358 | Create a Simple Schedule Like Benjamin Franklin's (Janice Campbell)
Janice Campbell, a lifelong reader and writer, loves to introduce students to great books and beautiful writing. She holds an English degree from Mary Baldwin College, and is the graduated homeschool mom of four sons. You’ll find more about reading, writing, planning, and education from a Charlotte Mason/Classical perspective at her websites, EverydayEducation.com, Excellence-in-Literature.com, and DoingWhatMatters.com.
Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
American Literature (Excellence in Literature English 3)
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Janice Campbell Hello and welcome to The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Janice Campbell and I'm one of the many hosts here on the podcast. Each week we bring you an encouraging conversation from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. While the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we don't pretend to have all the answers to all the homeschooling questions. It is our hope that this podcast will point you to Jesus Christ, that you may seek his counsel as you train your children in the way they should go.
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Janice Campbell Hi, I'm Janice Campbell, and today I'm going to talk about Benjamin Franklin's simple schedule. There are a couple times each year that I spend extra time thinking about schedules, routines, planning, and goals, and January is one of those times. The simplicity of Ben Franklin's schedule has inspired me as I've tried to keep healthy and balanced rhythms in my own life. The point of time management is not to control time, but to help you accomplish the things that matter most. I've made schedules for every stage in my life. I revise them every few months just to make sure that they fit; and one mistake I consistently made in the early years of scheduling was to try to include too many activities and too many details. It took me a long time to realize that it works better to schedule fewer activities for each day and make extra-generous time estimates for each of them. Doing so provides a margin for the unexpected. And really, isn't there always something unexpected? It can reduce stress during the day because when the dog chews up something, or barfs on the carpet, or the children, you know, have an accident,or whatever, your schedule is not upset if you don't have too much in it. So, reducing stress can be one byproduct of having a good schedule.
Janice Campbell But one thing that has helped me learn more about scheduling is reading about schedules that older writers had. I have a really interesting book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, and it tells how writers, painters, musicians, philosophers, and so forth created their work, planned and scheduled their time. But one of the schedules that has inspired me especially has been the one that comes from Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. He seemed to have a very good grasp of the reality of what can be fit into a day, and how to use time well, and set a goal, and all of those things-- We put different words to it today. And you can read about his schedule in his own words on my DoingWhatMatters.com blog-- But here's a look at how Benjamin Franklin spent his days. So from 5 to 7 a.m.--the first chunk of time--the first thing he did was consider his morning question. And each morning he asked himself, "What good shall I do this day?" And that sort of set his vision for the day. What good did he want to accomplish? And at that point, he had some practical things. He got up, got ready for the day. He--as he phrased it--he'd "rise and wash". And then he suggested addressing "powerful goodness", which would be equated to prayer. We would probably just put prayer on our schedule. He suggested contriving the day's business--which was just deciding on his main tasks for the day--and then he took the resolution of the day. So he wanted to focus on a virtue each day: trying to build better habits, be more punctual, be more focused in his work, and so forth. And so he would pick one virtue at a time to work on. And he kept track in his little notebook how well he was doing. And he writes extensively about that in his autobiography, which is quite interesting. So continuing with this 5 to 7 a.m. time slot that he had, he continued with his current topic of study. So apparently he always kept a topic of study going, something that he was trying to learn more on, and he studied science and politics and economics and all the things that he needed in his particular life role. And he also had breakfast during this time. So between 5 and 7, he had a little routine that he followed in order to be ready for his day.
Janice Campbell From 8 to 9 a.m. he worked. And so that doesn't have to be employment, but it's just tasks related to your current role in life, whether you're homeschooling, or actually working at work or from home, homemaking, or whatever. So 8 to 9 a.m. was Benjamin Franklin's work time, and then he has work scheduled later from 2 to 3, also...continuing tasks. But from 10:00 in the morning to 1:00 in the afternoon, he would read material that's relevant for his life, "overlook his accounts" as he states (checking his bank statements and bills), and then he would have lunch. So approximately 3 hours for that. And then going back to work...working. And then from 4 to 7 p.m., he would tidy his home or office. He-- As he put it, he would "put things in their places." My grandmother would have loved that particular line item. She was very, very devoted to having a place for everything and everything in its place, and it does make life much more pleasant. Franklin also did supper, and then after supper he planned to have music or diversion or conversation. Something-- A pleasant way to spend time after supper. At 8 p.m. he would have what he called the examination of the day. And, from what I can tell from his autobiography, it was similar to the spiritual practice known as The Daily Examen. So you would reflect on the day, be grateful for things that went well, consider things that you could have done better at, and consider--if you are a person of faith--whether you are drawing closer to or moving farther from God in your daily activities and decision making. After Benjamin Franklin had done his examination of the day, he considered his evening question: "What good have I done today?" You remember that he bracketed his morning-- His first morning question was, "What good shall I do today?" And then in the evening, he asks what good had he done. So after he's had time to do the reflection and his evening question, from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., he had scheduled sleep.
Janice Campbell So obviously his life--Benjamin Franklin's life--had a very different rhythm from ours. He was planning only for himself rather than for a family. But his schedule contains all the essentials for a good life. Each thing had a place on his schedule--it could be done simply and routinely so that there wasn't a lot of decision-making in getting all his basics done. He wrote a schedule in what he called his "little book", which seems to be a small notebook he carried daily. It sounds like a cross between a traditional commonplace book (in which you would record the quotes from things that you read and want to remember) and a modern bullet journal (which is a place to record your daily schedule and to-do lists, plus your personal notes.).
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Janice Campbell But when you have a routine or schedule similar to Ben Franklin's outline of the day, if a visitor or an event unexpectedly takes up a whole day, the interruption doesn't mean that the whole week's schedule is out of whack. Because if something is skipped on one day, it can just be done the next day so that nothing falls too far behind. With a simple schedule like Franklin's, getting things done just means doing the next right thing in each category. Even in homeschooling, this works. We call it a loop schedule where you just have a time slot in which you work on a particular subject--say history or whatever--and when you're finished with your time slot, go on to the next topic. The next day you pick up your history and continue on. I will note that Franklin lists only two hours a day for work, but his autobiography was written when he was older and his reading time was also part of his work life as a writer, so there's considerably more than two hours. But he was a statesman and a public figure, and he wrote, you know, continually most of his life. But I'm sure that when he was younger, he probably devoted more time to earning a living as well. But for us, work is whatever you do with the bulk of your time. Again, homemaking, homeschooling...that counts as work, too. So my biggest takeaways from Franklin's schedule was to have a focus for each and every day. That was the biggest takeaway... Always have a focus. Always have priority set: things you're going to work on, things you're going to study, and anything else you're going to be doing. Be sure that your routine includes things that really matter, such as family meals, learning and planning. And then the third thing would be to not overfill the day.
Janice Campbell So first, have a focus. Second, include the things that really matter. And third, don't overfill the day. You can read a bit about my own methods of time management in the planning section of my Doing What Matters blog. My own methods tend to be really simple because simple routines are easier to follow if your life has a lot of moving parts. Most of the time that I was homeschooling, I was also caregiving and creating a business, writing, doing all sorts of things. And, you know, many of us have those kind of complicated moving parts in our lives, and simple routines can help remind us of the next right thing to do. And it's when you have a downtime moment, you can be doing something you planned for and wanted to do rather than falling down a social media rabbit hole, which is, I think, a continual temptation for some of us. But a simple routine gives us the next right thing to do or the next thing that we just desire to do and accomplish, or just keep our lives on a smooth and even track. So if you want to read more about Benjamin Franklin and his interesting life, his autobiography is a great resource, especially if you enjoy early American history. He is full of pithy quotes and he had an extremely interesting life. So my American-- My Excellence in Literature students read it in the first module of American Literature, which is my English 3 for high school. But you can just read it for fun because it really is fun to read. He lived long ago, but Benjamin Franklin's schedule reflects wise priorities. So as you seek to become the person you want your children to remember, his schedule can help remind you that doing less is sometimes the most important choice you can make. But however you choose to manage your time, remember to always make time for the people and things that matter most. Finally, I'm going to leave you with one of my favorite Benjamin Franklin quotes about time. He writes, "Do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." Thank you for joining me today. I hope you found it helpful to learn a bit more about Benjamin Franklin and his simple model for scheduling. I'm Janice Campbell of ExcellenceInLiterature.com and EverydayEducation.com. And I wish you joy in the journey.
Janice Campbell Thank you for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.Mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share. Because you deserve healthcare you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschool Conventions.com/MediShare. That's GreatHomeschool Conventions.com/MediShare. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents, like you, get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom. That's @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode.
Janice Campbell Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the U.S. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you there.
Janice Campbell Finally you can connect with me, Janice Campbell, at EverydayEducation.com where you'll find my Excellence in Literature curriculum, Transcripts Made Easy, and more. As well as at my blog DoingWhatMatters.com, and my literature resource site ExcellenceInLiterature.com. I wish you peace and joy in your homeschooling journey.