Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Flying and Schooling

Can it be done? Can we have dinner in the crockpot, our shoes laced, our surfaces cleared, our zones cleaned, our hot spots decluttered, and our children educated, too? Do you have the faintest idea what I'm on about?

If you do, you may be a FlyBaby: one of the disciples of the FlyLady, leader of the nation's largest benign cult for women with messy houses and frayed nerves.

According to FlyLady, you can have a clean, inviting home at all times, even if you homeschool, or have a disability or chronic illness, or if you're a single mom, or work full time. Her theory for why this is true is, first because you have to--who else is going to do it?--and second because decluttering, zone work, and morning/evening schedules actually make your life easier rather than loading you up with lots of extra cleaning.

My experience? True, mostly. I've acquired an evening routine and imposed it on Oldest Child: bathe, wash hair if necessary, pick up house (me) and room (her), lay out clothes for tomorrow. Likewise a morning routine: say prayers and get dressed right away--this alone has shaved half an hour off the morning--and I reboot the laundry and the dishes. If I get no other housework done all day, at least I won't be faced with piles of laundry, dishes mounting in the sink, or a complete disaster of a house.

On the other hand, at the moment I'm surrounded by piles of unsorted CD-ROMs on the computer desk, books waiting to be scanned, books from last semester's homeschooling piles up on and next to the speaker, and I haven't gotten around to my Christmas thank-you notes yet. I don't think I've dusted since August. And I have to say, in all honesty, that it's not because I haven't yet ascended the ladder of perfection to the lofty heights of true Flying, but because I kind of like living this way, slightly cluttered, and a little bit late and dusty.

So flying isn't incompatible with homeschooling or any other time-suck if you don't feel like you really have to do all that zone cleaning; and some of the basic ideas really do save you time and frustration. The very best advice she has is decluttering, which is the spiritual center of Flying. Decluttering for FlyBabies isn't just bagging up some old clothes for Goodwill: it's a way of life, sort of a housewifely Therese of Lisieux approach to living. You don't just vacuum your carpets each Monday morning, you bless your family. You don't just force yourself outside for fifteen minutes of raking leaves, you bless your heart. It's holiness for housewives, reminiscent of the old spiritual advice to offer up washing the dishes to God as an act of prayer.

And you don't just give things to charity, you bless other people with them: that means you don't try to hold a garage sale, or stick it in the attic in the hope your children will want it some day, but give it to somebody else, even if you don't know who that person who needs it will be. "Blessing" with your unneeded stuff is accompanied with all sorts of encouragement about being freed from the burden of Things--things which try (and fail) to fill in the emptinesses in your life, things which waste your time with endlessly putting them away or trying to find the things you really do need in the crowd of things you don't, things which could be instead, through giving them to others, avenues of grace. Among the slew of e-mails you receive as a FlyBaby are some amazing testimonials about "blessing"/decluttering. One woman writes about an iron saucepan she keeps beneath her bed, which her ex-husband used to beat her with, and which she is now ready to discard. Another writes about finally getting rid of the "poor" clothes hanging in her closet, finally at peace with the fact that she no longer lived in poverty and now could always dress nicely. And on the lighter side, paeans to the liberating power of "flinging" oppressive worldly goods, amusing anecdotes of weird items found in the process, and lots of talk about "God breezes," which are sudden freeing epiphanies involving housework. It's like Erma Bombeck meets the Egyptian Desert Fathers.

The decluttering really does make homeschooling easier. I don't waste time searching for the right materials; I don't beat myself up for that curriculum I spent too much money on and found useless; I don't hold on to stuff with the thought that at some point I'll list it on VegSource and recoup some of my costs. I give it to some other homeschooler, free, and it's all done. And I've blessed some other homeschooler who doesn't have any more money to spare than I do ("I've been looking for this! You're really just giving it away?").

Some of the general Flying principles work pretty well for homeschooling, too. Just like I plan our menus a week in advance, doing all the shopping at once, I've learned to plan lessons a week in advance and have everything I'll need, including worksheets, photocopies, and books all set on a particular shelf. A little increased order lets me order lessons so that tutoring-intensive work, like science and composition, are at times when the preschooler is more easily diverted (or asleep, or absent), while during high-need baby times I assign more autodidactic subjects like Latin (on CD-ROM) or reading assignments. With a weekly chart of subjects affixed to a clipboard (I learned this technique from a homeschooling mom of eleven), the older child can check off what she's done, see what she still needs to do, and clip finished work at the bottom for later grading.

I was never this organized before, and I definitely owe it to FlyLady.

But I still don't dust.


Anonymous George said...

approach a Buddhist master on how to achieve enlightenment, and have him hand you a broom and an axe. You will sweep many floors and chop much firewood, grasshopper... ;-)

9:53 AM  
Anonymous George said...

...He might even tell you to dust!!!

9:54 AM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Yeah, I don't do wax on, wax off either.

6:24 AM  

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