I had figured it out. “It”, in this case, means our homeschool schedule. I had finally arranged all of the subjects so that they were appropriately distributed and the schedule worked for all of us, Mr. December included. I heaved a big sigh of relief and went to tell Mr. December the good news.
“This is great!” He said. “I think we should give each kid a system like this with cards so they can choose their own schedule for the independent work.”
“Good idea,” I said, picturing a magnetic to-do list for each child, where they could move their tasks around to suit their own work preferences.
But he wasn’t done: “Actually, we should make the cards different sizes for different lengths of work periods, so math might be an hour but read-aloud might only be 30 minutes. And we’ll probably need icons on each card to show if it’s independent, adult-dependent, or a family activity. Oh, and maybe a different design for things like dentist appointments, that the kids can’t move around on the schedule. You know the cards and the board need to be scaled the same so that it makes sense visually, you know, so three hours look longer than one hour…”
He might have continued past that, but my internal dialogue had ramped up by then. All I wanted to do was give them a different way to organize a to-do list of their schoolwork! Not teach them all the complexities of maintaining a calendar for six people!
Oh, wait. I actually said that quiet part out loud. Oops.
What Mr. December is describing seems to be just a few items short of a schedule you might see in a large corporation, where people need to book conference rooms and have to see what everyone else on the team is doing. Such a schedule is, I hear, indispensable in a corporate setting, but I fear that it’s a bit much for a humble homeschool. At what point do all the different icons, words, colour codes, and shapes become confusing visual clutter?
Visual clutter is a concept that’s been with me since K started Montessori at age 3. The classroom was neat, organized, relaxed, and serene—partly because of the natural colour palette, but mostly because there was plenty of empty wall space. In contrast, when I went into a public school with N (we volunteered for Roots of Empathy), the walls were littered with posters about spelling rules, motivational sayings with inspiring pictures, behaviour charts, and math facts–each more colourful and eye-catching than the last. Apparently there just wasn’t enough space on the walls, as clotheslines with posters criss-crossed the classroom ceiling. It felt like an assault on my eyes.
Ever since then, I’ve tried to keep our home visually uncluttered. Homeschool has changed that to a degree, because the fact is that some things need to be posted where everyone can see them. Still, I believe that there’s such a thing as too much information on a single poster or chart, and I fear that adding all of Mr. December’s suggested information will make these charts so cluttered as to negate their original purpose. Does everything really have to be so complicated?