Thursday, May 28, 2015

Activity and Recovery

On Nelleke’s blog, Education is a Life, she mentioned that she seems to function best when she’s out of the house only twice a week — once for church and once for other things.  Ever since I read that at the beginning of May, I’ve been wondering what my sweet spot is for outings.  Since March, I’ve been running at 4-6 days out a week, including church, and it is more than I can take.

Every outing for us is at least two hours, because we spend at minimum 30 minutes traveling plus the activity time.  And then there’s the get everyone ready and get everyone and everything out of the car…  and all of a sudden each outing is at least 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  Practically speaking, that’s a whole morning, a whole afternoon, or a whole evening.

If the activity is a half day, we’ll still do Morning Time and our schoolwork, but chores may or may not be done and play time, nap time, and leisure time are curtailed or eliminated.  How we go about our schoolwork changes too.  Instead of sitting at the table and writing in my commonplace while Gregory and Nathan do their copy work and math, I’m folding laundry, starting dinner, or cleaning in the kitchen.  Morning time is abbreviated, since time is short.  We’ll still read the daily readings from Mass and pray together, but we might not sing, or we’ll skip a read aloud or something from our Morning Time loop (Shakespeare, Plutarch, Picture Study and Music Study).  The Morning Time loop starts taking a week and a half to get through rather than a week.  Memory work is reviewed in the car on the way, which means we’re treading water on the work rather than making headway.

If the activity is a full day, then we don’t do Morning Time at all.  We’ll (hopefully) pray and do memory work in the car.  We’ll listen to a wonderful audiobook together, but there’s no other school work, no play time, no leisure, and no completed chores.  Naps might happen in the car, but the little ones will be grumpy and tired.

I used to feel like each day was its own compartment, that what happened on one day wouldn’t spill into the next box.  After all, isn’t that what it looks like on the calendar?  But what about those chores that didn’t happen because we were on a field trip?  Or the stuff that got dumped in the entry because we got back late?  Or the crabby little people who are over-tired and over-stimulated?  Or the readings that should have happened earlier in the week but were postponed for another day?  They all spill over and add pressure and mess to the next day… or even the next several days.

So even if I look at my calendar and see a half day out on Monday, a morning out on Tuesday, a half day out on Wednesday, a day home on Thursday, a full day out on Friday, and a day home on Saturday that doesn’t mean that we can really reap the full benefits of those three half days at home and two full days at home.  We’re so activity lagged from the other days all we can do is try to slog through, tired and grumpy and trying to do six days worth of work in three and a half (non-consecutive) days.

At this point I have two options.  There’s the have it all approach, where I can continue running at our current rate, and try to figure out how to somehow manage, organize, and improve the workings of my family’s life so that we can do this much and still have play time, leisure time, and completed chores.  Perhaps there’s some mixture of grace and willpower and child (and adult!) training that will make us not short tempered and whiny when we’re worn out and over-stimulated.  After all, there’s always room for improvement, right?

The other option seems practically impossible, but yet appealing in its simplicity.  What if I limited our out of the house engagements to a certain number per week?  I’d miss out on opportunities and good things, but we’re missing out on those at home too by running around so much.

I suspect the first option isn’t really so much an option as a pipe dream, which really only leaves the second.  And the second option looks hard.  Very hard.  What is that level of a activity that our family can sustain at this point in our lives?  How do I figure out which activities are the ones I should be doing, the ones that will lead us towards our goals…  and which ones are merely good and fun but not much more?  How do I balance the needs of older kids who want to start engaging more with our community and the younger ones who want to be at home, building forts or having regular naps?  There’s lots of discernment needed  there, which probably means that I’m on the right track.  Why is it that the hard road seems to always be the right one?


  1. This is a dilemma I hear many home school moms lamenting about.
    And I am one of them. I do not like "errand days". My very best - and favorite - weeks are the ones when I don't have to go anywhere on a week day. :) But sadly, they are few and far between.

    1. I'm glad I'm not alone in this - now I am trying to figure out what to do about it! I don't want to just accept it as part of the spirit of the age - at least not without some consideration first.

      Thanks for your comment, Lisa!

  2. You are definitely not alone! My problem is that part of me feels guilty because although I am an introvert and a homebody, my children are not necessarily--a couple of them in particular just *love* our "outing days." I don't want to create a schedule that only meets my needs and not theirs. But I also don't know how to function without carving out the decent stretches of home time that my personality craves.

    Right now, I feel like our schedule is an okay balance: nature study with friends once a week, homeschool park day once a week, church once a week, and then visit with family twice a month. (We have art and piano too, but thankfully our teacher comes to our home, both on the same morning.) Other get-togethers pop up here and there, but I don't worry too much about those since they are more sporadic. To be honest, it still feels like too much to me--even though I feel like we have said no to a million opportunities and aren't doing half of what many of our friends are. I think with little ones it's especially important to have that home time carved out because naps and meals and all run so much more smoothly for that age when they're predictable. But there are lots of "good" activities that my kids would really enjoy being a part of that I just can't balance with an orderly home, timely schoolwork, and good habits. I feel bad too because our extended families want more time with us, and our priest would love to have us more involved as well. I just can't devote even more time "out" and still keep my sanity. ;)

    I don't know where I am going with this! Just wanted to say I commiserate. I've been thinking about this a lot as I plan next school year. It's a difficult balance for sure, and I know it gets even more difficult the older the children get.

    1. Yes, I definitely don't want to create a schedule that only meets my needs too! I'm trying to figure out what is a good limit for us, and how to maximize our time out of the house, making sure that when we do go out, we really are meeting needs for people. I'm also trying to cultivate an understanding in the kids that there's give and take in all of this, and trying to help them to understand what their needs truly are, so that they aren't just seeking entertainment and novelty, but are being fed by what we're doing. And there are just so many different things we could do - and people who would like us to do more with them. But protecting sanity has to be very high on the list... because if mom's sanity goes, then the whole thing tumbles down. :-)

      I appreciate your commiseration, Celeste!