Saturday, July 30, 2011

Homeschooling, Working and Routine

OK, this is my game plan, still in the testing stages. It is born of eight months of experience, many moments of worry and many happy hours of planning. Many mothers have a lot more years of doing this than I do, but each family is an individual unit made up of unique individuals. I am looking for a method that will work for us. 

First things first; consistency and rhythm. My first two children were brought up on a strict schedule. I only had two, and they were close in age, it was easy. By the time baby no. 3 arrived, they were in preschool, which meant drop-offs during morning nap time and pick-ups during afternoon nap time. This sweet girl would sleep in her car seat, or on the floor even (the proof that one has more than 2 kids), so things were still pretty easy. After that, I kept to a fairly regular routine, despite two more children, my husband working changing shifts for three years and new activities at new times. 

As the baby has become a four-year-old and largely immune to the need for naps, as the older children have reclaimed a later bedtime, and since I've begun working,  schedules have fluctuated and become less rigid, less predictable. This has not been without consequences. Behavior troubles have sky-rocketed and sibling rivalry has reached an all-time bad level. How do I know it's about rhythm?

This is what I've heard from them: "why are you messing up our schedule to go do something else??" (i.e. an unscheduled visit to someone in a nursing home.) Or yet again, "we never have any time at home." These are children who are homeschooled, who only go out for park day, kung-fu or theatre, guitar class, church, girl scouts, museum visits, twice (at least) weekly library trips, "play dates", (I hate that word), occasional errands to the grocery or thrift store, walks in the woods or family outings. No wonder they are socially handicapped, poor things. True, some of these outings have been increasingly moved to the am when we normally stay home and take care of chores and school, both because of my work schedule and because of evening activities. That does create a sense of chaos for some of my children. They are the ones who need me to create order for them in their world. I will honor that for the sake of their sanity and mine. 

I am renewing my commitment to stability and a regular rhythm. This, for us, means to bed on time, up and ready at a certain time, breakfast over, chores done, computer turned off and ready for a walk. The two weeks they spent at theatre camp were so refreshing this summer because those were the rules and they understood why they needed them; otherwise they could not stay awake, much less function in a 7-hr. a day intensive program. We were all ready and productive at 8:30 am. I loved it. Not to say that this cannot happen when we stay home, but the pressure is not there. For many, this is one of the great advantages to homeschooling. In my opinion, that is their right and privilege; having the option to run your house and your timetable the way you choose. This is freedom, this is why we love our lifestyle.

Next, a plan not unlike that of the past; walk, morning greeting (reciting together our poem of the week for the older ones, circle time for the two youngest), first hour, first assignment, this is when I will have a lesson with my first-grader, occupy my preschooler. Second 90 minutes second assignment, with each of the older three taking a turn with a younger one to read for 15-30 minutes while I give individual lessons or help to one of the others. Last 30 minutes; read aloud with Mama, all together. Then lunch; we always eat lunch and supper together, individual quiet time for an hour, and resume any other work left unfinished. Then it will be time for kung-fu or the library, unless there is a scheduled chiro, doctor or dental visit.

It sounds simple, but so many variables can easily get in the way of keeping to this schedule; doctors who need to be seen at 10am, friends who need a babysitter, an unfinished project from the day before, and work. The very nature of my work as an interpreter is to be available as much as possible. This can get tricky when a call comes for surgery at 5:30 am the next day or an emergency room right now. I hope by firmly re-establishing our rhythm, it will be easier for the children to carry on in my absence. Is it harder without me? Sure. Are they learning important life skills by coping on their own and getting along together without an adult? Definitely. As often as possible, their father will be working from home while I go to work, but they will still need to stick to the schedule in order to accomplish their work and to keep it all nice and peaceful. I will restrict my hours to no more than 2 days a week. I really do love being home with them. I believe that being a homemaker is a full-time, true occupation. I believe in being there, creating and maintaining this harmonious place. I love my work too, and like millions of women past and present, I am hoping to combine the two successfully. If you find yourself doing the same, your thoughts are most welcome. Good luck to you!


  1. it worked :)

    I loved your post because it resonates we me and our life. We've seen that a structured life is much more productive and enjoyed by us all yet, life, all too often, gets in the way.I get calls from my business all the time. Sometimes the questions are simple, some times more involved. Sometimes, they don't need answering right away. Sometimes they do. But they always disrupt my time with the kids. Our first school year was very regimented. Our second very laissez faire. We realized we liked our first year better. More got done and having a certain routine and predictability reduced stress. I am chalking out our plans for this upcoming academic year with skedtrack. Missy will also be responsible for more independent work than before since Bear needs me more for longer lessons now. Let's see how is goes. I also going to be scheduling some extra curricular events on a regular basis. Whereas previously it was pretty relaxed and whenever....

    When you run a business, be it interpreting or advertising (and dealing with employees) you are bound to run into snags. As I was typing this comment I just came upon an idea which will help me with my office calls. Thanks :)

    And thanks for being an inspiration as always.

  2. Thank you! It is so good to have friends who are attempting the same level of expectations and doing it successfully. I don't feel so very inspiring, just sort of on the brink of holding it all together and determined to do so, lol! It will, I imagine, get harder before it gets easier.

    I personally function better with structure, and the children do better too, knowing what to expect when. Every family knows how they best get things done, no one should be afraid to make the changes they see fit to make for their family or themselves. As the French say; "Courage!"


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