Homeschooling the midst of transition is tough. New home, new baby, new job, illness, etc. Its difficult to keep balance in the midst of change. One of our biggest (and longest) seasons of transition came when I got pregnant, my husband graduated from grad school, we moved across the country, had a baby and moved back across the country again. It was a rough 18 months! Homeschooling looked different back then. For a while Morning Time became Afternoon Time! When the dust finally settled we found ourselves back in Florida with four small children and a rental house that felt like a small sanctuary, a soft landing place to heal and recover. Once the boxes were all unpacked I thought long and hard about what our homeschool would look like moving forward. I have these meetings with myself at least once a year. A days long session of “are we on the right track? what is the end goal? does our daily work point toward that end goal? who are my children becoming?” Four and half years ago I stood in our new dining room and stared at the empty bookcase by the wall. It was the only space I had for my homeschool materials. Where were we going? How would we get there? What kind of foundation was I actively or passively laying?
I took a deep breath and reminded myself, “Morning Time. I need Morning Time back on track. Before we start anything else, I need Morning Time again.” By then I had learned that Morning Time was what worked best for our family. Some of our richest learning took place in those early minutes of the day. I knew that the familiarity of this family tradition would help bridge these days of change to the place I longed for us to settle into.
I also sensed that my older children were capable of more. At this point in time they were 5, 4, 2, and nearly 1. Our morning time consisted of prayer, a story, a poem, a song and math. I decided to play with the possibilities a bit. We would gather around the table, pray, eat breakfast, read a story and then progress to our new schedule. First we introduced a more in depth music time. Practicing rhythm, song exercises and learning new hymns. This would last 10 minutes on the dot! I never gave them a minute more no matter how much they begged. This ensured that the next day they would be excited for more music. Next we would work on our calendar, counting, days of the week and our weekly poem. The two year old would typically color or play with playdoh during this time, though he is a tornado of personality so most days he would join in and answer all the questions before anyone else could.
By now the boys would be hungry again, so a snack was in order. This is the time of day when I would go with them to the kitchen and teach them a new skill or supervise one they were in the midst of mastering. Learning how to squeeze juice, make toast, slice cheese, core an apple, etc. I still had a reserve of patience at this time of day and I was more willing to sit and instruct them in snack preparation. By the time dinner rolled around I just needed to whip up something quickly and easily without kids underfoot. Morning snack was the perfect opportunity to foster independence in a slow and steady way.
Next, we had our nature study time. Having a baby made me less willing to spend countless hours outdoors. The boys would go outside and play for awhile and then they would return and we would learn about a new animals or plant. We would take turns learning how to draw that animal or plant. Then my kids each had a turn to “report” on what we learned. One of my boys, a budding zoologist, pretended to be a veterinarian with his own TV show. He would take on the vocal cadence of Sir Attenborough and recite all he had learned while the other children watched, captivated by their brother’s excitement and joy. This taught me that embracing your children’s interests a few times a week goes a long way with them. Listening to your son talk endlessly about trucks or bugs or dinosaurs helps build a relationship of listening. Asking questions builds curiosity and dialogue. It also slowly sets the stage for reciprocal listening. “Remember yesterday when you told me all about trucks and I asked questions and you answered them and we had so much fun? Today, I thought I would share with you about _________, afterwards we can ask more questions and we’ll have so much fun!”
Don’t fast forward through transitions, use them wisely! Embrace the changing seasons by digging deep right where you are. If you have a baby on your hip, enjoy that baby. You don’t have to teach ALL the things ALL at once. Start somewhere small and slowly add new things in. If you can only add one or two things, that is just fine. In fact, its wonderful that you can recognize your current boundaries. One day you will be able to add more. Babies don’t keep. Toddlers grow into preschoolers. There is time ahead for all the extras.