Friday, September 27, 2013

Back to School: The Crazy, Busy Day!

Calm your storm!

It has been a busy first month of school. With our oldest 4 children in school we span three different schools this year, Elementary, Middle School and High School. I still am lucky enough to have the little one home with me.

The first day was hard. It always seems I spend the last week of summer thinking of all the things we did NOT do and all the missed opportunities. Darn! I hate it. After school starts it seems we have so little time together. I just feel so annoyed at the school for taking my kids back.  

I dread sending them back but I try to hide it for many reasons. One the girls love it and are excited, as I always was too. Two my younger son hates it and I don’t want him to know how deep down I would love to just keep him home.  Three what good does it do? So instead I fight back the tears, take pictures, and encourage them to enjoy it. When inside I struggle with what school has to offer for my kids these days.

Have you ever sat down and looked at your child’s schedule for the day, especially in elementary school? When my oldest went to middle school I asked him if he missed having recess. His response, “No, we have more free time in Middle school to talk to our friends between classes than we had in elementary school.” That really made me think, take a look below at a comparison of my 2 graders day vs. a Generic Work day:

2nd grade School day: 8:50am-4:00pm = 7hrs and 10min in school.
Daily scheduled unstructured time:    

  • (1)-15 minute recess. These 15 minutes include lining up twice and walking to and from the playground, a drink, and bathroom break.

  • ·         30 minute lunch. These 30 minutes include lining up twice and walking to and from the lunchroom, waiting in line to give their name, waiting in line to get their food, clearing their trays, and eating. Kids probably wonder why their parents ever told them to take time to chew.

Daily Total = 45 minutes of free time (free time really?) and 6 hrs and 25 min of work.

A Generic work day: 8:00am-5:00pm = 9 hours.
In many trades or jobs this is the expectation for “scheduled” breaks:

  • (2) 15minute breaks, not to mention the various times throughout the day people are able to stop and visit with each other, try that at school and you will get time deducted from your (1) 15 minute recess.

  • 1hour lunch. Though this may involve a bit of travel and waiting if you choose, it is still twice what the kids are allotted.

 Daily totals= 1-1/2hours of free time (likely more) & 7-1/2hours of work.

A 7 year old is expected to put in only a little more than an hour less work in a day than an adult. That is a long day for a kid.  That doesn’t even include the chance of homework, or recommended reading time or flash cards at home.  Then add on any extra- curricular events and their day is packed full. We wonder why the kids get a little unruly! They never have a chance to breath, much less eat, drink, and go to the bathroom without hurrying!!!

Take a day and visit your kid’s school at lunch.  They likely are making a choice to have time to eat or talk. If they talk they are quickly quieted by crabby staff that is frustrated by the noise level.  It is really not a relaxing experience. When my kids talk about organizing teams to play at recess I wonder, how could they have time, but bless their little hearts they make it happen.  Then look how many kids you will find walking because they are being punished for who knows what as there is a long list of opportunities to lose recess time. What about bathroom and drink breaks?  Kids are forced into choosing between recess time and going to the bathroom or getting a drink. What do you think your child would choose?

How do we make this better for our kids?  Home School? I won’t lie this thought enters my mind often. This is not an easy option or a decision to be made lightly or without prayer.  How about letting your school and administrators know your opinions? I do, and in my experiences it will not make a lot of difference. Many times they are detached from what is best for kids general needs, because they are so focused on what they think is best for their education.

It’s easy to lose focus, I watch myself do it at home. As I complain about the school day I am having flashes of parallels at home. Look at an evening from an outsider’s perspective. I many times am that crabby staff. When they walk through the door they are greeted by a hurry up we have to get ready to go, no talking, just eat!  We leave and sometimes put 50+ driving miles in one night and are back home just in time(if we are lucky) to do homework find out which clothes are not clean that are needed the next day and head to bed. Trying to give them everything they need to only miss the simple things they truly need.

So how do I make this better? I’ll keep trying and sharing my ideas outside the home to push for a change in our busy world and I hope you do too. In the mean time let’s try to make the best of the time we control with our children. Let’s not be extreme and say no chores and no structure, which is what I want to do sometimes. Find the right balance of learning that responsibility and being a kid.  Manage their responsibilities to work into their schedules while still allowing them time to be free. Don’t be afraid to say no to some of those extra activities. Above all be more understanding. When they walk through that door they are hungry, thirsty, tired and sometimes CRABBY.  Greet them with love and a sense of calmness. Let them unwind even if you only for a few minutes. Don’t hit them with a “hurry up and get ready” before they even get all the way in the house. It’s OK to secretly make life easier for them at times, no one will know. Find the balance of their responsibility and your help. Find your level of survival to have the best life for your family.

One thing I enjoy about writing a blog is how sometimes the process of writing my problem leads me to a solution! I realize that in the end when I think I am giving advice to others, I have really given advice to myself. Interesting how that works. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Welcome Back

I have been working for a month on what my first blog back after a long break should be. Multiple topics half written that I still hope someday will be complete. I give on the perfect restart. I need to just dive in, jump the gun now or my head will explode. I’ll be called back to start the race over again and I can fill in the holes then. So here it is just a plain old story from my life yesterday, an evening that was inspiring for me. I just decided I would share it.
I have begun a new study at church. A Catholic Adult Education Series   on the Catholic Religion, hosted by Scott and Kimberley Hahn. If you remember I studied one of his books last spring, The Lamb's Supper. I was pushed along gently by a lady from Church, who attended the spring group. She felt we should start a study again this fall. I have been worried about the commitment since I agreed. We have so little family time already and Mondays were our one night off and that is when it falls.
I questioned my decision to add this to my plate. Will it be worth? Will it just spread my efforts more thinly? I am also participating in an email bible study already. Which so far has been great. So do I need more?
Well last night was the first night of the video study and let me tell you I DO need more. Will it be hard at times, likely, but it will be worth the time. Here is how I made that conclusion.
The email bible study I am participating in is studying 1 John. We will read the same book over and over for a month and have weekly discussions. The first video in the study at church was just Scott Hahn’s conversion story. “Just” is what I thought but it was much more. I have a page of notes on how it applies to my life and it linked right to 1 John and our discussion thus far. WOW! How does God do this time and time again, allowing subjects to piggy back on each other from two completely different sources? It just maximizes what you get out of it! This of course was the first bonus of agreeing to participate. The following story from when I arrived home is the second.
This summer we started watching a show as a family on Monday nights. It begins at 9:00, not a big deal in the summer. In hind sight not the best plan as it still has one week left and makes for a late school night. Not to mention some of the content probably not family friendly. We just deal with bad topics as they come. Everyone seems to enjoy the overall mystery of story line and the cliff hanger endings.  
My family was giving me a hard time saying I would talk after the class and miss the first part of the show. When my oldest daughter and I, who I brought along in case someone needed babysitting, got in the car it was 9:00. I told her sorry. She very sincerely responded it’s OK. So my family was right I would talk afterwards. The fun part of the story is we did NOT miss the first part of the show.
When I walked in our oldest said smiling, “Guess what Mom? For some reason Under the Dome is starting at 9:24 tonight.”  I asked why? He said, “I think God did that so you guys were home in time to watch with us.”  I spoke my thoughts. Maybe that is my reward for studying?  He said I bet it is.
All my worries and questions on my decision disappeared. God had answered it for me through his inspirational connection of the two studies and my "reward" that the show, or “our family time” started a little late that night.
I know some of you may doubt by saying it was just Monday night football, but the timing was perfect. I truly believe God is the only one that can make it perfect!