Freshening

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This has been a full six months for us.  The baby and I are doing well.  She’s growing…and so am I.  Yep.  It’s another little girl.  :)  We enjoyed a quiet Advent and Christmas with family.  Well, ok…quiet is a relative term.  It was quiet in that my expectations and the normal things I might ordinarily be doing were relaxed.  We do those kind of things…rolling back…don’t we?  When we need to accommodate for other, more important things that need our energy more.  Like nurturing wiggly baby girls.  :)

For the last six months I’ve been blessed to thoroughly enjoy the routine we trained in the children in their chore systems (which, by the way, have changed again to be flexible!).  The kids (and my saintly husband) have stepped up and continued our little routines, allowing me the time and space I have needed to be sick…to lack energy…to drop the ball…in other words: to be pregnant and begin the season of nurturing a new life.  I can’t say I’ve recovered a whole lot of my energy at the 24 week point, which is different from past pregnancies.  Yes, I’m taking vitamins.  Yes, I’m taking it easy.  Yes, I’m a lot older than I was with my first.  ;)  And yes, I accept that this is just my new normal for awhile.

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So, at first, I thought I could write a post on survival schooling since that’s what the past few months have really looked like here, but you all instinctively know how to do that, right?  Peel back superfluous layers.  Cut out everything unnecessary.  Focus on foundational things and discipline for the littles.  Rely on routine and the good habits you’ve worked so hard to foster over the years.  And if you can’t do that because you’re still working on those routines and habits and have only littles – pick one or two that you’ll put your little bit of energy into (like right away obedience and kindness) and relax the rest for a short term. Accept that this season (and seasons are temporary…remember that, ok?) isn’t going to look anything like your productive seasons – and that THIS is exactly how God wants it right now.  You’re being productive in other ways!

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Survival schooling, by definition, isn’t really “pretty”…and that can be hard for me because I thrive on pretty.  But, merciful heavens!  The enormous lessons for all of us in the “not-very-pretty-of-it-all”!  Lessons like: Mom accepting her role in humility – another Fiat (wait?  haven’t I been enrolled in this course before?  apparently I need multiple refreshers!), the children seeing how valuable life is – and how much sacrifice goes into bringing new life into the world, big kids giving of themselves and stepping in and helping younger siblings with their lesson plans while still doing their own work…planning menus and making dinner (talking about my kids here – not me!)…and so many more.  I’m proud of my kids!  Moms of littles – if you’re eyeball deep in trying to foster good habits of attention, obedience, kindness, thinking of others first, and you’re feeling daunted and tired and wondering if you’ll ever see the fruits of it?  YOU WILL!! Stick with your hard work!

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So back to this post.  I thought about discussing how survival schooling looked here – but it was just whatever we needed it to be at the time.  Nothing really calculated – we just adjusted as we went, and that’s what I’d tell you to do, too, if you really needed to embark on survival schooling.  It looks a lot like relaxed unschooling for the littles, while the biggers work independently.  You can still read aloud and listen to narrations on the couch – yes you can!

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Survival schooling always begs the question – when is survival schooling over?  And there isn’t a set answer.  You know that, right?  There is a balance between being gentle on one-self and challenging one-self back to a little more discipline and order.  Prayer becomes key in discerning this – trust the prompting of the Holy Spirit!

In general, survival schooling is over when you’ve had enough and you’re ready to freshen things up and get your hands back in the ordinary parts of the day in a regular way.  (By the way, that’s not a *feeling*…it’s an understanding.  Knowing and accepting.  It’s knowing my duty and being ready to get back to it.  Don’t let those feelings-schmeelings get in the way of what you should be doing!)

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And that’s where I am…and it’s where I decided to let this post land, too.  Freshening.  Because it’s positive and it’s focused on moving forward!  There hasn’t been a burst of energy or a zeal of motivation on my part.  (I wish there had been.)  I’m missing my role in routine and order and I know it’s my job to foster them.  And I know that I function as the heart of this home and I’m ready to put my heart back into things – regardless of my flagging energy levels!  Duty is an act of the will.

I need tools – prompts to help me in accountability.  And I’m visual – so seeing something and visualizing it helps me take action.  So, towards that end, I brainstormed a little time management checklist for myself.  It helps me see those key things that happen in a given day that I know I want to be a part of.

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Would you like a closer look?  Download or print the Time Management Chart.
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Now, very quickly – a word about discouragement.  At this point of the game – when you’re recognizing that you’re ready…that you NEED to be more present, more involved…and you begin looking around at the state of the state – it can be discouraging.  Handling it can be different for all of us – pray through it, offer it up, acknowledge it, give yourself a good long shower to cry over it – but don’t get stuck in it and paralyzed by it!  There is nothing wrong with shifting priorities (like a tidy house, planned menus, organized days) to take on new priorities…like just plain surviving.  To everything there is a season.  Embrace seasons since they’re the path God sends us to eek out our holiness, and be ready to “buckle up” when the Holy Spirit is encouraging you to step into a different season.  One that is reasonable, still gentle, and invites me (you) to self-discipline, routine, order.  If we’re to become saints it’s going to be in and through this…mess.  Pick up your cross and recover order – one little, reasonable step at a time!  Ok?  Ok!
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I first brainstormed where we were and had been…I took a look at lesson plans and our daily household routines and my role in everything.  I looked at my days with an eye toward reality and acceptance of this season of my life.  And I started asking myself questions:

With an eye toward our daily lessons:

  • What were the subjects and areas that were cast aside for the last — insert period of time here
  • What key areas have the kids really been missing without my presence and regular guidance?
  • Where do I need to restore consistency and exercise my own self-discipline more?  (Be brutal here!)
  • Are there still superfluous layers on our plans that I can peel back for a time to be reasonable and give myself a good measure of space to make efforts in other areas?
  • Are there areas that I need to really offer guidance in order to help my high schooler step into more responsibility?
  • Can I identify a daily item for each child that I want/need to be present to…more aware of?
  • Critical for me:
    • encouraging my emerging independent reader
    • insisting on best effort from all
    • dictations for my older students
    • listening to narrations
    • continuing to encourage the challenging habit of written narrations for one of my students
    • consistency of routine for my littles
    • providing regular independent work for littles – Montessori choice time
    • regular meeting time with my older students to gauge progress and get a better day-to-day feel for their work level.
    • simplifying Morning Basket time with an open ended checklist I can adapt to fit weekly.
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  • Can I move things around?  Sometimes freshening “the look” of the daily lesson plans shakes things up a bit for student and teacher.  We pay closer attention because things aren’t where we were used to seeing them on the paper during “survival school”.  It’s a little thing – but I’ve always been amazed at how well this works for simple freshening!  So, I freshened each of their 2nd term lesson plans to reflect my priorities for them (as I just brainstormed them) and to adjust in needed areas.

With an eye toward my own daily routines:

  • Where can I refocus on building up my regular prayer routine in reasonable ways?
  • Am I out of the habit of hands-on supervision of daily chores?  I was.  Identify checkpoint areas of the day that I can ease back in.
  • How can I anticipate areas of the day so I can be better prepared for going into the day’s work in order to lay down a simple, reasonable foundation?  Easy things like:
    • clean my desk off regularly!  (I am embarrassed to tell you that I cleaned my desk thoroughly as I was working toward this…and found notes and paper stuff from May that had yet to be filed or tidied.  Ugh.  Just that little bit of freshening went a long way to helping me move forward into the present!  Ya think?  LOL!!!)
    • anticipate what the kids are doing during the day and prepare the day before (Duh, right?  But again – I’m visual and it helps me to see it written somewhere as a little prompt.  It’s all about the tools we intuitively need!)
    • plan menus regularly (with the help of big kids!)
    • keep and maintain simple, daily, focused tidy-times to restore order in spaces that need regular attention
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These were questions I asked myself, and there were probably others I didn’t list, but asking a few questions really got the juices flowing and I could make notes and identify little areas as “pegs” or “checkpoints” of my day.  Admittedly, this is highly personalized, and therefore not really helpful to anyone but me – but maybe it will give you an idea or two for how to brainstorm and build something for you…something that helps you in freshening routine and order.

With an eye toward our spaces:

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I couldn’t undertake a major over-haul of our learning room, but I’ve mentioned to you how invigorating a little freshening of papers and spaces can be…for all of us!  So, I moved a little bit around (please read:  I had my older son move things as I directed.  :)  )

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I focused mostly on the area around my desk because, lets face it, I was the one that needed the most invigorating…and please note the aforementioned confession about my lack of desk cleanliness hearkening back to May.  LOL!   Keep this part simple – maybe clean out a basket of books and freshen it with some new choices…or tidy a bookshelf…or one child’s bag of books.  Make it tidy.  Brainstorm tools – do they have all they need?  A little freshening goes a long way.

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It’s mid-year and as home educators, we’re all taking a critical look at what worked…what didn’t…and where we’d like to be.  Remember not to get stuck in that part where you’re observing what’s not working or how far off the beaten path you’ve gotten.  This is not a time for paralysis or burn out – it’s a time for freshening!  So, how are you freshening things this time of year in ways that fit your season of life?