Advice to Homeschooling Mothers – Manage Your Time Well and You Will Succeed
I know this is a long post – and I thought about dividing it up into smaller posts – but all these topics relate to one another and I didn’t want to separate them. I hope it is not too long that you decide not to benefit from it – for I believe that if you read through the post you may at least have a starting point for preparing for a successful homeschooling experience, insha’Allah.
Now, I am not a time management guru – and I definitely have made my share of mistakes – especially when relating to time management. However, I have learned over the years – especially since starting homeschooling – how vital time management is to your success. Since every person’s life is different – they have different goals, different curricula, different requirements and different skills – not all time management tools are going to work for everyone. This is where you really have to think about your life – your abilities and even your weaknesses to determine what types of time management you need to improve your homeschool experience.
As a reader, I do highly recommend that you try to find some books on the topic. Then, you will need to determine areas where you need improvement. After you determine improvement areas, you will then need to decide what tools you are going to use to improve them, insha’Allah. It’s not something you perfect overnight – but you will find tricks and tools to use throughout your years of homeschooling that will help you have a better homeschooling experience. So, with that – I will just try to give you some insight into some of the things I did in my own homeschooling experience that helped me greatly.
#1 – Get Rid of Time Wasters
This is absolutely the biggest change I made in my life once I started homeschooling. Or, at least – when I started to be better at homeschooling. It may not always be a popular move – or an easy one – but it really – absolutely makes a big difference in your daily life.
What is a time waster anyway?
A time waster is anything that wastes your valuable time. Now – it doesn’t mean that everything that wastes time is bad – but wasting time is bad if you intend to be successful at homeschooling. Anything can be a time waster – and each person is probably bombarded with many different types. You really need to sit down and think about this one – how can I better use my time – what things should I put off until after the school year – what things should I not start until after the homeschool day is done.
Now, I want to focus on this for just one minute – and then I’ll go on. I know that all of us at some point in time have said “I can’t do this because I never have enough time.” You hear that excuse for not learning Arabic, for not having time to memorize Qur’an, for not doing many good things. However, (and I’m sure all of us can do this) you look at your day and you will find many things you did to waste valuable time – time that you said that you didn’t have. For example – television. I am sure that there are many who have their favorite television shows that are watched regularly. If it’s not television shows – perhaps it is watching the latest movies. I was so shocked when visiting overseas one Ramadan – that Ramadan is the time when all these new shows come out on TV. I mean, really – what were they thinking?!? Hello – Ramadan is a time of worship, isn’t it? Not a time to sit in front of the TV. Allah knows best – but I think you get my point. If television isn’t your thing – perhaps it is playing video games – or searching around on the internet – or shopping – spending too much time reading novels – talking too much on the telephone – or chatting with others on the many social networks. We all have our weaknesses . . .
Subhan’Allah – shaitan has been
So, let’s look at our excuse for a moment “I don’t have time.” Really – if we were to add up all the countless minutes and hours that we wasted – even only in one week – we would be amazed at how much time we really had. Imagine if we used that time for beneficial things. Now, imagine if we totaled up all the minutes and hours we wasted in a year – in two or three years – or even over our lifetime so far – imagine how much time we wasted. Then, remember our excuses – “I couldn’t memorize Qur’an because I just didn’t have time” or “I didn’t take an Arabic or Islamic class because I didn’t have time.” If we spent the same amount of time that we wasted and instead spent that time learning the Qur’an – we would already have become hafidh. I’m not kidding. Now, some of us probably waste time more than others – but I doubt there is any human that is free from this mistake. We need to learn to waste less time. The next time you say “I don’t have time” think about it more deeply – really.
For me, the telephone was a huge time waster. Before homeschooling, I was often available so the phone would ring often with friends calling and socializing. We would often make plans to meet – setting up play-dates and the like. When I wasn’t busy – this wasn’t too much of a problem. However, it quickly became a problem when I started to homeschool. Other mothers who didn’t homeschool couldn’t understand that I was busy homeschooling. They would often call in the middle of our lessons and (at that time) I was in the habit of answering the phone right away. Some people you can get off the phone with easily – you can explain you are homeschooling and you can call them back later. However, there are some people that are just difficult to get off the phone – even if you repeatedly say, “I have to go now.”
I like to talk and socialize when I can – anyone could tell you that. However, during homeschooling it was just too difficult. So, I started a new rule in the house. No answering the phone during school hours. If we are doing coursework and the phone rings – we just let the caller leave a message on the answering machine. If you expect a call from someone important – the doctor or perhaps your husband – it is okay to look at the caller id and if it isn’t them – don’t answer. I know it may sound harsh – but it is necessary for you to have control over this #1 time waster.
In the beginning of homeschooling, I would answer every call and each time I stopped to answer the phone, the kids would just start doing anything except school work (it didn’t matter how long I was on the phone). So, each time I would have to then get them back in the right mindset for school. It was too much of an interruption. So, if you are like me – and phone calls are a problem – make the rule to not answer the phone during school hours. You can even mention it to your friends so they won’t call – but it is easy to forget, so don’t rely on it.
The internet – at least in my opinion – is a HUGE time waster – but it is also very beneficial, masha’Allah. Sometimes it is very difficult to strike a balance between its benefit and its harm. For me, I try to stay away from it as much as I can throughout my homeschooling day, unless we need to use it to supplement our school work.
YAHOO GROUPS & OTHER MESSAGE GROUPS
Before having kids I used to belong to different Islamic groups online so I could learn more about Islam with other sisters. I am not kidding when I say I would get around 350 email messages a day. That’s a lot of messages. If you have been homeschooling and you are still getting that many messages – subhan’Allah – how do you do it?!? Those days are long gone – and anyway – I only belong to Muslim Homeschooling groups now. However, there was even a time last year when I finally put a few of those groups on web-only until the school year ended.
You have to think about how much time it takes to read all those messages you receive. If you’re not sure – try for one week to only get your messages in digest form. Then, each day when you get all the messages in from all your groups – read through each message one after the other and time yourself. Then, think about how much time you are spending on those messages – is that a good use of your time? Now, I can’t give up all my groups – there are a few that I really benefit from, alhumdulilah. Thus, I don’t feel it is a waste of my time. So what I had to do was decide which groups were getting more messages that just weren’t useful or relevant to me. Those were the first groups to be put on web-only. One nice thing about setting your messages to web-only is that if there is a day when you have time to spend on yourself – you can easily go back to that group page and read through the messages you have missed.
Another Tip – to save time and to help you focus on your child’s school work – I have found it more beneficial to receive group messages in digest form. This way I read them all at once and I don’t get any more messages until the next day. That helps with getting distracted during the school day.
WEBSITES & SEARCHES:
I really don’t think I am the only one who has searched for a topic online and then an hour (or two) later found that they didn’t know any more about the topic than they knew before. Search engines are trying to improve – but still – if you search online it can take quite a while before you find exactly what you need. Subhan’Allah – sometimes I just want to make a little poster or a learning material for the girls and need to find a specific picture. I have truly spent quite a lot of time trying to find something as simple as that! It can be frustrating – but it can (most importantly) be a great time waster. Over the years I have tried to make a list of websites that I use for specific needs. So, if I happen to need to work with the kiddos on poetry – I have a list of websites that I know (for the most part) should have what I need. I made this list at the beginning of homeschooling and continue to add to it when I find beneficial websites. I’ve been sharing a few of my lists with you in previous posts. In making my lists – it has helped keep me from having to scour the web to find websites when I really need to just get the work done.
Another thing I have found is that while I am searching online – I am missing valuable teaching time. In the end – even if I find some idea or lesson plan – I don’t really think it was worth all the effort to find it. Let me give you an example. In the past I have made some Arabic Learning Materials for the girls on my computer. At one time I had made some flashcards for them – and I spent a lot of time searching for the right pictures (which took long enough) and then I had to type up all the words in Arabic (which is not my native language, but the way) or find the words already written online. It took a lot of time – a lot. In the end – the flashcards looked great – but I don’t know if it was worth all that extra time and effort. Another time I made flashcards where I found pictures online (which still took quite a bit of time) but I then wrote the Arabic in my own handwriting. At least that project took less time than when I typed up the words. I felt it still took quite a bit of time – but that it was more worth the effort. It isn’t always easy – but we really need to try to determine what is the best use of our time. Can it be done in less time – does it really need to be perfect? Does it really need to be done the way we want to do it?
I love writing – and I love my blog. It’s true. I can’t help it. My dh doesn’t understand it at all (we are total opposites but we complement each other) – but I love to share and I love to communicate with others. However, when school time comes the blog gets put on hold – sometimes indefinitely. I hate that, but it has to happen sometimes. While it is something I love to do – when you homeschool you have to set priorities. What are the most important things you need to do. Prioritize them. There are some things that we love to do or want to do – but if they aren’t on the top of your priority list – then you need to set them aside. It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever do them – but reward yourself by doing these things when you can set aside time for them. Don’t take the time from your homeschool day.
For me – I had to do this with a few of my hobbies, including: sewing, writing, reading, photography, crafts, etc. I’m not saying it’s necessary to cut everything out – but you need to think about your day – what do you need to do – what are your goals. Then, and only then – you can see if you can fit in some time for doing things you enjoy. Now, I am talking about doing this – but I also want to touch on another important idea that I have discussed already in previous posts. Set aside some time each week for you to do things you enjoy. Consider it a treat. Make sure you make a list of the things you enjoy – and keep it handy. You will not believe what having free-time can do to you. You will forget all the things you ever wanted to do whenever you had a little free time!
If you usually take off from school on Fridays, set aside an hour or so to do your own thing on that day. If your husband works on the weekends and you homeschool each weekday – set aside some time on the weekend to do your activities. In order to not burn yourself out – you need this “me time”. This way, when you are having a bad day – you know that at least one day a week you have something to look forward to, insha’Allah.
As far as the internet is concerned, I try my best not to use the internet at all during my homeschooling day (for those of you using the internet as your curriculum – that would be hard 🙂 ). I only use the internet if it is necessary for supporting what we are learning. It seems to me that it is easy for the internet to just suck you in and you lose a lot of time – so I try not to give in to that temptation. Later in the day, if we have finished with our course work, I don’t mind getting online – but ONLY after we are done.
I actually love to spend time with other sisters. However, it can become difficult because some people just don’t understand – or respect – your need to homeschool. When I meet people and tell them we homeschool, they often say, “great, then we can get together each Tuesday at the park.” Now, if you have enough time to be able to do that – and still get your job done – great, masha’Allah! However, if you can’t – then you need to be firm about not spending too much time with others when you have things you need to get finished for school. I know it may sound harsh – or perhaps antisocial – but if your goal is to homeschool then you need to act like it is your goal.
If you had a job – you wouldn’t be expected – and you couldn’t – just go out and have tea with friends and chat in the middle of the day each week. You’d have to get your job done first and then visit them after work. Now, homeschooling is supposed to be more flexible – and it is – but you still need to – and have – a responsibility to teach your children. You can’t do that if you are spending too much time socializing and little time teaching.
This mentality my not always make you popular. I’ve actually met some women who wanted to get together each week to have their kids play at my house with the kiddos. Hey – I homeschool so I have all the time in the world, right? It worked the first week, and we had a nice time – but the next week I was already stressed and frustrated trying to get caught up and then prepare for our next play date. Since it was at my home – I not only had to get school up to date, but I also had to clean the house for guests! After the second play date I had to tell the sisters we couldn’t do play dates every week and suggested doing it every other week or three weeks (I was feeling guilty). The sisters were very disappointed and decided that they no longer wanted to know me. Just like that. (See, homeschooling can be difficult sometimes for various reasons – even those you may not have thought of!)
As I said, it can be hard – but you owe it to your child to give them a good education – it is their right – it is your responsibility and you will be held accountable by Allah. You must do the best you can do, insha’Allah. By the way – this is another thing that you can do for “me time” – schedule something to do with another sister with kids – but schedule it more spaced out (say once a month or – if you can handle it – once every other week) and enjoy that time – socialize and let the kids run around and have fun. You won’t regret it!
#2 – Manage Your Time Outside the Home
It is not only important to manage your time inside the home, but it is also important to manage the time you spend outside the home. Whether you are going to doctor’s appointments or playgroups – you need to find a way to fit those things into your time in a manner that won’t disrupt your homeschool schedule – at least as much as you can, insha’Allah.
One thing I try to do is space out doctor’s appointments (annual checkups, teeth cleaning, etc.). It’s not always easy though when your kids are sick. You do the best you can, insha’Allah. However, I try my best to schedule any appointments or errands on the same day during the week. Now, not everyone is the same – but for me, going out each day is so exhausting. Sometimes we have to – but I often end up feeling like I wished I could lock myself up in the house and stay home to get things done. Going out in the morning – even going to the gym – seems to take a lot of time from my day. I hate it. I seem to have much more success when I start the homeschooling day at home and end the school day there. Then, when we are finished with school – we can go out.
I will, however, truthfully tell you one thing about that mentality. We always think we have to get everything done – as if terrible things would happen if we don’t do it. This thinking can be extremely detrimental to one important key to success in homeschooling – taking care of yourself. So, try to balance things. One day – if you have to – work hard and get things done. The next day – take it a bit easier and go to the gym – take the kids to the park. There has to be balance. I will be the first to admit that there have been times that I did not go to the gym because I had to get things done. If you do that too many times to yourself you will really pay for it in the end – with stress, health problems, weight gain, etc. You have to make yourself a priority too – so just BALANCE THINGS OUT as much as you can. If you make a mistake – it’s okay – just pick yourself up and try again.
My kids also seem to have trouble getting into the mode of school when we’ve already been outside of the house. If we get up – have breakfast and start school right away – they seem to be more productive. So, if your family is the same – you might want to schedule appointments or errands for later in the day when school work is done, insha’Allah. If you have to go out – try to schedule more things to get done outside that day so the rest of the week you can focus on finishing school work.
The kiddos love to visit the library and we try to get out there at least once a week but sometimes it can drag on to two weeks or three depending on how busy we are. I have tried to make it a reward for the kiddos. So, if they get finished with their school work in a timely manner – I will often reward them by going to the library on Friday. This helps give them an incentive not to goof off too much instead of doing school work.
I also try to make field trips – visits to the museum or zoo – as a reward for getting through the school work in a timely manner that week. You just can’t imagine the difference it can make when your kiddos have a reward to look forward to. Sometimes my oldest can stretch one subject that should take 1 hour to take 2 hours when she isn’t motivated. However, if I tell them at the beginning of the week that we will go to the park for a picnic or to the zoo for a field trip she can often get her work done in that hour or even less each day, masha’Allah.
Well, that’s all I can think of right now – perhaps I will remember other pointers later. Insha’Allah these ideas will get you started. Don’t forget to think about what particular things are issues with you and your homeschooling experience. Then, either look online or read a book about that particular topic. You can find a lot of books and websites on time management and even managing housework. Try different methods of improving your time – and see what works best for you. Insha’Allah you will find what benefits you and your children the most.
I just found this video on the topic of Wasting Time and thought I’d share – perhaps this will be useful to you.
Importance of Time – Shiekh Salem Al Amry – Part 1
Importance of Time – Shiekh Salem Al Amry – Part 2
I just wanted to mention that there are several very beneficial Islamic video websites out there, alhumdulilah. I have already shared some videos from those sites in previous posts. On those websites – it is hard to go wrong finding a video that could benefit you. However, there are some that are not as beneficial. This lecture (very beneficial, masha’Allah) was found on a website where you can find some good lectures, but it is also mixed with things that are not beneficial and even some that are unacceptable Islamically. Please be aware of this if you chose to search around their site.
I only posted this video because of its potential benefit – and the other websites did not have this lecture about Time Management. I just don’t want my posting of this video to in any way show my support for this site. I support what is being said in the video – I support the video itself – but I do not support the website because of the other non-Islamic content. Please forgive me if I have done anything wrong.
Here is one last video about Wasting Time. Forgive me if I am wrong – but believe that part of the video didn’t really apply to my situation – but I found some wisdom in this video as well. Insha’Allah you will benefit from it as well.
Sumayyah Umm SAA