Monday, November 14, 2011
I've made a couple of observations lately. The first thing I've noticed is that I plan, a lot, probably quite a bit more than most others do. For those who know about the Myers Briggs personality types, I'm an ENFJ. That J in me likes things orderly and well-planned. The second thing I've noticed is that, judging from questions that I keep getting and conversations I seem to keep having, there are things that I have no intention of ever planning, that most others do.
Those things that I include in the "need to be well-planned out" list are many. I like organization. In fact, thinking of ways to streamline household duties, reduce clutter, and downsize household possessions is almost a hobby for me; I treat it as an art form that I am constantly refining. When it comes to our finances, I make a budget, and keep track of our expenditures. I plan the weekly menu and make out the weekly grocery list at the same time, adding the items needed to make the things on the menu to the list. That way, when I make the evening meal, I have the things that I need in the house, and I rarely need to think of what to make for supper before 4:00. I just look at the menu that's kept on the refrigerator and then make it.
I also make a daily schedule for myself. I like having a schedule because I feel like it helps me live in the present moment. Instead of stressing about all the things I need to get done, if I have a schedule I can relax, knowing that it is scheduled and I will have time to focus on each thing I need to do. Secondly, having a schedule helps me make sure I'm spending my time doing the things that are really important to me. I decide on the things that are important to have time for and I try to make sure the schedule reflects that. I also plan some things according to my monthly cycle. During menstruation, I know I'll need more rest and solitude so I try to keep social activities down and my husband picks up more household chores. During this time women are more interested in reevaluating their lives and discarding things that they feel are no longer working for them so I feel this is a good time for me to go to Confession. The house isn't very neat at this time as I don't have much energy or motivation to do a lot of things, but I try not to feel bad about it, because it's important to honor our needs in each of our phases. When I'm fertile, I know that I'll have a lot of creative energy to burn up so I typically plan on writing and doing other creative activities during that time.
The things, it seems, that many other people plan for that I don't are things like how many children I plan on having, or even when I will have those children. There have been times in my life when we were extremely poor and caring for my family was often overwhelming. During those times, I certainly didn't want to have more children. We had all we could handle. But who can say that she can predict how she will feel in the future? Children become more independent. Finances improve. And hearts and minds change. People who at one time thought they were finished, sometimes decide that they would like more children. So although I practice Natural Family Planning, and have used it in order to avoid pregnancy right now, I have never wanted to make a permanent decision about when I will be finished having children forever. I have only ever known that right now I want to avoid pregnancy, or right now, I would like to try to achieve. Before I was married I used to say that I wanted four children, close in age to each other. Now? It's possible that our family is complete right now, at two children, or maybe it isn't. I don't know. And having children close in age? My views are changing on that too. I've had the privilege of spending time with families who have both teenagers and toddlers. It has been really beautiful seeing the concern and tenderness that the older children bestow on the youngest members of their family. I've also read some articles about the humanizing effects that babies have on people. So now I'm open to the possibility of having children that are spaced further apart.
Another question that I get asked frequently is how long I plan on homeschooling. I've talked to people that plan on homeschooling through second-grade, others who plan on it through high school. Me? I don't plan. Situations change, finances change, and children and families change. Again, how can I predict what the future will hold? Maybe one or both my children will decide at some point that they want to go to school. I've known homeschoolers that had these great dreams and plans about all the things that they were going to do with their children, but in reality it just wasn't turning out that way, and after careful thought and consideration, they all decided that school was the best option for them right now. I've known schoolers who were anti-homeschool and never imagined that they would be going down that path, but then, for a variety of reasons, they do. Therefore, I plan on homeschooling as long as it works for our family.
Other things I don't plan? Precisely what my children will be learning at any given time. For brevity I typically say we are homeschoolers, because people know what that is, but more precisely we are unschoolers and I don't spend my time creating and implementing lesson plans. But, in my schedule, I make sure to have time to spend with my children doing creative and enriching things. I try to make time to ensure that I am doing my best to bring the world to my children and my children to the world. I rarely plan exactly what we will be doing for "homeschooling" on any given day, because I leave that up to my children to decide. If I suggest something that they have no interest in, we don't do it. If there is something that they are interested in reading about, exploring, making, building, then we do, and preferably for as long as they are interested in doing it. I don't plan what we will learn next year or the year after that. How can I know what they will be curious about then? How can I know what talents they will want to develop or what new knowledge will be interesting to them?
I know this culture is big on planning. Babies are born and their lives are planned for them pretty much through high school, if not through college. High school graduates are expected to know what their major will be and what profession they plan on entering. A popular interview question is "Where do you want to be five years from now?" Adults are expected to know precisely the timeline of their career advancements and on what schedule marriage and children will enter that timeline. If things don't happen according to such preset schedules for learning, advancing, achieving, avoiding, etc., people can feel like failures. So I really love schedules, I do, but for some things, I prefer to simply allow room for growth.