I am homeschool emeritus now, going on six years, and I still reflect fondly on the many many years when I homeschooled my own and on the few years, where I in addition to my own homeschooled some wonderful kids from another family.
I also remember how busy those years were with the kids in the house, the kids with me ever always no matter where I was and what I was doing. I am fortunate in that I have close relationships with all my adult kids (all are 20+) to this day, and I will always be grateful for those many years and the many wonderful times I spent with them pursuing literature, Latin, math, science, Bible study, prayer, cooking, field trips.
However, the topic I want to write about this morning is not reflections on homeschooling but quiet time and time alone. Every mom deserves a calm quiet home as well as time alone. And none more than the stay-at-home mother who also is homeschooling.
These days I work a full time job, and I still have my 20 year old son with Down syndrome to take care of in addition. Many mornings can be frantic. We get up at 5:30. Ben’s bus leaves at 6:30. Ben with his Down’s and an additional diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder is not exactly faster than greased lightening, which is why we get up a full hour before the bus shows up at our door step.
The goal is to get Ben on the bus, calm and positive, so when he arrives at his job training he will actually be cooperative enough to have a productive day. (And while that happens on most days, it is not a given for any one day.)
He needs to pack his backpack with his lunch, his stuffed animals. He needs to put on clothes and select the tie or bow tie of the day — all those details are part of a self-soothing routine that helps him feel like he is in control of his day, that he knows what comes next, and all that helps him look forward to the rest of his day. (The bus ride, the landscaping crew, the swimming in the afternoon, the ride home, etc.)
Facilitating morning calm has lead me to put on classical music in the background, light candles at the breakfast table, and always serve a soothing warm bowl of steel cut oatmeal with raisins and syrup. Ben likes the predictable routine, and he likes eating slowly…. and I mean S–L–O–W– L–Y.
Now, I realize Ben is unique and that most kids don’t get bent out of shape and refuse to cooperate for the rest of the day when their routines are disrupted. Of course not. And part of raising well-adjusted kids in homeschooling is honing them to be flexible enough to deal with the unexpected with grace and understanding.
However, I would maintain that events that cause persons with mental illness like OCD to get unbalanced are generally events that might elicit a response in the rest of us too, just not to the same extent. In short, just like my son Ben, most kids do best when they don’t feel rushed, when they can foresee what comes next, and when their days are full of pleasant things they enjoy doing. — I.e. good routines (with a little built in flexibility) are conducive to a calm homeschool atmosphere.
I had weekly checklists for each of my kids as soon as they were old enough to read and follow a routine. I started with simple weekly plans for gradeschoolers and by the end of high school they were elaborate enough for the students to be mostly self starters with check in points built throughout the day.
The next few blogs I will discuss these in more detail. Today I will simply allude to them and to why they are so important for bringing calm both to the homeschool and also for buying some time for mom to have time to herself.
When your kids have a routine that includes a checklist for their daily and weekly work, including times where they work with mom and times when they work alone, they will be more independent at doing their own work, and they know when you are available and when you are not. (more on those checklists later).
You (mom) are a precious person, created in the image of God. As such you deserve privacy and time to yourself just as well as the next person (including both husband and children). You need to take care of yourself, and that would include quiet time to pray and meditate on Scripture. It also includes time to take a walk (or whatever exercise you do to take care of your body), and it includes ‘down time’, be that reading a relaxing book or article, watching a movie, talking to a friend on the phone — whatever it is that helps you chill.
That time need not be long, it could be spread over several days. Sometimes it is only 5 minutes, some times it is 30 minutes. Many moms I know schedule 2 hours quiet time in the middle of the day. Some moms take that time after the little kids are in bed. Moms of bigger kids (high school – homeschool) may more readily take that time in the middle of the day.
I will wrap up this piece with our homeschool routine towards the end of our homeschooling years and continue next time with checklists.
We would get up at 6:30. Everyone had his or her own alarm, and we would congregate down stairs at 7 for breakfast. Every kid spent roughly 15 minutes to get dressed, and 15 minutes in chores, one of which was getting the cereal and milk on the table for breakfast. Before we would eat, we would read the scripture of the day and pray together. After prayers, we would eat, and after eating, we would do 15 minutes of chores to clean up and start laundry, and then the school day would start with reading aloud. — Something everyone loved, a carrot to start the day and a motivator to get the chores done.
We would read novels aloud, like Treasure Island, Sherlock Holmes. Later we would read (and each take different parts) in Shakespeare’s plays. One year we read 30 minutes of War And Peace every morning till we were done (took us 14 months).
After reading we would discuss a bit, and then move onto our homeschool day.
Each kid’s checklist would get each kid started, and each knew when he or she had time with me to go over new subjects. I would always start with the youngest and most needy, while the older ones started themselves.
Mornings — super important. Morning calm — super important. Looking forward to mornings — super important.
How we start our days often determine our attitudes throughout the day. — And even today, depending on the needs of the members of my household, we aim for a calming, soothing, positive, prayerful start to our morning to lay the foundation for a productive and calm day.