Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Everything. In my face.

I know plenty of things have been written, both in seriousness and in jest, about the trials and tribulations of being a stay-home-mom. I've heard everything from mind-numbing to fulfilling, from desperate housewives to dedicated homemakers.

The truth - actually, not THE truth, but A truth, which is to say, MY truth - is that being a stay home mom is wonderful and rewarding and I wouldn't want my life to be anything other than what it is right now. And, it can be pretty hard.

The hard thing for me (at least lately) is based on two simple facts. One, I will never be caught up on anything. And two, all the things I am never caught up on will always be staring me in the face. I live here, I work here, I even school my kids here, so the work, the laundry, the dishes, the cooking, the cleaning, the playing, the picking up, the everything is always right here.

In my face.

Maybe I have a slightly overactive imagination, but I'm pretty sure the laundry in my house has a personality and it likes to mock me. It isn't very nice. I walk into my room a dozen times a day and see the overflowing hampers and think, "Gee, I should really do one or two or thirty loads today." But I was walking through my room, not to pick up the book by my bedside table, curl up under the covers and read for a few hours, but to get something in order to do something else that really needs to be done. So in that moment, I have to pick between doing what I was there to do, or doing laundry. So the hamper stays.

In my face.

I walk through my kitchen a minimum of 800 times a day, as these growing children seem to need a constant stream of calories in order to maintain their skinny little selves. The dishes pile up, and I know I ought to take care of them, but something else always beckons. We were in the midst of painting a volcano or reading Pippi Longstocking or I promised them apples and milk. So the dishes stay.

In my face.

My day is made up of decisions - decisions of how to spend each moment. Do I get this done, or that? Do I spend time here, or over there? It all calls to me. It all needs to be finished. The bills need to be paid, and we all need clean clothes to wear and food to eat, and being able to walk without piercing your foot on a demon Lego piece is also nice. There is always, without fail, too much to do over the course of any given day, so all day long I am deciding, prioritizing and leaving things undone.

What I ought to do is focus on what I accomplished today. What DID get done. But do I do so? No, I don't. I run through my mental checklist of what should be finished, and always find things left undone. I'm fixated on the negative. And the knowledge that tomorrow will be more of the same - more things I won't get to, won't accomplish, won't finish - it wears me out.

I'm not sure what the solution is, really. As much as I love lists, I long ago stopped making checklists that included things like laundry, because you never, ever get to check it off as being done. I've tried being more organized, and I've tried letting it all go and purposefully being less organized. I suspect the key has something to do with embracing the chaos and the mess, and unfollowing everyone on my Pinterest feed that pins things about homemaking and organization.

What should I focus on, at the end of the day, when there are still lego sets on the dining table, a random pile of kid's clothes next to the couch (because Ella simply can't stay dressed in the same outfit for more than 10 minutes), and a myriad of other things that will be demanding my attention tomorrow?

Maybe things like this.

And this.

Or this.


Even this.

And most certainly this.


Perhaps the measure of my success as a stay at home mother is not the state of my home, but the state of the relationships within it.

Now that is a thought I am going to take to bed with me tonight.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The seasons of the homeschool year

Like a lot of things in life, homeschooling has a rhythm to it; a cyclical pattern that follows the seasons. Obviously this plays out differently for different families, but I've found over the last few years that there is a typical pattern in how the year flows. It goes something like this:

Late summer: Anticipation

She's done all the planning and prepping and researching. She's ordered her curriculum and books and resources. A cup of freshly sharpened pencils adorns the table, the crayons haven't been broken and there's a stack of fifty-cent composition notebooks on the bookshelf. Heck, she doesn't even know what she's going to do with them, but they were on sale! The paint brushes aren't crusty and the books are all shiny and new. She has a great plan and she looks with eager anticipation for the new school year to begin so she can begin implementing her well though out, thoroughly researched, and no doubt exciting and stimulating plans. This year is going to be great, she thinks to herself.

Fall: Determination

The first day wasn't exactly as idyllic as she envisioned, but over the ensuing weeks, she works out the kinks in her plans and they settle into a decent routine. She adjusts to the pixie-small attention span of her kindergartner, discovers a few ways to keep her older child challenged, and they plow ahead with the books and curriculum... mostly. There's always a casualty along the way; a book left by the wayside that no one really liked or a subject that isn't going quite as quickly or as smoothly as she thought. But she moves through fall with determination that yes, this year will still be great!

Holidays: The Big Exhale

Phew! We made it! No, it might to be the half way mark of the school year, but it is usually a nice break and a chance to regroup. Who doesn't like reevaluating things as you approach New Years! She takes some breaths, catches up on laundry for the first time in four months, and moves into January with some renewed energy.

February: The Two Fevers

February is the shortest month of the year, but to many a homeschooling mother, it is the longest. She heads into the bleak, boring wintry days of February without any sparkling holidays to look forward to (Valentine's Day hardly counts). The weather is cold, snowy or rainy with nary a sign of spring in sight. She starts to get a bit of cabin fever, when a new kind of fever sets in - planning fever! It seems like the perfect time to begin fervently researching possibilities for next year!

Early spring: A New Hope

She plans, she reads, and she takes heart in the things that are working well. She may even put aside the things that aren't working, finally letting go of the shackles of failed curriculum, knowing her plans for next year are even better. The sun breaks through the haze of winter, park playdates pop up on her meetup calendar, and there may even be a picnic or two.

May through June: Racing.. or maybe limping, to the finish

Depending on how things have gone, the race to the finish may be more like a slow slog. The weather gets better, which lifts her spirits, but also increases the wiggle-factor of her children. Many aren't coming to the start of a long summer vacation, but even those that school year round are probably approaching a break. She is ready to cast off routine for a while, let the broken crayons sit in their container, the crusty paint brushes dry out and embrace the season of sunshine - or at least "less rain" if you live here in the Pacific Northwest. She made it through another year, and she gets to recharge her batteries just a bit and revel in the anticipation of a new school year to come.

Those plans for next year, they sure do look good. It will be the best year yet....