As a parent, some days seem impossible. My children whine and bicker with one another and with me, refusing generosity and kind words for that ubiquitous I-my-me. They grumble about their work and wish their day away, convinced they are missing the elusive Better–who always seems to be somewhere else, doing something else. And sometimes secretly in my own heart I do the same. When I am careless, these sort of days will swallow me whole, like a serpent and an egg, removing me from the moment into daydreams of Better. I know we all dream of better, a natural progression in life and maturity, but this is Better, the one who finds me (and maybe you) in my ordinary day and taunts me with the idea that I somehow have less, am receiving less.
I felt this impossible swallowing at some point last week and naturally spent a few days trying to adjust and fix [my routine, words, pictures, plans], working harder, when what I really needed was to stop working. Instead, I really needed to reflect and give thanks. Sometimes we really require inspiration and encouragement to move us forward and other times we need to look around and be grateful for what we have. It’s the simplest of lessons, really–one I can easily disregard with a simple “oh yeah, I know.” But true thanksgiving has a way of healing fissures in our soul caused by want. I do this intuitively as a parent when my kids are grumbling with one another or about something they want. “And what are you grateful for? How has someone been generous to you?” I’ll ask, almost rhetorically. Yet, it’s more difficult to self-govern my own heart in these moments.
Honestly, it’s difficult and awkward for me to say these things out loud, to write them here for the world to see. But I hope in sharing this somehow you’ll see that no one is perfect, not even me. I hope that these words comfort you to remember that behind all the beautiful images and stories clouding our various screens, we’re all living by grace and struggling with the various limits of our humanity. We are all wrestling with the idea of Better. I hope that in reading these words you’ll remember to be patient with yourself and those around you and, for a moment, to take inventory of your life and to give thanks.
I have always loved white. My family regularly teases me about it, but I adore how white draws attention away from itself to the details surrounding it, whether it’s an object’s form, the texture and variation within an art piece, or the things and people filling a space, like in this Nordic home. Of course, it can be impractical (especially as a parent) but then again, so are stilettos. (Wink.)
Although it is a simple concept, enjoying the little things can be harder said than practiced. I love the hand-lettering of this print but value the message even more.
Confession: I have the hardest time keeping plants alive, but I love indoor green space. I love succulents for their easy maintenance, and this year, I’m hoping to incorporate more of them into our home. Wouldn’t these plant stands from Ferm Living be perfect to give the succulents more presence?
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know, I’m still braiding (and getting better!). Mostly, I’m inspired by these tutorials but I’m also learning to improvise. I’m hoping to try this side-braid tutorial soon. If I can figure out a way to be consistent, I might even post my own tutorial here. (Fingers crossed.)
I hope this brightens you Monday. What’s inspiring you lately?
Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.
― Mary Oliver, Something
I’ve been thinking about this poem lately, a timely reminder for me to slow down and pay attention to the ordinary miracles I encounter daily. I wish you all a wonderful weekend–go and be astonished in some unexpected way by the ordinary.
How do you manage four different children’s educations when they are all at different levels?
Truly? Tons of grace and flexibility. Since I wasn’t homeschooled myself, much of this I’m learning by trial and error as I go. I ask tons of questions of friends, especially those who homeschool older children and I plan ahead as much as possible. However, to be more specific, much of how I order our day’s plans has evolved with the ages of my kids. When my kids were young, I planned most of our formal lesson time (math and reading mostly) during baby/toddler nap times and used the majority of our day for playing and reading and creating. As my kids have grown, the amount and complexity of the skills they’re learning have as well. I found myself getting overwhelmed keeping track of what each was suppose to be doing, or how to distribute the morning so that I could work alone with one while the others worked independently. It always seemed to swirl together in the midst of our mornings–mostly due to how young and close together they are in age. As a result, a couple of years ago I implemented a clipboard system–terribly unromantic, I know. But it works.
The first clipboard is for me.
At the beginning of each school year, my husband and I plan out our goals for our family and children. Then I create a plan, usually in table-form (pictured above) and print 100+ copies to keep on hand. Each weekend, I pull out 4 sheets (one per weekday) and write the day, date, and what lessons each of the kids will be doing for that week. I like being able to have a birds-eye view of the day and what each child needs to do. As we work through each morning, I cross off a box as they are completed, usually with a colored pen or marker. That way, I can easily see what we didn’t get to (and if there are parts of our days we are consistently missing and need to adapt). At the end of the week, I hole-punch the sheets and stick them in a binder as a record for myself. (Note: I tried writing in times this year to help pace me through the morning–we are rarely “on schedule.” I’ll omit that part next round.)
The second group of clipboards are for the kids. In the past, I have used clip art for any of my non-readers (who wanted to have their own). I didn’t this year.
Because I don’t need to keep each of their checklists, I laminated their pages to reuse. I created a page per work day: Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday (Wednesday is our homeschool group day). I formatted their pages as a checklist, a simple question: have you done this yet? Their clipboards give them a sense of responsibility in their own education and time management. They can freely move on to another job when they’re ready because they know what’s expected of them. During my weekend planning time, as I fill in my own clipboard, I write notes or fill in specifics for each of them for the upcoming week. This weekly prep time takes about an hour, but saves so much more time in the long run.
I store our clipboards on the wall near the door to our school/playroom using this IKEA magazine rack. When it’s time to begin our school morning, each person grabs their chart to work through the day. Although we take periodic breaks to play throughout our morning, the older kids cannot have free time (doing whatever they want) until they’ve finished their checklist (including chores). This keeps them motivated (and accountable) as well, as they often remind me, “hey, I need you to finish this lesson” or “we haven’t done ___ yet.” (wink.)
Is this the only way to manage a homeschool? Of course not. Do we always finish everything like I planned? Of course not. Like parenting in general, homeschooling adapts to your own family’s needs, routines, and style–it’s what makes this education route especially unique. But I find in general that intuition, forethought, and tons of patience go a long way in any home (although a troubleshooting guide would be fantastic, too). I also want to note: I have hard days–weeks even–when nothing seems to go as planned, when I don’t have time to plan before the week begins, when chaos and noise seems relentless, and I feel I am chasing the day rather than ordering it. So it goes. Sometimes we scratch it altogether and enjoy the outdoors or creative time or an event out of the house. But overall, this system truly helps me to track my own consistency and the kids’ work.
Do you have other questions about how we homeschool? I’m sure you’re not the only one. Post it in the comments or send me an email.
Although beginnings happen in small ways everyday, from our morning routines to new relationships and jobs and homes, this is the season we celebrate them, give tribute to them. We imagine and create on otherwise blank slates, envisioning what new will come from this particular beginning. So whether you’re enjoying your morning coffee or scratching out dreams, here’s a few sounds filled with energy and hope to keep you company. Happy Monday, everyone.
1. Pieces Black Bear | 2. Another StoryThe Head and the Heart | 3. The Lion the Beast the BeatGrace Potter & the Nocturnal | 4. Before the BeginningYoung Oceans | 5. I am MountainGungor | 6. Clean Slate M. Ward | 7. Disparate YouthSantigold | 8. Leaves in the RiverSea Wolf | 9. Sleeping LessonsThe Shins | 10. Explode My SoulJonathan David and Melissa Helser | 11.Low RoarLow Roar