keep calm and carry on...{some helpful suggestions}

our family is part of a regional homeschool group, including ten other families, that meets every other friday.
{read on, this isn't all just about homeschooling, i promise.}
our kiddos are given the opportunity to experience an organized classroom environment, 
participating in four different, age-categorized classes throughout the day.

during the hour-long lunch period, two moms monitor the children at recess {we alternate taking turns each week}, while the other ladies take part in a small-group type of setting.

this past week, the question was presented to us, 
what do you do to keep calm?
what techniques do you employ to maintain a sense of inner peace?
many moms enter the homeschooling scene with visions of children dancing through fields with hand-woven flower crowns...
busy home-pupils, noses studiously buried in a pile of field guides...
neat hand-written book reports, curving, looping script covering bright white notebook paper...
students of all ages, gazing in wonder at charts of the human skeleton, eagerly memorizing the periodic table of elements, and avidly studying the maiden flight of the wright brothers {constructing a scale model of their flyer I out of toothpicks, popsicle sticks, and washi tape, of course}...
and all of this done in a peaceful, quiet, calm, serene setting, worthy of the best hazy-edged photo editing you've ever seen.

those moms are usually pulled down to a much different reality.
homeschooling is fabulous.
and it's terrible.
the students are fabulous.
and they're terrible.
those fields have prickers in them...
and the flower crowns fall apart...
and the students would rather bury their noses in playstations and ipads...
and there are days that the handwriting is illegible...
there are still crude jokes and annoying snickers when studying anatomy...
and the model plane dive-bombed into the two-year-old, sending him into screaming hysterics for the next half hour.

basically, it's your typical day around the house...along with the full-time job of teaching mixed in.
i love homeschooling.
i hate homeschooling.
i'm just keeping it really, really real.

but for right now, and for the past six years, homeschooling is what works for our family.
and as such, we've had to implement some rules procedures for maintaining a bit of calm around here...
i'd imagine it's the same struggle in any household...not only those that homeschool.

i thought maybe you'd be interested in hearing some of the insights and suggestions from the moms in our group.  this isn't a one-size-fits-all sort of thing.
this is more like a colander...or a sifter...
pick through...keep what works for you...toss out the rest.

1. establish boundaries and adhere to them.
when we start the school day, the two littles are at the dining room table with me, and the two olders are in their rooms.  to begin the day, i give each of the littles a bit of seatwork to work on while i do my teaching with the older ones.
the littles are to sit there quietly and work on their pages.  this is not the time to ask questions.  if they come to something they don't understand, they are to skip it and ask me about it later.
to be blunt, this is not their time.
this is my time with the two older students.
yes, i am still at the table right by the two little ones.  
but this is not their time.
i cannot handle four kids throwing questions at me all at the same times.  i think there are some moms that would do just fine under those circumstances.
me?  no.
it makes me craaaaaay-see.
so, i've established this boundary, and i adhere to it.
there are still times when one of the little ones will try to interrupt with a question.  i either ignore them {and they usually catch on very quickly as to why they aren't being answered}, or i look directly at them and tell them to go to the next section.  i do not answer questions.  this is not the time for that.

2. afternoons are quiet times.
this is actually a must that several moms brought up.  we all seem to feel the need for a quiet downtime during the afternoons.
that quiet downtime looks different for each of us.
for me, right now, it's pushing the kids to enjoy every last second outdoors before the weather turns frigid later this month.
for a mom of younger little ones, it means nap time.
for a mom without outdoor play capabilities, it means sending each child to a designated space for alone time...they may read, or craft, or even occasionally be on electronics, but they must be alone and they must be quiet.

3. find bits of solitude for yourself.
...and if possible, make sure your spouse is on board with this.
for me, a day full of teaching four littles, combined with the non-schooling day-in-day-out needs of my children, along with my household duties of laundry, cleaning, budget, healthy cooking {and on the list could get the idea}, is enough to have me worn to a frazzle by dinnertime.
fortunately, my supportive husband realizes this and when he gets home from work, he steps in to divert some of the troubleshooting toward him.
i've been down in our room before and heard a child coming down the stairs, only to hear him ask that child what they needed.  when they said they were going to ask mom something, he told them to wait a while, that mom needs some alone time.
i know some parents may view this as selfishness, and i wish i could erase that image from your mind.  it's actually quite the opposite.  i'm a better me, a better mom, if i carve out alone time for myself...i'm actually doing my kids a favor by being unavailable just for a bit.

4. have a set routine and stick to your routine.
one mom in our group has children that rise particularly early.  she found that without a rather rigid, set routine, her mornings tended to quickly get out of hand.  she now has set times that the children are expected to be downstairs for breakfast, along with specific time slots for brushing teeth, getting dressed, and other morning chores.  her husband works from home and helps monitor the hygiene/dressing time, as those times of crossing paths in the hallway seem to be perfect opportunities for it to all fall apart with little conflicts and arguments.

5. get your rest.
i'm currently in a season of rising early every morning.  another mom in the group is a late-riser.  yet another mom tries to grab a short nap each afternoon.  basically, it doesn't matter how you go about it, just make sure you get enough rest and sleep.
the same could apply to your kiddos.  tired kids are cranky kids and cranky doesn't bode well for calm and peace.

6. figure out what works for you.
...and don't worry about it if it doesn't look like what works for someone else.
as stated above, some of us moms are early risers, some late.
some take naps, some don't.
we do our schooling in the mornings, while one of my dearest friends {also nearest, incidentally} does her schooling in the afternoons.
my children think best in the mornings, while i can feel my blood pressure rising with the slackened pace that comes after lunch each day.  their frustration increases, their comprehension decreases, and general unease prevails.
for my friend, the opposite is true.  her kids aren't morning people and for her to try to push the school routine into the morning box just doesn't work for them.
find what works for you.  don't worry if it doesn't look like what works for someone else.  you'll be happier for it.  your kids will be happier for it.  and happy = calm and peaceful far more than unhappy does.

7. organize your schedule and make optimal use of everyone's time.
there are several larger families in our group, and a couple of those moms suggested the resource managers of their homes.  though i've never personally used this system, i've heard very positive feedback on it from multiple sources.
regardless of whether you use that book or not, it operates on the premise that, in a family, each person has something to offer.  too often as moms, we shoulder the majority of the work, forgetting that we have capable little helpers that can help with some things.  no, they cannot do everything...but they can do some things.  
in this post {tip #8}, i share my experience with realizing that my littles are more capable than i thought.
you have some great helpers living right in the same house as you. use them!  your kiddos will benefit from the responsibility they learn and you will find yourself breathing a bit easier when your workload is divided a bit.

none of these suggestions are earth-shattering.
none of them will make a fuzzy aura glow around your won't automatically hear enya playing in the background.
but if you're able to incorporate one or two of them--adjusting them to meet the individual needs and preferences of your family, of course--you may just find that your frenetic days settle down into a more manageable pace.

{pssssssst! if you missed yesterday's post, there's a fabulous jewelry giveaway going on, and it's incredibly easy to enter!}

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post - I'm not a homeschooling mama, but I definitely agree with your advice to work with the dynamics of your family to get the best done! I am loving your penmanship poster. Can you share where it's from, please? Thank you!


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