What Do You Do When You Get Everything You Want?

So, it looks like I'm getting everything I've always wanted: time, space, slow unscheduled days with the people I love most, free from external pressure to go go go.

So what's the issue?

Besides the fact that we are facing a pandemic and I fear for everyone's well-being, this unfettered time at home with my family is all just a bit . . . sudden. Overwhelming. Indefinite.

I've long been a homeschooler wannabe. My Instagram feed is filled with stunning images of homeschooling family life. Little legs draped over squashy reading chairs. Walls covered with stunning Cavallini Paper Co. illustrations. Library shelves artfully arranged with a small frame here, a finger loop candle there. This is what my homeschooling dreams are made of.

My impending homeschool reality? It's gonna look just a tad different.

There will be no dedicated homeschooling space, it's going to happen at our dining table, which we'll have to clear three times a day in order to eat meals. There will be frustration, and confusion, and moments when I'm tempted to just let them turn on Netflix so I can have a cup of coffee while it's still warm.

So maybe we aren't so different from homeschooling families after all. Except, of course, we have not prepared for this.

So what to do, what to do?

Here's what we're doing:

  • Manage expectations and simplify. I know we won't manage to stick to a rigid schedule, so we've set up a rhythm for ourselves, instead. Structure will be key to thriving, here, but of course impossible schedules will be your enemy. You can download our daily rhythm for free here.
  • Bring some focus to your work with a theme. I see the schedules going around that allot an hour for mathematics, another for reading, science, etc. Here's the thing about learning: it's interdisciplinary. Instead of segmenting your day by subject, bring some clarity to your work with a theme, instead. Maybe your child loves dinosaurs, or the moon, or market day at school. Pick one and do a day- or week-long deep dive into this theme. 
  • Set some weekly goals. In addition to a theme, choose some skills you want to develop or goals you want to achieve together, and work on those. This will bring some purpose to your work together. Learn to play a song on the guitar, or to say I love you in ten different languages, or set the goal to do 20 pushups. I have this beautiful Field Guide for Long Days at Home that can help, here.
  • Do practical work together. Preparing and cleaning after meals, caring for your house, baking, laundry, all of these things should become part of your daily routine with children. Children want to be a part of the life of the home. Include them.
  • Don't expect to replicate their school experiences at home. I'm a trained educator, but not in early childhood. There's no way I can expect to give my children the same experience at home as they get in school with their incredible teachers and classroom community. That's okay. This will be a different sort of education.
  • Make space to connect. Take advantage of this time. Play board games with your children. Tell stories in the dark with a candle. Write down your favorite family memories together as you make some new ones. This is a hard time, but it's also giving us what we say we want--time, together, with our people. Make it count.
  • Give yourself grace. Maybe you're going to be trying to work from home like me. I can't even imagine how I'm going to do it, but I will. Maybe you have moments of crippling anxiety. Maybe you are spending extra time on your phone reading the news. It's okay. Give yourself some grace. This is hard, and nobody expects you to be perfect. You're doing a great job, keep going.

I'm going to use this space to share resources as I create them. I'm excited and nervous and scared, and I take comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in any of this.

Please share any ideas, support, resources you have in the comments. We need community now more than ever.

March 15, 2020 — Lori Oster

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