Home ed rituals are magic
My children are definitely in that holiday mood already. They know Halloween signals the beginning of the end. We have three more weeks of book work followed by Thanksgiving celebrations, Christmas buildup and then a season of game- and tv-schooling before a new school year begins. We wrap our book work routine around the calendar year this way so I can support my children in their educations when I’m at my best.
I’m in a mood too. But it’s not a holiday mood, sadly. It’s the long, slow slide into seasonal depression and my motivation to do anything is seriously waning. I know my limitations pretty well now. If the family is fed, watered, washed and wearing clean clothes I am winning! As part of my morning routine, breakfast, lunch and dinner are all prepped, water bottles are filled, a load of laundry is in the machine and hubby will remind me later if it’s a bath night. What I will achieve the rest of the day is anyone’s guess.
It’s this transitional period, when it’s almost time to exhale but not yet, that things can go horribly wrong. I am easily agitated. We have a daily routine and the children know it well. But in this transitional period, when they should clear their breakfast plates and hop to their morning chores, they return to the Lego table instead; when they should put their shoes on to walk the dog after morning chores, they return to the Lego table instead; when they should take their shoes off after walking the dog and pull their school books off the shelf, they leave their shoes in the doorway and head for the Lego table instead….and this is the point at which I could (and have done in the past) boil over and threaten them with SCHOOL.
So far this year, I haven’t done this. One day this week, I decided to take a deep breath and carry on as best I could without letting their lack of motivation affect my lack of motivation. I boiled the water. I made our ritual cup of tea and popped some popcorn. I put the treats on the table and left the room to get a book we would need. And from the other room I heard big brother say, “Come on R, it’s time for school work.” And lo and behold, the children got up from the Lego table and went to the shelf for their school books. And I simmered right down.
Schedules, routines & rituals
Schedule: a program of events or appointments expected in a given time
Routine: an established procedure; habitual; regular; ordinary
Ritual: a customary observance or practice
“Rituals take the mundane and give them meaning.”
Our schedule normally ramps up over the winter season. I schedule the children for all the activities we can afford just to be out of the house and out of my own head. The schedule dictates where I need to be on any given day and when.
To the best of my ability, I try to maintain the same routine throughout the year. Whatever activities I may mix into our schedule at any given season, I avoid scheduling things that affect our morning and evening routines, because our morning routine incorporates the intentional learning and our evening routine incorporates family time and connection. Our morning routine may be shortened for a season because game-schooling doesn’t always take as long as book work and so we can fit in an extra scheduled activity.
Schedules and routines are godsends for me but maybe they’re just necessary evils for you. They tame the chaos that home ed sometimes feels like. They free up brain space for more important matters.
But rituals, they’re magic. Rituals take the mundane and give them meaning. They signify intention. They make the statement, “I am present.”
Our book work is a part of our routine, but when everything outside of the routine is so much more exciting, the routine feels humdrum. It’s difficult to be motivated for humdrum. A cup of tea and a treat is also part of our routine. I put out food like a child-magnet and it draws them to the table to sit and eat so I know I have a captive audience until I can hook them in for the duration!
But the tea is also a ritual; a routine ritual, if you will. The tea says, “Unlike the brushing of the teeth and the walking of the dog, which must be done come rain or shine, I have made us tea and I choose to sit down with you now and do this learning thing together.” Or maybe the tea you make says, “I know you need to sit down and crack a book, Teen, so I made you this cup of tea as a bit of motivation to get on with the hard stuff. I was thinking of you. I’m here if you need me.”
And maybe you don’t make tea. Maybe you light a candle. Or bang a gong.
But if you find the kids are struggling to stick with the routine going into this holiday season, and you’re not in the routine of including a ritual, it’s worth thinking about. Just a little something that says, “I know the outside world is so exciting right now. I feel it too. Let’s incorporate some of that magic into our routine. Let’s make a hot chocolate and drink it while we read aloud.”