I've been thinking about routines as a homeschooling family and how valuable (and rare) it is to follow the natural rhythms of life, especially in our results driven society.
One of the hardest things for me to do when I first withdrew Alexandra from school over 5 years ago was to slow down and enjoy our time together. I loved being with my children, it's just that I felt an external pressure to achieve something....even now I'm not sure what that something was :)
Since then I have realised that the external pressure I felt to conform was actually self-imposed and came from a lack of trust in myself as educator and my children as learners. It took me a while to realise that children generally self-regulate their own learning and social life.
My constant worry that we weren't achieving enough academically and socially was actually working against us finding our natural rhythm as a family. My own children continue to teach me this lesson in trust every day by continuing to be passionate learners and socially content.
Once I read a bit about homeschooling and had gained enough experience through living, talking about and observing the homeschooling life, I felt ready to relax into things a bit. Immediately I became less stressed and less inclined to indulge in 'external referencing' and much more willing to enjoy the time doing what my children and I enjoyed doing rather than tailoring our days to fit into someone else's expectations (real or perceived!)
Nowadays I feel extremely grateful that we have a much enriched family life as a result of homeschooling. We enjoy both structured and free time, and we go out socially a couple of times a week. This combination works for our family. Some people choose more structure, free time, more or less socialising, it just depends on where preferences lie as a family unit.
We worked out our own routine (such as it is) pretty organically, and things run quite smoothly for us. The children have enough time for exploring the yard, collecting chicken's eggs, helping me to bake, drawing, writing or just sitting and watching a butterfly flutter amongst the lavender.
Sometimes by the second or third day at home the kids are starting to snap at one another and we need to get out to 'blow away the cobwebs'. We invariably come home recharged and ready to relax into our natural rhythm again.
Depending on the nature of the outing, the children may be excited to extend their knowledge of a subject. One example is Jay's enthusiasm after we visited some local wetlands and collected specimens to view under a microscope ....once we got home he raced straight to his science books and literally sat for hours pouring over them and sketching what he'd seen.
Alternatively, if we go to a park or other outdoor event where the children enjoy climbing, jumping and interacting with their friends, they will generally relish the quiet of home as a sanctuary after a busy day.
All of these experiences are worthwhile and add a wholeness to my children's days as homeschoolers. They are connected within the community and still enjoy their own time to develop personal interests at home, and indeed to find their own natural rhythm in life.
Talk Soon, Cynthia
PICTURE - THE MAP BY MARY CASSATT