I was quite the blessed woman last week. Because my husband can work anywhere there is decent wifi, he took the kids to his parents so I could have a week alone in my own home. They helped in Grandma & Grandpa's garden, did sewing projects, played with cousins, and launched more rockets. I prayed, exercised, organized, printed, read, scheduled, edited photos, made photo books, and socialized. Yes, socialized - spent time with friends nearest and dearest to my heart! I felt a wee bit guilty not working every hour of the day and night, but these times I shared with friends this week made my heart overflow with laughter, love, and joy.
Um, are you over 40? Does this year mark the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th (or more) time you have taught phonics and read Little House? Are you not as motivated to start school as you once were, and feeling guilty about it? Join the club. Most of my over 40 mom friends are in the same boat! We've been sharing ideas and coping skills, and here's how we're battling the back to school blues.
1) Take care of you. I know well-meaning people tell you this all the time and you silently think they don't understand how demanding it is to be a homeschooling mom of many. It's a selfless job. Your idea of motherhood was not just to be a SAHM until your kids go to school and you go back to work. You are in it for the long haul. You are scheduled all day long. But - you need to get enough sleep (preferably an hour or two before midnight), pray, exercise, read, manage stress, and take your vitamins. You might even have a hobby like writing, crafting, photography, or sewing. Make time for this! If you are too busy for this, you are too busy. I heard a wise doctor say this to a room of homeschooling mamas five years ago and I finally believe her. Not that I didn't then, I just hadn't yet suffered enough consequences to make serious changes.
2) Sketch out a schedule, just to see what's logistically possible, even if it's not realistically possible. I just finished one for each child and one for myself. We'll see how it goes. It looks good on paper. If we can hold to it in a few weeks we'll type them up and make it official.
3) Just say no. I cut two activities out of our schedule and am feeling great peace about it, even if twinged with some guilt and outside pressure. These were difficult decisions to make, but my husband is on board, prayerful discernment confirmed this, and I just couldn't justify continuing based on how burnt-out I have been. I didn't realize how stressed out I was until we were de-stressing in the Colorado Rockies.
4) Fall in love with your littles again. In place of our Friday co-op I added a once-a-month nature center class and a once-a-month meet-up with local friends for Five in a Row and Lit Wits. I sense my big kids just need some good old Charlotte Mason "masterly inactivity". That, and enough time to complete their MODG assignments!
5) Renew commitments to your own health. I've topped the scale for too long now. I started up at our local YMCA this summer and intend to keep going. I've lost some weight with Paleo in the past (and felt 100% better) and plan to do the Whole 30/AIP thing for myself and to support some friends with more serious health issues than I. I also have to keep things moving in my digestive system. One of these revealed I have this and both internal and external this. Thus, mom must have her Toilet Time. (Sorry - I really try to avoid TMI on my blog but this is important as you age and your hormones slow you down!)
6) Farm it out. Tired of reinventing the wheel? I used to love designing our own curriculum until I was in over my head. We enrolled in MODG and never looked back. A ton of weight immediately lifted from my shoulders and freed up mega gigs of brain space. I have an amazing consultant whom I can email anytime, access to parent classes, and veteran moms for support and advice. My kids have class discussion, real deadlines, and teachers who know their stuff. And it just seems like the older kids in particular can accomplish much more than I can facilitate on my own. MODG works for us but there are many options out there - Seton, Kolbe, St. Thomas, Regina Caeli, Rolling Acres, Homeschool Connections, just to name a few.
7) Join a book club. Feed your own brain, heart, and soul. I put off joining the Well Read Mom for years, but am so glad I took the plunge last year. I read every book except one (Anna Karenina) that I had already read. Totally worth it. I'm looking forward to this year's line-up.
8) Do a Practice Week. Today week we had a ceremonial first day: wore our new uniforms, made a special breakfast, took photos, opened gift bags, and drew self-portraits. One-on-one meetings will begin and most likely last throughout the week. I will meet with each child and go over books, assignments, where to find everything, and general expectations. We will wake up on time, have breakfast together, get chores done, set music practice times, and get to bed early. That's the plan anyway.
9) Make Schultüten. Or something else. Last year the paper cones were discarded in various parts of the house so this year I am using gift bags. They are stuffed with sugarless gum, Altoid mints, new strings for string games, Thinking Putty, maze books, modeling wax, and of course - chocolates. French school boy cookies (Le Petit Ecolier) are also a long-standing tradition.
10) Last but not least, keep praying - alone and together. Last week I enjoyed a routine of praying a candle-lit rosary alone every morning without interruption. Now that the kids are back, I've asked them to stay upstairs until I am finished. Hearing music on the stereo is their cue to come downstairs. Family morning prayers this year are on the schedule before we eat a bite of breakfast. We hope to make it in to 12:15 Mass later this week and try to make it to Mass whenever life takes us to the city. This summer my husband and I started attending First Friday Mass together and going out to eat afterward and we sure would like to continue this too!
What are your favorite ways to beat the back to school blues?