Although I have only just begun schooling Katherine, she is in the first grade, it seems like I've been working at it for years. What I've really been working at, however, is how to homeschool, attend to my little one's, attend to my husband, attend to my home (and that huge list), attend to my spiritual life, etc. The list goes on and on.
I bet Fr. Justin wishes that he had a dime for every time I have walked in and said "OK, we have a new game plan!" I am always trying to figure out how to fit it all in. A friend who successfully homeschooled her two boys told me that I would always be changing the game plan, and that I would never be able to fit it all in. I believe her. I just want to fit some of it in.
I have been reading "A Mother's Rule of Life" by Holly Pierlot. This book was recommended by Sophia over at susansophia.blogspot.com and I am glad I've taken the time to read it. I am almost finished with Holly's book and I have been inspired to put some serious structure into our lives. She has convinced me that what has been missing is a rule of life. Before she married, Holly was considering the monastic life. What came to her was the idea to order her home in the same way monastics order their lives. So, she assigned chores and responsibilities with charts for every child, every hour of the day. (Of course, I'm sure I need not mention that she does not make her children work all day. She just has everything scheduled, including play and free time, etc.)
At first this seemed overwhelming to me. I am not one to schedule the entire day. I will confess, however, that I probably wing more than I should. Nonetheless, I have experienced firsthand how peaceful and orderly monastic life is. There is a reason that the abbess assigns daily chores to most of the sisters every day. Among other reasons, this removes any confusion of who's responsibility it is to do certain chores. It also frees the sisters of the burden of worry about what needs to be done, when and how, and allows them to focus on prayer. Of course, this also teaches the sisters humility, detachment and obedience.
Children need structure too. I don't care what style of teaching a mother chooses, children need structure. I believe that an orderly and well structured home allows a child to feel safe and at peace, which actually frees the child and creates a good environment for the teaching of virtues. This also gives the mother the peace and the opportunity to live these virtues. I personally believe this to be the single most important part of parenting. For me, when I am stressed about the house, laundry, dinner, not praying, it's really hard for me to be the example to my children that I must be, not that I should be, but that I must be, for both our sake.
Children also need responsibilities. Momma and Papa should not be the only one's cooking, cleaning and feeding the cats. How else will children learn how to care for themselves and to be hospitable to others? Kids love having responsibilities. They feel part of the team if they are contributing and helping in the home. They experience firsthand the dynamic of a well functioning family when they are allowed, and expected, to help. I see how my kids respond when I ask them to help me cook, fold laundry, feed the cats and chickens. They even love washing the car! Of course, it's takes much longer to include them. But as our beloved Metropolitan Jonah told me recently, mothering is the perfect place to work out one's salvation. It offers every opportunity that monasticism does-well, except those wonderful long, quiet, services. Indeed, no one will make you die to yourself quicker than your children.
So, I took clean week off from school to think, pray, clean and plan. I plan to start work on our new schedule this week. I'm sure I'll be tweaking it for the next twenty years or so, but that's OK. This whole experience is for my salvation as much as it is for theirs. May the Lord grant us all strength, mercy, love and repentance!
O Lord and Master of my life, the spirit of idleness, of despondency, of love of power, and of idle words, grant me not.
But the spirit of continence, of humility, of patience, and of love, do Thou grant unto me Thy servant.
Yea O Lord and King, grant unto me to perceive mine own offences and not to judge my brother; for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen
Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim