Homeschooling and The 4-Hour Workweek

by Carletta on February 24, 2010

In my last post, I promised to share more about how the The 4-Hour Workweek revolutionized my approach to time management. Instead of finding ways to cram more into my day, I now look for ways to simply do less using the following principles:

1. I Make Myself Unavailable

I only check e-mail twice a day, and I do not read any jokes, political forwards, warnings about potential calamity or encouraging e-mails that must be forwarded to 10 people lest I succumb to calamity.

I do not answer my telephone without checking caller ID. I generally only answer the phone when it’s my husband. Otherwise, I let the call go to voice mail. I respond to most messages that aren’t from family members or very close friends via e-mail.

I lost my cell phone six months ago, and I never purchased a new one. In the six months I’ve been without a phone (even while out during labor with my 4th child), I’ve only needed to make a phone call twice. Both times, I’ve simply asked store clerks if I could use their phones, and they were happy to let me do so.

I do not go to meetings. Period.

As a result of these changes, I now have time to answer e-mail from visitors to my website. I can sit on the couch and read to my children without interruption. I can listen to music and pay attention while I drive instead of fumbling with a cell phone. I can invite friends over for dinner instead of sitting in meetings arguing about every little detail of the next church ladies’ luncheon.

2. I’m on a Low-Information Diet

I no longer watch the news or listen to talk radio, and I’ve unsubscribed to most blogs, newsletters, e-mail lists and RSS feeds I used to follow. Despite the low-information diet, I’ve still managed to learn everything I need to know about current events, although with much less stress and heartache.

For example, I heard more than enough about the recent earthquake in Haiti without watching any news coverage, and I didn’t have to process any of the disturbing images I’ve had to process during other tragedies.

The low-information diet has not only provided me with more time, but also with more peace.

3. I Delegate

A few years ago, my husband told me that if I was having trouble accomplishing all that I needed to accomplish, I should pay someone to help me. I was highly insulted!

Now, before I take on a task, I ask myself, “Am I the best person to do this? Is this the best use of my time?”

Do I really need to spend time searching for and printing my own handwriting pages, or can I just purchase a workbook? Do I really need to create my own menus and grocery lists or can I just print the ones from this blog?

Another question I ask myself is, “Is this activity worth the time and energy it requires?”

As a result of having asked myself this question, I gave myself permission to stop clipping coupons and washing my husband’s dress shirts at home. (Or, more honestly, to stop feeling guilty about not clipping coupons and washing my husband’s dress shirts.)

At this point in our lives, the extra savings just aren’t worth the effort. My husband would rather spend an extra $100-200 and have a relaxed, happy wife.

4. I Give Myself Time Limits

The amount of time it takes to complete a task will expand to fill whatever time period we allot for it, so I set time limits on specific tasks to keep them from taking over our days.

For example, I could get on my computer to check e-mail, and easily spend half a day crafting responses, checking stats on my website, reading blogs, chatting on forums, etc.

However, if I allow myself only one hour per day of free time on the computer, I am much more efficient about managing e-mail, and I don’t have time to get into the time-wasting, energy-draining debates that can come from excess blog and forum involvement.

Flylady is also a big fan of setting time limits. A main tenet of her program is using a timer to clean in 5 to 15 minute increments so you don’t get overwhelmed or carried away, and end up cleaning all day.

5. I Don’t Work for Work’s Sake

I don’t create work for myself just for the sake of keeping myself busy, and I don’t give my children assignments just for the sake of giving them schoolwork.

When I hear someone say they clean for 6 hours per day, I think, “What on earth are you cleaning?”

When I hear someone say they teach kindergarten for 6 hours per day, I think, “What on earth are you teaching?”

When I hear someone say they fill 12 workboxes for each of their 4 kids every night, I can’t help but think they are doing school for school’s sake (aka busy work). I’m glad the workbox system has been helpful for so many. However, it saddens me to see moms beating themselves up about not having filled their boxes every night. And if they need to actively search for ideas on how to fill up the workboxes, perhaps 12 boxes are unnecessary.

Anyway, now that I am no longer doing things I don’t value, I have more time to do the things I think are important in life. I get to sit down and eat with my children instead of standing over the counter stuffing food into my mouth. I get to color with my daughter. I get to take naps with my preschooler. I get to spend time making faces at my baby until he smiles, and I get to look at him. Really look at him. And even then, he still grows too quickly.

I don’t want you to think I execute all of this perfectly, because I do not. But the changes I’ve made are serving us well, and I wanted to share them with you.

I loosely follow Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Workweek blog, and on it I found this video from homeschooler Chuck Holton in which he mentions using 4HWW principles in his home school:

I e-mailed Chuck for more information, and he gave me permission to share the following:

“We try to include lessons from the 4hww in our holistic approach to homeschooling. I’m trying to raise creators and owners, not worker bees. Plus, the concept of maintaining ‘margin’ is very important – we teach our kids that work will expand to fill whatever timespace it is given – therefore it’s important to compress timeframes by setting deadlines, even in their daily schooling. As such, they usually try to finish with school by lunch time, which gives them lots of time to pursue other activities and just be kids…”

“We use a computerized curriculum called ‘Switched on Schoolhouse.’ Quite possibly the worst written code on the planet, but it works once you invest about 100 hours on the phone with tech support. I wish there were another computerized curriculum that would work for us, but so far we haven’t found one.

We went to the computerized model after my wife realized she was spending 4+ hours per day correcting papers. Now it’s much less of her time – automate, delegate, eliminate!”

Follow this link to learn more about The 4-Hour Workweek.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Kitty February 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Very smart approach to the day…:) And it is great to see you so much happier! I hope your new little one is blossoming as well as your others and keep up the great work! I love reading your blog and you have helped me so much. We are a workbox family, and about 6 of them are filled, and not every night…:) And if we don't get to them, they just stay there and we will work tomorrow. Life is too short, and I know my children are thriving…:) Great job!

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Tiffany @ Eat at Home February 24, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I really like the ideas in this post. I've heard of that book before, but thought it was just a get rich quick scheme thing. Now I want to read it! I like the idea of applying the principles to homeschooling.

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Carletta February 25, 2010 at 4:09 am

Kitty, I think your use of workboxes is a great example of how we can take ideas that are shared and tailor them to our needs rather than feeling burdened by them.

Tiffany, 4HWW does have some get rich quick type stuff in it, but there are lots of great nuggets in there about wise time management – far more than I've had time to share.

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Brandi February 25, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I really liked this post! I am interested in checking out the 4 Hour Work Week from my library but I think your application of the "nuggets" you found as a hsing mom is of the greatest value! I have implemented several of the same things over time as we have added children to our family. Thanks again! I, too , find your blog posts helpful for myself and for passing along to new HS moms.

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Sarah February 25, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Carletta, I can relate to what you're saying. I am 20 weeks prego with my fourth (oldest just turned 5 this month) and I simply cannot do all that I come across. I have to be choosy.

One thing I have recently decided to blanketly say no to is attending "second showers," (i.e. when a friend has a second, third, etc. baby) and I may let that carry over to first showers at some point, if what it would mean is that our weekend is less family time and more "doing stuff." I have a long way to go in the area of prioritizing, but I am pretty tenacious about protecting my family's evenings and weekends. If it means we'll be going our separate ways (and that doing so would not be helpful), I'll usually say no to it.

Thank you for the much-needed challenge to do less, not more. It seems we are bombarded with the do-it-all idea, and it's refreshing to hear someone who doesn't do it all, and doesn't even think it's good!

Love your posts!!!

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Pamela March 2, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Your post is very timely for me- I have been reading the 4hww as well, and it really has me thinking about how I spend my time. I tend to lean towards Funschooling anyway, but it's amazing how many things we can throw into our days that don't really benefit us, nor do we enjoy without even trying. It definitely has altered my mind set to thinking about how I can eliminate things to enjoy our homeschooling even more. Thanks for sharing.

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Laughing Lioness March 8, 2010 at 4:53 am

Great post. I just started the 4 hww.

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Carolee March 11, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Loved your post.

This is my 1st year "officially" homeschooling- I think we parents homeschool all the time.

We are relaxed/eclectic and I feel terrible for the HS kids that have to sit 6 hrs. a day doing paperwork that is so like school.

I feel kids learn much better hands on, doing things how they learn best, which is usually not a full day of busywork!

I will have to read that book- I do too much myself.

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Rachel March 15, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Thank you! I make money off my blog it so I don't want to stop working on it, but I think my family is suffering from it, and technology in general! I am going to try to limit my email/twitter and set a timer for myself and see how that works this week. Thanks!

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Best Homeschool Buys March 25, 2010 at 5:40 pm

You really hit home with this post. I have a homeschool website, too, and I also find it hard to find time to take care of all the family responsibilities, homeschooling, and have a small business. I especially like your suggestions of not going to meetings and cutting yourself off from news. I'm not sure that is possible for the long haul, but it certainly can help a person stay focused on getting a lot accomplished in a short time.

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Jennifer May 12, 2010 at 1:25 am

Wow, I'm very impressed!!! I need to start doing this myself. I have 5 children that I homeschool, plus I work at home…plus I have to clean the house…and do the shopping…it isn't easy, but I usually do OK, even though many things get put off a little longer than they should.

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Kelly July 25, 2010 at 3:56 am

I really need to follow some of these principles!

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Kristine August 30, 2010 at 10:05 pm

A few people commented that they make money off of blogs. I've been thinking of doing some blogging but I didn't realize a person could make money off of it. How does that work?

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jimmie January 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm

What a wonderfully insightful post, Carletta! I appreciate how you’ve made hard decisions to do what is best for your family. People look at me oddly when I say, “I don’t watch news.” But you know, it works for me now. I use that time for other things. And I’m not afraid to grocery shop when it’s dark like my friends are. We have to analyze our day and do what brings God the most glory.

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Jenn Collins July 23, 2011 at 8:24 pm

I have a 4 yr old girl turning 5 Aug 9th and a boy who turned 3 july 2nd. I have her enrolled for kindergarten this school year but my heart and my gut say NO! I WANT to home school but I find myself so impatient with my daughter. Plus I fear I’m not smart enough, but I truly believe it’s the best option! I live with the guilt that I’ve been a sahm for 5 yrs and I never really tried to ‘teach’ them things….. I too filled my time with projects. I really admire your honesty !!!!!!!

Jenn

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Carletta July 24, 2011 at 8:00 am

Hi Jenn, I was really afraid my first year of homeschooling, too. I was worried that I was too impatient, didn’t have the skills to teach them to read, etc. I’ve found that I’m gaining the character and knowledge I need to homeschool while doing the job. I have grown in patience, creativity, organization, etc. Homeschooling truly is a journey you take together as a family and not something you need to have all figured out before you start.

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