We’re into the first week of “EVERYBODY STAY HOME” here in Omaha, and you’d think that wouldn’t be so hard as a homeschool family. Sure, we know how to do school at home. But our relationships with friends, our weekly school community day, and our extra curriculars are some of our favorite things. Everybody is feeling the shift.
This school year is our eleventh year of homeschooling. Through the ups and downs of doing school together at the dining room table, I realized a hard truth. Like all relationships that wear over time, you can begin to enjoy your kids less and less when you’re always with them.
Around year seven, I remember making a conscious declaration to myself: I’m not going to sacrifice the quality of my relationships with my kids on the altar of homeschooling. In less dramatic terms, I needed to figure out how to be together a lot and not drive each other nuts.
It helped when I stopped to figure out which things really bothered me. I know this will be different for everyone, but evaluating the interactions or dynamics that really drain you will help you put energy in places that bring about productive change
The three things that made me most crazy: 1) constant questions (and decisions), 2) kids fighting, and 3) lack of quiet space to think.
Can I have a snack? Can I play my Kindle? Can we watch TV? Can I have a snack? Can we play outside? Do I need a coat? Can I go outside? Can I have a snack? Can I wear shorts? When is lunch…and can I have a snack? What can I have for snack? Can I have two snacks? Three?
The constant questions (and the impatient little person who is waiting for a quick decision) takes the spring out of my step before the sun even rises. To handle that, we’ve settled on some basic routines that help the kids know what to expect instead of asking all the time.
- They can watch TV from 7:00-8:00 in the morning (this is mainly the littles, as my older kids sleep in or read when they wake). After that, all screens go off until 3:00. No exceptions. If you bug mom about it, you can forget about your screen time (which is 30 minutes a day, though we do watch TV together in the evenings sometimes).
- We eat three meals a day, with optional snacks at 10:00 and 3:00.
- In terms of going outside- below 40 degrees you need a winter coat. In the 40’s you can do a hoodie or sweatshirt. In the 50’s, you can wear shorts. No sandals until the 70’s. (I know this sounds ridiculously specific, but I’d rather they check the weather and decide instead of asking me all the time. )
- Our school routine is fluid but structured (is that possible?!?) They know what they should be doing, what their options are if they finish early, and how to setup and clean up.
I wish I could tell you the secret to keep your kids from fighting. But in reality, they’re going to fight. And also in reality- that isn’t always a bad thing. Relational conflict is a healthy part of learning to be a good friend, roommate, co-worker, and functioning adult. I try to make sure that their conflict is constructive (a genuine disagreement and not just someone unloading on someone else), civil (we enforce the “How to Fight Clean” rules that have guided our marriage) and that both parties show self-control (no name-calling, screaming, or hitting).
Sometimes they work things out on their own. Sometimes they need a mediator (which is me or often another sibling). Sometimes they aren’t calm enough to discuss it yet, so they take some time to get to a better place before coming back together. We practice apologizing, practice owning our bad choices, and practice reconciliation.
When I have a good perspective on conflict, it bothers me a lot less. Also, when one kid is having a lot of conflict in one day, we step out and have a chat. Do you need some rest? Some space? Is there something going on that is spilling on to everything else? These conversations take a lot of time and energy, but after a decade of going at it, I think they may be the most important hours of our day together.
Emotional health is a crucial part of growing healthy kids. When I keep that in mind, I weather it better.
Lack of Quiet Space to Think
Sometimes my brain needs to rest, to stop firing on all cylinders, and to simply chill. Different things have worked over the years. When the kids were little, they did “room time” in the afternoon from 1:00-3:00. (I miss those days. Sigh.) Now that the kids are older and we do math in the afternoon, the quiet spaces are harder to find.
But you can get creative about finding quiet. I run errands alone (thanks to older kids). I put my earbuds in while cooking or cleaning (which signals to my kids that I’m not available unless it’s an emergency). I go for a walk or sit out on the porch with a book. For some seasons, I woke early and enjoyed a quiet house. But even in those times, I found that by mid-day I needed some space to regroup.
If you’re all home and finding that the afternoons really drag on, maybe instituting some “personal chill time” after lunch would be helpful all around. Kids can listen to audio books, do legos, color, or any other activity that they can do unassisted and without much fighting. (It negates your chill time when the background music is the kids fighting!)
Those are the things that help me stay sane (and my afternoon DDP, of course).
I hope you’re faring well in the days at home. Please remember, just because your kids are home, that doesn’t make you a Cruise Director. You don’t have to entertain. You don’t have to be accessing all the things online. You aren’t depriving them if you aren’t creating awesome educational experiences or incredible family memories or doing virtual field trips every day. It’s a period of transition and stress for everyone; don’t add unrealistic expectations to the equation.
Your goal= love, feed, and educate them. You got this 🙂