A question came through on a homeschool egroup I am on that asked: How do you keep it rolling with your older children while also managing meltdowns, diaper changes, nap times, watching the crawlers and new walkers? What works for you?
Before I had Fia who is now 5 months I wondered just how was I going to manage those things. I knew that having an infant is a full time job alone. She's our 5th child so our daily life is quite full. It has it's busy and calm moments. I worried how I was going to home school older children, tend to the busy body toddler and
be a comfort to an infant who rightfully needs me. I knew it would work out, but how?
Well, here is what has worked for me so far in addition to praying! This comes with the disclaimer that it will not apply to all ;)
1. We are using a different curriculum -I began to look for a curriculum that would allow my kids to work independantly. I wanted something that would be easy for them to grasp and do on their own if need be. I wanted something fun since they are very visual and creative. We had always purchased the tried and true boxed curriculum from ABEKA. My thinking was "When in doubt turn to ABEKA." I still think that way. It's a great curriculum, however this year after the Bob Jones difficult year it pushed me to think outside the curriculum box. We decided to purchase curriculum that wasn't so mainstreamed and well known among all homeschoolers. It has worked out well. I stepped out of fear and tried something new. It's working and the kids aren't completely dreading school. In fact I think they love this school year. Ok Love might be an exaggeration. ;)
2. I have a schedule as a guide. Yes only a guide, not law. I have a mental schedule some what and I allow myself not to be bound by it. We are allowed to stray. I find if I try and stick to it, with the unpredictability of the 5 month old and 2 year old I get stressed. When I fight against the flow of the day I get frustrated. It's not fair to them. Maybe this is what God has for me to do today. Maybe my idea of the day wasn't what was supposed to happen they way I planned. The schedule gets pushed to the side or rearranged and we do what is immediate. So if we have meltdowns, diaper blow outs, an unusually hungry baby, a really clingy toddler, an injury, an attitude, or mom just having an off day, it doesn't mean the day is lost. Deal with what needs to be done at the moment, when and if it gets dealt with, continue with the schedule but don't worry if the time is later than you anticipated. We won't remember the time "lost" in a few days as busy as we are anyway. But think on this for a moment, time was not lost! It never is when we are caring for our kids.
3. We have some structure. I say this for the sake of having rules for the older kids and not letting it become a free for all. We do have rules that I rarely flex on like school work must be done! Home school does not equal or mean Optional school! The rules that I won't flex on are those that develop good habits, morals and values. The kids showering, brushing teeth and getting dressed for school are must dos. No electronics until school and chores are done, be in school by 9 am (I know late huh wonderful benefits to homeschooling) and not a minute later if so then no electronics etc. As you can see we like our electronics ;). Our older kids need some structure. They have chores and set rules that are to be done. Those aren't things I am willing to flex on easily. Well maybe. If they don't get all of the chores done due to helping me or others then I feel they have accomplished far more than sweeping etc. So for us structure is basically enforcing fundamental and moral things.
4. I had to redefine "Productive"- I was viewing productive as doing things other than taking care of the kids. I know it sounds crazy but it comes from the mentality of not being "just a stay at home mom". I battle with having a career that brings in an income while being a stay at home mom. So I feel a bit non productive when I haven't done anything business wise, or saved any money by using resources we have here. I always want to feel I'm contributing something to the family. It's hard not to feel non productive when you haven't done anything on your to do list. Step back and see the exact opposite has happened. We have in fact done our God given job of caring for our children. My husband said to me one day:
Cuddling the little ones sounds productive to me. I don’t think we have a greater responsibility as parents than loving our kids. To me the state of the house on an everyday basis does not compare to spending time with the kids. It does agitate me some when I’m trying to help clean up, especially when I know you’re not happy with the mess, but in the end if it’s a toss up between cuddling Fia, spending time with Helaina dancing or laughing and goofing off with the Ashley, Angela and Adrian or having a clean house then give me the mess any day.
Gosh I love this man! Talk about support and encouragement!
5. Enlist the older ones!- So when all is going a little off the tracks, call for back up! I have older ones as in 14, 14, and 12. I'll say hey guys can you hold Fia while I make this bottle, will you play with Helaina while I change this diaper. Most of the time they are happy for the break away from school work. School work
gets done, but not just in 8 consecutive hours. It teaches the older ones to pitch in, makes them feel important and creates stronger bonds in the family. I am careful not to over use the older ones. They are still my children and not parents to their younger siblings.
6. Don't Compare Yourself! I don't think I'm saying this right but bear with me.. I over heard a mom who's oldest is 12 talking about her home school life as if she and her childern were the bees knees! I had to walk away. I had to in order to save myself from comparing. I don't recall what she was saying I just recall the attitude in which she was saying it. I remember early on I wanted to keep up with other families. For goodness sake that "Little Johnny was doing physics and already accepted into college at the age of 3!" Ok that is an exaggeration but you get my point of parents bragging about how smart their child is. Hearing these stories of exceling far beyond expectation used to bother me. I would get stressed and start academically pushing with the motive to have my child at the top academically. I pondered, "Well you have the opportunity like little Johnny to excel, why aren't you?" I questioned their motivation, their laziness, their ablity to learn etc. I simply had to lay off. This wasn't healthy for our family and I was blessed to catch on while they were younger and stop. When you find your family's way things will naturally happen. It won't be forced. Now when parents "brag" I rejoice with them but you probably won't hear me bragging that my children are "So advanced for their age!" I hope to be supportive and not a hindrance to families. I don't feel the need to brag that my children are smart. Why not? Wise people don't go around sounding like know it alls, patting themselves on the back for their intellegence and making others feel bad because they "don't know". That's actually against our Christian walk. I hope my children's intellegence along with morals and values show natrually in general conversaion with people. Again, I do rejoice with those that tell me about their kids accomplishments. They are considered inspiration, not competition. I believe that we are to encourage and celebrate with one another, not compete. Do what is good and works for your family. Just because you hear the success stories of others doesn't mean you have to keep up with that. I believe you already have your own unqiue success story in the making.
Those things have helped me to grow in my home. I'm taking these days one at a time and praying I'm not making a mess of them lol. Not to say I'm just sailing on through! That is not the case at all. I find the older I get the more irritated with messes I get! I look around at my floor at times and yall I'm telling you I'm ashamed! So on and so forth, but I'm working on it! I hope those bits will help you to know that life is challenging. Do your best and keep going :)