Sometimes, it feels like, despite best efforts, we can be on a bit of a treadmill of life.
Since June/July time I think it’s fair to say we weren’t a happy home. I am always honest about the challenges of home education. There’s no point in presenting an ‘insta-fabulous’ life. It’s not true and it’s not an accurate reflection. Of course, there are those days and weeks when everything is just perfect and I am so happy we have chosen the path we have, but there have also been those moments when I have had to do some soul searching and try to remember why we are doing what we do.
Before the summer break, we were having some issues with the children. I’d talked to friends and we were at a point when I was beginning to question our whole approach. In retrospect, I should have looked at the bigger issues. We had some other family issues going on (My grandfather passed away which brought stresses and sadness) and there were some other family things going on that were taking my time and attention and causing me to worry.
I fell out of routine with the gym and at the same time, all our usual happy home ed groups stopped for summer.
I felt lost.
There were things outside of the children’s control that were affecting me. I should have been able to shape and change these things. But I didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, summer was lovely, but as we got into the back end of August it felt like life was a constant battle. As things were difficult with the children, it made me less inclined to head out to the gym in the evening; I was tired and grumpy. I was just about making one class a week which is not like me at all. I was feeling less inclined to work on my blog, which in turn, was causing me to worry as I could see the to-do list getting longer.
Things came to a head in mid-September in a day that I don’t think any of us enjoyed. Poor Damian was at work and he returned home to find Daniel and I both angry and cross having had a major falling out. We all cried at various stages. I was not the parent I wanted to me. I was not the parent the children deserved. I couldn’t rouse myself out of the black mood we were all in and the weekend was terrible.
I couldn’t see a way out of it other than to send the children to school. I know that doesn’t solve the problems, and just creates different ones, but all I could see was six hours of time for me.
After a long chat with Damian and some sounding off with friends, I realised that my children were, simply, being children. I know I should listen to my own advice. I know that the children become difficult when there is something significant going on – growth spurts or developmental stuff. But I didn’t heed my own advice. I hadn’t stopped to lift my head above daily life to try and work out was was going on. With me. With the children.
I decided that instead of battling with the children I’d simply re-set the relationships. It’s easy to get caught up in the midst of the commitments that we have. It’s easy to det hung up on projects we are working on, friends we are supposed to see and all those sorts of things. I simply wiped the slate clean for a week and we did something different.
We had a long chat that weekend with the children and we all agreed we wanted things to change. That week we did lots of things, but our favourite was when we set off on the Bee In the City hunt. It was lovely to be out and about with the children, and it reminded me of why we do what we do. That being able to just head into the city on a Tuesday morning is a wondeful gift. Being able to explore where we wish when we wish to. It’s given me a list of other places to take them to soon. We did very little formal work that week. The work we did do though was of a much better quality and they were eager to finish their projects having had a longer than usual break from them. The children were more interested in their work and things were generally much more enjoyable.
I took the time to re-evaluate the commitments that we have. I realised that Daniel wants to do things more in-depth now – he isn’t content to touch on subjects but instead wants to read in more detail. Emma too wants to learn how to read and is always keen to do some maths work. They are both keen just to ‘be’ at home, playing with Harry and then coming to me to do project work. It’s been lovely to see this change. Of course they enjoy being with friends, and we make sure this is booked in numerous times across the week, but something has had to give somewhere.
I’ve had a change around of our week, taking time off at the end of the week as I realised for a long while now we have been battling through the day; too many commitments and too many things that require high concentration levels. Our Spanish group has been off for a few weeks due to various things and I think not having that full day out on a Friday has really helped us.
Taking the time to sit back, reflect and quite literally resetting what we do has really helped. It has made the children and I realise what the important things are in our week and it’s those we need to protect and add the other things around.
Damian and I have been better at re-inforcing positive behaviours; trying not to always react to the negative. I am trying (and also failing!) at changing my responses to the children; changing the words that I use to more encouraging ones; words and phrases that give them autonomy and decision making. We have made sure to have 1-1 time with them where we can, and took time to do the things they want to. Be it a drink in a cafe or simply time with them one on one building something or reading together.
We want our children to feel safe and secure; to have that ability to be creative and to make decisions. To enjoy their childhood and simply be small children.
Sometimes, it pays to take stock and re-evaluate and remember why you do what you do. It’s made us all happier here.