August 20, 2008
It's a time of bittersweet good-byes, fresh starts, and new resolutions. Could it be New Year's Eve?
No, it's mid-August and time to prepare for the start of another school year. How is yours going to look?
Try this on for size…
Every morning, you wake up refreshed after a full night's rest. You walk into your clean kitchen and make a cup of your favorite herbal tea. The kids are still asleep so you head upstairs and savor a rare moment of watching them while they sleep. It is amazing how beautiful and innocent they are while they are sleeping.
A glance at the clock breaks you out of your reverie, and you start rousing them one by one. They know what to do so while you go back downstairs to make breakfast, they start their morning routine (wash up, get dressed, make beds, etc.)
After breakfast, you start your school day. Your curriculum is organized and each child has their own station, holding their current work and reflecting their own unique personality. You pause a moment to smile and wonder at the differing personalities that can come from one family.
You move through the day as a guide. Whether teaching math facts or listening to a read-aloud, you are patient and encouraging. During teaching time, you remain present in each moment, instead of being sucked into thinking about the next 20 items on your to-do list.
After you enjoy a healthy lunch, the kids stretch their legs and play while you tend to some chores and allow yourself to catch up on a little knitting. Then, it's back to the books, and the rest of the school day progresses until it is time to switch gears for family time.
Next, it's a quick trip to the backyard to breath some fresh air and cut some lovely flowers. You get dinner started (based on the menu plan you made earlier this week.) The house is buzzing with after-school activity. You let it energize you as you splash some cold water on your face, run a brush through your hair and apply a fresh coat of lipstick. Your face holds the glow that comes from a day of challenging, meaningful work. Throw in a load of laundry, have the kids set the table and you are ready for Dad to walk in the front door.
The football is flying around the backyard as Dad and the kids tackle each other in the fall leaves. The sound of laughter and good-natured teasing is your background music as you make your list for tomorrow. Looks like it's time for a trip to the farmer's market for some plump, red tomatoes. You decide a lesson in making homemade pasta sauce will be on the agenda for tomorrow afternoon.
When the kids are safely tucked into their beds, you do a quick pick up around the house, wipe down the countertops (yes, the dishes are done… the kids did them right after dinner) and sink into your softest cotton pjs. You and Dad talk over the day and share funny anecdotes about the office and the kids.
Instead of watching TV, you write in your journal or get lost in a new novel for a while. You are suddenly quite sleepy. Time to turn off the light, sink into the blankets and drift off to sleep, satisfied and thankful for the many blessings in your life.
OK, OK…I know what you are thinking. "She must be mad! Who lives like that?"
Don't write off the fantasy just yet. Allow yourself to see the possibilities of what could be, instead of wallowing in what is.
We are capable of doing so much more than we think we can. The secret is to work smarter and make choices that reflect your priorities.
Here's the challenge… pick just one thing. That's right, which piece of our fantasy scenario tugged the most at your heart-strings? Was it waking up refreshed? Or was getting the kids on a routine the most appealing thought? My personal favorite (and the current bane of my existence) is getting a real dinner on the table each and every night.
How do we turn these heartfelt desires into reality? Here are some tips for aligning your reality with your vision:
The Power of Planning – A good day starts the night before. In order to feel centered, you need to eliminate the fear that you may be forgetting something important. No voyager ever reached his destination without first charting his course. Look at your calendar, lay out your clothes, and create an action list each and every day. If you need extra motivation to build this habit, hit a stationary store and buy some paper that makes your heart sing. Get into this daily habit, and you will feel stress lifting from your life.
Rut or Rescue? – Routine, it's a word that has been given an unfair hand in the world of connotations. Often cited as boring, stifling or uninspired, routine is anything but. I prefer words like life-giving, freeing, and energizing to describe my chosen routines. Imagine those words when you create routines for yourself and your family. When you have structure for the day-to-day things you must do, your mind is free to dwell on higher-level thoughts and activities.
Coping with Curriculum- You have chosen to educate your children at home. Own that! If that means switching to a curriculum that gives you a daily plan, like Sonlight, then do it. If you are a lover of living books, then the Charlotte Mason method is the way to go. Don't get married to your curriculum unless it truly fits both your education goals andyour lifestyle. Remember, the more peaceful you are throughout the day, the more your children will learn and love to learn. It's a proven fact! (At least it is in our household:-)
Organizing your Home- Yes, there are libraries filled with books on how to do this. Wasn't it Thoreau who said, "Simplify, simplify"? Be merciless with clutter; get rid of what you don't love or need. Be diligent with cleaning in small chunks regularly. And, employ help. Do I mean hire a house cleaner? Only if you can afford it. Otherwise, make sure that each family member is contributing to the well-being of the household. Side benefit - your kids will also learn some excellent lessons in responsibility and service.
Meal Planning- I admit with chagrin that this piece is my downfall. I struggle with this daily and have for years. I dislike grocery shopping (although I really don't know why.) I am not a stellar cook and have no real affinity for cooking. I also eat weird food at weird times of the day (a long story for another time:-). Getting three squares on the table for my husband and sons isn't my strong suit. My best advice is to make a meal plan, shop ahead, and keep it simple! Unless you are a closet culinary contessa (and I know some of you are), keep the prep to a minimum. Shoot for healthy, simple, satisfying food combinations and you can't go wrong. Note: To you culinary contessas, email me with your favorite meal-planning sites, and I will put them in a future post.
Avoiding Brain Drain- What drains you? My top 4 brain drains are television, most news (papers, radio, magazines), clutter, and too much time without adult conversation. (I'll get into the whole introvert/extrovert thing at a later date.) For now, identify your brain drains and minimize them as much as possible. For example, Scott and I have been on a news fast for a few weeks. Amazingly, we are not any less knowledgeable about important world events. We are, however, noticeably less cranky and preoccupied because we are no longer wasting our energy on things outside of our circle of influence.
Renewing your Spirit – On the flip side, look at what energizes you and gives you peace. For me, exercise, reading, prayer, and laughing with just about anyone are at the top of my list. Also, realize that when you feed your body healthy food, feed your spirit noble thoughts, and feed your system with enough sleep, you are renewing yourself as well.
There you have it… a preview of the year to come, along with all of the tools you need to truly make it your own. Cheers!