Pretty sure today could not have gone any better. And it’s Monday, guys. Monday! Despite the 2-yr-old being unable to get to preschool today compliments croup, I was able to find a sitter to play with him in his bedroom while the big 4 and I did school downstairs. I had real clothes on by 8:30 and even a little lip gloss, the meat sauce for dinner was simmering by 8:45 am and school was pulled off on schedule with lots of happy cuddles, aha moments where concepts clicked and cursive was flawless, and with many pleas for “just one more chapter” and “can I do another page of math?” The babysitter took ALL the kids to the playground for 40 glorious minutes of recess, during which time I actually meditated for 20 minutes in complete silence, and later the children spent hours romping through the woods- all getting along no less- and found 3 tree frogs and a turtle whom all now dwell (very temporarily) in my camping cooler on the back porch. And the cherry on top of this peace-filled day: we studied Gandhi. Talk about a winner of a day.I write all this in detail because, if history has told me anything, it’s that this kind of utopian-like day will not grace us again with its presence for a long time, and I will want to remember this. Remember that it’s possible. And to remember some of the practicalities that might have contributed to its success and-hopefully- its more regular occurrence.
Today comes one the heels of a much-needed, much-rejuvenating phone call with my mentor regarding parenting. One of the topics that stuck out to me was about balancing responsibility and privilege. This is a concept I’d like to learn more about and offer to my family, seeing as I don’t want spoiled brats OR disgruntled minions for children. But more seriously, I really do want my children to know how to work hard and function as important members of our family with all that that entails (see Mother Board) and also to experience the satisfaction of earning privileges like screen time or staying up later at night or being trusted more and more by Mom & Dad.
Without guidance, I would probably lean heavy on a cheap version of ‘privilege’; one where my kid ask for things and I toil and sweat and scramble to accommodate their every wish without honoring our financial, emotional, or physical limitations. Saying ‘no’ does not come naturally to me. But then I’d probably get annoyed enough with their demands and lack of gratitude (I’m done! Stomping my feet and clenching my jaw) that I’d swing the pendulum to the other extreme and deprive them of privileges as a type of penance (You can watch tv once you clean the whole entire house! Roar! Stomping my feet! brooding and frustration!) And round and round we’d go, reducing both responsibility and privilege to some form of manipulation, guilt, and chaos.
So, in a rather concerted effort not to make the above paragraph a reality, I’ve gone back to the drawing board. Literally. Armed with a fresh batch of dry erase markers and the encouragement of my mentor, I added a guiding schedule to our Mother Board. Each of these items are a responsibility that must be completed before that glorious privilege of screen time. This Mother Board has worked so incredibly well for me this year because it’s as if the rules are out of my head and out of my hands. Hey kids, the board says so. It guides me when I’m feeling confused or overwhelmed or discouraged or fatigued. Just get through the next step. And it’s rewarding for the kids to see their progress throughout the day and week. Look at all those check marks! And especially as a homeschooling family, it’s important to draw some boundaries around school time (for us, that means 9-1 for the younger kids, and 9-3 for the oldest.)
It’s pretty self-explanatory, but the Schedule asks:
have you eaten breakfast and taken your vitamins?
have you brushed your teeth?
have you cleaned your bedroom?
have you completed your school work?
have you played outside for 30 min?
have you had 30 minutes of quiet time?
have you completed all your chores?
Then you may have an hour of tv or video games!
Granted, like all of life, there are unexpected kinks in our day, so this schedule serves more as a loving guide than a dictator. Some mornings- like this morning- just require Kindles so Mom & Dad can enjoy a cup of coffee and adult conversation uninterrupted. Illness? Forget about it. Nurse Netflix to the rescue. Need to take a shower? Nanny Netflix to the rescue. When I ‘break’ the schedule, I’ve learned not to feel guilty or like a failure. The point is for it to bring freedom, not legalism.
So there it is, my newest tool in helping me run a home, a school, and hopefully raise well-rounded children who are learning both the satisfaction of hard work and the gratitude of privileges.
*If you’re new to Kindles like me, do you know you can set up time limits and educational goals? Pretty helpful!