Blessed are the flexible, for they’ll never be bent out of shape.
At least, that’s what I’ve heard.
I pride myself on spending gargantuan amounts of time each summer planning our school days–selecting curriculum, thinking through a workable schedule, ordering my own workload in order to take advantage of peaks and valleys in each child’s day, etc. Although we have a problem with consistent interruptions (hubby’s travel schedule, which sometimes means a midday trip to the car rental agency or the airport, forgetting that one household item needed for a science project, our days have flowed seamlessly for the last several years–until this year.
Though by a homeschooler’s definition, I don’t have a big family, I am at a point where the age split between siblings means that I have one who is slowly, in baby steps, leaving our home, and one who is just beginning to settle into a “big girl” routine. Our son is somewhere in between, thankfully flourishing in his ability to work independently. Add to that my single parent-like state while hubby’s often on the road, and you have what I consider to be a mess.
Here is our daily schedule as it has been for this semester:
~ 8-ish: Wake up the oldest (the kids insist on using “their” bathroom, so oldest wakes up son once she leaves the bathroom at ~8:45-9–she really enjoys the bathroom)
~9-ish: older kids are downstairs for breakfast while I finish tie-ing up loose ends (including computer time)
~9:30: I wake up the youngest
~9:30-1 p.m., Tues., Thurs., and Fri.: the kids are somewhere between breakfast and school work, with the youngest taking a break after a couple of subjects
~11:45-2 p.m., Mon. and Weds.: taking the oldest to college, plus travel time.
~1 p.m. (or after returning home) – 4 p.m.: lunch and school
On paper, we look great. The problem is, more often than I care to admit, we aren’t finished at four; we just have to quit in order for the kids to meet their evening commitments–mostly dance commitments. This leaves us reading often at 9 p.m. or later, after the kids have returned home and debriefed about their class, who was in it, what they did, what everyone said, blah, blah, blah. The funny part of this debrief is that, at least with my older two, they are in the same classes, with one exception! To hear them, you’d think they went to two separate studios!
There is value in nighttime reading. Sally Clarkson of I Take Joy and my homeschooling “bible,” Educating the Whole-Hearted Child, lists as a part of her schedule having a family time to read both during the day and in the evenings. When I began homeschooling with a 3rd grader and a kindergartner, we read in the evenings as an integral part of our day. It kept, and still keeps, the kids from running toward the television. However, now the reading feels more like a chore, or a bullet to check off on a to-do list. Not the content of the reading, mind you, but the act of getting everyone to put aside their other activities, momentarily stop all the discussions that seem so critical at the time, and focus in on a book seems like a Herculean effort on all parts. Of course, the fact that I’m generally winding down at this hour (mentally, if not physically) doesn’t help, and I’m sure my attitude passes down through the kids when it’s time to gather together at night.
What to do? The part of me that is inflexible in terms of school and requirements (laid down primarily by moi, of course) has to step aside and let a less structured sister take over. Ugh.
Here are some thoughts that have crossed my mind as I navigate these waters:
1) Pray. Always pray, in this case about priorities (who says I need to do all of this “stuff,” and if not this stuff, what stuff am I supposed to do right now?). Philippians 4:6 is one passage that shows us the appropriate attitude to have as we seek answers from the Father. If the worst of my home education issues is that I cannot juggle well a daughter who is between home and college, a husband who’s working (albeit far away), and the other assignments God has given me, I am blessed.
2) Re-evaluate my pockets of free time. Free time looks very different now than it looked even last semester, and that’s a part of the frustration. Just as I developed a flow, the semester line-up changed, and now the oldest doesn’t have to be in class until 12 noon–too late to forego school altogether, but early enough that it disrupts the flow of the day, especially for the youngest. But when I looked at it, Mondays and Thursdays are great days for grading, and I will perhaps change the schedule of the youngest as well so that I don’t return home with that 2:30 p.m. feeling and still have half the day left with her, plus reading to/ with the older two.
3) Re-frame my thinking about reading at night. As I said, this isn’t so bad, especially right now while I have little or no class load. In keeping with #1 listed above, who is to say that these adjustments aren’t happening so that I can get back to where we started several years ago? As I stated earlier, reading with them is a time of coziness and family intimacy for us, and for the youngest, time away from plugged-in recreation, and away from some of the mischief that increasingly finds her idle hands.
4) Get the kids informed and involved. After sharing my concern with the family during our prayer time, the kids came up with a couple of good ideas. Listening to them helped me realize how much I needed their understanding and buy-in to make the necessary adjustments. As one example of the shape of things to come, I will speak/ be a vendor at 3 conferences in April. Add travel time to that, and we are basically here two days of any given week. I loved hearing them say that we should take off in April and then school in June.
5) Seek the wisdom of those who’ve been there, done that,and now own the t-shirt. My blog buddy Dawn is a very special mom to some very special kids. From her posts, I gather she spends as much time schooling at the doctors’ offices as she perhaps does at home. I was able to draw from that, and now we pack books and school while waiting for the oldest, either in the car or at the nearby city library. It was the wisdom of a couple of friends who’ve learned to go with the flow of life rather than attempt to swim upstream (as I do) that made me think about taking an extended spring break to meet travel demands and use the summer to educate, when it’s too hot to be outdoors anyway. I really stopped to take in the moment when the kids suggested it. It wasn’t too long ago when I suggested such a schedule and the kids balked vehemently at the thought that they’d be “trapped” inside when their public school peers were free to roam. I guess we’re all growing up.