This summer, I attended a yoga retreat and one evening we sat around a fire together. We were encouraged to write three things we wanted to release, let go of, on a bay leaf and burn the leaves in a fire. We also wrote an intention – just a word – on a rock and after burning our leaves we placed our rock in the center with all the other intentions of the women in the circle. It was a powerful exercise and since then I’ve been thinking about that energetic exchange – the releasing of something in order to make space for something that matters more. We just don’t have room in our hearts and our lives for everything. So, in that spirit, I’ve been thinking about our upcoming homeschool year from this perspective.
This year, I am releasing using a curriculum. I’m super grateful to have had a curriculum to guide me through kindergarten through third grade with my oldest child, who is starting fourth grade work. While having a guide was so helpful, especially because my third child was born just a month into my oldest’s first grade, it also became a way for me to feel that I was falling behind, not measuring up, etc. It helpful in many ways, but it was an unhelpful tool for my perfectionist tendencies.
So, this year I am embracing forging our own path. I crafted my own plan for fourth grade. We will still be following the themes you would find in a Waldorf homeschool curriculum, but I’m pacing it out so it fits my family. I’m giving us permission to dedicate the whole month of December to Advent and my daughter’s participation in The Nutcracker rather than stress about teaching academics to an exhausted dancer. I have planned a very hands-on local geography block that really reflects our interests and also doesn’t duplicate things my child already knows. That’s something no curriculum could every do. Another thing I am embracing as a result of not using a curriculum is giving myself regular planning dates, where I will spend time alone to plan our weeks ahead. While I have our whole year mapped out, there are some blocks that are still a pretty loose sketch, and I will be spending time to flush those out throughout the year.
This year, I am releasing doing everything myself. I am super guilty of doing household tasks myself, rather than taking the time to show my kids how to do it or dealing with all of the complaining that sometimes accompanies chore time.
I am embracing giving my kids more responsibility and being the grown up who enforces things even when it would be much easier to just do it myself. Each of my big kids (ages 10 and 6) are starting the year with a daily morning chore, which will rotate and will be done after they unload the dishwasher (an already established habit). My fourth grader will be learning how to do her own laundry, and will be responsible for it from starting the washer to putting things in drawers. And I’m purchasing online cooking classes for my kids, so that they can learn basic skills in the kitchen. I think removing me from that equation will be helpful, so I’ll just be setting them up with the tools and foods they need and letting them learn from the videos. This will be new for us!
This year I am releasing being a part of a homeschooling group. Over the past two years I have been in two different homeschooling communities that have broken up in pretty heartbreaking ways. Without getting into detail, I will just say that homeschool mom friendships can be really challenging. And having my children lose friends through no fault of their own is just devastating. In the past, being a part of a group has helped me present my family as “normal” when talking about homeschooling with unsupportive people. Homeschool skeptics really want to know that your kids are getting socialized. And their framework for socialization is school, so being a part of a group or a group class is very appeasing for those people. I am releasing caring about what those people think.
I am embracing putting my energy into fostering individual friendships. All the energy that I expended forming / sustaining a group can now be put into checking in with friends, hosting play dates, offering to take a friend’s kids on a field trip we have planned, etc. I have also been spending more time seeing my homeschool mom friends without our kids! Catching up over a glass of wine or a coffee is so incredibly satisfying after spending years trying to talk with our kids around and interrupting us every 15 seconds.
Another thing I am releasing is putting myself at the bottom of the priority list. I still feel as though I haven’t recovered from having my third child (and she will – ahem – be turning three next month). I kept waiting to find the time or money to start taking better care of myself, but those things never magically appeared. I realized I was going to have to step up and make it happen myself.
So, this year I am embracing putting myself on our schedule and including my needs in our budget. During the summer I did a two-week trial at a barre3 studio and completely fell in love. The classes are challenging, I love the music they play and there is a really lovely play lounge that my kids enjoyed going to. So I’ve signed up and am committing to attend classes three times a week. It’s a lot! And it requires shifting some other things around so that we can a) go that often and b) afford the cost.
Last but not least, this year I am releasing the baby / toddler phase. We are done with diapers, done with nursing and done with naps. It’s hard to believe it, after 10 years in the fog of the early years with three children. For 10 years our schedule has been dictated by a nap and our outings have been carefully considered based on potty needs.
I am looking forward to embracing a little more flexibility in our days. I am looking forward to going places and not needing to bring a roller suitcase full of snacks and diapers (kidding). Yesterday, we went to our local amusement park’s not-back-to-school day and all I brought was a stroller, some water bottles, a snack bar for each kid and a fanny pack with my credit card, sunglasses, keys and phone. You guys! It was amazing.
Every single year of homeschooling is so completely different. This year my kids will be 10, 6 and 3 and I can already tell it will be such a shift from 9, 5 and 2. I ready to let go of the things that are no longer serving us, and embracing the big and little shifts that will take us where we need to go.