I had a friend recently say to me, “You know how much I love my kids, right? So why do I so desperately want to wave the white flag, lock myself in the bathroom, and eat an entire jar of Nutella? I’ve only been stuck here with them for two days! And I actually did eat all the Nutella. Help me not want to eat the Nutella, Summer.”
I hear you, sister friend. And I think I can help. I’ve been that mom. I am still sometimes that mom. I don’t think God or any person on Earth expects you to be fully engaged and joyful about every second of raising your children. It’s messy, laborious, and often thankless work. And not to mention that those tiny people are so stinkin’ LOUD.
I clearly really like spending time with kids (and not just my own). For the most part, I truly enjoy their company. Why else would I have pursued a career in education, had three children of my own, and then decided to homeschool? But do I always love spending every hour of every day with them? That’s a big negative, Jethro.
And I chose this. And I’d choose it over and over again because there is so much GOODNESS in there if you can get all the mechanisms of this homeschool machine working properly.
But I know many of you who are reading this right now had NO choice in what’s happening. There are meals to be made, and messes to be cleaned, and laundry to be folded… and NOW, you have to help your children complete an entire day’s worth of schoolwork, too. Many of you with multiple kids. System overload.
I hope that this post will help you work out the kinks before they blow the whole dang machine to smithereens. Once you’re able to spend MOST of your stuck-at-home-days in a good mind-frame; then you’re ready for all the goodness to begin.
There are so many ways to create a special family culture that will enhance your homeschool days and forever strengthen your bond with your children. And as I said that many of you thought, “Family culture? Strengthen our bond? I’m just trying to make it through the day.” And I get that, too.
However, I think if you tackle the practical aspects of how your day will run before you start attempting all kinds of Pinterest-worthy crafts and enrichment activities, you’ll be much more likely to feel successful (and so will your kids).
Identifying our triggers is where we need to start. These are the things that make us want to run to the bathroom and eat ALL the Nutella. And pinpointing the triggers that make us want to run away and cry and stress-eat is a huge part of making schooling from home (and just raising little humans) a more pleasant experience.
Your triggers are probably different than mine, but I encourage you to really think about what makes you lose your cool. Here are the things that bring out my inner-gremlin:
- Laundry (how DO you people wear so many clothes?!)
- Electronic devices (specifically my phone)
- Unstructured play and messes (stuff. in. every. room.)
- Meal times (the prep and clean up)
- Running in the house and volume control issues (for the love of all that is Holy, GO OUTSIDE!)
I don’t know about you, but I can go from June Cleaver to Sophia Petrillo real quick-like, y’all.
I’m a great mom in the mornings. I’m a fair mom around 3:00. After 6:00, it’s a super slipperly slope. And anyone who is awake and asking me questions after 8:30 better be wearing a thick skin and, if they’re smart, a helmet. That includes my husband.
I used to feel bad that I couldn’t just be an amazing, patient, teacher-mom all day, but you know what? I’m a flawed human. So knowing when I can give my children the best part of myself is key. Maybe you’re one of those don’t-speak-to-me-until-I’ve-had-three-cups-of-coffee-mothers, and that’s all right. It’s better than all right. It’s good that you know that about yourself.
Just KNOWING who you are and what you need is so crucial. And once you have that understanding, you will be able to communicate your needs and share your triggers with your children. You’ll be surprised that when they are equip with that knowledge, they will actually try to avoid bringing out the raging bull who lives inside you (most of the time, anyway).
So, going back to my mean-mom-triggers. I know that if I am spending the entire day with my children, I have to front-load. I specifically have to front-load with my toddler.
The youngest ones need the most physical attention, and they need it first. I put her in my lap and read board books to her while I drink my coffee. We play in her kitchenette and “cook” before I serve the actual breakfast. And if you read my post yesterday, you know that it ain’t a gourmet meal I’m serving up. #poptarts
I hug her a lot. I kiss her a lot. I front-load. Because I know she’s going to require less of me later (when I’m teaching) if I’ve given her the attention that she needs in those early morning hours.
Hold the Phone
I think if we’re all being honest, every single one of us can admit that our phones are a parenting problem. And I am NOT the one to be giving advice about how much screen time your adult self should have because I personally overdo it sometimes, too.
I want to be on my phone in the mornings…and truthfully, sometimes I am. But I also know that I am more apt to be snappy with my kids if they interrupt me while I’m reading an article on my phone (or mindlessly scrolling Instagram). Nothing will make you feel worse about yourself than biting your kid’s head off because they’re interrupting time that you KNOW you should be spending differently.
And like I said, I’m a work in progress when it comes to this. I try to make a conscious effort to use it as little as I can during their waking hours. But being at home with children all day can make you want to be on your phone even more (IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?!) I fail at this often, but I do have the knowledge that I’m a more attentive and patient mother when I put the iPhone down.
I think this can apply to any adult agenda we are currently entertaining. And it doesn’t always feel fair because as parents we are CONSTANTLY putting our desires aside and meeting the needs of everyone else. I mean can’t I just zone out and look at french toast recipes for a minute? But we signed up for this… and since we signed up, sometimes we need to sign off.
Sammiches for everyone!
I won’t go into this in great detail, but as I stated in my post yesterday, serving a simple breakfast and prepping lunch the night before has done wonders for our homeschooling rhythm. Check out my post, “Omelettes are for Sundays, son” if you want more information on how minimizing meal time stress can be super beneficial for all involved.
As for cleaning after meals, I need some help. My oldest children are 5 and 6, and they know that they are to clear their mess from the table and check their chair for nastiness (and if needed, wipe it down) before they leave the dining room. They’ve been doing it for a long time because they. are. capable.
It’s one less thing on my plate… or more accurately, on my table. After all, I have to clean bits of food from between the toes of my toddler (I mean, how did you even reach down there?!?) and run the vaccuum after each meal.
I’m doing my part, so you do yours. Or rather, make your kids do theirs.
Whistle while you launder
I actually can’t whistle, but I do sing a mean cover of “Simply The Best”. Love you, Tina. And you will find me doing so while we ALL fold the laundry.
I make it as fun for them as possible, but like I said before, momma needs some help. I mean, I’m not the one wearing all those clothes.
We tell Alexa to play our favorite jams, and we fold, fold, fold. Each child is responsible for their own laundry. We all pitch in with towels and such.
And guess what Baby C (age 2) does during this time? She folds! And by folds I mean she rolls the dish rags and wash cloths into balls and throws them into her own special laundry basket. But do you know what she’s not doing? She’s NOT unfolding everything we’ve already finished because she’s occupied with her own very important task. And if she’s having a particularly bad day, she can watch some Nursery Rhymes on the iPad for a bit because that laundry won’t fold itself.
Now if you’re super OCD, you might be cringing at this whole balled-up wash cloths nonsense. And you do you, boo. But I decided a long time ago that I just need it done. If I have three baskets of unfolded laundry staring at me, I will be rushing through assignments and not bringing my teaching A-game because that dag-on laundry won’t quit staring at me! I came to the conclusion, it doesn’t to be perfect, but it does have to be done.
And by including the kids in the activity, I don’t lose them. Once they go their separate ways, it’s hard to reel them back in for learning. We are still together and moving through our day with purpose.
My children also put their own clothes away each morning and have been doing so since they were about 4. Same goes for making their beds.
Now all that may sound like bragging, but I assure you it’s not. Because if Marie Kondo looked in those drawers, that adorable little woman would stroke out right then and there… buuuuuut, I’m pretty sure Marie doesn’t homeschool.
It’s not always pretty, but it does make me a happier mom to have little helpers. I would just say that when you’re in the beginning stages of training those kiddos, you have to be patient while teaching them, don’t have unreasonable expectations, and trust that the whining and complaining will stop. It will just become part of your daily rhythm.
The Blessing Hour
I want to give props to the special homeschool mom who coined this phrase (as I did not). I have tried my best to find her but have been unsuccessful. So whoever you are, just know that I’m sending credit and much love to you because when I discovered this concept on Instagram it changed my life.
Let me back up… when you’re homeschooling, there are just so many messes… everywhere. I found that I was channeling mean-mommy far more often than I was proud of during our early homeschool days. Learning is messy business and mess equals stress.
I was constantly yelling, I mean, gently asking the kids to pick up after themselves. I would have to put something academic on the backburner because I just could not stand to look at the disaster we’d created for one more second.
And I also simultaneously struggled with the feeling that all these random tidy-up sessions that felt so pressing were actually killing the momentum of our learning. That’s when I discovered the blessing hour. Oh bless you, you sweet, blessing hour inventor, you!
How does it work? At the end of our homeschooling day, we spend an hour (sometimes less) blessing our home and blessing each other. We go from room to room and tidy up together. It doesn’t matter who last played with that toy. It doesn’t matter who read that book. If you come upon it, you pick it up and put it in its rightful place. No complaining allowed. And none of us can move to the next room until it’s finished. And again, we take turns asking Alexa to play our favorite songs. Good music just makes everything better.
We all know the quicker it’s finished, the sooner we will have our afternoon snack and turn on the television. I find that to be a most excellent motivator for all of us, myself included. If we didn’t have this designated clean-up time in place, and it wasn’t consistently a part of our daily rhythm, I don’t know how well it would work. Consistency is key.
Now, if we’ve used paint or clay during the day, I don’t wait until the blessing hour to put it away. But for the most part, I just try to enjoy the school day and not worry about the mess. I’m able to do that because I know come 3:00, all will be well again. I light candles and pour myself a cup of coffee when it’s finished. And then, we curl up together on the sofa and have a snack. Even if our day didn’t go so great, it is always a great way to wrap it up.
But Actually, They ARE my Monkeys
This is my circus, after all. But I am of the opinion that certain acts need to take place in the great outdoors.
We all have our strengths as mothers. I pride myself on the fact that I let my children mix all of their Play-Doh colors together. You’ll find Sharpie marks on my dining room table. There are books and homeschool supplies in literally every, single room in our house. My kids live in pajamas and when we are out of the house, you will typically find them in some mismatched ensemble they chose themselves. I let them dig gigantic mud holes all over our yard. I let them play with water tables indoors. And based on all this, some other moms might categorize me as laid back (or crazy)… and they’d be wrong (at least about the laid-back part).
The thing is… none of those things bother me. But I know what DOES. What really ganders my goose is acting ridiculous inside of my house. The running, the yelping, the squealing, THE CLIMBING… make.my.nervous.system.go.all.kinds.of.haywire.
I can’t even explain how much it gets on my nerves. And rough-housing… get OUT of here with that mess.
I wish I was okay with it, but I get 20 shades of grouchy as soon as the wild animals come to play. But instead of letting myself get to that ugly place, I send them away. I need them to leave. I need the wild animals to go play in the great outdoors where God intended.
On a serious note, that type of physical activity is so important for children. They NEED that input. But I’m more of the ‘let’s cuddle up and read together’ kind of mom. And because I know I’m not the best at facilitating that sort of play (I don’t even particularly care to watch it if I’m being honest)…they MUST go out. It’s 28 degrees? Well, if you’re going to play like that you better put on your long johns, honey.
And after they’ve settled, I’ll find them engaged in fantastic acts of creativity and wonder that could never possibly happen indoors. Just today (pictured above), after they’d chased each other for I don’t even know how long, I found them observing an earth worm and making pirate’s stew. Good things happen out there, y’all.
So be gone sweet children, go climb, and scream, and play with worms, and get smelly, and make your pirate stew…but please, leave me out of it.
So ask yourself, what makes the gremlin in me rear her ugly head? Write it down. Make a list. And problem solve for those particular things. It doesn’t mean you have to stop being you, it just means you may need to make some adjustments to how things operate in your home.
Ask for help. Even from the tiny people. They are far more capable than most give them credit for. Send them outside. Turn your phone off. Or call your best girlfriend and tell her you’re about to eat an entire tub of Nutella and let her talk you off the ledge. Do the things that need to be done so that YOU can enjoy homeschooling. I promise the kids will follow suit.
Until then… Much Love & Happy Learning <3