Summer Schedule

The days are glorious, the sun goes down late, and the temperature is rising.  It must be summer!

I have mixed feelings about this summer break.

  1. I want a break
  2. We didn’t start school until October last year.  It was awesome.  I’m so glad we didn’t put the pressure of school on top of the pressure of end of summer canning/garden harvest.  But seriously, we should probably be going longer.
  3. School kind of fell apart around January, and not much got done.  We picked it up in February, had a stellar March, burned out in April for a bit, and sort of trudged through May like a good swamp hike.
  4. My kids thrive on routine.
  5. Learning is a lifestyle.  It’s not something you do for a season, and then stop doing.  It’s a way of life.
  6. I want a break.
  7. Elias did not get enough teaching time from me this last year.  He should be the priority this summer.  This year, year-round school might look like getting time with Mommy in shifts.  This kid gets February, this kid gets March, this kid gets…  (Just kidding.  Sort of.)
  8. Solveig is chomping at the bit to learn how to read.  In fact, she’s so impatient, she’ll probably pick it up herself in the next months.
  9. Ingrid seriously is overdue for potty training.  She’s so old that I’m hoping it will be like it was with David, and she’ll have it down in a couple of days.  She’s very eager to learn now.  I must seize this.
  10. I want a break.
  11. Oh yeah, I’m having a baby this summer.  No biggie.
  12. Free time, exploring, and learning how to deal with boredom are so foundational to childhood.  I do not want to over schedule.  I don’t want to provide fun for them.  I want them to make their own fun.
  13. I am hot, huge, hormonal, and moody.  That does not bode well with chaos/whining/fighting.
  14. I want a break.

So here’s my plan for working out that mashed group of thoughts for this summer.

  • We will keep the routine that is just the flow of life in our house.  Breakfast, chores, morning hour will stay.  Morning hour will have devotions as normal, and completely different subjects than the regular school year.  We are planning on doing a sketching/art class online from Craftsy together.  The kids helped me pick it out and they are so excited.IMG_4136
  • Other things that the kids claim are family life, NOT school, so that we will keep doing it this summer because it’s their favorite times of day: our morning tea time (snack time) where I read to them a great work of fiction as their mouths are busy chewing instead of talking, quiet time (our all-family siesta after lunch for an hour that keeps me sane) as well as our evening read aloud of a different great work of fiction for the older kids after the little girls are in bed.
  • After morning hour, the big kids need to go do something and stay out of my hair.  They need to leave me alone so I can focus on the little kids who were pushed aside to go run off and play during the school year.  So it’s going to be a flip/flop of age group education prioritization, so to speak.  However, both Silje and David have some catch up still from the fall apart we had around January.  (It was really bad.)  Silje has 2 subjects and David has 1 subject that will continue on this summer until they finish their work.  I know.  I’m so mean.  They will have to work on these without my help, and wait to ask questions/be graded until the afternoon.  It will be a lesson in patience.  We’ll see if this works.IMG_4137IMG_4138IMG_4139IMG_4140
  • Tuesday/Thursday night Tae Kwon Do for the big kids and childcare at the YMCA for the 2 little girls will continue on all summer.  None of the kids want to stop, and I like my 1 hour of alone time twice a week.  They’ll miss practice when they are at camp, of course, but that won’t be too bad.
  • The big kids also need to brainstorm their own ways to make this summer awesome.  They each made a list of things that they would love to do this summer.  After their morning duties are completed, they will pick something off the list they made up, write it on their notecard for the day for the bulletin board, and get to it.  (I’m having them write it down because I’m so muddy-brained lately, that I might forget that one kid is working on a plant identification project in the woods and another is reading all day in her room.  That way I know where they are and what they’re doing, in theory.)
  • In the afternoons, they will continue doing whatever they want from their lists most days.  The smaller kids will also just play.  These are “approved projects” that we have brainstormed together, and they will pull off by themselves.  However, we want to do some outings too.  We plan to visit every playground in our little town, for instance.  We might think of more, but it depends on how I’ll be feeling.
  • The 3 older kids will all be rotating through Bible Camp in the month of June.  David will have about 4 days out there first.  Then the very next week, Silje and Elias each have a camp out there (though their age groups will be in opposite parts of the camp).  Elias will be out there 3 days and 2 nights.  Silje’s Jr. High camp will finish at the end of the week.  Thus…I’ll have some break.  It’s just how their ages/camps lined up calendar-wise this year.

Oh, and according to tradition, we will unplug the television for the month of June.  We’ll see if we make it all the way through this time.  I am allowing the big kids to keep their school computer, but have limited their access to just their computer programing/math site (www.khanacademy.com), their typing instructor game, and chess.  I programed the parental controls to log off each kid after they have been on for 2 hours, so no all-day marathons of even their nerdy games will be available to them.  If they want to work on “school” for 2 hours on the computer, be my guest.  I know.  So mean.

I’m not saying no t.v. all summer because: 1) We’ve never made it all the way through June.  2) I’m going to be huge, crankier, and ready to have a baby in July. 3) I will have a newborn and be sleep deprived in August.  And as we know, with any mom in that stage anything goes.  The bar gets lowered to making sure everyone is fed and alive at the end of the day during that stage.  Let’s just be real.

And since I have already decided that Ingrid is just going to rock the whole potty-training thing, and have it done in a week or so, we’re just going to dive in and do it in June.  A bunch of the older kids will be rotating out of the house for camp, and her posse (Elias and Solveig) will be with me a bunch in the morning, and she is rarely away from them.

Oh, and somewhere in there, hopefully July, I’ll have a baby!

Almost Done, Pressing On

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My Pomme de Pin cardigan is so close to being done.  I’m nervous, because this is the part of the project that takes me ages to finish because it’s all the little tedious things.  For knitting, I just need to finish the sleeve cap on the second sleeve, and then I have to assemble it, knit the button band (I haven’t read that far to see the order of finishing), block out the lace so it’s not this little puckering texture as it is now, but the lovely open lace it’s supposed to be.  I haven’t even started looking for buttons for this beauty yet.  I’m hoping to work from my button stash…probably something very simple.

I should be thinking about moving onto my baby-knits.  I’m surprised how much less I’m interested in doing baby knits with this child, because he’s coming in the summer.  It’s a totally different nesting experience having a summer baby as opposed to the fall and winter babies I’ve had the last few times.  I know it will kick in soon.  It might just be after he’s born.  I hope he’s a good baby and lets me knit while he’s eating like Solveig did.  Ingrid wouldn’t share me with yarn so easily.

I finished the best fiction book I’ve read in a long time about a week ago.  It wasn’t a read aloud, it wasn’t a non-fiction book I needed to develop something in my life.  It was just a carefree light fiction that blessed my soul so much.  I haven’t gotten that lost in a book in a few years, where I would hide away every Sunday and try to get as much in as I could.  It was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  If I could find another book just like it, I’d be reading it right now.

But I’m back to my non-fiction stack, and I’m even going to share with you our new read aloud during our morning tea times as well:

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I’m reading a pretty deep book from an online bookclub of classical homeschoolers.  Leisure, the Basis of Culture is a mind blowing book on the importance of leisure in our lives.  I was listening to a quote that my pastor read last Sunday from the Barna group, that used the words “leisure” and “amusement” interchangeably.  I think that we have lost the distinction of these words.  In this book Pieper says that the root word of “leisure” is actually the same root as “school.”  It means to ponder, wonder, think deeply about issues.  It’s that down time of processing, studying, learning.  Amusement, in contrast, comes from the root word “muse” which means to think, but with the a- prefix, which means “no.”  So to amuse basically means to “not think.”  It’s being entertained, having someone else think for you.

So this book is about adding “leisure” to our lives, not “amusement,” and like I said, our current culture doesn’t distinguish between the two.  It’s one of those books that was written ages ago, but you feel like he’s addressing current times.  I’m having to go through this book very slowly, and with a pen.

A Circle of Quiet is something I read at night when I need something slightly lighter.  I’ve picked this up and put it down several times in the last few months, and it’s currently picked up again.  I’ve been inching my way through.  Madeline L’Engle is certainly worthy of underlining all over the place as well, and has deep thoughts to share, but really it’s about her writing  life (something so dear to my heart).  It’s full of humor and delights along with the deep thoughts.  How I wish I could sit over tea with her!

Our new read aloud as we finish up the school year is The Father Brown Reader which I recently heard about.  The kids fell in love with this adaptation of Chesterton’s mystery writings about 2 sentences into the first paragraph.  (I normally don’t like adaptations for kids, but this might be the exception.  It’s so well done.)  It’s completely engaging, from my oldest down to my youngest child, and we’ve been reading on average 3 chapters a sitting because they don’t want me to stop reading.  There’s more in this series too, so I think those are going on my school wish list for next year.  Plus, if I can get my kids in love with Chesterton at an early age, I will feel a special accomplishment there.

So tell me friends, what are you knitting and reading these days?

Wandering Through the Past

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I was bringing Knut some supper out to the field the other night around sunset, and I couldn’t help but stop on the way home at this old barn that I see from my yard everyday.  It’s an abandoned homestead.  The house is gone, the barn should probably be torn down, and there’s a rusty swing set tucked into some overgrown landscape.  The lighting was perfect, so even though I didn’t have my DSLR with, I just took a few pictures with my phone.

I’ve driven back there before, but since the driveway there doesn’t get mowed by any resident, it’s the best to see it in spring before the grass gets too tall to drive back there.  It’s peaceful, though I’m pretty sure there’s some wild animals that live back here.

Places like this set off my imagination, like a living museum.  How was this barn built?  Was this yard filled with neighbors and they had a barn raising?  How many animals lived and died here?  Where are the descendants of this homestead now?  I know my father-in-law owns this land now, but I’m pretty sure he bought it abandoned just for the farmland that came with it.  Who was the last farmer to walk away from this barn?  Was it a gradual or sudden failure of the farm?  Did he just retire and have no one to leave it to?

One of my favorite things about living on a farm is the history of it.  It’s like living on a museum.  The fields Knut is planting still have family names attached to them from their original owners.  The land remembers the generations.  Stories are passed around from neighbor to neighbor.  I don’t remember that ever happening when I lived in the city, or at least rarely.

There is no rush in the country to tear down and rebuild things.  People just work around old things until it become absolutely necessary to tear them down.  City people see the monetary value of antiques that are found in barns (like me) or see the beauty of the barn wood that would keep an Etsy store running for years.  People who grew up here don’t see it that way.  I’m not sure how they see it exactly.  Either they want the eye sore gone, see a liability, or it has been such a part of the landscaping their whole lives that they see it like they see trees or fences.

History is beautiful, though, isn’t it?  I want to have a picnic out here with the kids.  I want to wonder with them about the history of the place, and then maybe we visit all the old farmers in the neighborhood and ask the stories about the place, and put it together in a notebook for a project this summer.  It will be like we will being real life historians.  There was a time when this abandoned lot was someone’s dream.  I feel like that should be honored.

Do you all have a place like this, that just captures your imagination?  I’d love to hear about it.

Teaching Time Management

I should say upfront, that I have no idea what I’m doing.

That goes for a lot of what I do in parenting/homeschooling.  But I know what I’m trying to do, and I think that counts for something.

I’ve been working for months on trying to teach my kids time management.  It’s practically become a school subject.  I think the hardest part is getting myself better at time management, so that I can be a good example.  The trouble with that is I have 5 kids who are constantly interrupting what I feel I “should” be doing.  My kids do get disrupted by their younger siblings, but for the most part, I act as the gatekeeper, and keep them away while they are working on their schoolwork.

This also has been connected with our New Rules that I wrote about awhile back.  My kids waste time and then somehow it becomes my fault.  It annoys me.

Part of the difficulty with this, is I hold to 2 strong beliefs about parenting: 1)Parents should set them up with healthy habits from the beginning, 2)Natural consequences work better than all other kinds most of the time.

Because we have so many diverse personalities, challenges, and goals with our kids, I have found that routines work better than schedules.  Some of my kids need lots of breaks in school.  Some don’t.  They are all different ages and abilities.  To make some kind of defining-across-the-board-rule is tough.  I want them each to excel where they are at.

So the goal: make them want it.

Make them want to manage their time well.  Help them to see the value of managing their time well.

Because if I know anything about my kids, it’s that they are passionate, stubborn, ornery people, and if they want something, they won’t quit.  So get them to want it.

Enter: natural consequences.

Oh, this is the painful part.  I’ve been working overtime, trying to get through to my kids about this.  The hardest part is doubting whether or not my kids are mature enough for this lesson.  Am I trying to teach it too soon?  This is what Knut and I debate about.  Should I still be ultra-controlling of their schedule, so that they don’t miss out on anything fun, or should I hand some of the responsibility over to them, risking that they may misjudge and miss something fun.  I don’t know.  But I know I feel compelled to try.

Here are some things I have found to be helpful in teaching time management:

  • Have a printed routine on display for all to see.  Let them know the plan for the day.  Some of my kids have a daily assignment book.  My job is to make sure that everything on this list is done.  Allow them the freedom within this routine.  Our routine is loose with lots of white space so that I don’t let them fall behind, but they have the freedom to move ahead faster if they’d like.  Do they want to take 10 hours to finish their list with lots of breaks?  OK.  Do they want to get up early, take no breaks and push to have all their playtime at once?  OK.  Did they finish their math early, and do a good job?  Well, then I tell them, “You can have free time until the next item on the list.  You can choose to use this free time to work ahead in other subjects, or you can just go play if you like.  I’ll call you when we’re starting up the next thing.”
  • When they get distracted because of daydreaming, or whatnot, because I was working with a different child in another room, I don’t shame them for that.  Just say that they’ll have to work it into their schedule later in the day.  Point to that part of the routine where they can work on their reading, or writing, or whatever it is.  Just say, “You chose not to work during this work time.  So you’ll just have to work during your play time later.  The only time I see is right here.  Do you see a different time on the schedule today you’d like to do it in?”  This is where it gets hard.  Sometimes they have to give up something they really wanted to do in order to finish what they should have done.  Teach them that the more white space in their day, the more wiggle room they have for goofing off.
  • Start a list of “fun things I want to do” when they mention it.  “Hey Mom, can I work on a sewing project right now?”  “That sounds fun!  But you have science on your routine right now.  Can you find a good spot on your schedule to put in sewing?  Put it on your list.  That way, when you are trying to figure out what you want to do someday, you can have a list waiting for you.”  If your kids are like mine, their list will get insanely long.  They want to build a treehouse, train the dog to do something, explore the woods, ride their bike.  Put it on the list.
  • When the kids want to do a new, regularly scheduled activity, like instrument lessons or sports, we look at the schedule, and look at the list.  I find myself asking them a lot, “What on your list are you willing to give up in order to fit in this activity?  Remember you don’t have to give it up forever, just as long as you are in this other thing.”  This is painful for them.  They don’t want to give up anything.  Ever.  Do they want another animal?  Great!  Let’s talk how it will be paid for, and where in the schedule they plan to care for it daily.  What are they giving up to do that?  Free time?  Play time? Instrument time?
  • Teach them to schedule in white space.  I remember my mom had a rule when we were growing up that we needed at least one night a week at home.  I remember being so mad about that as a teen, because there would be something I’d want to go to, but it was the last white space on the calendar that week, so I knew it would be a “no.”  As a mom, I’m stricter than my mom.  I require 2 white spaces a week on the calendar, at least in the afternoon/evenings.  That’s partially because we have so many littles still in the house who just need to be home and taking naps, and not constrained in carseats constantly.  2 white spaces a week for my older kids teaches them to respect the needs of others, as annoying as that lesson is for them.

Part of our difficulty in this lesson is that I require these 2 open spaces a week because I’m an introvert too.  My husband does not require these 2 spaces a week (or at least won’t admit it yet) and so he will book his schedule more full than I’d like, and take the kids out on days I have marked blank.  The thing is, that’s ok too.  It’s good to be consistent, but it’s also good to recognize the personalities of each parent.  Each one is important, and one should not trump the other.  The kids go on way more adventures because their dad takes them when I have no more energy to do so.  I will often stay home with the little girls and enjoy peace and quiet on those times.  That’s our usual compromise.  But I’ve also learned to let my husband know, “You can, but I’d advise against it.  The kids are exhausted and this is their rest day.  So take them at your own risk.  Tomorrow they have to do _______ and you’re risking a meltdown then.”  I don’t (and shouldn’t) control him as a dad, but he deserves a good “heads up.”  Communicating the kids limitations to him is part of the equation.  Letting him be a dad and make his own decisions is part of the equation.  I have to live within my limitations, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else has to live here in them too.

But this does require a lot of conversations, and negotiating back and forth in our marriage…which also makes it tricky to teach the kids.  Tricky…but realistic.  They might someday be married too, and need to know that time management does not always revolve around them, but it’s a give and take.  I think when we work to make a lesson perfect and easy for kids, we are setting them up for an unrealistic view on life.  All those complexities make the lesson so hard, but it makes the lesson that much more important.

These are all things I have learned, but it’s been a road.  It’s still a road we are traveling, not a place we’ve arrived.

I feel like I constantly frustrate people in my family by pointing out that our time is finite.  We can’t just shove it full and hope it works.  To live with integrity, and keep our word, we have to recognize our limitations.  I say often, “I am not God.  I did not invent time, nor do I control it.  I’m just asking that we live within it’s limits.”

To live with integrityand keep our wordwe have to recognize our LIMITATIONS-3

That’s not to say we will always have these limits.  I want everyone in my family to grow and mature, and get a greater capacity to do more things.  But we can’t live outside reality.  We have to work to grow it, not just wish it.

My kids will miss activities sometimes because of their poor time management.  That’s really painful for me to see, but I let it happen.  I let it happen.  Who let’s their kids miss out on fun stuff?  Me.  Who lets the kids feel the consequences of a job poorly done?  Me.

They will have to opt out of some things that are fun, but not important enough to them to give up something they already do.  I do get a lot of flack for this outside our home too, because as you know, my kids are homeschooled.  Therefore, if I keep them home to finish their schoolwork, chores, or commitments, I’m keeping them from the all-important socialization.  I think I frustrate other people that I’m prioritizing learning time management over the mysterious “socialization” that apparently doesn’t happen in my house.  We don’t speak together, play together or anything I guess.

If I had a nickel every time someone who barely knows us says to me, “but you have to let them come out and be with other kids sometime” because I said “no” because we can’t fit another activity in our schedule…

So my kids are annoyed with me, my husband is (occasionally) annoyed with me as his personality loves to be out and about more than mine does, and people outside our home get annoyed with me because of their prejudice against our schooling choice.

Sometimes I feel like training my kids is an uphill battle.

And I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time, or at least know that what I’m doing is working.

But the last few weeks?  I’m beginning to see a glimmer.  I’m beginning to see my kids anticipate the questions I will ask them, and prepare ahead of time their plans, and how the plans will work out.  I see them work ahead in their schoolwork, forfeiting their breaks so that they can do a project on their list that keeps getting pushed back.  I’ve even overheard them tell someone, “That sounds like fun, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do that right now.”  They’re starting to take ownership of their time.  They’re starting to want it.

They’re not there, but I can tell you that seeing them start to want it…

and that’s all the encouragement I need right now.