Contemplating the ways that homeschooling has changed for me over the years, and why I might not be feeling the same enthusiasm for educating my little boys that I did when my oldest boys were small, I realize that lately, I’ve eliminated most of the fun. When our schedule gets really full, I pare things down to just the “necessary” for the sake of time. Homeschooling becomes less and less inspired, and more a series of boxes that I try to check off in an effort to get what is deemed the most important finished. I think this is one of the ways that I get burned out. Homeschooling feels like a chore that needs to be dealt with and we are all affected. It’s not fun for me or them. And winter weather just exaggerates everything. There’s no moving the school day to a quilt in the grass, or spending hours in the woods.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to bring some fun back into our days and to find ways to make learning a more creative endeavor. To encourage writing, I remember purchasing little lined blank books for Seth and Keats. The books had lined space to write and open space to draw. The boys loved them, but they were so quickly consumed that continuing to purchase them didn’t make sense financially. Recently, it occurred to me that it would be pretty simple to make my own using a template for the lined paper and sewing simple cardstock covered books. You can find basic instructions in this post from many years ago (and here’s another way to bind the books if you don’t have a sewing machine), and you can download my simple template for the blank book. It is designed for double-sided printing so that the pages are lined on both sides. If you don’t have access to a printer that prints two-sided pages, just print page one and create books with less lined pages, and more space for drawing. The spacing is similar to what I remember the blank books I purchased having (with younger children in mind), but you could easily create a page with smaller spacing for older children, as Beatrix requested that I do next. I sewed a stack of them and my little boys have been writing all sorts of stories.
The candlemaking project was one I meant to do before Candlemas, but didn’t. Rolled beeswax candles are simple for even the youngest children to make. I buy kits from Sunflower Candles (I’ve also purchased their Advent candle making kits several times over the years.) All of my younger children loved making these and they are lined up on the mantle now, waiting to be lit at special times.
We had a very short-lived snow last week. We woke to snow covering the ground one morning, with more falling. The forecast for the following day had a high in the 60s. It was easy to drop all school work and spend most of the day playing outside, especially since the snow canceled all the day’s activities! I am gaining a new appreciation for snow.
I’m still trying to find rhythm and inspiration for our homeschooling days, while also accepting that this might not be the year! It may be that I don’t find a good rhythm with my younger children until our schedule simplifies late this spring. In fact, I just came up with what might be a good idea. While my older kids have a break, maybe Silas and Job will have summer school, and I’ll be more available to create a consistent and fun daily routine. In the meantime, we’ll keep reading good books, and I’ll sew another stack of blank books for them to write in (and keep encouraging Silas to do pages in his math workbook). Next year, the older kids can drive themselves, and maybe the summer routine will carry into the fall. But, I better not get ahead of myself. One day at a time….
p.s. The quilt was my fortieth birthday gift to myself. It was made by my friend Sara, someone I have long followed online. She makes quits by hand using fabric she dyes with natural dyes. This quilt was the first she offered for sale, and it reminds me of New Mexico, a place where a bit of my heart resides. The rust brown reminds me of the mountains and the turquoise of the jewelry that I’ve always loved. The quilt sat folded on a shelf in my closet for over a year, as I waited for the walls to get painted and for Jonny to make a quilt hanger for me. He used a cherry log that was salvaged from our previous property and created the perfect hanger just last week. Our living room has a vaulted ceiling, which is quite the opposite of the very low ceilings in our previous home’s living room. I’ve had a hard time feeling cozy here. The quilt on the wall was just what it needed. Between it and a few photos I recently hung, it’s finally starting to feel like home.