Monday, March 5, 2007

Did I Mention I Don't Have A Clue?

A poster on one of my home school lists asked for an account of a 'typical day' in the life of a home schooling family. I have to admit that I stared at the monitor for 30 seconds wondering rather bemusedly what that would look like. I'm still struggling to have a typical day as a parent, thank you very much.

I have morning people as offspring. I, unhappily enough, am not, not, NOT a morning person. So my typical day involves getting up several hours before my brain is prepared for it and suffering the usual consequences of being far, far behind the curve of whatever is going on. Fortunately the offspring have figured out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and where the fruit bowl is. They aren't going to starve and they'd prefer to wait on me to cook the vegetables anyway. After that we're in free-for-all for the rest of the day. I'm still trying to work myself into a housekeeping routine. I hate the stuff, I'd prefer not to do it, but I have had to live with the consequences of not doing it -- believe me, that's worse. When you're healthy and childless it doesn't really matter as much how big the laundry pile gets, or whether you're gnawing on something nameless from the back of the freezer, or how high the paper mountains get before you decide to heck with everything and shred it all. When you have more than one child organization gets pretty attractive BUT by the time you have more than one child you are operating at a distinct disadvantage to getting organized. You have a sleep deficit. You're trying to keep them from killing themselves in their exploratory zeal. You're trying to cook healthy meals when it's a struggle to even locate the refrigerator. The short list of advice I'd give to prospective parents is 1. Whatever it takes to stay sane, keeping kids, spouse, and various small animals safe, do it. You'll thank me later. 2. Get organized now. Later, you won't have the time.

All right, I'm not a Martha Stewart Convert, and I'm not about to get into semi-monastic decorating esthetics. Nothing in my house will ever be color-coded, my filing system will always look suspiciously like the one out of Real Genius, and my hobbies will always be battling it out for floor space. (Did we mention books? I'm a candidate for L-space*. I'm not kidding.) But as I would prefer my science experiments directed as opposed to serendipitous, the kitchen has got to be cleaned every once in a while, and sooner rather than later is the operative. The laundry cannot be allowed to form its own zip code. Projects cannot be left wherever they were at when their various authors got distracted by other projects. Clean up as you go is becoming less of a mantra and more of a Thou-Shalt, because if thou doesn't shalt, Mom is going to go even crazier and start talking to walls all of the time. At piercingly loud volumes. My version of neat will not always have the floors swept, nor will all of the books be on the shelves at all times. My version of neat is that everything has a home and finds its way back to that home on an almost daily basis. There is an educational purpose behind the late-life conversion to an abbreviated neatness. I find that teaching is easier in a neat house. My patience actually exists when I can see the color of the carpet and when there are flat surfaces that aren't piled to gravity-defying heights with what-nots and whatchamacallits. There is more room for projects and new ideas. It would have been unthinkable to my younger self, but I find that I work, think, and create better in a picked-up house as opposed to one on the verge of bedlam.

There are also lessons that I'm struggling to teach my children even as I am learning them myself. I'm learning that it's all right to let some things go -- even things that I've been carting around from pillar to post for the last 3 decades. Even if it's sentimental, if it's broken or used up maybe it's time for it to be gone. The importance of teaching this to the children was brought home when I found myself confronted with a child who treated throwing away a broken paper-clip, a pine cone picked up at play, even rocks, as major emotional traumas. Better to tackle it now before she has to move the same boxes three times without unpacking them.

In between all of this there is a lot of reading. Lots. See books, above. (Our secondary motto is Reading Is The Key to Everything. That's right below All Conditions Subject To Change Without Notice.) There is some writing, as I encourage them to write to friends or to write stories about their imaginary dragons (all gifted when the Banshees turned three or so and started having inexplicable nightmares. Dragons eat monsters, whether they are in the closet, under the bed, or hanging out in hallways. Useful creature, the dragon!), there is math, of the "Mom, I'm bo-o-o-o-o-ored" variety. One of these days they'll either learn not to say that around me, or they are going to be certifiable math wizards, as well as very good at folding laundry. Thus far, however, no typical days. I am so looking forward to one.

*Guards! Guards! Terry Pratchett. Any place (us. libraries) where the sheer volume of books and their accumulated knowledge distort time and space. All libraries, past, present, and future, are connected by L-space.

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