My fifth homeschool priority for my children (at any age) is to spend quality, stress-free time together. For the purpose of this blog post, I’m mostly referring to the time I spend with my boys during the week while daddy is at work. Making time for the whole family is another priority, but it’s not hard to manage that, so for now I’ll simply refer to our daily routine.
This is an ongoing goal, and with the ebb and flow of life, it doesn’t always happen. I try to pace our schedule so that we have plenty of time at home to play, but inevitably there will be weeks when it seems like we’re going somewhere everyday! It’s very easy to do this. Consider:
- at least one play date
- at least one necessary shopping trip/other errand
- the 5-year-old’s classes
- a day out with daddy
- not to mention: visits to grandpa’s house, the occasional doctor’s appointment, more errands that need doing, & library visits, which don’t happen enough.
- You get the picture! I could easily fill our days with places to go.
In addition, with young children, I cannot leave the house more than once a day. Did I mention we live 20~30 minutes from the nearest grocery store? Yeah. That doesn’t help either. The two-year-old still needs a nap in the afternoon. And sometimes I do too!
Life can be hectic sometimes, but when it does, I simply stop planning things to do and take time off. I’m a homebody at heart, so it’s in my blood to hang out at home. I don’t need to be on the go all the time, but I do need a balance between being social and having time at home.
I’ve also learned what works for us and what doesn’t. My eldest son seems more comfortable with one friend his age instead of in a large group. I used to worry about trying to get involved in some kind of regular homeschooling group, but now I don’t. Right now, we don’t need that. I admit that I feel I lose out on connections that way. I would like to have a wider circle of mama friends to talk to regularly, and I’ve met some really cool women that I’d like to get to know better, but in the end, I know I have to do what’s best for my boys.
We’ve met some boys his age, and I try to schedule a play date with one of them at least every other week, if not every week. This doesn’t always happen because kids get sick and unexpected things pop up, but that’s my goal anyway.
When we are home, I try to be mindful about spending quality time with the boys. I have a lot to do around the house, and I have personal goals (like this blog) to keep me distracted, but I’ve put in place a daily schedule that makes it easier for me to know that I have spent quality time throughout the day with the boys. I may write more about our specific daily and weekly routines in the future, but for now I’ll just say:
In the morning after breakfast, we have together time, which begins with book time. We each pick one book to read, and sometimes we read more, if we feel like it.. (Since the boys tend to pick the same books over and over this is the best method I have found to make them happy while also making sure they get to read a variety of books. Not to mention keep my brain from atrophying!)
After book time, we usually do puppet shows, but I don’t push it. The past few mornings my eldest son has been wanting to build things with popsicle sticks, and this morning we painted our creations! So as you can see, if the boys are playing well together or occupied in another productive activity, I go with the flow.
And that’s another way I try to create stress-free, quality time….I go with the flow. Usually it’s best if I just toss my agenda out the window. Now that my five-year-old is getting older and more imaginative, he is full of ideas, and many of them are excellent, productive ideas! How can I stop that?
On the flip side, there are days that seem aimless, and if the boys want me to play play play with toys and games that never seem to end, I can feel my patience and enthusiasm waning. I’m not saying that their play is bad. No, it’s great. It’s just not always what this 40-year-old mama wants to be doing. So if I can kind of steer their day, it helps me stay enthusiastic, gives us plenty of time together which in turns gives me a chance to say, “Now you guys go upstairs and play by yourselves for a little while.” If I have put in my quality time, I don’t feel guilty about making them play without me. And it’s good for them too!
I’m also trying be more mindful of the time I spend with my boys. I’m very much influenced by the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, and I think parenting is wonderful opportunity to practice mindfulness. (If you want to read more about this, I highly recommend the book Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children by Sarah Napthali. You don’t have to be Buddhist to get something out of her book.)
As time goes by, I am finding it much easier to let the rest of the world slide by, forget about all the things I want to do, and just soak up my children. You are two-years-old, and you have the cutest smile. You are five-years-old, and I love listening to you talk and explain your magical world to me. I put off things that I have to do, and guess what? It gets done anyway.
Simply put, it takes practice to be a mother, and I guess I’m getting better at it.
This is a topic that I could go on and on about, but I’d rather hear from you. How do you ensure that you’ll spend quality time with your children when life pulls us along at such a high speed?