I know it sounds kind of counterintuitive—isn’t one of the best things about homeschooling that you get to set your own schedule and take as much time as you want with things?—but a few hard deadlines have the power to totally reshape your homeschool life.
Remember how sometimes you needed the pressure of a term paper being due in 24 hours to buckle down and start writing it? The way an actual looming deadline can motivate you to get stuff done is real phenomenon. (It’s called Parkinson’s law after a naval historian who famously said, “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.”) The more time you have to work on something, the more time you’ll probably take to work on it. So if you give your kid, say, a month to work on a project, he’ll take the whole month—but he probably won’t be doing productive work until close to the actual deadline.
This doesn’t mean you should run around setting deadlines for everything. Some things work best when they’re open ended. Not everything needs to get wrapped up neatly with a bow. Rushing through something rarely turns out brilliantly. But giving yourself a deadline—“I will go with the best language arts curriculum I find by June 1”—or your kids a deadline—“Let’s plan to finish this book by next weekend”—can help you work more efficiently. Another plus: Setting deadlines can help your children (and you!) learn to make more accurate guesses about how long something takes. How much multiplication can you do in 10 minutes? What if you tried to take a 30 minute lunch? Can you write a great research paper in three weeks? Understanding the time that goes into different projects can help you plan smarter and work more effectively.