When your day just doesn’t work

This week did not go the way I planned it.

There was nothing catastrophic. No one died, we didn’t go to hospital, and our house didn’t burn down.

But life in its most mundane, frustrating form got in the way. It all started on Sunday when we were discussing our week and my husband suddenly remembered that he had to go away on Monday and would be back late on Tuesday. Which was fine, except that he was also going to be away on Thursday and back late on Friday. Which was a drag, but it happens. The bigger problem was getting kids to extracurricular activities on Monday night, and the fact that Monday night is when I normally do my grocery shopping. And the stores were all closed (limited Sunday trading) by the time we realised.

We muddled through, but Monday afternoon our heating stopped working, and didn’t get fixed till Friday afternoon. It was cold. It made me feel miserable, especially because I started feeling sick mid-week. The cold, achy, my-throat-is-so-sore-I-can’t-swallow type sick.

But the day that everything really went belly-up was Thursday.

It started well. I was up and dressed and gave every appearance of being organised. My throat hurt, but ibuprofen is wonderful. I had an appointment in town, but it was 8:45am and would, I was sure, take 10 minutes, tops. Just sign a form, show some ID, and be back on the road going home. We had an audiobook. It would throw us out by maybe half an hour. We’d be fine.

The appointment took nearly an hour. It was a bureaucratic groan-fest full of calculating dates of this and dates of that, answering pointless, mind-numbing questions that bore no relevance to my situation, and being told I needed documents that I hadn’t been told to bring. My kids had books and colouring. They were great. But they couldn’t do that long. was shifting in my seat in boredom. Near the end, Rosebud had a dirty nappy. I had left the nappy changing things in the car because hey, it was going to be 10 minutes.

By the time we were done, and got back to the car, and I had sent Bookworm to a nearby store for wipes because we’d run out in the changing bag (because, you know, I’m not organised), and I had finally changed Rosebud’s nappy, we were done. In many senses of the word.

We got home and I put on the end of the audiobook we’d been listening to while we coloured and had morning tea. By then I was feeling quite unwell, so I told the kids that Rest Time was before lunch that day, they could make a sandwich if they needed, but please go upstairs quickly because Mummy needs to lie down now.

In the end, we got maths done that day, but that was about it. I could wax lyrical about how they learnt valuable life lessons anyway (like sitting patiently while someone ask’s Mummy irrelevant questions), but it’s probably not true that day. The afternoon was filled with everyone being irritable, and more than one full-blown tantrum. There wasn’t much redeemable from that day.

But you know what? I don’t care. Because sometimes life throws days like that. If most days get ticked off as productive, it doesn’t really matter if a day here and there is a failure. Some days we just feel crummy. Some days bureaucracy rears its ugly head. It’s life. I used to feel the pressure to perform all the time, but I realised this week that I don’t need to. We school year round so that we can have days like this.

I had a day off scheduled on Friday and I could have moved the work to that day instead but I didn’t. Instead, we helped a friend out. And when we got home, I was reminded that my kids have, in fact, been learning life lessons all along. I was exhausted and sick when we got home. My kids put me to bed, brought me tea, made dinner, and got themselves ready for bed. They wrote me sweet notes of encouragement too. I love my kids with all my heart. Even on the days when things go sour. Next week we’ll start again. Hopefully we’ll have a warm house, and keep our rhythm. But I am giving myself grace for the moments we don’t.

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Creative use of colouring pages

This week I am so privileged to be guest posting over at Activity Village. This site is my absolute favourite for colouring pages, puzzles, and fun printable things. I am talking about different ways I use some of their colouring pages. Check it out! While you’re there, have a poke around the site. They have some great resources.

Creating rhythms and rituals

C77F2518-74FC-41EA-AF94-B8FB30767AD7I will be honest with you. Sometimes my days are hard. As much as I like people to think that we all wake up cheerfully and plunge into fascinating, delight-driven learning, where everyone is enthusiastic and our conversations are riveting, where my children flow seamlessly from exploring a fascinating maths concept to discussing the Fall of Rome to designing and crocheting their own blankets, all before lunch – that’s just not my life. We do have some great conversations. One day they might crochet a blanket. But often, I have to convince them that learning is a good idea. Sometimes, I know that we should be doing a nature walk, but I can’t face the thought of getting coats and boots on everyone, tramping out in the wind, to look at nature that I then have to convince them to draw or write about in their nature journals. It just seems too hard.

But you know what? Some things work, without seeming to take any effort from me. And that could be because some of my kids are now big enough to help out, and can get things done for me (I’m learning the wonderful art of delegation!). But I think that it is mostly because of the two Rs – Rhythm and Ritual.

I have discovered that when we are in a rhythm, the next thing just happens. This is totally different to the “S” word. Here in the Disorganised Homeschool, schedule makes me twitch. I just can’t keep to them. They make me stressed out (Although, I do call the girls’ bookwork lists “schedule books”. Go figure).

Rhythm, unlike a schedule, is a flowing, a beat. When we finish lunch, the girls always go and get books and head up for Rest Time. I never have to remind them and I never ever have to convince them. It’s not because they are weird or drugged – I used to have to convince them way back when. But now, it’s just so much part of our day that it just happens. It’s not discussed any more than we would discuss whether we are eating dinner that day. It’s easy.

Other examples of beautiful, easy rhythm in our family are Bible time in the morning, read alouds over lunch, Maths Drill, and our morning checkpoints. None of those things take any effort whatsoever on my part any more (Except breaking up squabbles over emptying the dishwasher during checkpoints. I may have rhythm, but my kids are still humans).

I was reflecting on all this yesterday morning. A week or two ago I talked about what our days look like.  I mentioned in that post that I wanted to get in the habit of everyone running up and down the street for some exercise between Maths Drill and bookwork. I tried it, and I got arguments. Lots of arguments, and complaints. But I put on my Mummy steel-capped boots and insisted that we do it anyway. Yesterday, a beautiful thing happened. After Maths Drill, the kids got up, went and put their shoes on, and ran outside. Suddenly, it wasn’t hard, and didn’t take energy. It just happened.

The second R is ritual. Rituals are the little things that anchor the rhythm in place. Like rhythm, they take a little while to set up, but then, they just happen. They come to be expected, and appreciated, and missed when they are not there. They can be things that you do, or things that you use. Like lighting a candle on the dinner table. It’s a small gesture, but it anchors the dinner, makes it special, sets it apart from other meals.

So, here are some of the rituals here in the Disorganised Homeschool. We always start Bible time with our School Day Prayer, and we always finish it with the Grace. We always use the same pens for Maths Drill. We always use our teacups with cornflowers for poetry teatime. For our monthly movie night, we always have hot dogs and popcorn for dinner.

As you might have guessed, I am not an organised person. Being consistent is really, really hard for me, and takes a huge amount of energy. Lots of people think that I am organised. I try hard not to laugh in their face. Because I’m not. I’m really, really not. The thing that makes me seem organised, makes me feel organised, is rhythm and ritual. What are the rhythms and rituals that make your days flow smoothly? I would love to know.

 

Maths meets art meets…lunch

Last Saturday, my dining table was strewn with scissors, markers, glue, tape, and bits of paper. An innocent viewing of a video changed the course of our day, even our week – we had discovered hexaflexagons. The morning became filled with talk of equilateral triangles, folding directions, flexing, and trying to find hidden faces.

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Just a few of the many, many that were made!

Hexaflexagons are strips of paper which are folded into equilateral triangles, then twisted into hexagons. By pinching and pulling on them, known as flexing, you can expose three different faces (for the simple trihexaflexagons). They are fun to make and addictive to play with. We discussed geometry (how to make an equilateral triangle, how to fold a strip into a hexagon), history (how they were discovered), and how a 2-dimensional shape with two obvious faces can somehow have a third face (mind=blown!). We decorated them and tried to make cool patterns when they were flexed. It was a beautiful fusion of maths and art. Even better because it was a Saturday morning and we were learning without any thought of “school”.

Things took a further turn (flex?) yesterday when maths made its way into lunch. Inspired by Vi Hart, we decided to make hexaflexamexagons. The results were messy, but tasty. They didn’t work as well as we hoped, mostly because of the cheap tortillas I bought, but they were fun, and we had some success. We’ll definitely be making them again.

This is what I love about a family culture of learning. It inspires exploration, creation, and fun. It feeds our minds, and sometimes our stomachs, too!

What life looks like now

I decided after a hiatus of 18 months that it was about time to revive this blog. I let it slide because life was just too busy to commit to it. Life is still busy, but now that Rosebud is two, I feel like my head is kind of coming out above water again. Sometimes.

I could do a long boring post of all the news since I last blogged, but it would be, well, long and boring. So I am going to give you a snapshot of what our days look like now, and the news can filter in where it’s relevant.

I looked back over my last day in the life post. Some things have changed dramatically. Some are pretty similar.

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Our Homeschool Day in the Life (March 2018)

6am: My alarm still goes off at 6am. On the good days, I stumble out of bed and shuffle downstairs, thinking to myself that 30-mumble hurts a lot more than I expected it to at 20. On the other days I lie in bed reminding myself that consistency and diligence is the key to a successful day. Sometimes it works.

When I do make it to the kitchen I make tea and sit down with my Bible, resisting the urge to look at my phone. After some quiet time I sometimes call my family in Australia, or sit there succumbing to the phone temptation, or enter a tea-drinking time warp.

7am: Gone are the days that I need to put on music to wake the kids up. Rosebud has a Grow Clock and at seven every morning enthusiastically goes to every room to inform everyone that “Mr Sun’s Up!”. They come down and get themselves breakfast, I chat to my husband for a bit then go and have a shower.

My strategy for keeping the mornings running is a thing called Checkpoints. Every morning by 8am the kids need to be up, dressed, hair brushed and beds made. By 8:45 they need to be done with breakfast, emptied the dishwasher, and tidied the kitchen. If they have done all this they can play, but only if it’s all done and only until 8:45. After 8:45 they need to get ready for school, which involves cleaning teeth, making hair neat, using the toilet or getting a drink or a jumper or slippers if they need to, and getting the Bibles out. By 9am they all need to be at the table, ready to work.

I used to have lots of complaints about Checkpoints. But now they mostly accept them, and the definitely keep our morning flowing. Because the kids  know what they need to do by when, it means they can get on with it, and I can get on with my own tasks – vacuuming the kitchen and lounge (which I do every day, because Dog); feeding said dog; putting washing on; doing a quick tidy; saying goodbye to my husband; drinking more tea and mentally girding my loins for the day.

9am: We meet at the table for Bible Time. We do our school day prayer, read the passage in the Bible that we are up to, and do our catechism question. We use the New City Catechism, and it has a song for each question and answer. Dancing sometimes breaks out. Once we have composed ourselves we go around the table and pray, each saying a Thank you and a Please prayer. We finish with the Grace, then into…. Maths Drill! I give them a 25 question sheet with basic maths facts, set a stopwatch, and they complete it as fast as they can. Buttercup does just one column, the older two do the sheet.

9:30ish: With Bible Time and maths drill done, we head into bookwork. The weather here has been awful the last few months, and we’ve hunkered down inside a lot. But a couple of weeks ago it was sunny one morning and I made everyone go outside between maths drill and bookwork and run up and down the street a few times. It made things go much better through the morning, so I would like it to be a regular thing.

We use a variety of resources for bookwork. Sonlight, IEW, Conquer Maths, Miquon Maths, Reading Eggs. XTB Bible notes, and some random bits and pieces. They each have a folder of “fillers” to do if they finish early or are stuck and waiting for my help. The fillers have some colouring, some word/maths puzzles, a fiction book, and a non-fiction book.

I spend this part of the morning going between kids helping with maths problems, explaining writing tasks, listening to Buttercup read, checking work, motivating, dealing with squabbles, helping Rosebud find things to do, stopping Rosebud drawing on people’s work, preparing food, and sometimes, if I am lucky, getting washing on or out. Tea is consumed during this time.

10:30ish: We pause our bookwork mid morning for a snack and our history read aloud, and geography song. This is a recent thing. I used to have all our Sonlight Core read alouds and work in one spot as a morning basket at the start of the day. But we were starting bookwork too late and maths and writing weren’t getting done. So I tried doing it as an afternoon basket. But it just meant that there were a few months were the Core work just didn’t get done. So now I have split it. We do Bible at the start of the day, History, Geography songs and Aesop’s Fables at morning tea time, literature at lunch and dinner, poetry during our weekly Poetry Teatime (more on that later), and catch up on everything else on Friday afternoon. It seems to be working better, although the jury is still out on the Friday afternoon slot.

After morning tea everyone goes back to finishing off bookwork. Rosebud goes down for a nap at about 11, which gives me a lot more freedom to help people finish off work and get lunch ready. I am trying to be organised and get dinner prep happening here too, but this is the Disorganised Homeschool, so don’t worry – it doesn’t always happen.

12:30: When everyone has pretty much finished their bookwork, we sit down for lunch. Sometimes Rosebud is awake for this, other times she is still asleep. We eat, and I read our current literature read aloud. This is an Institution. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Monday, a Sunday, or the middle of the school holidays. I am expected to read while we eat lunch, unless we are running late or I am too tired, in which case I put my foot down in order to hurry everyone off to….

1pm: Rest Time. We still maintain this time with religious fervour. I don’t get any arguments from anyone about this time. Everyone scatters to their bedrooms. The kids each have a calico bag which is their “Rest Time Bag”. Like a library bag, they fill it with books, take it upstairs, and (in theory), bring it down again at the end to put the books away. Before you run away screaming “Oh no! This is looking organised! Run for your lives!”, I still have to go on a book hunt at least once a week, and still daily go looking for a culprit who has Not Brought Down Their Bag. But it’s a nice idea in theory, so I cling to it.

2pm: Rest Time finishes, and the girls come down and watch an episode of The Famous Five, while I make more tea and take a deep breath for the afternoon. After they have watched, they are hungry, and we go into our afternoon activity. I am trying to create a rhythm to our week. So, in theory, on Monday we do Nature Study, Tuesday is free for either catching up on housework, visiting people or just having a free afternoon, Wednesday we catch up on missed bookwork or do art or handicraft. Thursday is given over to Poetry Teatime and science experiments. Friday is our Core Session, where we catch up on any read alouds, do art appreciation, watch YouTube clips, and do timeline and map work.

The afternoons are a work in progress. The only consistent thing we do is Poetry Teatime, where we sit around with nice china and read poetry. I could say more but really it deserves its own blog post, so stay tuned.

3:30ish: When our afternoon activity is over, we are supposed to do housework. Often we scatter to play. I’m working on it.

5pm: As the kids get older, life gets busier. At the moment we have evening activities on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Otherwise it’s play, dinner prep, and tidying up from the day.

6pm: Dinner, and more reading aloud of our current book. We are way ahead on our literature read alouds, and that includes adding in extra books. I often get asked to read more than one chapter, because we just need to know what happens next. I love the books we are being exposed to through Sonlight, and the fact that reading together is such a part of our family culture.

7pm: We move into bedtime routines, and after we have cleaned up the kitchen, my husband and I collapse on the couch, or head to bed to read for a while before we succumb to exhaustion and fall asleep, ready to repeat it all tomorrow.

Phew, what a long post! Thanks for sticking with me to the end. I would love to hear what your daily rhythm is like.