Saturday, February 05, 2011

Snow days and the homeschooler, part 2

The art of living together is one that comes up at several times throughout the year, not just in unusually large snowstorms which cause the closing of schools.  I hear the same comments at the end of summer vacation and at the end of Christmas break.  And those comments?  "My kids are driving me crazy!  I can't wait for them to go back to school so I can get something done."  It makes me sad.  Listen to the tacit message underneath that socially acceptable statement:  My children are nice in small doses but I don't really like it, or them, when they are around too much.  Having children from the age of 5 (or younger) spend a significant portion of their lives away from their families causes a sort of learned incompetence for the whole family.  No one really spends extended periods of time together so they have forgotten how.

One of the most frequent questions I get as a homeschooling mother is, "Your kids are around all day?  How do you get anything done or have any time for yourself?"  I have never understood why the presence of children means that I can't function as an adult.  I get plenty done (and when I don't it is often my own fault and rarely the fault of my children) and I do have time alone.  Granted the amount of alone-time is dependent upon the age of children I have... babies need more constant attention than a 4 year old.  (But then, babies nurse.  A lot.  That's some prime reading time.  I miss it.)  But once children are napping, there is always at least a two hour span that is more flexible.

We have learned the art of living together because we have had too.  We don't do it perfectly, some days are better than others, but for the most part we can all live in the same house with our sanity intact.  I have always enforced quiet times after lunch.  Everyone needs time to themselves... to think, do quiet activities, learn to be by oneself, recharge, or just do nothing.  This is what happens for a couple of hours each day.  We do need time away from each other, but it is a learned skill.  By the time our children are 6 or 7, they have learned that sometimes they just need time alone and they know what I am talking about when I tell them I having my quiet time.  Naps seem to move naturally from a time of sleeping, to a time of playing quietly on one's bed, to a time of independent functioning.  It is through practice that we can do this. 

Long car rides are the best analogy that I can think of.  That first day can be long while everyone settles into a new routine.  Everything is more difficult and there seems to be an excess of bickering.  But experience has taught me that this is a temporary state.  A new normal will soon appear and we will all begin to enjoy our time in the car together.  That is unless we parents short-circuit the process by giving up too soon.  We can do this by cutting the trip short or using a drug movie to lull the children into a false quietness.

Learning to get along takes practice.  Learning to be alone takes practice.  The my-kids-are-driving-me-crazy-I-can't-wait-till-they're-gone syndrome is merely a symptom of a deeper problem:  The fracturing of the home by outside forces.  The more a family is separated from each other, the more the members of the family forget how to get along, and the more they begin to wonder why they even want to get along.  It becomes weak.

Reclaim the art of living together as a family.  Enjoy your children.  Be careful what you say about them.


Joy said...

Loved the post. I like having my children around. We have all times when we need that quiet time and when we do, we all come back refreshed. Thanks for sharing!

Paula said...

And what is all this stuff we have to get done anyway? Making more money? Cleaning more? How is that more important than actually having relationships with the members of your family? That's what living is make of!

susieloulou said...

Amen and amen. I may have (and surely have) failed as a parent on many levels, but I never said those things, "I can't wait for school to start. My kids are driving me crazy." I never even threw them out and wouldn't let them back in ;-)

Mrs. Bowen said...

That beautifully summed up what I try to explain to people when I get asked the same questions. I LIKE being with my children. It's sad that some don't get that.

Gretchen said...

You so often voice what is on my heart! We moved from public school to homeschooling for this reason- to get more time together. I really like my children (most days!) and was always a little sad to lose so many hours to school. Now we have those hours together! I have learned so much about them and about myself that I would have missed without all the time together. Thank you for the encouragement I get from your blog!!

Rachel said...

Yes. I can't believe it when people say things like that. Wow. We've all had days where our kids drive us crazy, but I've never been happy to hand them off to someone else. It does make me sad to here it. Loved your post. Visiting from HHH.

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