I’ve been thinking and scribbling away about rhythm and schedules and getting things done. I’ve read your comments (thank you!) and thought about those. And I’ve thought about the current materials we have and what we need to do with them. If there’s anything I’ve learned about organizing life, it’s that I need to be flexible: every season requires a different juggling style. Also, I need to become better at juggling in pairs as Chinua and I continue to learn to work together.
One thing I do with homeschooling is periodically take a look at each kid and ask, “What is the most important thing for this kid right now?” In the last season, it was that I wanted to get Kenya and Leafy reading really well. I also wanted the kids to finish their grades in Math. That has gone amazingly well, and Kenya and Leafy are both fully launched into the reading world—this is a huge part of my homeschooling strategy, get them reading and everything will fall into place— and Kai is finished with his math year, Leafy and Kenya following closely behind. Right now my priorities are helping Kai with his writing (he’s working on a story, hitting some obstacles), finishing our history read alouds, and giving time to projects.
(An aside: My family is opposite to the standard wisdom about the timing of boys and girls and reading - just to prove that there are always anomalies and exceptions. So far my boys are intuitive readers, reading as easily as breathing, while my daughter was the one who took a long time to read. Now, at age nine, she’s finally really enjoying reading. She’s always been more interested in drawing and writing her own stories.)
I said my words were Together, Peaceful, Sacred, Creative.
Focusing on the word Together, I realized that it’s time to adjust the jobs list as the kids are getting bigger. Before, Kai and Kenya were taking turns on breakfast and lunch dishes and Leafy was cleaning the table. Now I’m teaching Kai and Kenya to do laundry and alternating them, while Leafy starts washing dishes for one meal a day and Solo takes over getting the table clean. So each week one kid will do laundry, (wash and put on the line) one will do breakfast dishes, one lunch dishes, and Solo will keep the table clean. (They also pick up their toys, clean their rooms, and we tidy the living room/dining room/homeschool space in the mornings.)
I’m also taking either Kai or Kenya as a kitchen helper two nights a week, with the goal of having each of them cook a night a week.
This ties into Together because I’m continually at fault for trying to do everything myself and not including others in the work of the family. Having the kids do jobs means we are working at the same time, we are focusing together and learning together.
I also want to try to have dinner at 6:30 instead of 7:30 or 8:00, which often happens because I’m trying to get some project of mine done in the afternoon and run out of time to get dinner done early. This will help with an earlier evening and more reading time together—our school reading or finishing with Lord of the Rings. It also makes more space between dinner and Isaac’s bedtime, so I can help more with getting the kids set for bed. (Mostly Solo, everyone else is fine.)
Then there are the words Peaceful and Sacred. I think a major part of this is the way the morning begins. First I want to aim for getting up at 5:30 or 6:00, something that has been a habit of mine for a long time but that gets a little muddled in the whole pregnancy/new baby thing. But my baby is seven months old and sleeping pretty well at night (the all night buffet is still open, but I can mostly sleep through that).
It’s a world of difference for me, waking up before the kids do, drinking a cup of coffee and spending time writing, reading, and getting my thoughts in order. So my mornings will start with reading the bible, prayer, a couple of quick morning pages, and writing. I’ll write either 1000 words in my novel, or a blog post, or 1000 words for another project. No internet, no emails. Focusing on one thing will make it peaceful (I often start the day thinking that I need to get my 1000 words done and then a blog post as well, I think this is sabotaging what I can do before I even start).
Blogging in the morning will also help me to keep my writing day set aside for my novel, the next Journey Mama book, and artist dates. I love the concept of an artist date from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a time to refill the creative well. My best artist dates are scooter rides into the hills or going to an outdoor market to look at fabrics and piles of multi-colored fruit.
I really love the idea of keeping one very important thing in mind as I head into the day. A list of one thing to get done- this of course is on top of all the regular things: cleaning, school, cooking, all the habits I’m trying to form. The one thing might be a letter I’ve been meaning to write, a blog post that is burning in my brain, some friends who are arriving (like today, yippee!).
Another thing for a girl like me, a queen of sabotage where things are really meaningful and I am terrified of messing things up: the twenty minute rule. This is something I started working on for myself when I was getting sunk in the frustrating repetitiveness of life, feeling like I’m not building the creative life I long for. I reminded myself that a life is made of years, and years are made of days, days are made of minutes. A collection of small interludes of creative minutes builds a creative life, and the strange thing is that I’m often so stymied by the fact that I feel I don’t have enough time to finish things, so I don’t start them.
My way of tricking myself now is the twenty minute rule. This helps a lot if I am going through a particularly anxious time for whatever reason. Let’s say I need to work on my book and I am resisting because of fear. “Just twenty minutes,” I tell myself. “Do a twenty minute meditation.” “Just work on the painting for twenty minutes.” I can handle twenty minutes. It is a trick, a very tricky trick, and I do end up spinning the twenty minutes into an hour or more sometimes. But even if I am short on time and I really only have twenty minutes, all those minutes pile up on each other and they’ll form something that looks like a life of art and meditation in the end.
I realize this is a rambling post. Let me summarize.
* Working on the most important things in homeschooling.
* Gathering the kids in help with jobs around the house for togetherness, as well as having dinner earlier to make bedtime more peaceful and spend time together reading.
* Starting the day with peace, focusing on one thing, keeping Fridays for writing my novel and artist dates.
* Just twenty minutes. And there you are, a little peek into the world of my disordered mind and all that I do to try and make it orderly.