Saturday, January 13, 2007

How The Family Schedule Is Going…

Not well.

My attempts to make a nice schedule that would accomplish all that I want, including scheduled time for rest and relaxation, so far, is a big flop.

At times the kids are open to the schedule and are ready and willing to do the next thing. Sometimes I am not yet ready, having not pulled the books out (for a certain homeschooling lesson) or whatever. They expect that when I say “it is time for history” that I will have pulled out everything we will use and have it ready and waiting for them (where did they get that idea anyway?). If I don’t have it ready like that to their desire they give me an attitude and proclaim I am not ready so therefore they will resume playing with toys, and stomp off. (Are you kidding me, are these MY kids?)

As to my children helping by the simple act of puling books off the shelf, the kids are pretending they are inept to help with this so I guess I will have to teach (train) them how to go to the shelf, find their math book, and remove it. They say they don’t know what X book looks like (how can that be possible that they not remember what their math book looks like)? Also the fact that they are and have always been organized and in one place is an excuse they cannot give me (not to say they won’t try).

“Real life” has gotten in the way such as even yet more doctor appointments for minor illnesses, physicals and yes, one emergency in the last week. The whole schedule is messed up, for example, with one visit to the doctor and pharmacy that sucks up three hours of my time (driving time and sitting in the waiting room time has been included in that tally).

Can it possibly be that so much of our family’s life is chaotic and reactionary?

Am I a fool to think (pretend) that everything is under my control---that as a homeschooling mother and also in my other (typical) duties as a stay at home mom that I just cannot even control the stuff that society (and the ones who write the books about how to make and live with a schedule) pretend that it is?

Is it possible that those who live by a schedule have simpler lives than my family does? Can it be that they have less relatives living near, them, less urgent situations that need addressing? Are the schedulers living far away from other relatives so they are automatically excused from doing the many time consuming tasks related to both normal life with an extended family and also with helping them with problems?


I am also feeling a bit disenchanted with the whole Charlotte Mason habits thing. I have worked with my children very hard in the past to teach (train) them to do certain things. Lately some of the things they worked hard on and did master have gone out the window and we seem to be back at square one. Since Charlotte Mason encourages dedicating three weeks to accomplish one task, it is daunting to realize that I must re-teach things that were mastered and were done for a year or more. If I just re-train everything they’ve learned in the past it will take many months and that will suck up the time that I needed to teach them the new things that were on my list (such as new chores that would help the whole family).

If someone can shed some light on why my children suddenly need to be told to brush their teeth, wash their face and to get dressed when they wake up I am all ears. That habit was established with my older son in the spring of 2003 and it was consistently done until then. Another example is that my very neat younger son is suddenly making a mess of choosing what clothes to wear in the morning and feels that leaving the unworn, clean clothes all over his floor is somehow acceptable. (In the past this would have bothered him to no end and he would have neatly restacked everything back in its place.)

I feel like suddenly everything is a mess with trying to implement this schedule. I guess I am going to have to also watch over them like a hawk, as my usual more ‘hands off’ and trusting way (that worked in the past) is suddenly failing. In the past I would say, “Go get ready for bed” and they knew that meant both to put on pajamas and to brush their teeth. Now it means either one or the other or neither. They may show up in their pajamas but if I get close I smell bad breath and ask about the tooth brushing and I get, “Oh, I forgot!”. HUH? Brushing our teeth before we go to bed has been an ALWAYS thing not some recent change or a new habit.

The more free and unscheduled days of our past were not successful in getting some basic things accomplished such as the basic homeschooling lessons that are required by our state laws, and simple housekeeping tasks such as laundry and light cleaning were not getting done. My goal for having the schedule is to find a way to get the basics done and to have the house in a decent living condition on a regular basis, which I don’t think, is much to ask. So that is why the former, more lenient, more "free" type of parenting I used was not successful in my eyes.

In the past I was very good at either signing up for outside classes and activities and actually going to all of them and getting there early, to boot. I have mastered that. However in order to do that sometimes the house cleaning, healthy food meal prep or the homeschooling lessons done at home don’t get accomplished. The times that we’ve barely done any outside scheduled classes I was able to master getting all that we want to do at home accomplished. Why is it not possible for me to find a nice balance between doing all the stuff at home and a little outside classes? I am feeling very frustrated at the moment about this issue (and I am blaming myself).

I am so frustrated right now that yet again I am fantasizing about returning to the paid workforce, furthering my career, loving my job and also earning money, by the way--and just putting the kids into school. I feel so unappreciated right at this moment for all my efforts here (with everyone in the family, not just with one kid or the other but also with my husband) that reviewing all the reasons that we are homeschooling is not even working to help dissuade me from thinking that the typical American mainstream life is not the better path. I am so disgusted that I just feel like enrolling the kids into school, putting them on the bus and saying “See ya later!” and then running off to go to work where I will be appreciated by someone (if I can't be appreciated by my husband and children then to feel appreciated by a boss or a co-worker or a customer is better than nothing).

Right now I am a bit worried that we didn't do all that I had planned for homeschooling lessons at home so I worry about catching up. It seems so tempting to just move the responsibility for educating my children off to the government and to go on my merry little way to go to work. What a relief it would be to just let them go to school and let someone else make all the decisions; then if they don't actually learn I could have the easy task of blaming the schools and the teachers! How liberating! Plus, if I were away at work all day and they were at school, whatever annoying things my kids do would then only have to be dealt with for a couple of hours at night before they go to sleep and on weekends.

I can’t believe I am in this state of mind right now. I usually don’t publish blog entries that show my emotions when I am in a bad mood but today I feel like baring it all so there you go; here are my thoughts for the day. Perhaps in some way shwoing the less-perfect side of a homeschooling family will benefit someone out there. Finding not-perfect representations of the homeschooling lifestyle--hearing of the low parts of the normal up's and down's of life's experiences is sometimes hard to come by. Even at some local homeschool support group meetings the discussion is always positive and may never show the low points.

It is overcast and raining steadily outside, and quite gloomy. Since the morning started off with me having chest pains again I take that as a signal to not overexert myself physically or by running around like crazy doing errands. I don’t feel like visiting relatives which was my plan for a relaxing day today. As I look around the house and see one mess after another, one undone responsibility after another (someone else's responsibility or my own responsibility), it just may be that this bad mood won’t lift until I wake up tomorrow morning. Sigh.

For now the kids and my husband are out of the house at a class and I may revisit that darned schedule to make revisions. I know that it is a part of the process to try out a certain schedule and see how it works and to revise as necessary. However the other part of me says to heck with the schedule, just try to relax today, it is Saturday and I have no real appointments to keep, so why not try to have some fun?

One issue with the having fun thing is when I try to grab a little time here and a little time there to do something like make some artist trading cards I sometimes later have my husband tell me that if I wanted X done instead I should not have done the fun thing and done the not-fun task instead. This is the part of feeling that I can never be “off duty” that I absolutely hate!

Since our kids are at home 24/7 unless we have outside classes or appointments, we are here to eat all our meals and snacks. There seems to be a constant mess in the kitchen, if I clean up from one meal, a snack, a drink of water or a meal is right close behind it. It seems there is always something cooking or baking, or something defrosting. My kitchen never looks “picture perfect” as it is always in use!

Thanks to homeschooling, the kids are here too, to use the house its contents. If they are not messing it up they are cleaning it up, it seems. Think about it: we are either currently messing things up, taking things out, using things, or putting them away or cleaning up. That is the process.

There gets to be a big problem though when we stop in the middle, leave the mess out, and move on to something else. I bet if I stopped blogging right now and walked around my house to every room I’d see disarray and something left not cleaned up in nearly every room. (And that is very depressing to see sometimes, like today---other days, it doesn’t bother me at all.)

Perhaps what bothers me is that I feel like it is all sitting and waiting for me to address it, for me to command that the board game should be put away, etc. Why does no one else feel the responsibility to tidy up after themselves? How did we get to this state where everything can be left a mess and I must be the dictator to demand immediate action?

If I could afford it right now I'd run away for a weekend alone to relax and decompress. Since that is not possible and my requests for my husband to take my kids to his parents house and give me a weekend alone were shot down I guess I will stay put here. If I had money to spend I'd use today as a "shopping therapy" day which is something I used to do in the past (a common American woman's stress reliever, by the way). However an impulsive buying shopping spree for stress relief is not in the budget, so maybe I'll do something free, like borrow a movie from the library (if I can get alone to watch a non-children's movie) or maybe I will just sit by myself and pray.

Today I am very much feeling that “never off duty from the kids” feeling that I have once in a while. It is the beginning of mothering burnout and also the beginning of homeschooling burnout. I need to head this off at the pass if possible. Wish me luck.

Update: If you want to read what happened after I wrote this, I blogged about it here.

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Margaret said...

I don't think I know any homeschooling moms who don't feel that way sometimes. I certainly have done so. Actually I don't think I know many moms with kids in school who don't feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities - they are just different sets, after all.

I think that kids go through cycles where things work and then things don't. Perhaps your children are going through some new development stage where their brains are being taken over by something new, and things like toothbrushing get squeezed out. I know my boy (9 1/2) will sometimes do things that make me scream because he's known for years not to do them. But it seems that if I watch carefully I find that there are other things going on, usually good.

A while back I wrote about a bad day and the lessons I learned from it, if you are interesed:

Sorry I don't know how to add a real link in comments.

I hope this time passes quickly for you and you are able to find the balance you are seeking.

Heather said...

I think it is January.

What you are feeling is normal...but I think I would lighten up on yourself and you would be much happier. Just shift your perspective and everything else will shift too. I would get rid of schedules for a little bit and not worry about following the state's requirements to a T. There are ways around have the freedom to have your days however you want. You are the only one creating stress on yourself and children by setting these schedules. Take a vacation from all the "schooly" things and just be in the moment with your kids. Do some fun things like fieldtrips, projects and games. Your kids will probably come up with some pretty fun and interesting things. Just let go for a little while and relax and see how things go. I'm betting you will be much happier if you give yourself a break. If housework is bugging you and clutter...start to work on that a little at a time... I can SO relate to you feeling under appreciated and worrying if your kids are learning what they need to be learning...but they are...I see in your side bar you have a couple of John Holt books...have you read "Learning All The Time"? I'm struggling myself on structure or unschooling lately...I'm having a hard time with structure for everything and I'm also having problems just letting go.... Pamper yourself a something for you...then you can give more to your family and feel so much better. I think it is important that homeschoolers share about their frustrations and not so glamorous days...being with your kids 24/7 is not always perfect. There is always things to be's LIFE...and there always people that assume they can ask SAHM to do things because they are home and they have all this "free" time...yea can seem exhausting and draining but it is only that way if you let it be that way...that is the challenge of controlling your own happiness and not letting outside forces (people, state requirements,etc) control how you live your life....thanks for sharing your frustrations...I hope you perk up!!! ((((BIG HUG)))))

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Wow! I used to have days where I felt like you did today when I was teaching in the public schools. My classroom was a mess, my lessons weren't working, etc.

Sometimes when that happened, I would show a Bill Nye the Science Guy Video (I was a science teacher) and use the time to complete one task--like clearing off my desk! LOL.

I have those days now that I am homeschooling, too! I am so glad you wrote about your day because now I don't feel like the world is full of "perfect" homeschoolers and me! One day in November I just snapped. My son's room was a disaster! I got mad and then I got even! I stopped math in progress--he was frustrated anyway--and we just attacked the room together.

May the rain stop and your days brighten as they lengthen.

Dorian Speed said...


Just off the top of my head - and this is NOT meant to criticize the plan to get on a better schedule, as it is a plan I am myself hoping to implement - I would guess that some of your children's "falling off the wagon" with previously established good habits may be a reaction to a greater level of structure being imposed upon them now. Without even realizing it, they may be testing to see if the new structure is here to stay or if they can find ways to assert their own desires to do what they want with their time. I would hang in there and roll with the punches for a while - I bet things will start to click sooner than you think.

Good luck!

Judy Aron said...

Sometimes the best schedule is "no schedule".
Every day doesn't have to be productive.. so don't beat yourself up if it isn't.
You are under lots of stress..don't let homeschooling be one of the items that stresses you.
I personally think organization is over-rated, and can be over done,
but if it causes stress not to be organized then that doesn't work well either.
Work to try to find a balance.
Perhaps you should have a family meeting and see how everyone might do a better job of pitching in.
You'll be in my prayers and I hope that you can sort things out and find some balance and peace and joy.

Mother Auma said...

Wow. I could have written this post. In fact, I had a conversation like this with a good homeschooling friend this afternoon.

I don't know how we balance it. I have been trying to balance activities and home life/homeschooling for around three years now. We are either overcommitted or suffering from cabin fever because we have no activities.

And my kids have been messing up their bedtime routine pretty consistently for the last couple of months. I just can't get them to stop horsing around without coming unglued on them. I hate to get onto them at bedtime because that is right before they go to sleep, but they *must* stop bouncing out of bed like so many jacks after prayers and kisses.

I guess I just wanted to say I feel your pain.

Christina said...

Congratulations! You're human!

Homeschooling is a journey... during the course of your adventure you learn what works, more often what doesn't (!), you make adjustments accordingly and continue down the path. Ease up on yourself. Maybe life in your world isn't meant to be "organized"! I know that's the case here...

Faerie Rebecca said...

Christine, I've found since the beginning with my kids that, when they're learning something new, something complicated, that they'll consistently "drop" another skill already learned for awhile. I've seen it at their dance classes, in our own homeschool, and even surrounding things as simple as chores. It may be that their entire beings are focussing so hard on this one thing, other things get dropped. And then, when mastery of the new skill comes, the other things get picked up again. I think it's that whole, "two steps forward, one step back" thing. They (and you!) will be OK :)

Jennifer said...

Hi Christine-My girls also need a schedule but life gets in the way-a vet appointment here, a great field trip oppertunity there and suddenly we're two days behind. I was just trying to catch up each day but my girls would look at my schedule and say "It's Tuesday, we're suppose to do science." Of course I was actually on last Friday so I had the art stuff out. So we came up with this solution: we use a rotational model. I now call the days Day 1, Day 2, etc. Each rotaional day has a special assigned to it. Day 1 is Science and Library. Day 2 is Drawing and Cooking, etc. Each week I post a chart on the board and assign each weekday a rotational day number that fits with schedule. As a result, exploration day can fall when another mom is planning a field trip and not just on Fridays because that's when I have it scheduled. Some weeks my schedule does goe Mon 1, Tues 2, Weds 3, Thurs 4, Fri 5. But this week if looks like Sun 3, Mon 4, Tues 2, Wed 5, Thur 1, Fri 2, Sat off. It helps me to feel like there is still stucture and helps the kids know what to expect while still allowing us to mold around the everyday life that pops up.