I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I can get more organized. I want to put together a schedule that we actually try to follow. When the baby was born on 9/30/2016, there really was no sticking to a schedule. He was up all hours of the night. I was a slave to his nap schedule. I couldn’t get out of the house or promise to do X at Y time. I had a system: I wrote down stuff I wanted to get done in a day. If I found time, I did them. If not, I had to promise myself to not be upset that I didn’t. But with ever increasing improvements to our lives, I found I could start a schedule. An actual schedule. Do you know what a luxury that it is? To get out a pen and paper and decide you will do a certain thing at a certain time–and not be bossed around by the demands of small children?
I took a mindful week a few weeks ago. It was really great for me. I cleared a lot off my plate, and I think I managed to set some new mental patterns that are slowly becoming second nature. Now I wanted an organization week. I wanted to be ALL OVER planning meals, planning birthday parties, getting new clothes for kids, and doing little mundane things that are often overwhelming when you are a homeschool mother of 3.
One of the things I wanted to put into our schedule was regular outside time. In the morning, my son, who is 1, often begs to go outside. It’s often a battle because I’m in the middle of breakfast or chores. When he went out however, I thought to myself, “Oh. Outside time. That was one of the things I wanted to schedule.” He wanted to go on a walk. Well, I thought, maybe my other 2 kids would come. My son, 5, didn’t. My daughter, 3, however, who can’t bear for me to leave her, came. We went on a little bike ride. My son, who is only 1, does a thing where he pushes his sister on her tricycle. Cute, right?
They got so far and then petered out. They wanted to pick leaves, grass, and petals off of flowers. I had an internal debate in my head about whether or not I could allow them to pick petals off of someone else’s flowers. I concluded the weather and sometimes even lawn service people do worse and one petal off of one flower likely won’t bother anyone. My children’s desire to learn and explore should be preserved at all reasonable costs.
My kids didn’t want to keep going but rather pick the leaves and petals. I thought to myself, “Well this is what they get enjoyment out of. We’ll just do this.” We stood on the sidewalk and did that. I had my Kindle and I was reading. I am reading Rest, Play, Grow by Dr. Deborah MacNamara. She is big on children needing an attached relationship with their parent, to be allowed to play, to be away from screens, and to in essence be allowed to spontaneously grow as children do. I don’t agree with everything the Dr. says, but I find her many stories how to be attached to children inspiring and gave me a lot to think about, as I’ve been struggling with my daughter’s whining.
Then my daughter had to go potty. We had to rush back. She abandoned her tricycle to run home. My son wanted to ride her tricycle, which he can’t. So I was pushing him on the tricycle while carrying the scooter. A distance of about 5 or 6 houses is a lot in this situation! I’m sore as I write this.
When we got back, I did some stuff. Then I went to do my usual thing of just eating a protein bar or something for lunch and then rush my kids into lessons. Then I thought, “Hold up. Why am I rushing this? I need to eat and they need to eat. It’s high time we got back to family meals,” where we eat together at the dining room table, which fell to the wayside sometime after the baby was born. I set it up and to my shock, they came over and ate with me. Now we were all nourished and I wouldn’t be again bossed around by their demands later when they started to beg for food or drink.
I’ve been really pondering how I want to handle screen time with them. There are days when I am so filled with tending to the baby and one or the other of the children that it’s preferable to let one of the three be on a screen while I deal with the others. I don’t think screens are as awful as some believe. If you look at what my kids do on them, it is almost always something educative and it’s a great clue to what their interests are. My son for instance loves to solve mystery puzzles right now. My daughter loves to watch videos of people creating with Play Doh. Still, I know they need screen-free time so we can do lessons, so we can bond, so they can play, etc. I am also worried about their sleep. I don’t want any more screens before bed time. So, as it was my “let’s get a routine” day, I decided that I would confiscate all screens and remotes before lunch time. No begging or nagging, it just happens and not because they are “bad” but because that’s what we are doing. My daughter was a bit shocked but they otherwise mostly found this decision tolerable.
My children started playing as you might expect them to. They played tag and threw balls up the stairs. All stuff they tend to do when their dad gets home so if they do it now, that’s great, because when their dad gets home, we need to be 1) doing dinner 2) doing clean up 3) getting to bed. I cleaned and got ready for lessons. I figured we were all “clearing our brain” to get ready to focus. They were getting their wiggles out. I was setting up a peaceful and serene home, which is what I need to focus on them and their lessons.
To my shock, they kept playing together well. I decided to slip in a work out. I did a new belly dance video. The instructor was a great teacher and I felt great afterwards. Before doing this, I had put some blankets in the wash. My kids, who loves their blankets, discovered that they were in the washing machine. They then wanted to help with laundry. They took the clothes out of the dryer and moved the blankets over! As my son did this, he was singing, “Working together is the best!”
I took care of some things. I needed to call about a Karate class and Jiu Jitsu. I was thrilled to find out that I could sign my son up, who is 6, even though the class is advertised as 8 – 13. His friend is in the class and it’s taught by people who are gentle, engaged, and fun. And it’s only 3 minutes from my house. I have found I really can’t find gems like this except by talking to other moms. I was thrilled also to set up some more play dates for my children.
Then it was really time to get the baby to bed. But, again to my shock, my children had all gone outside and were again playing well. I didn’t want to disrupt the fun. When the baby kept begging me to come to him, I thought, well, maybe it’s time we go snuggle with some books and put him to bed. Before I did this, however, I set up an activity for my two older ones to paint a sun catcher. I wasn’t entirely thinking and just gave them the sun catcher and the paint pens to do it and left. I went up stairs and put the baby to bed.
I had been fighting a nap all day. I have been committed to going to bed early and eating better and I was sure I didn’t need one. Except I really did. A 5 – 20 minute nap does wonders. So I laid down in the guest bedroom. My 6 year old heard me. He came up to tell me, “Want to see my sun catcher!? I figured out that gray is actually clear!” He then told me it took him a while to figure out how to open the pens but he did figure it out (the little paper had to be taken off). I told him I’d be down in 20 minutes. He ran off, “Ok!” I think I fell asleep. I have an ability to recognize when my body gets into Stage 1 sleep. It’s when I start thinking ridiculous things, like of dragons flying over head, and I can feel my body sort of shut down. I’m always happy for that because it means 1) I am soon to fall asleep or 2) Even if I don’t, I got some rest. Soon after slightly dozing off, I heard my son, “We have a problem! There’s a big mess!” He ran up to me to tell me his sister had got paint all over. That’s when I realized I failed to put poster board down. But my son said, “She got paint everywhere. I got a paper towel out and tried to clean it up. But I need help.” I melted at how patient, kind, and responsible he was. As we walked downstairs, I said to him, “Sometimes I’m not accepting of Emily when she makes big messes like this. I am really going to work on that. I am going to approach her with love and patience over the mess. Thank you for helping to clean it up!” The mess was totally cleanable.
So by this time, I thought I was for SURE ready for lessons. I was thinking some math games. Except my children ran upstairs and found scissors. They decided to make things. My son ran down to show me a car cat he made. Yes, a car cat. On the outside it looked like a car but when you opened it, it looks like a cat. His cat was stunning. It was cute and devilish and really looked like it was staring right at you. My daughter, 3, drew a “map.” It was from where her house was to where her friend’s house was. It was the most she has ever drawn, and I’ve been trying to get her to draw for some time. They kept going back to make more and more things. I thought to myself, “I’m not going to interrupt this.” And I went and did laundry.
My daughter had put Play Doh on her map. She said it was mud. She then said our house had mud in it. And, oh no! She slipped and fell in the “mud.” And on top of this, the mud had GLUE in it. So she slipped and fell and now she was STUCK. She needed someone to help her. But, behold! Her brother had made a machine to help her. It looked like a flying saucer with big swirly things all over it. It was, like a laser, able to get her unstuck from the glue mud. It was a anti glue mud machine! My daughter kept getting stuck over and over and with each time, my son made a new anti glue mud machine. Each one kept getting better and better.
This is about when my husband came home. When he walked in, our daughter was stuck in glue mud (our brown hardwood floors). We were waiting for the latest invention to save her. I explained to him their game, our damsel in distress with a huge imagination and her brother coming to her rescue, and my husband did the thing where he laughed so heartily he cried.
Later, when we cleaned up, I realized just how much my children had made. There were dragons and sand timers in addition to cat cars and anti glue mud machines. They were busy little bees. Or as my 6 year old once said, they were “as busy as a bee looking for flowers,” showing how he is actually thinking about catch phrases when he says them.
I believe in formal lessons with children. I do. Except for us, they are not what is typical “school.” It’s not worksheets or timed drills. It’s science experiments, books, games, plays, interesting videos, and more. Frankly, I resent people who say that early education is suffocating to children. Call our lessons “collection attempts” (for better attachment with children) if you want. I find lessons, in which I think of an activity and present it to my children, focus me on my children, ignite their imagination, help them see more about the world, always get worked into their free, creative play, and create a much more rich education than traditional education.
However, later as I told my husband about our day, I said, “I kept trying all day. But we did no formal lessons. We however got outside; we had a family meal; John figured out how to open paint pens and helped clean up his sister’s mess; they did laundry; they painted sun catchers; they cut and drew many things; and made up a play about getting stuck and coming to each other’s rescue.” He smiled and said, “It was a great day.” Here he is with our toddler, at almost bedtime, engaged and focused on a book. He was teaching him how to count:
And now, today, Tuesday, I wrote this blog post as a way to re-center myself, capture these moments, and ponder what was best about our yesterday and what we can do today. <3 Now, how do I schedule the time for this re-centering time 😉 ?
Come see me for more stories at The Observant Mom on Facebook. See my book Misbehavior is Growth: An Observant Parent’s Guide to the Toddler Years