what I've learned

a season of scheduled neglect

I had spent the month busying myself with canning, organizing the house, reading about homeschooling for the onslaught of neglect when studies started again in September.

When studies began, I reasoned, I would have no time for all this cleaning (BTW I was right).

And perhaps it was this awareness that had contributed to my feelings of fatigue.

I was spent.

Curiously, I just wanted to sit and stare out the Great Room window, watching the downtown traffic scurry by, mindlessly watching pedestrians pass the stone wall of our front yard.

I wanted a nap. A week of them. I wanted to cozy up in my bed in the middle of the day and sleep.

This was all unlike me.

Could I schedule a week of purely “unscheduled routine”? Do nothing! Am I capable of that? No devotions with breakfast, no afternoon history reading, no prescribed quiet time, no bedtime reading, no suggestions for activities?

Had I ever done that? I am Type A with a capital T. Okay, that doesn’t make sense, unless you know my name…

To everything there is a season…perhaps I could take a short season of rest.

Seems to me that every February I hear moms complain of routine…they’ve been doing it too long.

As excited as they were at beginning their new plan of studies for fall, their excitement has waned. And the “unschooling” word, or child-directed activities, seem reasonable.

Find me something to do that isn’t what we’ve already been doing! Make it a different schedule. Make it not come out of a workbook. Make me not hear my voice over and over and over (oh, and that’s what I was thinking too, not just the kids!)

This is definitely why I see May as the end of the formal studies year. May is warm and sunny where I live. The garden needs to get planted; botany becomes my unschooled focus. People need to swing that back door open and shut a few dozen times a day. It has not had enough exercise over winter.

There’s also a lot of home economics training.

Some people call it spring cleaning–kind of like what school kids do the last week before summer break when they tidy the desks, wash cupboards, organize pencils and books and supplies. Only our kids do spring cleaning inside their family home for a couple weeks.

So what to do about frazzled, fed-up February?

If you’re lucky, you take the show on the road. Vacations to sunny destinations are idyllic. Just a guess, but I’ll bet most Californians haven’t heard of seasonal affective disorder. Whereas, I am sure the diagnosis is made daily in the Arctic mid-winter.

I’ve learned that I must stop doing what I’m doing. If I’m bored, SO ARE MY KIDS. So stop.

Instead of art history each morning, we’re pulling out paints for half the morning. When they paint, I read.

I can’t wait to get through Simply Grammar as even the writer in me doesn’t care about antecedants and indeterminate pronouns (and if you don’t know what those are, phew, I just learned about them this morning)…

Busy Moms Survival Guide podcast host, PJ Jonas, had much to say about exceeding mama’s unrealistic expectations in her most recent podcast. She spoke of requiring margins in her daily schedule. Give yourself plenty of time to get places, not overschedule, plan personal time and date nights and just ‘do nothing, thinking’ time. Give yourself ‘margins’.

Until I began scheduling my daily activities in my little orange rectangle (iPod), I had no idea how unrealistic I was.

I knew I wasn’t getting what I wanted done each day. That I seemed slow, to say the least. But when I scheduled it all in, I discovered that coordinating four hours of studies for four kiddos, making three meals, keeping the washer busy and any additional housework was kind of hard to accomplish when I’d also expected to daily add to the three books I’m writing, blog three times a week, finish that Shutterfly photo book on Italy, scrapbook my child’s yearly page and possibly start any craft I’d pinned in the last year.

As I painstakingly scheduled it all in, I discovered I was a wee bit unrealistic. Besides that I might consider expecting to actually BE in the moment, not planning the next ten things on my list, or the next day, or the next month. Perhaps I should even take a few intentional breaths and possibly even enjoy what I was doing…

So I began to schedule in margins…and accept reality.

At this time of year there’s a lot of reassessing going on. There’s more time to contemplate when the cabin fever forces indoor time. Sometimes it might be necessary to slow down.

May I suggest doing NOTHING even, just for a day or two? Think anti-Nike: Just don’t do it! Whatever it takes to get the verve back!

When they’re grinding out work, do you really think they’re absorbing much? Not that I haven’t pushed past the inertia of lackadaisical childish laissez-faire plenty of times, but sometimes you just got to take a break.

Just as your energy is seasonal…April conferences spawn next year’s educational plan; summer is for less-structured routine, and novels, and outings; Autumn is for enthusiastic educational initiatives; and post-Christmas cabin fever, January and February days, contain overcast, shortened, contemplations of hunkering down with that cord of wood, a Netflix education and fulfilling outcomes creatively.

“We can do no great things,

Only small things with great love”.

Mother Teresa (not me, though I amuse myself that I am mother, and Teresa, ha)


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