how and why has it come again? Is it simply that we were on an ebb, and like the tide, it's come back, serene and moon-lit?
Or is it a conscious reclaiming. A choosing?
I think it's the second.
I realised more than one thing when I was bottoming out.
I realised I was bottoming out. Once long ago, all I did when I felt like that was listen to sad music on my bed! This time, there were dinners to make, children to take places, smiles to smile, cuddles to give. I couldn't take a whole week of sick days (and oh, I wanted to). I had to find my way back to Good. Consciously, mindfully, return to being present with my children, present in the moment. Dig as deep and hard as I could. Find the light. Find the joy.
It took time. A lot (LOT) of thinking, mulling, talking, stewing.
Which led to realisation number
Life needs to be simpler. It needs to come down to the basics.
It needs to come down to doing what we love.
What is that?
Well, being together, as a family. Homeschooling. Reading. Music. Writing. Spending quality time with friends. Being outside.
…hmmm. I think it's that simple!
I want to move towards a less complicated, built-up life. I want to live in a way that these good, fine things are a priority, and not something we just do, without being mindful about them. I want to embrace them with our whole hearts, give them focus, rather then simply fitting them into a busy day.
Which led to realisation number
My kids love love love to read. But because I was in a state of Fret, I had started worrying they were spending too long reading.
I had begun to think, on many, many mornings, Shouldn't we be doing some kind of school work? What if we get to the end of our homeschool days and they don't know how to subtract or write an essay? (Yes, I was getting that panicky). What if I'm forever left waiting all day for them to lift their heads from their books, so we can do something else with the time? Those Shoulds and Forevers and What Ifs got loud and insistent.
So I had started saying, "Perhaps you're reading too long," and fussing out loud about work not being done.
And then one night, my son said, "Maybe we should put all our books in one room and lock it. Then you can tell us when we can read." He said it genuinely. Just wanting to help, wanting so much to please me.
Oh, wow. That was a bad, really stinky moment.
It was also my wake up call.
I realised I had forgotten something incredibly important:
that learning flows when doing the thing (or things) you love the most.
I realised, actually, rather than reading less,
they should read MORE.
So we went to the library on Monday and got SO many books we had to buy two extra library bags to bring them home. We got Books about Space, and Science, and Geography, and Maps, and Myths and Legends, and Houdini, and Art, and so much Fiction!
Now the learning can happen any time, and happen for hours. And it has been happening—noses glued to the pages, looking up only to share. Last night, as my girl read Creation Stories, my boy was calling out information about earthquakes from the living room. I was cleaning the kitchen and couldn't hear him. I said, "Come sit on the stool here, keep me company" so he did. He perched by the kitchen bench, reading to me from the Usborne Geography Encyclopedia about the Mercalli scale. It was bliss.
Realisation Two also led to realisation
Which was, if we love something, and want to do it well,
sometimes it requires regular attention
(much like a plant needs watering, or a writer needs to write).
So we should consciously, mindfully,
turn it into a daily practice
(much like morning meditation, or walking every day).
So, because my kids play music, and love it, both need to practice, regularly.
We were forgetting to do this. We were getting to the end of almost every day, and realising no-one had touched their instruments. Then, trying to get the kids to practice was like pulling teeth—all hunched shoulders and frowns, anxious faces and, "Oh, I was about to do something…"
Making them practice went against my new-found philosophies—that learning is best when it's non-coercive, organic. How is a mum standing there, saying "You should practice now," while the kids moan together, a match for our learning style? It's not.
So the kids and I came up with a Plan, together. They would practice after breakfast every morning. Do it while they were fresh. Do it first, so then the rest of the day would stretch before us, with no sense of something waiting in the Must Do mental basket.
Well. It has made a huge difference! The kids go to their instruments, happily. They play, and work at new ideas, new skills. My daughter smiles so much when she hits a fine note on her violin, gets through only her fourth song ever. My son bounces down the stairs talking about the jazz piece he's creating on piano. (Which has, since I started writing this post, morphed into my husband showing him how to use Sybellius, an application on Mac, to write all the parts on computer. WILD.)
And afterwards, after they have filled up on music?
The kids seem sharper, brighter, more interested in everything, lighter, calmer, happier.
The learning day flows on so easily from there. And because a routine is now in place, it feels natural then, to gently ease into doing a little maths…
For my girl, right now, maths is a new adventure—I photocopy a page, either in colour or on coloured paper, from the old, once feared maths workbook. We sit together, doing that one simple page, while at the same time having conversations about it, drawing on the work paper, me asking, "How'd you do that?" with delight, when she just cruises into answers like Cleopatra on her barge. It's a really happy time for us.
(We're also playing games, doing fun maths on the computer, and it feels like her love of maths, and openness to doing it at any time is growing. Her petals opening up to the sun. YUM.)
For my boy, who just finished his second Life of Fred book, and then did a series of assessments to show he was all done with Year 6 maths, it's all about The Number Devil. He loves this book. It gets him leaping up from the couch to check things out on the computer. He calls out information, runs over with the book to show me a theory, some fascinating fact. Again, it's a really happy time.
The result of all these realisations is
Our small routine, around an hour of practice and maths,
has given me, and my kids, a sense of peaceful rhythm.
It's like during this time, we centre ourselves. We have this concentrated time together before the day takes off, in whatever direction we choose to go.
And having had this mindful, focussed time, everything is just
flowing. SO beautifully.
Like, a new world map we bought while getting paper has lead to a geography memory game designed by my son. And him planning a massive round-the-world trip he wants to go on when he turns 18. And then looking up Google Earth, reading the Usborne Encyclopedia of Geography, looking up the history of Venice, and how it was built, talking talking talking about countries and cultures of the world.
We're back doing outer space, and the other day I was reading out loud to them from Space, black holes and Stuff, while the kids worked in their journals.
They illustrated their pages about the Sun, stuck in the crosswords they'd made a few weeks back, and started drawing the solar system (but not to scale! because then they found a website that showed it to scale and the distance between the planets is massive!!).
At some point I read from my book:
"beyond a certain point, the black hole becomes less dangerous as the gravitational pull is less powerful."
My girl looked up and said, simply, "That's the event horizon."
HUH? What's that you say?
I had no idea what she was talking about. I turned a page and there it said, "beyond a certain distance, the black hole doesn't suck in or destroy anything at all. We call this boundary the event horizon."
How did she know that? Well, it turns out
she read it somewhere in a book.
And we all smiled SO WIDE!
Because it's so clear.
It means: YES.
The way we are, the way we learn and live and breathe and be, fits.
to us. To our Freedom Experiment. And to having a Routine too.
To making our own rhythm and making our own rules.
To mixing methods and resources, to using what works and letting go what doesn't.
To NOT listening to fear.
To embracing how we learn and using the things we love to make learning Lighter, Happier, Bigger, More.
To letting go.
And loving everything we are.
Oh—I should also mention another change.
We realised that one crazy kitten NEEDS to get out, do some nature frolicking, not be in. So we've loaded both critters up with bells and collars (more bells coming), and let the cats outside. Aaah. It's helped SO much. Peace inside, happy cats outside (only in the day), no birds being eaten, contented cats coming in to sleep. It's that simple. Who'd've thunk it? Hooray for Flow!