Thursday, June 20, 2013

The hundreds in reality

I always appreciate blog posts or writers (like this one for instance) that not only give advice but are "real" and honest about what it's truly like to be a parent or home educator.  Very very often the plans that we make go in an entirely different direction in school time.  It's easy to think we can't do something or might be close to giving up.  I think this is especially hard for people that are already surrounded by the homeschooling critics.  Hopefully this post will be an encouragement. 

Okay, so every now and then I throw in a post about "what it's really like."  I mean, if you just read the last post all on its own, you'd probably think what a great easy relaxing wonderful nurturing week we had.  The balloon hundreds chart and the themes and games sounded like such a great idea. And maybe they would have been .. on a different week.
I'll Teach my Dog 100 Words By: Michael Frith
Add this to the list of stuff we did for the "Hundreds party" (only we didn't read it ON the day of the party as you will find out when I describe the other stuff that went on.)

Last week our "hundreds chart party" was on Wednesday because that's what I promised my girls.  I'd been putting it off too long and finally pinned the day down.  But the week was full of way too much busyness.  From a dinner with new friends to a last minute realization that VBS was happening all that week from 6 to 8:15 at night, to gymnastics, and getting pulled over by a cop for an expired inspection sticker (that I'd never had to deal with before and had no idea was overdue), then the middle one getting car sick and throwing up her raspberry smoothy several times on the way to a funeral (plus having to deal with not having the extra clothes in the car that usually were there.)  I'd promised to make a bunch of cotton candy for the VBS goers all individually bagged and I also made balloon animals for them all to take home.  In the midst of this we had a few unexpected visits from my mother-in-law (which I really wish I'd had more time to enjoy.)  A trip to the Zoo to get a gift for my nephew and mailing a birthday package and the usual grocery shopping and craft mess and messy house stress all happened that week. At the beginning of the week we'd found out about the death of a friends baby (just a few weeks from her due date) and the whole week felt like a blur of not quite knowing what to do except try to keep up.  Some parts felt tragic and some parts felt like a comedy of errors and most parts were punctuated by overly tired children that seemed to whine and fight and pick on each other infinitely more than usual.  Also my littlest who is shy and introverted naturally and hasn't been ready for being left in a nursery at church was with me when I volunteered to watch the babies (from 4 months to just under three.)  The almost constant crying (a few of the babies weren't ready to be left in a nursery like this and cried on and off so much that they kept setting the other ones off too) put so much stress on my sensitive toddler that it took her the full week to recover from it.  She was a trooper though and made it half way through the volunteering time before losing it.  Such a bummer too because I'd helped her get to a point where she was getting more comfortable with strangers and I feel like we are almost back to square one.  She's also suddenly afraid of the dark and has been having a harder time going to sleep.  Anyone with a toddler can relate to how hard it is for the Mom when the littlest one is exceedingly clingy and fussy and sleeping poorly.  Every sound is too loud and every nerve in your body is too sensitive.  The only way to survive at this point is to ask for the grace of God and thank your husband for the hard cider he brought home for you.

I'm sure I left something out from last week, but suffice it to say that emotionally it was tougher than it probably was in reality.  Isn't that how it always is?

The girls DID enjoy the VBS and that brought some good conversations about salvation and dinosaurs and so on, but sometimes homeschooling is over-run by life and it's a miracle that anyone learns anything at all.

But even if there isn't overcommitments happening or unexpected grief or forgetfulness or fussy babies, sometimes the great plan that you thought your kids would love for sure - doesn't pan out.  Even the little projects that you'd think they would like they just don't want to do.. are you going to FORCE them to make a puppet craft that fits the fairy tale you read them that went along with the moral and a rhyme?  How do you keep them active and busy and get the rest you need yourself.  How do you keep that simple living and balance when they are with you constantly?

-- You feel overwhelmed by all those little things that amount to too much and you just made a hanging curtain with 100 balloons while the kids enjoyed roasting marshmallows over a candle (while you watched them like a hawk lest they set them on fire and burn your table) and now just a few hours later they are complaining that they never get to do anything "fun" and say "aren't we going to start the party soon?" and your nerves are fried from the build up of that proverbial straw that breaks the camels back.  And you try to redeem the moment by driving to the bank for 100 pennies to teach them about money and different ways to get to a hundred, and you get pulled over by a cop giving you a ticket for something that wasn't your responsibility to take care of and you over extend yourself and you feel judged and you feel like you need to do more.

In reality you need to step back and unplug.  When the kids see the VBS starting at another church (the very next week) and are asking you if they can go to that one TOO you need to say "no."

When you can't think of what to teach them or just feel like you need a breather in order to organize the next phase of their school time, pull out a free online game for them to work through like "Cat Shmat" and other math or alphabet games.  (My 7 year old had fun with this site word bingo game as well.)
In Cat Shmat you get to add pieces to the picture so that the cookie will roll to the cat.

Find a way to have a breather and realize that the life that keeps "getting in the way" is the very thing they will learn from the most.  It's more important for you to take that breather and let them watch an educational show (or one just for fun) while you figure out what in the world you should do next.  Bribe them with money to do work.  Note: when you are a grown up this is called "being paid for working your job."  In our house who ever folds the most towels gets the most money and it's at least a penny a towel.  Several months ago I got $30 of nickles and dimes for this very purpose.

Most of all, just slow down and unplug.  Sit on the floor and dig through legos with your kids for an hour (or whatever it is that you'd enjoy doing with them.. like reading stories or taking a walk and looking at flowers.)  Yes, this means you have to actually have the TIME to do this so rushing to this or that or the other commitment is probably a bit too much.  If everyone is snapping at each other then perhaps they all need to go to sleep earlier which means you need to make dinner sooner, which means that you've got to be home soon enough for wind down time, which means you need to be at your house for the toddlers nap time.  For more simplifying ideas check out this book -- Simplicity Parenting.

A week later with some simplifying measures in place I am amazed at the difference in my children and myself.  I feel like I'm enjoying them again and seeing them for the first time.

It seems ironic that it takes effort to slow down and do LESS, but it does.  It's also really really worth it.  While times like I had last week are pretty inevitable there's much we can do to prevent them from happening and it's all about doing less.

And if no one has told you yet -- as you hit that bad week/day/hour please realize that you haven't "failed."  I recently was explaining to my oldest about what it's like to be a Christian, "Being a Christian isn't about doing everything right or getting your life perfect, it's about learning that you need Jesus more and more and can't do anything good without him."  I have many moments (especially since becoming a parent and homeschooling) where I know that I'm just not enough.  I can't do any of this in my own strength.  I need God's grace and strength in every hour and only "fail" when I'm able to (somehow) do it all on my own and appear "perfect."  That's why I've got to write posts like this for you all.  It's too easy to hide the bad and only reveal the good, but that doesn't help anyone.  It can be a scary thing to be honest and I've been burned for revealing my faults and/or struggles and being "real" with people, but I've got to keep being honest to be any good to anyone.

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