The internet is a flurry these days with organizing posts. Or maybe the flurry is already past (I'm not current with my blog reading) and people are moving on to planning for Christmas and drinking pumpkin lattes.
I'm still living the end of summer and it takes me a good couple weeks to wrap my brain around a shift in schedule and to get our family organized for this new calendar season.
I may be coming to the organizing party late but I don't want to miss out altogether. I'm grabbing my wine glass, and some hors d'oeuvre (I do love cheese and crackers) and jumping into the conversation.
My inner organizer is very happy right now because, after a year of many moves, we're finally physically settled in our new home. There is a place for everything and everything in it's place (can you hear my happy sigh). My focus has now shifted to organizing our time, specifically as related to homeschooling.
I need to structure our days for learning and living together. Five of us, 24/7. There needs to be routines for keeping up with the house, feeding everybody, educating the kids and ourselves, earning an income, exercising and adventuring, and all the downtime and margin in between.
In the past year I've written a couple posts about getting organized and I still stand by those posts.
I continue to use those same strategies, especially time blocks and anchoring activities, though I'm always tweaking for changing circumstances and priorities.
My biggest tweak of late is going paperless in my planning and slowly downsizing my dependence on a Home Management binder. Now that I have a laptop that can sit on the table, on the kitchen counter, and even on my lap - I use digital lists and calendars. I am not a "close the computer and walk away" home manager.
This computer is my tool for communicating and connecting, managing our home (shopping, paying bills, etc.), and now planning and organizing our lives and homeschool. Paperless planning is just a better fit for our lives and our desire to live without less physical clutter. (And yes I do regularly walk away from the internet side of my work but my laptop is always accessible and used often.)
But going digital is not really what I joined the party to say.
I joined the party, albeit a little late, to share my biggest piece of organizing advice, which is:
usually, not always
If you're scratching your head at that (while balancing your wine in your other hand) let me give you a bunch of examples from our routine:
- I usually, not always get up by 6:30
- I usually, not always start writing by 7:45
- The kids usually, not always do math in the morning.
- We usually, not always eat lunch around 1:30. (yep, we eat lunch late)
- I usually, not always read right after lunch.
- I usually, not always grocery shop on Wednesday mornings or afternoon.
- Damien usually, not always starts his computer programming work at 2pm in the afternoon.
- The kids usually, not always spend some time outdoors between lunch and supper.
- We usually, not always eat animal free.
- I usually, not always start cooking supper by 5:30.
- I usually, not always read to the younger two kids before I go to bed.
- I usually, not always go to bed around 10pm.
- We usually, not always hike on Sundays.
I think you get the idea.
Our family has chosen a path of personal and familial responsibility and freedom. We don't go to school, we don't go to work. We learn and earn a living but both are dependent on our own initiative. We love living this way and it affords a certain freedom to our days. Freedom to say we usually (fill-in-the-blank), not always.
If we live by the clock completely we lose the joy in the life we are building together. If we live by our whims completely we would never get anything done and there would be no money in the bank to buy groceries and pay rent. Usually, not always helps us find that balance between.
I do think the usually, not always principle can be applied to other living situations as well. This is how most people live anyways. They just carry guilt or frustration about their natural human frailty and inconsistency (raising my hand here).
Here's the truth of it: we're humans, not machines.
Humans cannot "be on task" like machines with continual, steady output. As a society we do way too much rushin' around, bowing to other people's priorities and schedules, and trying to fit in. Usually, not always helps us put the breaks on this tendency. And it helps us put the breaks on our own drives to produce, accomplish and perform (think workaholic, schedule-aholic, organize-aholic) in ways that are harmful to our health and our family's wellbeing. I'm just as guilty as the next person for bowing down and worshiping the idol of "productivity".
I'm challenging myself to step away from this mindset. To embrace the freedom in my life, while still accomplishing my goals.
So what about deadlines, dependability, and accountability? I absolutely understand the need for those in both home education and life in general. Those who know me and work with me can attest to my "stand and deliver" philosophy. But I argue a good work ethic includes usually, not always. How can it not when we're human, not machines?
When we find ourselves in a place of veering too much to not always (i.e., not meeting our goals on a regular and consistent basis) we need to critically re-evaluate our schedule and plans.
Why is it that we can never get up when we want to? Do we need to go to bed earlier? Why am I struggling to usually get a healthy meal on the table? Is there too much crap food in the house to choose from? Or are my afternoons too busy for cooking, as we try to cram too much into our days. Are we losing touch with our core values (living someone else's dreams, not our own) and trying to do more than is humanly possible? Are we trying to be everything to everyone?
And that's it friends, my big organizing advice for the season. (Excuse me as I take another bite of my hor d'oeuvre. Who made this anyway? What a clever use of zuchhini!)
This is my current groove - we usually, not always do a bunch of stuff in our days that helps us meet our goals for adventurous, creative, and healthy family living.
I've been thinking about this idea a lot while writing and editing this. There is no escape from it, humans are a usually, not always organism. Nature is a usually, not always reality (as any farmer could tell you).
And in our technological society of open heart surgery, cross-continent flights, and high speed internet, this is a scary truth. There are no guarantees. And yet we continue to trust, risk and believe and that's a beautiful and frightening thing. This thing called living takes courage, doesn't it? (Sorry to get all philosophical on you at our organizing party. If you'd rather not think about the philosophy behind organizing take another sip, a large one at that, of your wine.)
If you ever want to talk about what this looks like with regards to homeschooling I'd love to chat. My coaching incorporates these ideas. Usually, not always; freedom and its partner responsibility. Principles I'm figuring out as I go and am passionate about sharing and helping other homeschool families apply to their own lives.
Also, I know some of you live in cultures different than my own. Do you think usually, not always is more culturally acceptable where you live?