Monday, August 27, 2012

a new school year, all fresh and shiny

 The children swimming in that beautiful lake.
So we've been back to school for two weeks. The weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth has been within bound and reason. It's hard for everyone to switch over from waking up and playing to waking up and whining about having to work. Phew. Me chief of all. Add to the insanity that I decided I ought to wake up half an hour earlier this year and you have a less than placid kick off. The first week I wandered around in a drowsed stupor and the second week I skipped waking up early because of our little unplanned holiday. So this week will be just like the first week.

But I gain an awful lot in that half hour. First of all, I actually get out of bed, work out and do laundry. And then while the kids are waking up and asking stupid questions ("Are we doing school? Should I get dressed? Can I go buy a toy at the store?")  I get breakfast made and the house picked up. By pushing heartily through the early morning, when the children finish up school in the afternoon, I am not facing another mountain of house work. Instead I lie back in my new chair and think about blogging. Except that so far I haven't actually had the mental energy to do it. But I'm really hoping that will change as we acclimatize ourselves to structure and work again.

A friend recently asked "How do you do it all!" with a generous measure of admiration and possible disbelief in her voice. I've thought about this often since she asked, nearly every day in fact, and I think I have an answer. First of all, I don't do it All. I do a lot, but I don't do it All. I do a lot more than when I had one and then two and then three and then even four children. With each child comes a greater capacity to work. You discover that getting up one more time with a vomiting child isn't going to kill you, its just going to make you very very angry and tired. And along with the capacity to work comes the ability to discover what you really care about. So, over the last few years, I've discovered that I have to have a clean house (I know, my mother finds this hard to believe). I don't have to be on top of the laundry, I don't have to read books, I don't have to cut everyone's fingernails, but I do have to have the house picked up in order to be able to think.

Second, the babies stop being babies. I wish someone had told me this a long time ago, although I may not have been in a position to hear it so never mind. When you have a couple of babies to haul around, or even one, then why on earth are you trying to DO anything but make dinner and occasionally go to the mall? Babies don't need enrichment or school. They just need regular food and regular attitude checks. Bigger kids need enrichment and school, but babies, so help me, need to spend more time napping.
Third, big kids can do a lot of work. And work is so good, so life giving for everyone. School itself is interesting and fun. Cleaning the kitchen and having it look gleaming and pretty is satisfying. Making your bed and having your room picked up makes it possible to think AND to have friends over to play.

Elphine really loves to tick things off a list. Alouicious doesn't care so much, but its helpful to know what to do every day. He likes to wake up very early and do everything he can before other people wake up to distract him. Romulus, on the other hand, is learning about timing.
"Are you ready to do some work?" I asked the other day.
"Nah," he said, "I need to finish this game."
"Okay" I said cheerfully because I didn't want stop sweeping the floor. But three minutes later when I had started to make bread and he came in and announced imperiously, "Now I will do math."
I said, "Oh no you won't. I just waited for you, now you'll wait for me. And don't talk to me that way."

Maybe another time I'll write about what kind of curriculum we're using, unless it sounds boring to all you Gentle Readers. I am extremely interested in the subject but am told by Matt that it can be tiresome to hear too much about it. Well, he didn't say it quite like that but his eyes glazed over and I heard a gentle snoring after a few minutes of telling him about how many Literature Guides I thought we could do in one half of a year. More interesting to me is this cake--Nigella's Baby Bundt cake--which I made for my birthday. It has a hint of lime and needed a hint of brandy or something but that addition seemed a touch extravagant at the time. After eating it with fruit, a drizzle of golden syrup and full fat cream, you can eat it again three days later lathered in jam. And when your child says, "I like syrup more than jam," you can say, "how can you like bought syrup more than my gorgeous home made jam, you little twit" and then he can say, "well, I do really like your jam" very sheepishly. And now I'm going to remove a large marker from the baby and put her to bed because, remember, Babies Need More Naps.


The Copes said...

:) I thoroughly agree about naps. And I give great thanks that each of my three kids have been good sleepers.
As for the homeschooling question, I would be very interested to hear about your curriculum ~ I 'borrowed' several of your ideas and resources last year and found them to be very useful.
Hugs to you and the family~

Jessica Snell said...

Yes, when people tell me, "I don't know how you do it!" and then look at me expectantly, I find myself just staring at them, thinking, Do what now? Then I give them my pocket answer of "I have a good husband". Or maybe, "I don't know either". Or, "God is gracious."

All true, but what I'm really thinking is, "What else am I going to do but do what needs doing? What else does anyone do?"

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Oh goodness, this made me laugh, which is very needed as I come back from a trip and try to jump straight back in to homeschooling. Thank you. :)

Also, I completely agree that it is good for children to work, but I find it difficult for me to figure out precisely what said children ought to be doing. How much is reasonable, what can a 7 year old (for example) really do, which chores are "just part of being in the family" and which should be for extra spending money? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that!

Laura said...

I would love to hear what you are using for curriculum. :) we are having a slow start to school as two of my daughters just returned from a 17 day choir tour to London and Oxford! :)