kind of crazy regime of clocks and timers and such. But, now the kids and I can have a conversation that sounds like this:

"I wanna go to the park."
"Well, if you want to go to the park, then we have to do school now and then you'll have to give up computer time later."
"But, I want to go NOW!"
"School and jobs first, fun later. After school, do you want to go to the park or have computer time?"
"Go to the park"
"So, you are giving up computer time for the park?"
"Yes, Mom."
"Okey, dokey. The park it is!"

Finally, what seems to be the most revolutionary thing about this are the results of the prioritization. Everything that *needs* to get done is getting done for the most part. And, it simplifies requests from others in terms of can we participate in something.

Now, again, please don't misunderstand. Weekends have no schedule and on more than one weekday, we have thrown the schedule out the window, did schoolwork when it fit in, and ran off for a morning of visiting and/or lunch with DaGrandparents. But, the structure of knowing what we are doing when (at least in the ball park LOL) has smoothed over so so SO many behavior problems without adding anymore with Daddy's continued absence due to school.

The Vikings are thrilled with time to snuggle Mom alone and their individual computer time. Nap/quiet times (most recently called "a re-boot" but that's another story LOL) have normalized again as have more regular bedtimes.

And, yet, there are still wrinkles to work out...

What to do when we travel? What to do when one Viking is sick? Group reading time needs to be scheduled some other time because now it is just being sucked up into school time and/or our morning block of activity. While morning chore time has ROCKED with success, the evening one hasn't been successful at all. And, my "alone time" in the afternoon that is supposed to include school prep, computer time, crafty time, and my own quiet time has been un-structured somehow dealing with "leftovers" and a desperate need of nap lately.

One last thing that's challenging us is outside interruptions. The authors of MOTH describe how they've even gone so far as to turn off the phone at certain times or that the dad working outside the home knows to call only at certain times when the mom is "free" from other responsibilities. This just doesn't seem to mesh with our needs and/or capabilities at this point.

When family calls (whether my parents or DaHubby's), in theory the schedule continues until an opening so to speak. The priorities you've set are still your priorities whether visitors are around or not. But, my parents and their respective spouses drive over 3 hrs to see us and the Vikings. I'm not gonna make them wait 'til we're done with something to fit them in. And, when my in-laws call and want the kids for the day, their school work waits.

Now, I feel a little uneasy about this because I know from reading other veterans' stories and advice that as a homeschooler it is critical to stay on track, accountable, and responsible for getting work done. So, setting a precedent like this now worries me because I feel like it puts us in a no-win situation.

If we bend the schedule to accommodate family, it could give the impression that our homeschooling isn't "important enough" to us or that we don't take it seriously so others won't take our choice seriously either. Yet, if we don't bend the schedule, we're inflexible, rude, and non-hospitable. So, I'm still gonna have to work that one out between God, DaHubby, and myself! LOL

Overall, it's been a real eye-opening experience. And, it has started what I think will be a lifelong habit I'd like to keep - adjusting the schedule as our needs and commitments change. I've always known that as an ADD-er that imposing some kind of structure on my days would be a benefit. And, while I don't think hardcore MOTH fans would say I'm a success at that particular plan, it HAS opened my eyes and the information in their book *really* connected with me through my recent financial conversion to all things Dave Ramsey.

Looking at my time like I've been taught to look at money just makes sense to me.


Anonymous said...

I certainly don't have a clue about homeschooling and its challenges. However, I might be able to offer another way of looking at accommodating family when you are trying to stay on schedule. You might want to let family know ahead of time that those particular time frames are important to teach your children discipline and the importance of education. If they were in public school or any other "formal" school you wouldn't consider taking them out to visit with family in the middle of the day unless it were a very special circumstance.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that was from Jodi. I didn't mean to leave it anonymous.

GiBee said...

My pastor always says... if you want to know what is really important to a person, look at their calendars and their check books. Sounds like your priorities are perfectly aligned!! You go girl!!!