What is your favorite thing about a To Do List? The calming pursuit of listing all the necessary tasks to be accomplished? The knowledge that you will not forget something important? The sheer symmetry of the bullet points?
My favorite part of a To Do List is crossing off the tasks I have completed. In fact, I like it so much that I sometimes add tasks to the list that I have already completed, just so that I can cross them off. (Do not roll your eyes; I bet you have thought about it too.) As a homeschooler, I have found To Do Lists to be both blessings and curses. They become blessings when they are the means to helping us focus on the tasks at hand; they become curses when they blur our vision, becoming ends in themselves and bringing us close to missing our priorities.
Like you, I suspect, I began homeschooling so that I could enjoy watching my children learn. I absolutely loved the “light bulb moments,” and jealously guarded them for myself. My heart would flutter when my girls asked how clouds bring rain, or why the neighborhood dog looked little when he was down the street, but turned out to be a “big dog” up close. I loved hearing Sarah read her first story and watching Stephanie write her first “book.” I would stop my work at almost any request to “read me a book” or answer a question that an inquiring mind wanted to know. Those teachable moments were nectar to me! I was as eager as they were to explore, dream, philosophize, and debate. And, you know, it worked! They became explorers of new ideas, dreamers of new worlds, thinkers of new thoughts, and debaters of the status quo. And I was happy.
However, I was still a list maker. As our lives became more complex, the lists grew and seemed more necessary—and more domineering. If I was going to be a success at this homeschooling, I needed to be efficient, accomplishing more in less time every day. If I could just think of all the things that needed to be done and write them down in a systematic way, then work the system, life would flow and all would be well. I could determine what my girls needed to know, decide how to teach them what they need to know, and set a course of bullet points in the desired direction. Although, the fuller the list became, the less wiggle room it offered for life. Those questions that had once been so charming and exciting sometimes became a distraction and a speed bump on my highway of education. I realized that I had allowed the teachable moments to take a back seat to my To Do List!
Now, I am a recovering list maker; I still operate most efficiently when I have a plan for my day and for our educational goals. My default mode is still to “work the list,” and sometimes I find myself moving from item to item without much thought. I am training myself to slow down, read my daughter, and be sensitive to those teachable moments. I know that they are what make homeschooling really rewarding—not a completely crossed out To Do List!