Monday, March 16, 2009

disaster planning

Elizabeth Foss is writing a series of posts about planning...a subject near and dear to my obsessive-compulsive little heart. I've had a small epiphany with my own planning lately and have been meaning to goes something like this....

Plan for Your Plans to Go Down the Toilet.

Because they will.

Previously, I've had all these nicely laid plans...homeschooling plans, housekeeping plans, laundry plans, menu plans....they looked great. Sometimes they even worked. But they only worked if things were all caught up and our days were going the way they were "supposed" to. The housekeeping plans assumed that housekeeping was caught up to start with. My menu planning didn't work if I had a cranky baby that wouldn't let me cook or if we had an extra 6pm dance practice sprung on us at the last minute (as is the case this very evening). The homeschooling plans only worked as long as we were on, say, Week 12 Day 3 in all our subjects for both children. They didn't take into account the day that Maria didn't do the Latin she said she did, or the day that I only got halfway through school with Kain before giving up on the day altogether. They sure didn't work when we would want to take advantage of a last minute field trip opportunity or ditch school for an unseasonably warm day in February. We would inevitably fall behind in one area or another and I would be stressed out and scrambling trying to make my plans work. I would hang onto my plans because "someday" we would be all caught up and they would work again, but that day doesn't seem to arrive very often. It seems to arrive less and less often as we add more children, which makes sense I guess. So now I

Plan for My Plans to Go Down the Toilet.

I keep ingredients on hand for meal "emergencies"...meals that require me to put a box of something in the microwave or open a couple of cans...I've spread my cleaning and laundry plans throughout week so that when we are having some crazy, rushed days (like we have been last week and this week) and the house starts to look scary (like it does now) I can do the best that I can and then jump back into my routines when things slow down again and within a few days things start to fall back into place.

My biggest sanity saver has been the change in the way I plan our school work. I wish my camera was working so I can show pictures of my weird little method that has evolved over this school year. Kain and Maria both have a 3 ring binder with 8 of these pocket dividers inside. Each side is labeled week 1, day 1/week 1, day 2, etc., all the way through week 4 day 4....four weeks worth of work, or 16 days. Then I print out 4 weeks worth of lesson plans, hole punch them, and put them in the front of the binder. I pull out the papers needed for each day and put them in their respective folders. For example, I've got Kain's binder here in front of week 1 day 4 he has a lined paper for his grammar lesson, his math worksheets, and a sheet from his map skills workbook. Other assignments are either done orally or in workbooks of some kind and are referred to in the lesson plans. I go through the lesson plans and highlight things that they can do on their own. Then we are all set for the next four weeks. Today we are starting on week 1, day 1 and we will work through until we are all done with what is packed into the binder. Every four weeks I have a "catch up week" planned. During that week, we will catch up any assignments missed during this four week period. If we are all caught up (HAHAHA!), we will take the week off to do some fun things. More likely is that we will have at least a few things to catch up on, but we should still be able to take a very light week.

This has worked out wonderfully for us. The really neat thing is the motivation it gives to older children. Maria knows that if she stays as caught up as possible she will get to have a nice break in four weeks. As a result, she is more motivated to get her work done and not drag behind. I only wish I had been doing it since the beginning of the school year. This method works quite nicely for schooling year round. Our syllabi have 32 weeks of lessons. If you take a catch up week every four weeks, that gives you 40 weeks of school altogether. We take two weeks at Christmas, two weeks at Easter...that's 44 weeks. Even if we take a nice month long break in the summer, that still leaves us with 4 more weeks to play with. Next year I will probably use some of that extra time around Lent/Easter and Advent/Christmas to allow an easier pace and more time for liturgical year activities without the stress of feeling like we need to "keep up". It would also come in handy for extended illnesses (something we've been blessedly free from this year) or when a baby is expected (no, we aren't expecting one! hehe...)


Kelly said...

Yeah, this is why I gave up planning. And "Mother's Rule of Life". And "Managers of Their Homes". And all the other "plans" I've tried. They just don't account for how chaotic our *LIFE* is - even when I PLAN for it not to be. LOL! ;)

Give in to the Chaos! Make Peace with Entropy! You will live longer. [That's my new motto anyhow LOL!]

Anonymous said...

Love the idea of disaster planning. As we head into homeschooling this fall for the first time and new baby due this summer, I will need to keep this all in mind.

J.C. said...

Mel, I love it!!! (The link for the folders didn't work for me. What kind of folders are they?) You know that I, too, use MODG, and I always wished that I could pick your brain about certain things. This is perfect because it takes away the reason I use not to make lesson plans way ahead of time. I am also OC and I also have a newborn and I write my lesson plans (sporadically) by hand. Let me ask you, when you say "print out lesson plans," do you just sit down and the computer and type them all up? And if you do, do you have a template or something you use? Mel, I have totally come to the same conclusion you have regarding planning. Besides several really important habits and routines you need to acquire, (and sometimes even these get derailed--bedtime, cleaning the bathrooms), a schedule has to be a framework to which you refer as much as you can, otherwise, it can have a demoralizing effect. You have to be realistic and flexible and not regard every departure as a failure. Thank you so much. I hope you will not mind sharing more details. I wish your camera was working, too. Happy Feast of St. Joseph!