My kids and I have no official start or end time for our home-school day. The length of each day fluctuates according to the time of year and other responsibilities we have. During the dead of winter, we might be in school until after dark; but when spring comes and we tick off the subjects we’ve completed, our school days become shorter.
The lack of an official school day start-and-end time is perhaps the only detail that is not rigid in our days. We live by lists. They are my comfort zone and my salvation! Daily lists of assignments and future projects appear on various-sized whiteboards in our school room. A master shopping lists hangs in the kitchen, along with a list of meals. A desk calendar shows monthly schedules for appointments and extracurricular activities. I even have a month-by-month spreadsheet of the birthdays and anniversaries of friends and family so that I can purchase cards for them in a timely fashion. You get the picture. I like lists.
Of course, living by lists can be a bit hamster-on-the-wheel for everyone. Lists do keep our family on track and organized, but we all need a break! Thank God for my husband, who has managed to achieve a better balance between spontaneity and scheduled-ness (I think I just made up a new word) than I have. He has always made time for our kids in a different way than I have, wrestling with them and driving trucks with them when they were toddlers and playing endless games of chess and checkers with them as adolescents. He works hard, but he knows when to set aside the responsibilities of the day, unperturbed by the fact that they will still be there tomorrow. He makes time for the truly important things.
I remember having a meltdown about a year ago when my husband and kids called from the living room one evening, asking me to join them. I said something like, “Maybe I could join you if I weren’t surrounded by dirty dishes and papers to grade and no one offering to help me!!” I had been simmering away, feeling very sorry for myself and resenting that none of them had even thought to offer help.
Well, that was my own fault. Why should they offer when this was the way I lived? But by the end of the evening, we’d had a good chat as a family, and ever since, my husband and teenagers have been very kind about offering help when I’m stuck in the kitchen. Even my little guy, his small face solemn, asks me if he can help with anything when he senses me withdrawing into “I-have-too-much-to-do” mode. I have even learned to take them up on it, when I really do need the help. It results in a happily crowded kitchen, all of us in there working together and chatting away.
Though it continues to be a daily challenge for me, I do try to set aside my “Martha” side and be more like Mary, the sisters in a family dear to Jesus. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus gently reproved Martha for scolding her sister Mary, who, rather than helping the micro-managing Martha prepare a meal for Jesus, was sitting at the Master’s feet, just drinking Him in. Mary, He said, had chosen the better way to spend her time. Ouch.
I have learned to make time in my schedule to step away from my schedule, if you know what I mean, and relax. I’m a night owl, so when everyone else is in bed, I read, or watch a movie, or work on a craft or sewing project (that’s classified as fun for me). I make tea or hot chocolate (the real stuff, made with cocoa, sugar, and milk) and drink it from a pretty blue and white antique cup my parents bought me.
And every night after I finally climb into bed, I make a different sort of mental list: I count my blessings of the day and thank my Heavenly Father for each one, thankful for all I completed, and not fretting about what I did not.
Do you live by lists? Are you more free-spirited? More power to you! I’d love to hear from you.