Avoiding this common and dangerous pitfall is a constant process, one that requires focus and resolve. However, it is a fair thing to take a look at what you are doing and to make sure there is consistency and growth in your day.
Given my relaxed homeschooling nature, any routine I came up with would need margin. Steve Lambert, publisher of the Five in a Row curriculum, describes margin this way:
I talked in a recent article about margin. As a book publisher we think about margin whenever we publish a new product. Margin is the white space that surrounds each printed page. It’s largely margin that makes a page readable. A page that utilizes every square inch of paper to contain printed text is very cost-effective. Paper costs money. Why not use every last square millimeter of paper to help carry the printed words? Because a page with no margin gives the eye no room to “breathe” as you look at the page. It’s too busy. It makes you anxious. It appears overwhelming. It often means you don’t even attempt to read the page because it just looks like “too much” before you even begin...
I'd like to share a few more snippets from Steve's blog post on margin that specifically apply to where I am right now in needing margin.
Our homes need margin. We need room to breathe. A room packed to the ceiling with belongings and treasures may be efficient use of square footage, but if there are only narrow paths to walk through the mountains of possessions there is absolutely no place to rest or relax. The room makes us anxious.
Our schedule needs margin. An activity packed day with every minute accounted for, every calendar block filled in leaves us cranky and frustrated. Unexpected interruptions inevitably occur which leave us “behind” our own self-inflicted schedule with no time to relax or recuperate.
And our homeschool needs margin. We need unscheduled time in our teaching day for unplanned “bunny trails” that are often the very best part of the teaching day. We need time to pause and ask the Lord what HE wants to do with the next 20 minutes of our day- which are often the most important part of our children’s education.
Margin is essential in every area of our life. Talk with your children about new ways to plan margin into your daily schedule, your monthly calendar and your home’s space. Children need space in their room to spread out on the floor and play with toys, read a book or just sprawl out and daydream.So, now that I've referred to having margin and leaving times in our day unscheduled, I'm about to share a "schedule" with you. We've been at this all week. This has really been working well. This pattern for our day leaves margin! We have a road map, a target to hit, but the way the pattern is designed we can take more than one way to get there. If we follow a "bunny trail" of learning, there is always the map to get back on the road to our target. What's our target? To consistently hit the items in our day that provide us with the most discovery. That's it. A pattern in our day means we have less wandering on the path so we get to that awesome view at the end of the hike. Some days the hike itself is more fun and the view can wait until another day. But having a trail map is always helpful to keep us on track. And of course having a Trail Guide to confer with helps a lot too.
Daily School Routine
*Read Aloud Time (book of choice)
*Morning Gathering Time (at school table)
*Math- family adventure/Five-A-Days
*Read Aloud Time (unit study related)
*Passion Pursuit (approved activities)
*Silent Reading Time (book of their choice)
*Free Time/Screen Time
*Read Aloud Time (second book of choice)
*Bed Time (olders read in bed for a bit)
In addition to this daily pattern, I have a weekly one as well which accounts for the regular times we are out and which days we do what if there is more than one item in that time slot.
I think my favorite part of the new pattern is that we are more purposeful about our reading aloud. We are blasting through The Last Battle by CS Lewis. The other thing is that we have been more finished each day which is nice. Yet, we still have unschooling moments like yesterday when I7 came in and said he had done an experiment to see when J4 could jump farther from the slide in our basement- when he's holding the ball and when he isn't. He determined that he jumps farther without the ball and he made a graph. Being the homeschooling mom that I am, I told him to go measure the distances. Voila! Awesome math lesson. We can't be owned by the routine so much that we lose those moments.