Thursday, July 12, 2012

Creative Mom, Structured Day

That title is what I hope to be.  I'm pretty creative, so we can put a check by that one.  But structure is not always, okay, rarely, my strong suit.  Let me say that differently.  I can plan something structured as long as I am not the one who has to implement it.  And I can follow a plan if it's someone else's list of instructions.  When I have to plan it AND implement it, the boat gets a little rocky.  And I'll admit this is probably my biggest fear about homeschooling, or wildschooling, the girls.

I am full of some amazing ideas.  And at this point in my life, I am facing the fact that my follow through is just not always there.  But the path in front of me requires follow through and even more than that, it requires that I believe in myself and my ability to take us from one place of beginning to another unknown place, far, far down the road, into the future with surety, confidence, and a willingness to engage that potential success.

Heavy sigh of anxiety . . . big, big exhale . . .

But I do believe that I can do it.  Lesser people than me have done it.  So I thought I'd find a few suggestions for myself and other moms like me, moms (or dads) who thrive on going inward into their own creative process, and who come up for air after hours have passed.  Or for moms like me who meander through a day, come what may, and don't always have any one thing that repeats itself (other than food, potty, and sleep!).  Or for moms like me who just don't do so well at doing the same thing over and over.  Let me know if you've got any ideas of your own or tricks that you've used!

Don't feel like you have to "do things by the book." 
You're the teacher, you can write your OWN book!

1.  Don't do the same thing over and over!  Plan a schedule that will vary according to the day and week.  Monday can be language arts, Tuesday math, and Wednesday social studies etc.

2.  Do make a plan.  Start with a year long plan, marking out all holidays and events that need to be accommodated, and choosing your theme/unit for each period of focus (month, 6 weeks, season, etc.)  Having a longterm plan will make it easier to be fluid in the moment while still sticking to the intended theme or unit of study.

3.  Don't be a perfectionist.  I can say with 100% certainty that there are plenty of times when professional teachers have to wing it, compromise, change the plan, accommodate the unexpected, or start from scratch at the last minute.  If they have to do it, why would we expect that we, as homeschool parents, would not?  Allow for change and do what you do best as a creative mom:  go with the flow.

A little imperfection will go a long way when getting things done!

4.  Do relax and let your time with your children feel good.  You know what they need to thrive, and if you don't, you can do find out pretty easily.  At the top of that list is "1.  Confidant captain of the boat who knows, even in the face of unknown lesson plans, that things will be okay on this homeschool voyage."  So relax and know that messing it up is going to happen and all you have to do is have more good days than bad.

5.  Don't give in before you start.  There are thousands of people who are homeschooling, possibly in your city, and if not, in your region.  They all do it differently and they are all legally empowered to choose to give their children the education they see fit, some with few to no expectations from their state.  If you fall flat on your face and have to take your child to the nearest public school six weeks after kindergarten has started, I promise, you will not be the first parent to do so.

6.  Do seek out a community, not necessarily a homeschool one, and not necessarily one that is exactly like you.  I live in a pretty conservative area of Texas and I am discovering that many of the homeschool groups have different religious affiliations than we do.  Many require a statement of faith, but many do not.  Since the majority of people in a public school would also not be the same religious affiliation as us, it make sense for us to try to engage in a community even if it is not in the same relifious ball park as us.  Diversity is a good thing.  On the other hand, I think my daughters need to have peers who mirror their existence and validate who they are in the world, so we will seek out communities that are associated with the interests and preferences we have regardless of whether they homeschool or not.

A few other things to consider are the following:

Rhythms of contraction and expansion.  Waldorf education stresses these for the younger years.  The older your child is the longer the expansion away from one another can last.  For my two year old, unless she's watching tv (frown, frown) that rhythm doesn't have a very long cycle.  But plan for activities that bring you together, and activities that let your stretch out away from one another, and plan for simultaneous work as well. 

Use creative activities to occasionally indulge your own creative expression.  I have found this to be really useful.  Sitting at the table and coloring with Jetta becomes an opportunity to both model the creativity I want her to explore as well as experience my own expression and creative release.  I don't have to color in her coloring book in order to still be coloring with her.

Engage them in your "grown-up" stuff.  If you need to get something done, in the same way that I have hijacked coloring time and turned it into my own project, let them into your process or task.  It will teach them about what you are doing, make them feel included, and still let you get something done.

Finally, one of the most important things we can do as creative parents who homeschool, or any parent under any circumstances (or any human being anywhere), is give ourselves the time we need to go inward, as well as time to have peer connection.  Part of homeschooling is wanting to have your children close, but it can become challenging to find that space long enough to hear your own thoughts, map your own destiny, and feel validated along your own path.  Don't omit the atypical or unfamiliar opportunities for letting them stretch their legs while you stretch your own.  So stay up late if you have to.  Or get up early.  Or make your husband watch the kids while you go out with friends.   Or take them to Sunday school so you can talk to other adults at church.  Or go to that open skating homeschool event that is more than 45 minutes away so you can have time with the other moms.  Making the effort for yourself is important for them to see.  How else will they learn to that for themselves?

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