Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Not Everything Needs To Be Done Every Day

In my apparently never-ending attempts to get my little apartment clean and uncluttered, I happened to go through large stacks of papers dating back even into my teenage years, I think.

(I mean, really. Hundreds of pages of various notes... why was I hanging on to them? There might have been two in there that I thought worth copying into Evernote. But that's not the point of this post.)

As I was going through all these papers, I found that three-quarters1 of them were either lists of things that I thought I should do every day, or else a schedule in which I tried to set aside time for all of those things. Exercise, prayer, and reading to the kids - for example - would show up on list after list, schedule after schedule.

Not a single one of those schedules ever worked for me2.

Not ever.

I might keep them up for as long as two weeks - most were lucky to last two days. They were, in general, hopelessly unrealistic, expecting me to accomplish things in a phenomenally short time so that I could fit everything into a day. Even when I was deliberately trying to "go easy" on myself, I never succeeded.

So for the next few days, I pondered why I kept making schedules that didn't work. This was ... relevant ... since I was also trying to figure out what sort of schedule I should have - if any - for homeschool. I think the turning point in my understanding came when I was looking at the Mother of Divine Grace curriculum. Out of curiosity, I took their 2nd grade syllabus and sketched out what their daily schedule (for the first week at least) looked like.

I can't believe Mother of Divine Grace only has one day of "reading".

Eventually it percolated through my head that they only did history once a week.

Now, art and music are popular candidates for "less often" subjects3, and many curriculums will do history only two or three times a week. But MODG is a curriculum that aspires to excellence, and history is a significant portion of it. And yet, they do history only once a week.

Not everything needs to be done every day.

She does still need to nap every day, although she seems to want to think otherwise.

I'm finally realizing how much that thought - that everything important needs to be done every day (maybe with a few rare exceptions) - had permeated my thinking. When Ken got a beautiful copy of the Catechism for his RCIA class, I picked it up and started reading it. I got so excited, I immediately wanted to vow to read it every day. I've been reading through the gospel of Luke, and - inspired by Frank Sheed's book To Know Christ Jesus - I decided that next I would do a comparative reading of all four gospels at the same time, and I was so eager to do that, I almost didn't finish reading the end of Luke first.

Not everything needs to be done every day.

I'm trying to exercise in the mornings - 14 minutes of anything, which means for me, mostly dancing. But some mornings I don't have even 14 minutes, because I have to spend that time brushing the girls' hair out, or because the living room floor is too messy to dance on, or because I'm still a shuffling zombie. Exercising is not one of those things, at this time in my life, that needs to happen every day.

I think I'm reading to the kids once or twice a month lately. We are very ... very ... slowly ... working our way through The Rats of NIMH. But we actually finished The Secret Garden. And it finally occurred to me that one of my treasured childhood memories was Dad reading us the book The Phantom Tollbooth; it's the only book I remember him ever reading us once we were old enough to read ourselves, so why was I freaking out over not reading to the kids every day?

Some things DO need to be done every day. Dishes, pretty much, although there have been times in my life where I didn't. I think some sort of prayer, too, needs to be done every day or nearly so.

But... not everything needs to be done every day.

Not everything important needs to be done every day.

Painting is more like a once-a-year activity for us.

1. Have you heard that 90% of figures on the internet (and in conversation) are completely made up? Including that one? Yes, well, I did make up the 3/4 figure, since I obviously wasn't keeping some sort of tally going as I sorted my papers, to get the exact percentage of how many of them were schedules. But it was a lot.

2. Which is why there were so many of them, haha.

3. I have noticed that language people insist that poetry needs to be done every day, and musicians insist that music should be done every day. I assume artists would insist that art should be done every day, and historians history, and mathematicians math. I've decided that I am competent to set my own priorities.

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