Embracing Autumn (for reluctant transitioners)
It’s no secret that I don’t love winter, but autumn…autumn holds so much promise. Who couldn’t love a season where sunrise and sunset are at reasonable times of day? To catch either with the children about is lovely, but for every day with the children to begin and end wrapped in that pink glow is just magical. Apple-anything (or pumpkin-anything!) with a mug of steaming tea warming my hands is totally my jam. I’m ready to break out the snuggly jumpers, woolly socks and queue up a new list of books to read. But just when I feel myself looking forward to the season, I stop. Because I know this promise will fall flat, like it does every year.
I could never quite work out why enthusiastically running headlong into autumn always resulted in landing flat on my metaphorical face. And then this year, after a summer of long lazy days following those rabbit trails, September reared its ugly head and it hit me – I was avoiding things. I was avoiding Yahoo Group, Facebook Group, home ed Chat Group things. I was dreading the September Schedule Shuffle where everyone and their brother posts a new and exciting opportunity every day. Part of it was the stress of choosing, the fear of missing out, the hassle of rearranging the schedule – again. But I realised, what I was really avoiding was letting go. I wanted that lovely lazy summer learning to go on forever.
It’s okay if you’re not psyched to be ‘back to school.’
As I said, I’ve always thrown myself headlong into autumn. In the past I bore the burden of stressing out about the schedule so the children didn’t have to and looked forward to their excitement at being gifted new opportunities. But, as I have now figured out, this is where headlong became head-first. I tried to be sensitive to their needs in creating the schedule but I never actually took their counsel in the creation of the schedule. I just presented it to them and had an expectation that they would be thrilled. They weren’t.
What I figured out is, my kids don’t like transition either. They love lazy summer learning too. Plus, even though summer felt like forever, when it eventually ended they were hoping we would just go back to the old familiar schedule. I don’t know how it is where you live, dear reader, but The Schedule is never the same year on year in Oxfordshire. This transition is at least an annual occurrence for us and it’s painful!
So this year, I left my head buried in the sand. Sort of. This is the last season of our ‘school year’ (because we’re quirky). And instead of ramping up the out-of-house activities whilst winding down the in-house activities like I usually do, I’ve just kept on with the lazy summer learning. I’ve talked about new activites. We’ve tried one or two. We didn’t go to an old favourite to see how it felt to just stay home for a day after all of the new excitement.
If a new opportunity fizzles out early then I’ll be glad we didn’t jump at it. If it lasts but it’s booked up, we’ll wait. A space will come up eventually because kids can be fickle. I have faith it will all sort itself out. And in the meanwhile, I’m focusing on helping my children, and myself, through this transitionery period we all seem to struggle with.
How we made autumn memorable for the right reasons.
To help us shift our focus away from the schedule gently simmering in the background, we first re-lived our summer glory days. I asked the children what their top three favourite moments of summer were. It was a lovely family dinner of reminiscing. Then I secretly threw together a small paperback book of summer memories on Snapfish to gift the children on the Equinox. We honoured summer and then we shelved it. We shifted focus on to things we love about and were looking forward to in autumn.
Autumn makes us think of apple pie. Well, I can’t bake an apple pie once or twice every week so I scrounged around the shops for some mini apple pies that may accidentally be vegan. The Co-op is usually pretty good for this, but not this time. I settled on mini apple turnovers from Sainsbury’s. After we walked the dog, we settled down for our Daily Practice with a cup of tea and an apple-y treat. I’ve also snuck some pears into the fruit bowl for a change and I’ve got popcorn in stock as a backup when the children suddenly decide apple turnovers are old.
If food isn’t your thing, picking a special pair of woolly socks or a new fleece throw blanket from Home Bargains for flopping on the sofa with a good book might be more your style.
We rotate a set of seasonal picture books on our nature shelf. It was a BIG deal to break out The Little Red Hen for the first time in a year. We were all silly excited. Our other favourites include Rusty, Trusty Tractor, Sheep in a Jeep, Leaf Man, The Very Helpful Hedgehog and We Gather Together. I apologise if these sound good but are hard to find as quite a bit of this collection travelled overseas with us.
We also have a habit of reading after meals – it keeps my husband from getting twitchy while the kids are STILL eating. A change of seasons is a good reason to change the reading material. We’ve had a season of poetry. And then a season of short biographies like Rebel Girls and The Good Guys. This season we picked Absolutely Everything by Christopher Lloyd. It’s not so seasonal, but it’s timely for our family unit.
We chose new in-house projects to focus on for the season – some things to take our minds off of what we weren’t doing out-of-house. The children chose Chemistry, Sewing, Cooking and Art. I think there’s something about chilly weather that sings to our souls the promises of warm home-cooked food and other more domestic tasks. So, this season:
- I invested in a MEL Chemistry subscription to test run.
- The children picked out adorable unicorn and dragon soft toy patterns on etsy and we’re fumbling through this mysterious sewing business together.
- We’ve made a return to Kids Cook Real Food. To be honest, their cooking skills are pretty good for their ages, but finding kid-cooking-friendly recipes can be tricky and KCRF is a pretty good resource for that, plus it includes lots of variations which we find handy for our vegan diet.
- As for art, well, that was short-lived. Drawing Bootcamp on Jam just didn’t work for us. I guess it’s back to the drawing board! *snark*
I highly recommend lighting a fire in all seasons. And before you roll your eyes at yet another suggestion to hygge your life by lighting a candle, I mean a BONfire. My son asked for a firebowl for his ninth birthday and we thought, silently, “Gosh where are we going to store this dust collector?” But actually, we use it all the time. We don’t have a traditional table and chairs so we don’t really entertain guests, but we can invite people round to cook sausages and toast marshmallows over the fire bowl! No one is expecting top notch food and a first class dining experience in your back garden.
And autumn is the prefect season for an outdoor fire. It’s chilly enough to make sense but not SO cold that it no longer makes sense. It’s dark early enough to make it extra exciting without sending the kids to bed so late they wake up monstrous the next day.
Maybe smokey fires aren’t for you. Something like pick-you-own apples might be more special for you and yours. A trip to the pumpkin patch in October is much more muddy fun than picking one out of a bin at the shop. And corn-mazes or a family hike when the leaves are particularly pretty in colour are good ways to make the most of the fading sunlight hours and dry weather.
So far so good
September has been rolling along smoothly. The schedule is still simmering in the background. That’s okay. We’re home educators – we’ve got time. We can take that time to transition in the way that’s right for us.
How do you embrace the change of seasons?