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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Value of Home Base

With life's constant change and flux and a pulling desire to balance between school work/habits and outside opportunities to see friends & get out of the house, how do you set boundaries? How many activities do you fit in each week, while also managing the full AO curriculum?!
~Anonymous Ambler

Dear Fellow Ambler,
I used to be a very able multi-tasker but I've never been able to figure out how to be out running around all day most days and still get school done! ;) Your question made me think back to when I had a very real struggle with my own priorities and my role as teacher. What follows may or may not apply to your situation, it's just what came to mind as a result of your thoughts and questions. :)

While my kids were still pretty small, I had to come to the painful realization that if we didn't commit several hours (the same time every day) to only do school, we were rarely able to accomplish everything we wanted to do (either the basics or the extras were left behind - this left us always trying to 'catch up'). Before that time, we often spent our school hours in the car, outside, sometimes we took our work on vacation, but this mobile kind of school was always when the kids were pretty young and only for short interim periods. I only had two boys in AOy1&2 in those days, and their schedule was way less demanding. I liked to be going, going, yet still, I found it exhausting! (I am still all for carefully selected outings and/or activities... but when they begin to pull the focus away from family and home life... well, that's another thing)

However, for school, I've found that the commitment of certain limited hours out of every day is a bare minimum at best. If that was all we ever did, it would not be enough to accomplish an education truly based on CM philosophy. A CM education is truly MUCH more. More delightful, more fulfilling, more comprehensive than a couple of hours a day officially 'doing school' could encompass.
Education is a life.

Time is the prime ingredient to a non-rushed, delightful education. The child needs time to be absorbed in nature, to think, to create, to be... This will not happen when rushed around from place to place. And I will risk much to say, I don't think it can happen often even at HOME with a mom always with her own agenda rushing around in the background!

This is a difficult thing. I am not speaking to anyone in particular other than myself. I have a tendency to try to do WAY too many things at once. I used to think I could get lots of other things done while my kids did school. Not true. It is NOT a waste of time to commit all of my attention to my kids while doing certain hours of school (much of which will be spent in 'masterly inactivity')... there will undoubtedly be things that come up for our kids, that if we're doing 'other things', their questions will seem an interruption to our lives. If we make ourselves fully available to them, WE will be less frustrated and THEY will be able to learn in peace and confidence before moving on to other activities.

As for which outside activities we choose, we don't have a hard fast rule.
Here's some things we consider:
  • When we feel tired, overwhelmed and harried... often it's because we're trying to do too much. I've found it's easier to add one thing in at a time than to have taken on too much and then to decide where to cut back.
  • We like doing as many things together as a family as possible, this automatically rules out lots of activities. One idea that I've had is to organize a youth soccer night at our house, all of us could be involved in some way with that... we shall see once we get our yard in working order.
  • Many times 'school-related' activities can be made into fun family activities to which we can invite other families or friends too, ie., nature walks, concerts, art museums, historical reenactments, etc. We usually slot this type of thing in once a week at most, in an afternoon.
  • For the things we do as individuals, we have it a little bit simpler here in Peru, as the options are more limited (which I consider a HUGE blessing on the one hand, and extremely frustrating on the other). I have this loose idea that one lesson a week per child would suffice whether that be musical or sport-related. With five, that adds up to something every weekday! Since we've just moved back to the jungle, I have yet to find opportunities for everyone's selected activity (or a substitute). We're currently only integrating one guitar lesson a week. We're still looking for drum, ballet and art lessons. The ideal would be that they would all be scheduled during the same time slot on one of two afternoon/evenings each week.
  • If the lesson/activity can't be scheduled in the afternoon, it's next to impossible logistically. One term we had swimming lessons in the morning - but we had the first hour @8am, and all the kids went, so we started school a little later on those days.  
  • Activities that are scheduled too late at night on a school night, pretty much get nixed (at least for me and my littlest). This is a personal issue as I am NOT a morning person, and if I'm wiped out it throws our whole day off. Here in Peru as many meetings/gatherings begin after 8pm. As missionaries, this takes wisdom to figure out. I do have to make some exceptions in this point. 
Overall, after years of trying different things, I personally have found I like being home best.
I'm less hurried and life is simpler. Considering our family the primary unit and home the starting place, we can easily then branch out into areas of ministry and of interest as the Lord leads.

I read this, this morning from Sally Clarkson and my heart sang...
"If a woman chooses to stay at home with her children, she has the opportunity of nursing her baby in the peacefulness of her own home, caressing her precious little one, singing sweet lullabies to comfort and please the child's deepest emotional desires. She can offer them the restfulness of long quiet naps in their own bedrooms. She has time to enrich the home environment with beautiful sights and smells- from the aromas of homemade soup bubbling on the stove to the beautiful pictures in books- and arrange outings that foster budding intellects and awaken curiosity. And she has the flexibility to change her schedule to respond to teachable moments - those times when children's natural curiosity leads them to question and learn."
The Undivided Heart (ch3), Mission of Motherhood, Sally Clarkson


Bethany said...

This post makes my heart sing. You've so directly answered nagging questions I have in the back of my mind on how to arrange our schedules. THANK-YOU, Amy!

amyinperu said...

...and I'm so thankful that you were encouraged! :)

amyinperu said...

I'm pretty sure that I DID hear such things when I was a 'younger' mother... in one ear and out the other fashion. I was quite groggy on the whole "how fast time flies" concept in those early days. I think the light REALLY came on the day my eldest started needing deodorant (seriously, I'm sure it was that very day). Purchasing Old Spice deodorant for the now third generation of men users in this family, coincided with the year my youngest was born. I was suddenly fully awakened to what people meant when they warned me that my kids definitely would not stay little forever. I'm SO thankful as this enlightenment helped me to really appreciate all the little moments of my daughter's first year until now. Though I had a brooding sense of it, I too wish I'd really been able to fully grasp it earlier!!
Learning as we go... :)

amyinperu said...

I know just what you mean! Sometimes it's so tricky... there really are a lot of 'good' things one 'could' do with one's time. However, narrowing it down to the best is what's important. "Only one life, 'twill soon be past..."

Charlotte Mason in the City said...

I need constant reminders like this. We have been TOO BUSY several times in our homeschooling lives, and it just doesn't work, especially when you desire the richness of a CM education and life. It's a constant challenge for me to keep on blinders to all the distractions that are available, especially here in the city.  We get much more done when we aren't doing so much, lol! Thank you for this post.

Cheri S. said...

What a great post! I wish I had read something like this as a  young mother, I would have saved myself some hard work. I remember when I realized living a life of learning was a priority, and I had to let go of my own agenda. I have NEVER regretted it! You said it all so well!

Megginschiffner said...

Timely love of your posts!  Totally solidified choices I have made to not do things so that I can excell at being wife, mother and homemaker to the best of my ability while toting chronic illness.  Most don't understand that extras drain my energy from being available where I need to be.   I am thankful for your encouragment!

Syndie said...

I loved your post, it really spoke to my heart on many levels! It is so easy to get caught up in day to day house duties and chores and neglect one of the most important aspects, school. I have to continually remind myself of my priorities. I like the point you made of how important it is to schedule specific school hours and not become distracted. Thanks for the encouragement!

amyinperu said...

I haven't even heard of that one... I am reading Mission of Motherhood right now. Based on my previous experience with her books, I know it's going to be really good :)

Pam said...

Yes, 'Education is a life'. Love that you put that there.
Oh, and Sally Clarkson is my hero also. What an example she is. I have all her books, but two. Have you read The Mom Walk? It's on my wish list.

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