Fitting it all in does not just mean the school work I want the boys to do, nor does it mean how to juggle all the house cleaning, laundry, shopping, cooking and anything else that needs to be done. Fitting it all in also includes having regular free time for myself so I do not feel so overwhelmed all the time. When I have found free time on a regular basis, I find that I can and do have the energy and drive to actually do things such as cleaning, cooking and laundry without feeling so pressed for time or doing it begrudgingly.
There is always room for growth, no matter how much we work on improving, so even a seasoned homeschool parent is constantly learning and trying to improve things. I have been looking for ways to make everything work, including making things more calm in the evening. What I did not count on is that I have not only made my evenings more free and open, my days are calm AND we are fitting in more things!
When I first started homeschooling (over 7 years ago now,) it was not much of an issue. As I mentioned before, but will recap briefly again, I used a regular school-like curriculum with textbooks, workbooks and tests. I had one boy I was teaching, and we were able to complete everything in a couple hours in the morning and perhaps another hour in the afternoon. It became tricky once the younger boys were old enough to start school as well. If one boy needed 3 or so hours of my time, then two boys needed at least 6 hours and 3… well, I was starting to wonder how I would be able to teach everyone. We ended up doing some unit study/notebooking for two years, and that was a bit better, for I could actually include all three boys into most lessons, even though they were on various levels. Those worked well for the years we did them, but I still was not happy.
Most of you know by now that we are doing the Ambleside Online (AO) curriculum, which is a Charlotte Mason (CM) based curriculum. This style of teaching was calling out my name, and calling very loudly. Not only is it a rigorous secular schedule and not only is it G-d based, meaning I do not have to worry about evolution based teaching, it also focuses on short days – 1.5-2.5 hours in the younger years and 3-3.5 hours in the older years. And when the boys are old enough, they actually do most of the work themselves and only come to me at the end of the readings to discuss and narrate. This means, I have plenty of time to teach all three boys, and by this time number 4 boy was already here, I had time to get our Judaic learning done as well! That really made such a difference, not only on time, but with my mind, I was more at ease.
The change in the curriculum helped a lot, however, I was still very busy until bed time. With children actually in the house and using it all day it gets, well, used, Baruch Hashem! The drawback to it getting used is that there is more to clean up at the end of the day. I felt I needed to stay up late just to chill out and de-stress and that is not the best for shalom bayis when my wonderful tired husband kept asking me when I was going to be ready. I would feel rushed to de-stress and that is very hard to do!
There are two other changes I have made this year to my schedule and after just a few weeks, I have noticed such a tremendous and wonderful change. The first change was in our schedule. It is so easy to schedule one lesson after another – especially when it is going from one child to another for then the children can get breaks and I can get everything in that I want. There is only one small snag in that theory, and that is… it does not work. Even though we ONLY need 15 minutes for one subject and 20 afterwards with another boy, unless the children know how to pretend they are on an assembly line, it just won’t work. Period. Murphy’s Law will come into effect all the time, guaranteed. A child will not find a book (even though they had 15 minutes to get it,) a younger child will need attention, someone comes to the door, etc. What happens then is that you feel like you did not get what you needed done and you feel like a failure.
This year I got smart. Actually, it was more of luck, but yes, there was a little bit of smartness as well. No matter how long we need for a lesson, I give it 45 minutes! So, even if I need 15 minutes, I do not schedule anything else for 30 more minutes. I did this for as my youngest needs more attention, this gives me the added minutes to cushion in time for him. It also gives time for all the other distractions -CFAP Syndrome (Can’t Find A Pencil,) CFTB Syndrome (Can’t Find The Binder/Book,) IJNTBN Syndrome (I Just NEED The Bathroom NOW,) etc. In other words, it gives the boys just a little bit extra free time during the day, with a less stressed Mom. Even if the boys are all ready and I am all ready, I still give them the rest of the 45 minutes and we all love it! It is cute watching a boy looking at his chart and saying “XXX we have 15 more minutes, come, let’s do YYY!” The nice smiles on their faces somehow makes it all worthwhile. I think it is the idea that playing is now mutar, now permitted, and they do not have to ask me to play or read or whatever, that is *their* time and there is even less CFAP, CFTB and IJNTBN Syndromes now!
I also started something else. I did this a few times last year and it worked nice, and so this year I decided I was going to do it every week. I make a list of meals and the grocery list on Sunday before shopping. I was worried that I would forget or things would just happen and it would not get done, but I think that since I was determined to do this for the right reasons AND (and this is the most important thing,) I was ready for it, Hashem has helped me out so far. Yes, I know friends that already do this and I even had at least one of them suggest it to me before, but I was not ready. After really thinking about it and letting it simmer in my mind for many months, I am now ready.
This works wonders for not only do I have all the ingredients I need for the week, I do not have to worry or wonder what I am making for supper, this huge relief has been lifted from my shoulders. I also have found that I do not mind making something that takes a little extra TLC for supper for I don’t have to spend the time thinking about it which gives more time to cook, if I so choose.
Now, I’m not saying now that I seem to have more free time that my house is spotless, I’m just saying that I have figured out how to keep the status quo and give myself regular free time. At the same time, I am slowly (albeit very slowly,) working on raising the status quo. I’m positive I will eventually get there. 🙂