Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rhythm's Rewards/Les Gains d'un Rhythme Regulier

Setting a pace and a mood for one's home means continually adapting to the changes in family dynamics while remaining mindful of the need for certain parts to remain the same. When my first two children were small, it was so easy; we ate, we played, we slept, we started all over. The trouble is, I did not know it was easy, it seemed to take all of my strength and then some.
It was as hard and as lovely as I could ever imagine being a parent would be. 

Now I have a house full of young individuals with whom I would each like to spend more hours each day than the clock provides. They, in turn, would also very much like me to take them to archery, ballet, kung-fu, shopping for clothing, the library, etc., as well as have a "big kid movie night" to which I am very honored to be invited, but which happens to be, unfortunately, after my new bed time. Some of them also like to play games, read aloud, go to the park and jump on the trampoline with Mama. I am so very lucky. 

I have spent some time refining our schedule; both with my husband and with the lovely woman who has once again agreed to be our homeschool consultant; Melisa Nielsen*. It came down to getting to bed by 9 so that I could get up and do the things I mean to do the next day. Proactive, that. If I have that time in the early am to write, check email, throw in a load or two of laundry and start something nice for breakfast, I am ready when the munchkins awaken. Then there is the bit about sticking to a set schedule. This comes naturally to me, my children and I both need this regular rhythm. I also like to finish up something that has captured my entire attention and refuses to let go. Having to stop an interesting discussion on history or science or end a painting session because it is time for something else is no fun. 

We tried the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling for a while. The great appeal to me was that it was all based on living books. My kids loved that they got to quit math when the bell rang. There are abandonned Century Books that attest to that period of our lives. In the end, I felt that such a large amount of lessons per day did not allow us the time to concentrate on one subject enough to go into the depth that homeschooling allows us to pursue. 

My desire for freedom from all that an institution brought to education kept leading me back to "unschooling", yet with the mistaken notion sometimes that spontaneity was hampered by a schedule. The many stories of families who succeed when they "live their lives," seemed to make sense and sounded so appealing. I would write, cook and put things in order while they played in the morning, then when we were getting to a lull, start in with together time and a walk. Sometimes it all got done, but more and more we were either not getting to what my lesson plans had down for the day, or working until 4 in the afternoon. I tried to chill out and just take each day as it came; we homeschooled, so we could spend the day doing it, no problem. The trips to the museum or library were put on hold and felt like stealing time from our "school day" when they happened, which seems wrong in the big scheme of things. If we can't ever get out of the house, we are more home-bound than home-educating, definitely not the best of both worlds.

Actually, it is much more helpful to a child for them to know what to expect at each moment of their day. This does not mean at each minute of the day, just an order to things that stays the same.  In fact, I find that when we stick to our planned time frame, we accomplish what needs to get done and then we have more time for whatever else we may wish to do. I try to respect my children's own internal clocks, but only to a point. My 11 year old, Valentine, has frequent migraines, so adjusting her sleep schedule has been an ongoing thing for the past year or so. We've tried earlier and later bed times and waking up earlier and later, to see what could most help her. It is no use trying to accomplish anything with a child in pain and a dramatic way of expressing it. However, it IS useful for her to know what I expect to be done by 8; up and ready for a walk, then by noon; chores done, lessons done, daily activity accomplished (knitting, baking, form drawing, painting and piano, one each day.) She then has the weight of getting it done and cooperating when it is her turn for a lesson or her work needs to be tended to. Then there are the two teenagers who would stay up until the wee hours and sleep until 11 if left to their own devices. Is this the beauty of homeschooling? Maybe for some, but I worry too much about the sleep their growing bodies need for it to work here. 

The beautiful thing about getting back into our normal rhythm is that it has allowed me to see some things with clear eyes again. I am very lucky to have a job that I love outside the home, with flexible hours. When the office calls me with an interpreting assignment, there is always at least one person who needs me; waiting in the ER, all alone in a courtroom, or worse, at the dentist, wondering what the person across from them wants from them or needs to communicate to them. It is hard to say "no." However, with a set time for each day's events, it all looks a lot clearer. Yes, I am home, yes, I am answering the phone, but there are things happening here that will be missed if I leave; now, today or tomorrow. We have plans; for the morning, for meals and for the time inbetween! At the same time, because we have been consistent with our lessons and our time together, it is possible to leave sometimes and have it all go well, catch up or have work they can do independently. It is even better when my appointments are scheduled in advance, but life does not always work that way. We are back on track; the one that works for me.

*You can find Melisa Nielsen at, along with Waldorf curriculum, a fabulous yahoo group, a program for inner work for mothers (Thinking, Feeling, Willing). And homeschool consulting that covers everything from getting yourself to a good place to exploring botany through molds and fungus.

1 comment:

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