Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When Homeschooling Is Not Lovely: Chaos and Space

Homeschooling can be such good, good stuff.  Getting to spend so much of our time together during these early years, attending classes at the nature center and the botanical gardens as a family, learning simultaneously with our children, enjoying dinner conversations about classical music and art and history.  

It is a great life.  

Except for when it's not.  

Normally, when we hit a brick wall, I know well enough to step back and take a few days off from our lesson plans, to let the learning happen organically as we set aside the worksheets and the assignments and explore other interests, seeing where they take us.  

But our Christmas break was only a few weeks ago, and I think some of our current problem may be that we are in need of more structure rather than less.  The Boy Wonder would have seen it as a reward to go in a freer direction for a few days, and that was not the sort of message I wanted to send after the whining and foot-dragging that has been going on as of late.

Now, he is a boy, of course, and a seven-year-old at that.  Being a slowpoke is in his job description, and even on the best of days, I have to say "Come ON, buddy," at least 57 times.  Eating a sandwich takes 45 minutes.  Brushing his teeth takes a minimum of 5 minutes.  Feeding the dogs can take up to an hour, allowing for time to watch a lizard, to pee off the porch steps, and to completely forget what he is doing and head to the sandbox for a while.  Luckily, he is able to focus when he is reading a book, but then the focus is so complete that he doesn't hear me calling him unless I use a megaphone.

Sometimes I understand why teachers are so quick to recommend Ritalin.  A classroom full of distractible children does seem like it could get the tiniest bit frustrating, doesn't it?

Oh, of course I am kidding.  Mostly.

I like structure, you see.  Schedules, to-do lists, and the like.  Where this gets dicey is when I don't notice that some tweaks need to happen to our routine and I just keep trying to force a square peg (The Boy Wonder) into a round hole (my schedule).  

Before we had children, structure was so much less important, but as Life with Baby began to sink in, I realized the only way anything would ever get done again was if I paid attention to the baby's internal clock and scheduled all other responsibilities around it.  It would work for short periods, and then he would shift his napping or nursing schedule, and I would put all my clients on hold for a few days until a new rhythm was established and then I would juggle the rest of our life around it and move on again.

Until a new schedule shift happened, at which time we would repeat the whole cycle.  We were living on the edge, you understand.

The real issue right now, I think, is that we have been following this current routine for so long that it didn't occur to any of us that it wasn't working any longer until, lo and behold, it very much was not working at all.


And I'm the one who keeps espousing a desire to be more present, yes?

So embarrassing.

Small changes have been happening on their own lately, with me recognizing the need to rise before everyone else and to make time for yoga and scripture reading before I wake the rest of the household; and then to end the day with a little bit more time for reading or writing once the kids have closed their eyes and have again begun to resemble the angels they can be.

It is those 12 hours in the middle that merit adjustment, and it is there that I have aimed nearly all of my attention in order to ferret out what must change.  Heather from Beauty That Moves posted her household routine recently, and there was one thing she said that has been my overriding inspiration and comfort while I have contemplated shaking up my kids' (and my) previously set-in-stone routine.  Her daily rhythm is set out in blocks of time, which is the same sort of way my own mind works when attempting to fulfill each of my roles on a daily basis.  As she stated in her post, "Blocks of time are not meant to be filled to the very minute, rather they are space held for certain tasks or projects to be completed within."


[Breathe in.  Breathe out.]

It is a most lovely way to think about it.  Somehow everything seems so much more doable when I think about space being held for each of the responsibilities of our day.  I can hold space in the early morning for my quiet time.  Space will be held at 5:30 for our family dinner time.  The children's story- and bedtimes are less of a chore when I realize I have held space for that time in the late evening.  

I simply need to rearrange our time blocks right now, until we find a way to work and learn during the best times of day for those things to occur for each of us.  I must only hold the space for work, for learning time, for the children to play and run around.  Out of chaos, I will hold space.

1 comment:

Jess said...

Oh. Me. What a dance it all is. This is right on time as I am trying to reorder our days and always squirm and grimace at the thought of minute-by-minute schedules. That would be the shortest path to me feeling like an utter failure.

And p.s. I think a betrothal between RayRay and Bella may be out. She is slower.than.molasses. I sent her molASSes up to clean her room on Saturday two weeks ago. She spent seven hours in her room that day. The room wasn't finished until Tuesday the next week. I fear they would wind up roving and homeless philosophers living on nothing but love...and your benevolent cooking.