Lately, we’ve really hit our stride with homeschooling. Actually, I feel like I’ve hit my stride a bit more as a mom in general, too. That is not to say things are easier or that the kids have stopped being kids or that I’ve suddenly stumbled upon the secret to making motherhood a snap. Really, it’s all boiled down to two things: perspective, and finding a good fit for my own personal brand of motherhood.
I’ve been in this whole momming gig for almost seven years now and I’ve been homeschooling for a little over a year. I can honestly say I’ve never felt “good” at either one. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed it, I’ve just always felt this tension between all the things I thought/wanted and all the things that were actually happening.
You are given a lot of advice as a mom. I’m starting to realize that good advice is only good advice if its good for you.
Case in point: scheduling.
I am not a schedule person. I don’t like them. I don’t get them. I struggle to create and maintain them. I feel like a trapped animal any time I have reoccurring items on my schedule. Seeing things planned out in advance bums me out. Planning and scheduling takes all the possibility and excitement out of life. Where is the room for spontaneity? Where is the room for wonder? Where is the room for me to change my mind?!? You get the picture. Schedules and me, well, we are like oil and water.
Evvvveryone says they are so important. Especially when you homeschool. So what is a free spirited momma to do?
Well, to be honest, for a while I just felt frustrated. I felt trapped in between doing something I didn’t believe in or want to do, or alternatively, not doing something that everyone is so adamant about being the best or right way of raising kids and educating them at home. But then, I remembered something.
I’m the mom.
Good advice is only good advice as long as it is good for our family.
Research suggests that “whole child development,” not routine or standardized classroom-based learning, empowers children as creative and engaged citizens who can strengthen the wellbeing of a whole society. It is crucial, then, to nurture their creative abilities to express themselves, understand others, and navigate complex amounts of information so that they can confidently solve the problems of a world that’s changing faster than ever. (source)
My husband and I have well formed and and strongly held ideas about education – both about what it is, and what it is not. About what it looks like in it’s healthiest form, and what it looks like in crisis.
My husband is an educator by occupation. I am am one of those people who makes learning a hobby. I love to learn. I love big ideas. And I live in a variable world that is always in flux because I believe in the power – and importance – of change. My husband and I desire to raise kids who not only know subject matter, but who also know how to live and thrive in the world. I want them to be able to converse on a wide variety of subjects. I want them to be able to think outside the box. I want them to be observers of the world, and to be able to respond with thoughtful, well formed reactions. I want them to have skills that go beyond test taking. I want them to be well informed, well educated, people who also know how to live well.
Ok. I’m getting side tracked. But this is exciting stuff!
All this to say, a hard and fast, super rigid schedule just doesn’t fit our life. It doesn’t fit my personality. It doesn’t fit our educational goals. It doesn’t create the type of home life we value. It mostly just makes me crazy and cranky and ain’t no one got time for that kind of nonsense.
So, I’ve released the idea that scheduling our day is something we “need” to do. (Scheduling also happens to be a pretty important part of the Charlotte Mason method, which I’ll continue to incorporate into our education but not in such a regimented way.)
Instead, I’m finding so much freedom and enjoyment in developing daily and weekly rhythms for our family. The concept of daily rhythms has breathed fresh life into our home, and I can’t overstate how refreshing I find this approach. Instead of scheduling out our day, I’ve simply thought through what I want our days and weeks to look like, and I’ve assigned one family/educational value to the day. That’s it. Just one. I don’t give it a time frame or a time limit. I just say – Monday is baking day. Or, Friday is music and art day. Then, from there, I’ve developed some daily rhythms that happen at their own pace and are allowed to unfold naturally. Interruptions aren’t so much interruptions as they are opportunities for surprises. And I’m not constantly keeping one eye on the clock or the calendar. I know what one educational value we have for the day, and I know what family rhythms we have on a daily basis that fill in and around everything else.
Here is what I mean.
You might look at the above “schedule” and think, “That’s not a schedule! There are no times assigned! And that doesn’t have any educational activities on it – how could that be considered school?!” But that is just it. A rhythm is more about a flow than a time table. And it is more about overarching themes and goals than an educational to-do list. Going back to what I said earlier – I want my kids to be skilled students of life, as well as of books. We are never not learning, sometimes our learning just looks like doing laundry together, or baking together for the week, or taking nature walks and noticing the world around us.
Our daily rhythm begins with my commitment to getting up a 1/2 hour earlier than I ever have before in my life – as a mom or otherwise! I’m incredibly proud to say that I’ve successfully gotten up a 1/2 hour earlier than my usual wake up time every single day for the past two months. You guys. You don’t understand how big of a deal this is for me. I’m not a morning person. And I’ve already told you my thoughts on schedules. But this is something I’ve felt strongly about and so I’ve started small and simply challenged myself to be up at 7:30 am, everyday day, no matter what.
Don’t laugh. I know this might seem like a normal adult thing, or perhaps you think 7:30 is still a crazy late wake up time as a mom. But this isn’t about you, this is about me and my journey to figure out what how I can be the best possible version of me…which means I still have to be me. Don’t hold your breath that I’ll ever be a wake-up-before-7:00 kinda gal. 😉
Every day, I wake up at 7:30 and head straight to my tea pot. I make myself a cup of fresh lemon (or lime if lemons are too expensive that week!) and honey tea, and get the kids settled with breakfast. Then, I take a few moments to sit in the living room in front of our big patio door and center my heart and mind. I meditate on truth. I pray. I breath. I don’t spend long here, but it’s enough for me to greet the day actively and authentically. It’s been a powerful daily rhythm for me.
For the rest of the day, there isn’t a real schedule. I know what weekly task is assigned to the day, and we try to get to that before lunch.
We’ve been eating lunch at 12 pm everyday, as I’ve been attempting to incorporate Ayurvedic principles into my personal practices. A consistent meal time of (for me, 12 am) helps support digestion for several reasons, according to Ayurvedic philosophy:
It supports digestion, ensures that we are adequately nourished, and helps calm the nervous system by establishing another predictable pattern that our bodies can rely on.
The digestive fire is strongest at mid-day, from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is therefore the best time to eat our main meal—especially for vata-types, who tend toward irregular digestion already. This also allows us to enjoy a lighter evening meal, which supports sound sleep and deepens the body’s capacity for rejuvenation each night. (source)
A consistent daily lunch time has been another life giving rhythm for us that acts as a grounding and centering point to our day.
The youngest two kids take a nap after lunch from 1-3, and that is when my oldest son and I sit down for our daily, formal instruction. The trick is to stick to our values while continuing to reach goals. It can be easy to slip into rigid schedules, habits, or expectations during this time, so I have to remain mindful of our overarching family and educational values.
I’ll be perfectly honest with you here – schedules and to-do lists and rigid expectations make sense anytime you have goals. It’s much easier to become dogmatic about expectations and become laser focused on what “should” be happening at what time. But unfortunately, that is not how humans really learn and grown. Mass methods of organization don’t meet individual needs.
What I’m saying is – the rigid, overly schedule, standardized world that we live in, whether we are talking about school or life in general – makes sense. It’s the easiest way to accomplish mass goals. What I’m talking about requires so much more awareness, so much constant re-evaluation, and a willingness to let go of preconceived notions and allow learning and life to unfold in a natural (and sometimes painfully non-linear) way.
But this, is what I believe in.
I believe in the importance of developing thoughtful rhythms over rigid schedules that tempt us into leading lives of regulation over relevance. I believe that the most convenient things are rarely the most meaningful. I believe that life only gets better when we realize that what we truly want is going to require a lot more work than we ever could have imagined. I believe that life takes on a depth and meaning and inherit sweetness when we drop arbitrary expectations and start to pursue the more simple, yet complicated work of being human.
I guess what I’m saying, friends, is that life does require so much more work than I ever expected. But that work yields something immeasurably more meaningful to me than I ever knew possible. There really is an ebb and flow to life that we tend to cut off or miss all together when we expect too much certainty or consistency out of it. That ebb and flow offers daily and weekly and monthly rhythms to our lives that, I believe, are truly the current of something good.