Monday, August 9, 2010

All Systems Go

It’s that time of year when mamas and school-kids are gearing up. I always have mixed feelings. Several trips to Staples, going through our school stuff, organizing binders, anticipating a busier fall schedule…and I am feeling the all-too-familiar tug toward systems.

But this year I’ve decided it’s going to be different. I’ve sworn off systems.

I’ve always been a fan of systems, methods that allow me to do life more efficiently and productively. I have a strong-willed tendency to equate efficiency and productivity with success. In theory, systems often seem like the answer. In practice, well, I wouldn't know. I've never stuck with one long enough.

When inefficiency and chaos reign, I feel unsuccessful, which no one ever actually aspires to. Prone to distraction, escape, fussing at children, and downright tiredness, I look to a system as savior, wrongly assuming that the right method will eliminate the madness.

Systems seem to enjoy their annual heyday each fall. There is an endless array from which to choose, particularly if you homeschool. {And I do.} Homeschoolers have a love affair with systems. How else can they milk cows, stitch quilts, grind millet, read The Lord of the Rings, and conjugate Latin verbs all before sitting down to a hand-hewn table of organically-grown-in-the-backyard fare? How else can they do all of this while being so well-mannered, so musical, so National Merit-ish?


I have dabbled in many over the years, always looking for the one that will finally make me a domestic goddess and make our home a beacon of order and tranquility. I’d think to myself, "If I can just cook a month’s worth of meals and freeze them, if I can just divide my house into zones and set the timer, if I can just find the perfect chore charts for my children, if I can just find the right expert or book to make me perfect, make my house perfect, make my kids and family-life perfect, we’ll all just be…perfect."

Ugh. How perfectly nauseating.

Of course I don’t actually think I’m aspiring to perfection. No one ever admits to that. Yet on any given day that’s exactly what I do. I erect perfection and order as a shiny, golden idol and I bow down to it, resenting anyone and anything that gets in the way, myself included.

I’m learning, however, that my failure to adhere to any given system is not actually failure. There is no one-size-fits-all system. I should not equate a system with salvation and neither should you. The best system in the world will not cure my lack of discipline in certain areas or tackle the ugly issues in my heart.

Don’t get me wrong…a system is not bad in and of itself. In fact, I have been helped and taught by many a good system, taking with me the elements that worked and leaving behind those that didn’t. But I’ve found that it’s better for me to know myself, know my husband, know our kids, know our lifestyle, understand our values, and then create our own realistic ways of doing life.

The funny thing is, now that I’ve broken free from idolizing other people’s systems, I’ve found a great deal of freedom and confidence to create and embrace my own. I don't need a book or an expert, just common sense.

I’ve got a lot to say about this, so stay tuned. I’ll be writing more from a real mom’s perspective on home and school and thwarting perfection. I’ll even be sharing some {gulp...dare I say it?} “tips” about what’s working for us right now. And I promise, such tips are in no way, shape, or form system-related.

So what about you? Are you a fan of systems?


  1. I like order and organization and yes I guess a "system" but like you, haven't found the right one that fits me....always up for new ideas so I will stay tuned.

  2. I feel for and your brother are a lot alike. A perfectionist is such a tortured kudos to you, for letting go and embracing chaos. I know it's not easy to do.

  3. i'm incapable of using a system, it just doesn't match my brains, but I have an obsession with perfection. It's like my ultimate goal, and if I don't achieve it, life has been wasted. EEK!
    It's a battle. A HUGE battle.

  4. I love the idea of systems, but most of them end up not working for me. The best kind of system I've found is more of a guideline to keep me from going crazy, and my constant mantra is "it doesn't have to be perfect to be good enough."

  5. Using a system of counting out a small amount of money, I just purchased a rather small lot here at Table Rock (about 1/10 of an acre). I'm employing a system of earth-moving devices tomorrow and having it excavated to a depth of 1/10 of a yard(roughly 3.6 inches). Bring all of your failed and frustrating systems, I'll bring mine . . . and we'll bury them all (in no particular order). I'll make it deeper if necessary. Then we'll have cake!!! I LOVE your writing.


  6. Howdy!
    I hate systems and schedules yet I gravitate (sp??) to them just as my children gravitate to order and discipline. They once left me feeling trapped without freedom but I've grown to understand the order in them. Our Father is such a Father of order and timing.
    So I'm praying it's the right time for a double mattress and box springs at your house.

  7. I love the thought of a "system" but after spending way too long putting one together for our schooling last year and then ditching it a few months in, I've decided I'm going to be a bit looser-which means I have no real idea how to order our school days-yet! I know I'll figure it out, looking forward to your tips too!

  8. This was hilarious! Mostly, I think, because it resonated so deeply with me!!! I've never stuck with a system long enough, either... that's why I say "I'm start-up, not maintenance!" I can get it all organized, but please don't expect me to ever keep it that way!!! I love when you said you "create our own realistic ways of doing life." I have come to that point, as well. I know I have gotta have a list, especially as my brain seems to get foggier every day. But I am very fluid with how long it might take me to check off said list. And sometimes I even cross things out and choose not to do them (yes, the rebel in me comes out)! Looking forward to reading about what works for you!! Blessings!!

  9. Oh, honey, I am a fellow worshipper. I hate to admit it, but I do in fact idolize systems--as well as the people who create them and seem to be able to make them work. I'm constantly on the look-out for the thing that will be just THE thing for me.


    Thank you for a light-hearted but serious-headed wake-up call. :)

  10. LOL...I hear ya, my favorite part of homeschooling is buying all the supplies and getting organized for the school year!

    Thank you for your kind words over at Emily's today.

  11. Ah, yes. The elusive "silver bullet" that fixes everything and makes life smooth and manageable. Just when I think I've found it, I realize it was a BB at best.

  12. I love that you say you are an "ill suited" momma :). I call myself that often...we are probably not as ill suited as we think.

  13. Systems just never work for me. I still do something almost completely different nearly every year. Hit and miss. Trial and error. That's what homeschooling looks like in our home. I would love to read what's working for you.

  14. You could have been describing me! I haven't even gotten as far as implementing homeschooling, just talking about the system of it. Decided until I get a system of simple household management, I'm not ready to add the system of h/s.

    Found you through your guest post at Emily's place... read the last seven posts and am convinced we are very similar.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, consider me a new reader who will be back!

  15. Yup, love systems. Me and systems are real tight! So I will anxiously await more posts on this topic -- and your tips, too!

  16. oh, MY! You TOTALLY captured where I am in my life! I've idolized the "how to" and "should" to provide me with direction all out of fear that I'll make a mistake. I am so glad to have stumbled upon this post through your guest post today at Emily's site. I look forward to hearing what you learn...and living my own life in the process instead of thinking I "should" modify my life according to what you've learned. Cheers! :)

  17. This: "Homeschoolers have a love affair with systems. How else can they milk cows, stitch quilts, grind millet, read The Lord of the Rings, and conjugate Latin verbs all before sitting down to a hand-hewn table of organically-grown-in-the-backyard fare? How else can they do all of this while being so well-mannered, so musical, so National Merit-ish?"

    Oh how I adore your writing.

    And, oh how I love to embrace, and quickly abandon a fresh-smelling leather daytimer.


Share your thoughts?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin