I just stumbled across this little gem and it was so inspiring! I hesitated as to whether or not to include it in this series because it isn’t exactly a story, though it does include several vignettes that perfectly illustrate the author’s well-thought-out point. After careful consideration, I did decide to share this book in my write31days challenge because What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast will jumpstart your learning, whatever that may be. Read the rest over at my new address…and while you’re there, “subscribe” so you don’t miss a post. Thanks! See you over there!
Happy October!! I know it’s been quiet around but that’s because I’ve been moving things to a new home on the web over at nurturedroots.net ! While things are still a work in progress over there, I would love for you to stop by. While you’re there, please subscribe. My goal is 100 subscribers by the weekend! Will you help me, by sharing far and wide?? Thanks! Also, since October is the write31days challenge, I’ll be there every day throughout the month sharing some of our favorite books that spark learning for all ages. Thanks for your patience as I get things spruced up. See you there!
Please, please, please tell me I’m not alone. I’m surrounded by stacks of books and papers trying to fit the jigsaw together to create some sort of picture. Trying to support my children in all the amazing goals they have for their learning this year, all without losing my mindJ
I’ve got four school-age children this year; ages 12, 10, 8, 6. And two sweetly mischievous littles (4 & 2). The task in front of me, to support and encourage and guide their learning, has left me breathless for the last few weeks. I have thought and prayed and sketched – a rough plan, trying to make tangible (and less daunting) the details of educating six children. But the truth is, it is a daunting task – being in relationship with these six amazingly bright and curious people who look to me for guidance and support. There is no way to minimize the enormity of that task, but I have found a way to breathe and quell, even if only one moment at a time, the anxiety that is trying to take hold of me.
What did I do?
I stepped back and remembered…
It’s not my job to make their education perfect.
It is my privilege and responsibility to connect with them through their learning. To learn with them, guide them from my own knowledge and respect their inner knowing.
It is not my job to hand it all to them on a platter and force them to eat. It is my privilege and responsibility to offer them the books and experiences that will meet their needs, and to encourage them when life and learning offer up challenges.
Most importantly, I had to remember that this family, large in size and chaos, is a gift from God. And it is exactly as it is supposed to be. I am not alone in this endeavor. It is not mine alone to shape or manipulate. This family – we learn together, support each other. And when I’m not so busy worrying about how it all depends on me, I remember that my greatest encourager, the One up above, always has my back!
It’s February. Mid-Winter. It’s that time of year when many homeschoolers really begin to feel bogged down. The newness of the year’s studies have long worn off. The excitement of the holidays and the new year have ended. And if you live where there’s snow this time of year, you’re likely buried, stuck inside. Your house, no matter how large, doesn’t seem to be able to hold the massive amount of energy even one child brims with each day.
This is the time of year when homeschoolers start looking at the next learning cycle, the school year to start in August or September. The curriculum companies must have tuned into the February slump years ago because the beautiful catalogs full of inspirational ideas and new learning materials begin arriving almost daily. The pictures of smiling children and calm parents offer hope that if we buy the right products, the right books for math and spelling and writing, we, too, will find peace.
I am not discrediting the need to offer our children learning materials that inspire and encourage them, but what if the answer doesn’t lie in anything in a catalog, or even outside of our home. What if the answer to that peacefulness we seek is not outside the chaos but within it? What if the chaos is an invitation to be ever more present, to put aside distractions, and to enter into a closer relationship with our child? What if the chaos is a call to love? A call to take a break from the regular day-to-day and create a space of solace for our families.
But how can we do this when the days just keep racing forward and our hopes for the year seem to be buried in the snow? The answer is simple: nourish. Nourish ourselves and our families. Our hearts and minds and bodies. Take a break from the regular day, even when anxiety of what is left unfinished begins to creep in. Take time to create. Paint. Draw. Cook and bake. Dance. Laugh. Listen to music. Make some of your own.
And read. Read a lot. Read to each other. Listen to books read by professional readers. Let the beauty of language well-written soak into you. Snuggle close. Allow this to be a time of togetherness. Talk together. And listen. Allow the slowness of February to bless you rather than burden you. Let go of expectations and just be, even if just for an hour. Use this time to reaffirm your intentions, the ones that can’t be bought in a catalog. When we honor the stillness, we teach our children to do the same, and that lesson is greater than any that they would learn if we just keep rushing through.
I am very familiar with the postpartum time. We are frequent friends. During that time I often feel overwhelmed and need help. Over the past 6 months I have had the privilege of being on the other side, as the doula, the one offering help, and it has given me some new insight. None of it is earth-shattering but can definitely help the postpartum mom, and all mothers, to shift her perceptions and hopefully re-evaluate her expectations.
In spending 3 hours with a family during the early postpartum weeks, I am able to do a couple of loads of laundry, prep dinner, and some light cleaning. It doesn’t sound like a lot but the three hours is full, leaving only a little time for a quick snack and to incorporate the help of young siblings. As the doula, I have the luxury of focusing on these tasks for the three hours that I am there.
I make these points for two reasons. The first is to reassure the mother. It took me three hours to do all of these things. During that time I was not the one feeding and diapering the baby. If I had been, those tasks would have stretched into 5 hours or more.
Another thing I noticed was that I did these tasks without any of the emotional drudgery that I often bring to my own household chores. Even though there was a lot to do, I met the work with a cheerful outlook. So often, when we are in our own homes and recovering during the postpartum time, we see all the things that we cannot get done with the efficiency as we could before baby was born. We may feel like our house is falling apart around us. Typically, it’s not as bad as it seems from our postpartum perspective, but our physical and time limitations in the early weeks (and often throughout the whole first year or so) make even the simplest tasks like folding a load of laundry feel daunting.
So what does all of this mean? First and foremost, the postpartum mother must be gentle with herself. She is only one person and no one person can do everything. Secondly, she should look closely at her personal expectations and decide what is truly reasonable to accomplish during this transitional time. Speaking from experience, the most that can be expected is caring for the new baby and siblings, food to eat, and sleep. Doing a little laundry here and there helps so that you have at least a few clean clothes, but expecting that you will maintain your pre-baby routine is not realistic. Eventually, a new routine will emerge and the postpartum haziness will lessen, but it is a transition. It does not happen all at once. Some days are smoother than others and some days just aren’t. That’s the way it is. It’s normal. It’s real. And you, the mother of this new baby, are doing the best you can and that is enough.
This is a good reminder for those of us not in the immediate postpartum period as well. It takes time to put healthy meals on the table, do the laundry, and clean the house. And on a daily basis, we may also be nursing the baby or toddler, helping children with schoolwork, tending to sibling squabbles, and countless other worthwhile activities. It all takes time and there are 24 hours in a day. There will be things left undone at the end of the day and that is ok. Just like the mom of the newborn who is recovering from childbirth, you are doing the best that you can and that is enough.
As I walked out of my house Sunday morning, I breathed in the fresh air and sighed contentment. Bird song surrounded me as I walked along our quiet road. It was only 6 a.m. and the baby had woken me at 4:45 this morning. Lately, the early morning light has roused her and then me, too.
So as I soaked up the early summer morning I began to reflect on our week together at home. It had been busy; strawberry picking, music lessons, time with friends, household tasks, and learning all the time. Our reading choices this week have been about edible and medicinal plants and botany in general. The seed for this learning was planted early in the spring when we went for a walk with a good friend and she pointed out ramps (wild leeks) to us. This one experience led us to learn about how to harvest ramps in a ecologically responsible way, but most of all, it intrigued my children that we could go out into the woods and find food to eat.
About the same time as our discovery of the ramps, symptoms of thrush appeared in the baby. Her tongue was coated white and her bottom was spotted and red. I decided to research some herbs to help her. I made an herbal salve that began healing her bottom at once. I had long stored bags of herbs in our pantry for tea but all of a sudden, the herbs were more interesting to the children. They had watched as I added herbs, oil, and beeswax to our little crockpot and they had seen how quickly the baby’s rash had disappeared. So they began asking questions, wanting to know about different plants and herbs. Since my knowledge in this area is pretty limited, I began to search out some resources. (I’ll list them below.)
I came across the cooperative board game Wildcraft, which teaches about a variety of herbs and their uses. That game alone sparked the kids’ curiosity. Suddenly, they were looking for the wild plants on our walks and in our backyard. We began reading a beginner’s guide to edible and medicinal plants, as well as a few botany books. The oldest 2 children decided to make their own wild plant scrapbooks. They have begun gathering plants, identifying them with field guides, and photographing and pressing them in order to put them into a book of their own creation.
It has been pretty incredible to watch this all unfold. From it I have learned so much! I have been reminded that we learn all the time, and that spontaneously following our interests feels so good! I have also been reminded that every spring we feel the need to put aside our hours curled on the couch to spend hours outdoors. We still read together but not as much. Our learning looks different throughout the year, and allowing it to flow like the graceful dance of the seasons, frees us to honor our passions and acknowledge them as authentic learning.
Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure Game, LearningHerbs.com
My name is Angela Awald. I am a homeschooling mama to six children. I graduated from Syracuse University with degrees in Elementary & Special Education and Literacy Education. I hold 4 New York State teaching certifications. My desire is to help families find the educational path that best fits them.
Group classes for home-learners
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to working with you!