So the world is upside down- we are social distancing- but what are we getting closer to?? Our families, our values, our fears, our confusion…..and as all this uncertainty boils up in us, here we are, at home with our kids, keeping the home fires burning…….how is it going so far?
Over here it’s Saturday morning, I am deeply grateful everyone is healthy & home and that we even have a home! The groceries are stocked up and I am able to enjoy this cup of coffee and exhale in our isolation where many, many people can not. The kids are happy, enjoying the freedom that most Saturday mornings bring: ideas stored up from the week, connections with big brother who the littles have been missing all week, beautiful weather, freedom… busy little bees.
This will wear off by lunch time and by 1pm I will be back to refereeing petty fuses between my three kids… and then Monday morning will come… and Tuesday and Wednesday– for weeks!!
Even I, who homeschools and homesteads every single day, pandemic or not, am a bit scared! There is so much to be scared about in the world right now……but it seems enough people are talking about the world at large that I will leave issues of health, money, safety, security, in equity, politics, etc.. to the experts. I found this post helpful directly related to children during this time.
What I want to offer is resources, inspirations and resilience for families who are now home for weeks at a time with their kids. Having kids is a joy, being at home with them is wonderful… but for weeks on end while there is stress in the air of what feels like a world gone mad, whats on my mind is how are we not going to?
Though I am no expert, I do have some practice at this stay at home with kids stuff, so just want to offer a few humble resources on how to stay calm and carry on in our homes with our families right now. Our children feel everything, we are the air they breath, and though they may seem totally unaffected right now, they are sacred too. It’s an appropriate response, but what can we do as parents to slow down, calm down and kneel and touch the ground?
Inner Work is real work
The first level is within ourselves- What Inner Practices do we have, or gonna create to stay centered calm, kind and well?
Breathing– The lungs of the world need health right now so even a few deeps breaths will help. I run, so the deep rhythm of deep breaths is actually what carries me along and this morning I was just feeling the health of my lungs and trying to send that out into the lungs of the world. Every little hope helps!
Praying– No I am not religious, but yes I do pray. I pray when I run, I pray when I garden and I pray when I sing. It doesn’t look like me kneeling by my bedside with hands clasped, it is me actively, humbly engaging my spirit with the spirits all around me. You have your way, I am sure! and if not… I say start with a song.
Singing-Not everyone is into just randomly belting out improve like I am, but singing is how people all over the world, since the beginning of time pray. Lift every voice to sing till earth and heaven ring! Your voice matters, it sends a vibration, that your children are wired to resonate with. Try it…sing your favorite song to your kids at the top of your lungs, they will think it is hilarious! Here is a song that is my prayer lately. And if you simply can’t sing, being sung to will soothe your soul, listen to this salve for the soul or just turn on some tunes and let it carry you!
Move the body, quiet the mind– Meditate, yoga, run, exercise–Whatever your practice, DO NOT STOP this week. If you don’t have a practice, find one! You will need it now more than ever. A dear friend said to me this morning, ” Isolation is a ceremony with yourself”…. in our cases with our families, if we saw it that way would it help?
Sleep– I am serious! You know you don’t get enough of it, ever!! and this moment will never arise again- so go ahead, go to sleep early every night this week. Your body, mind and immune system will thank you!
“Overwhelmed is Underprepared”
A wise woman once told me, though during times like these, it is simply unavoidable! But how can we prepare so we are not spun out completely? Many of you are way more organized and have high level leadership positions, so this is small potatoes to you… but for the harried mom like me;
Evaluate– What MUST get done, what can we let go of right now for the time being? We can’t do it all – at least not all at once. Give yourself a break and just do what you can and must! The rest can wait. Simplifying may make life easier, if only for this week! NPR has an article about getting set up to work from home here. If it work is what MUST get done, all the other house work MUST go! Remember- you can never recreate school, work, the world at home so please don’t try!! . You have to just be home, and bring a flow and form that works in that environment and create a current that can carry you there.
Set Intentions– If we used this moment to reset- what would we let go of? What would we invite more of into our lives and families? What is it we are really valuing, modeling and holding sacred right now? How does that express itself in our actions? It can be as simple as “I want my children to feel safe, so I will hold them more this week”
Some might go even further with older children and use this time to create a list of family values, so we know who we are and what we stand for with so much uncertainty around. Here is a nice list to inspire.
Plan- There is nothing so luxurious as a Sunday morning at home with nothing to do and no where to be. Enjoy it and soak it in!! And then plan for Monday! School and work give form and rhythm & routine to our life that invisibly carry us. We are already totally in our daily groove, now we just need to re-adjust little. One of the hardest things about being a stay at home mom is entropy. You never feel like you are getting anywhere… cause you are not going anywhere! It can make you go postal if you don’t watch out! For all of us our, even if we are at home everyday with baby, our rhythms have been severely interupted these day! We are not only feeling the chaos but the disruption of our routines!
Here is a great article I share in my Parent & Child classes about Rhythm in the Home- A great article by a Kinder teacher in New Zealand- Helle Heckman from Waldorf Today. Here is my daily rhythm, that is designed for people who can’t read yet… I am no artist but my kids love it! Another nice rhythm chart can be found on the Lifeways blog here.
“Daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms are the anchors that provide security and happiness to your child. With a strong daily rhythm a child knows what to expect and what is expected of him. With rhythm, simple daily activities (chores, self-care, mealtimes) become habits instead of arguments. If children have regular external rhythms, internal rhythms will develop- the child’s metabolism will be more predictable, hunger will occur at the same time each day and sleepiness will creep in at the usual bedtime. In the early years especially, daily rhythms should revolve around food, sleep and unstructured play both indoors and outdoors. These rhythms are upheld with repetitive rituals such as mealtime blessings or a lullaby before bed.”– From the “Return to Rhythm Guide” available for free from Whole Family Rhythms Blog
Once you know what MUST be done in the weeks ahead you can create a daily rhythm framework for your family. Chances are you already have a daily rhythm:
Ex:Breakfast, school, work, Aikido, grocery shop, home, dinner, bed, sleep, repeat…
Once you write it down you will have a few time blocks to fill… like the 40 hours a week of school that will not be happening! In school everything is already blocked out and your children know the rhythm in their bodies and need that same rhythm at home to carry them happily through the day.
Now is a great chance to set the stage and expectations ( if you children can talk, if not this happens inside of you)
This morning I told my kids, ” So we will be home together for this week, what is important to you that happens?”
The eight year old said “Experiments???!!!”( I have no idea where he got that idea but cool)- I ordered a soil test cause all I want to do is work in my garden, so we are both happy!!
The three year old said- “polish my new boots”- so in the moment, love that guy! It will change every ten minutes but he gets an idea and is so happy to accomplish things.
The five year old said “go on adventures with my brothers”- Which means river romps, nature walks and going just beyond our normal reach- Great! I am in!
So I look at our normal home day rhythm and mentally map how today will flow. I won’t change anything, but tuck some microscope time into the rest time block and a trip to the river in our evening outdoor time block. This will look very similar to to the block schedule they use in schools or time blocking. Nothing new for the more organized in the bunch, but for those of us who would never bother write down the flow of a day at home, let me just say, it is helpful if only to have something to look back on to show you, you did in fact do something, or lots of things successfully in a day!
My Daily Rhythm for Days at Home
6:00-7am –Wake and Snuggle– I do have the luxury most days of waking slowly and snuggling my littlest ones. It is soul food for us both and honestly just as important to our well being as eating. It is getting briefer as they get older and I know that morning snuggles too shall pass, so I indulge in them as much as I can now. Now that my biggest isn’t rushing off to school he joins us and we read books in bed. This is when my eldest reads to all of us to, that way reading practice is accomplished before even getting out of bed! Big Win! My kids do get themselves dressed so once we snuggle everyone is up and at it, even if clothes go on backwards! I throw a load of laundry in almost every day- that way it doesn’t get away from me!
7-8 am- Eat and Run-Often it is eat and run out the door to work & school, but on my home days, which is now everyday, I go running. I find that if I start the day with a run I feel generous because my cup is filled, my mind is clear and my body is at ease. ( I do have a partner who is present so I can do this and I realize that is a huge gift and luxury and I am grateful when he is here!! Now that he is home as on weekends, he feeds the kids breakfast and I am out the door with a cup of coffee and my running shoes on). While I run, at home my eldest goes for a bike ride up and down the lane and gets some energy out. Once he gets outside, he stays and his little brother often follows. They have to feed their animals and they always find something to do out there. My daughter often stays in a draws and play with her babies while the morning buzz happens.
9-10am-Morning Activities -Once I am fed, and showered and dressed, which is do pretty quickly, I then I give to myself children. Mornings are great for focused activities: We do painting, Finger knitting, saltdough, beeswax modeling, baking, color stories, drawing, online art lessons, word practice, letter stories, flute practice, circle time, penpals, this week we have started up again with writing letters to our cousins and friends who live far away….so many things in this hour the kids are so nourished and honestly kinda done with me… so off they go to be free, while I am onto my thing and if they want they join me. After we have done focused learning, and clean it up, I set them free…and I am free. If I really give to my children they often go off and play happily for a while! I haven’t always done this- I really would prefer to get a load of laundry in, kitchen cleaned, dinner prepped and then begin, and when my kids were a little bit younger in the toddler years this was our whole morning; changing diapers, washing diapers, cleaning, cooking. The work of the home was our curriculum and the little ones just helped out and followed me around…..some days we still flow like this with the littlest while the bigger ones have things they want to do…
***But I just want to say, in these days to come especially- starting with an activities may be your best bet. You know when you scramble around hastily trying to get everything set so you can be centered while the volume in the room slowly goes up…. you know that tone when you kids are just not harmonizing and you know you need to lean in, but oh how you want to lean out!! Yeah, lean in, you can fix that funk with your presence and attention, fill them up and set the whole day straight.
11-12 Free time/ chores– The kids play outside and I care for the greenhouse and animals and get lunch and dinner prepped. Often I have a helper who wants to be near mommy so I have a little helper.
1pm –Food– Today they came in hungry so I put on a Sparkle Story for them and they listened quietly while I finished lunch. Then I feed them and we reconnect. With the little ones it is often hard to get them to eat… So I read or tell them stories during lunch I pause at every page or pauseable moment and say “Take a bite” and we all pause for a bite, including me. My kids are so into stories this works like a charm, but I realize they have to be a certain age where stories are captivating enough to be motivating, usually not till age 3.5 does this really work!
1-2pm – Clean up -After eating we all clean and tidy (yes if children are home making messes they will be expected to clean them up with help– just like at school! We clean as we go throughout the day and we don’t start anything new until the old is all put away, otherwise I would go totally mad!) I sing to them the tidy song, some of you know from my Parent & Child Classes, and then it is rest time…
2pm Rest Time-We all get in my bed, we read one book for each child and then to the potty and off to rest nests. No buts about it. It’s how it goes. I am the loving authority of my home and I go this! ( and so do you) If they do this already at school, do everyone a favor and try to stay with it at home, they know the drill and holding that rhythm for them is a gift. This has taken years of practice, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t go very well at first… but teachers are trained in this very fine art of settling themselves and bringing in their energy to create the calm, sleepy vibe. It is truly a superpower when you can get a whole room of wild youngans to sleep, but really the only secret is total commitment and practice.
2-4pm I Work /They Rest-I realize that once a child hits 6 actually sleeping at rest time is highly unlikely but handwork, reading, or even listening to a story is restful and important to disengage from each other. Being together all the time is taxing on all of us, especially me so I really hold strong to my time. I write, work on the computer, phone calls, whatever work I simply can’t do with them around…( this does not include, gardening, dishes, cooking, cleaning)
4pm Wake & Tea time! -When they awake they find me always in the same sunny spot, at my computer in the living room. They curl up on the couch besides me and sometimes even fall back to sleep!! They wait for the others to wake up and enjoy being quietly by my side alone! We have mint, lemon balm, rose hip tea (all home grown) and snack- usually we eat graham crackers & apple slices with cinnamon– they are special but not too junky! My kids know this as a treat and because they know they will always get them at tea time everyday so that knowing it is consistent this eliminates a lot if issues around treats, because we have a time of day we get treats they usually don’t ask for them other times of the day.
5-6pm Dinner prep- I actually hate being inside from 4-6pm right now with all this glorious evening light, the golden hour. My kitchen is dark and I just can’t take being inside. It is my favorite time of day and I like to work in my garden. If I am organized enough I had dinner already prepped and on its way. Sometimes I ask my husband to do dinner cause I just don’t like to – I grow it you cook it!! When I simply must make dinner and my children are done outside I put on a Sparkle Story, Free audible story, a Circle Round Story or a Mystery Doug video for them to watch. * (We don’t have a TV and my kids don’t really have any screen time except for Mystery Doug (science videos) and some special movie moments. I find listening to stories is so relaxing for them and still stimulates their imaginations and gets me the break I need.)
If we are lucky enough to be outside till 6pm I say this verse to call them all back in and we head in for supper. *****As you may know about me and many Early Childhood teachers, we sing and say lots of verses….These things mark transitions for children and are consistent and rhythmic and easy on the ears… and feel so much better coming out of our mouths than yelling “come on children let’s go!” When we feel good we do good, and the children just come along for the ride. Here’s a wonderful inspiration to start singing more!
Evening is coming
The sun sinks to rest
The birds are all flying straight home to their nests
Caw caw said the crow, as she flies overhead (in the sky)
come little children we are going to bed (time to go inside)
Here comes the pony.
His work is all done,
Down through the meadow
he takes a good run.
up go his heels,
and down goes his head.( feet)
It’s time little children
we’re going to bed.( eat)
Adapted From Seven Times the Sun by Shea Darian
6:30pm- Dinner: Wash hands, all help set the table, gather at the table, light candles, say verses and eat!! We often go around and share a rose and a thorn from the day to practice listening and speaking to others instead of the “mommy mommy mommy listen to me” choir!
7:30pm- Clean up -Clear table, bed get in bath (only twice a week unless we have a very dirty day), get in PJ’s, Brush teeth and hair, off to bed.
8pm- Bed-My children all share a room so one parent lays in bed and reads until they are all there and slowly they all drift off to sleep….. including me is asleep!!! ( often I get up and work till 11pm but last night I passed out and slept the whole night through, tonight I got big plans on doing the same!)
Setting a daily rhythm for your weeks ahead may help you and yours weather the storm together. It might even make you calmer, closer and more connected. There is so much more to say about how to be in quarantine with your family, but my time is up!! I did find a great post here that has tons more ideas that I found inspiring. Also if you really need to just listen instead of read all this, here is a great podcast on Daily Rhythm at home that I enjoyed, and hey if homeschooling sticks here is a great resource for starting a homeschool rhythm. Hoping for the best, good luck in there!
UPDATE: There are tons of Homeschool resources out there that are giving away free curriculum right now. Here is your chance to try them out!