I've taken the time to slow down and enjoy this homeschooling, stay-at-home Mom thing. I can't say that was always the case; I always had the nagging feeling that "I'm a modern woman in the 21st century... I should be DOING more!" And in that sense I belittled other stay-at-home Moms. Truth is, I don't personally know any other Moms who just stay at home and raise their children. They are "stay at home moms" who are getting college degrees, or work part-time, or run a business from home, so it seemed to me that staying home and raising children was not enough. And in that regard I was frustrated that I couldn't DO more. Everything other than homeschooling and my health has been put on hold, so to speak.
Even though I work retail part-time, I even cut that down drastically so I could have more energy for my duties around the home.
When I was doing around four shifts a week, I was physically tired the next day, had no time or energy to plan lessons, so the end result is that during break the kids got a lot of TV time. Keeping them entertained without the use of electronics takes mental fortitude, let alone teaching them. But now that my job load has lightened up I decided to start getting the kids back to a homeschooling schedule today.
They don't really need to start their lessons 'till mid-August. But Anakin was already half way through one of his books for the year, "Charlotte's Web", and I figured that if I just started now - even though the whole family is not fully in the swing of things and we're moving really slow at it - it would be a lot easier once we "get serious about it".
So the first perk I have to share is staying in PJs. Having "circle time" in pjs, where the kids and I begin our day with a Bible devotional while I get breakfast together and enjoy a cup of coffee... It doesn't get better than that. In the curriculum from Oak Meadow, they start each morning with circle time, which involves a poem or rhyme, usually reflected as a prayer or positive for thought for the day. I insert my own Bible devotionals because... I can. 2nd perk of being a homeschooling mom for me. I've been using material from Focus on the Family or LifeChurch Kids for the whole family, usually based on a topic that I then have the kids discuss calmly over breakfast.
Then I do my work-out (or go for a run) while the kids have those 30-45 minutes to do their chores. Perk #3 - I don't have to clean up after my kids. It's not excessive and you'd be surprised at all they can do. Caleb, my 4 year old, can sort his own dirty laundry, fold and put away his clean laundry, pick up his toys and organize the shoes in the closet. The older two also clean up their rooms and sort their laundry (I make them give me what they need me to wash for the week. It's their job to make sure they have clean socks, underwear, etc. They need to tell me when they're running low. If they want to wear something for Church, they need to give it to me so it's clean for Sunday. I do not sort through their dirty laundry!). They all help me with the pets (taking the dog outside and cleaning up after him, feeding dogs and cats, scooping the litter box) and the older two help me with vacuuming and sweeping. The kitchen and bathroom are all mine, and I usually sweep after the kids if I want to mop the floor. But this help, even if it's not perfect, goes a long way to maintaining my mental sanity.
After the chores, we do a block (about an hour or less of a lesson subject), a break (30 minutes of free time, not for any electronic devices, but for legos, art, playing outside, pretend play - whatever they want), another block, lunch, last block and a snack. Except this week, starting out, the kids are having "writer's block" so to speak, and a hard time staying in their seat and focusing on their assignment (specially when the other sibling is doing something else, because I have to plan something for my 8 year old, my 6 year old, and my 4 year old), so we did a total of 2 blocks today instead of 3. I didn't rush them to finish their work or focus, I didn't force the whole curriculum for the day in there. Today all we had time to do was read the story of Job from the Bible and do artwork on it, and work on some language arts. Anakin did a book report on Charlotte's Web and Brielle and I read "The Magic Spindle" to Caleb - where Brielle had a writing assignment on what she read and Caleb focused on the letter "A".
I guess the fourth perk in all this is seeing the light-bulb come on in their heads; I'm constantly surprised by the connections and associations they make! For example, Caleb had a blank sheet of paper where I asked him to write an upper case and lower case A, then draw pictures of words that start with an A. He drew his brother Anakin (and wrote his name), "acting" on a stage (and wrote the word "act"), with an apple and an alligator. While he's thinking of what words to use, he's going, "Cow? No that starts with a C. Cat? No, that has an 'a' sound in it, but it starts with a C." He's not 5 years old yet, but I'm pretty sure he'll be an early reader.
Brielle did something today that about blew my socks off. Before she went to bed, she pulled out her Bible story book and read tomorrow's story. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I'm working on sounding out all the words I'm going to read tomorrow. That way, when we have circle time tomorrow, I can read it more smoothly." That was all her own initiative. That's an independent learner! I know that in the future, if she takes that approach to college, she'll be golden! Most high school students would groan if they are asked to read ahead in their text books and come prepared for the lesson the next day.
Anakin mentioned during our study on how faith gives us peace, that his faith has grown even recently, because he said he was silently and secretly praying to go to the zoo. He didn't want to share that prayer request out loud because it didn't seem as important as praying for Israel or asking God for our protection, but when he was in bed, he'd silently tell God that he hoped we would have enough money to take the kids to the zoo because he loves animals and wanted to learn more about the animals in Alaska's habitat. I did not know this at all when I suggested to my husband last Saturday, spur of the moment, for us to take the kids to the zoo to celebrate the zoo's 45th birthday. But God knew, and He's working in all of our hearts and lives to build our faith - in the mundane, average, every day things. And Anakin is learning to have a relationship with God, and he's encouraging his siblings to talk to God about everything because ... you can!
I love these moments! I don't want to miss them. These are my perks, the reason why I can live with doing nothing more than homeschooling my kids and staying home with them. And I've learned to be ok with not doing more because I feel that doing this - to the absolute best of my ability and with utmost excellence - is the most important purpose of my life. If this is what I'm going to do, then I cannot screw it up or half-ass it, I have to give it my all and do it well.