Living Stones Academy

Educating by atmosphere, discipline, and life

Looking for those “smooth and easy days”

on September 10, 2010

Charlotte Mason talks about achieving days of peace with your children: “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets those habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children” (The Original Homeschooling Series, Vol 1, pg 136).

I can’t even tell you how far from that I am, and how much I desire it. I know there are two reasons why it’s such a struggle for me personally.

  1. I am reactionary. I fully believe that the parent who can correct, discipline, and instruct without anger and can control his/her emotions is successful in training up the children. But practicing it is so hard for me. I know kids are kids, I know they are designed to push the boundaries. But remembering that when it’s 9am and I’ve already put one child in her chair 5 times, told another child 2 seconds ago not to talk (and he’s talking again), repeated to the other child 3 times now that he alone is responsible for the puzzle I told him not to take out (and yet he did) . . .it’s hard not to show the irritation and exasperation and let such awful words escape my lips as, “Why do you keep DOING this?” When I of course know the answer, and the child himself does not. This is a constant, minute to minute struggle for me that I lose far more often than I win (in fact I can’t remember the last time I successfully made it through the day without losing it).
  2. I don’t have good habits myself. I am working on this one, but then of course, I get in a groove, start to be on track, I’m happy with my progress . . .and disaster strikes. This past weekend I got hit with THE worst head cold I’ve ever experienced! It hit me like a truck out of nowhere, which never happens to me–with colds I feel them coming on at least a couple days ahead of time. This time I felt right as rain one second, and the next second was laying back in the recliner moaning and sneezing and blowing my nose. A week later I’m still not 100% recovered, because my kids all got sick too, which meant a couple sleepless nights, and then there’s the fact that I haven’t achieved those good habits for the kids, so there is never a full nap time. Seriously, I fight with them for 2+ hours every day, and sometimes it results in 2 of the 3 falling asleep (baby usually isn’t a problem, so I don’t count him in the equation, I mean the older ones), but rarely if ever 3. So I have no time whatsoever to myself to recover and get back in my groove. We have managed school this week–seriously, with kindergarten and preschool that’s not hard–but keeping on housework, staying on schedule, and training the children has not happened.

And there are my excuses. I have discovered some ways to get harmony, it’s only a matter of remembering to incorporate them.

One of those ways, strangely, is chores. Children love to be useful. Makenzie is my worst behaved when she’s not occupied, and she doesn’t seem to know how to constructively occupy herself. But when I give her a task to do, she’s my most helpful, my most cheerful, and my most compliant one. And she’ll stay on task long after I’ve told her we’re done. The trouble is finding things for a 2 1/2 year old to do. One thing she loves to help with is laundry. But she’s too small to reach the washing machine, too little to understand the dryer, too uncoordinated to fold. So she “helps” by riding  the laundry basket from my room to the laundry room!

When I’m able to line dry clothes (I have one rack), she helps by handing clothespins to me. Isaac and she help further by picking up any clothes I “accidentally” drop while loading the washer. I taught Caleb a while ago how to unload the dryer, which is still tricky because our dryer doesn’t always dry on one cycle, so I check to see if it needs another cycle. If it doesn’t, he pulls all the clothes into the basket, cleans the lint trap, then actually brings the full basket out and will lift it onto the couch for me.

Dishes are another chore that I can split up with different types of jobs. Even Makenzie can help–she loads all the utensils. I rinse them and lay them on the counter; she grabs them and puts them in the basket.

Caleb likes to go through the motions of hooking up the dishwasher. He’s fascinated with how things work, so I let him pull out the faucet adapter, the cord, turn the dial, and flip the lock.

When I remember to get them involved, I get things done. Oddly, it was a feeling that, “Oh it will take longer if I let them help” which prevented me, and sometimes does prevent me, from allowing them to help. But I’ll tell you what I’ve discovered: while it’s true that sometimes it makes the process take longer, it makes the process a lot easier and less stressful because I’m not yelling, I’m not stopping every 2 seconds to break up a fight or put someone in time out . . .everyone is happy and there is peace.

And I need to remember–that is more important than being in control of my tasks.


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