Monday, April 07, 2008

How we Continue our Studies in the Midst of Life Changes

I've been asked the following question a lot lately:

How in the world are you able to keep up your studies in the midst of an international move and while living out of just one suitcase each?

I believe the reason our studies haven't fallen behind is because the children's good work habits and routines were already in place beforehand. Little by little over the years, I trained the children to take control of their daily schedules. If I can't be by their side continually, I can trust them now to follow personal schedules and get their work done. And it is usually neat and complete. This is not because I am some sort of super woman, but I believed that bit by bit, if I didn't quit, I would see results.

Last week, we had to go to the title office to sign the contract for our new home. The trip would take all day so I didn't want to leave the children alone. We took them along with us. The four of them, ages 15, 13, 9 and 5 waited for two hours in the lobby. No one heard a peep from them. They were too busy working on their schoolwork. My five year old had a little car and a fishing magazine. Normally, this little boy is very active, but he has been trained to play quietly when the need arises and he did just fine. I don't have little angels dropped from heaven, I am just reaping the benefits now from those many years of training my little ones to control themselves and to establish good study and work habits.

We have had bad days just like every other family. I have felt discouraged at times asking myself with exasperation, "Will they ever learn the most basic tasks!?" But they have learned them after all! So if you are discouraged in this area, take heart, your patient love and resolve will win out in the end. But please realize that you can't have one without the other. A child will have a hard time feeling loved by a mother who is always flying off the handle or barking commands and threats. On the other hand, a child feels insecure and grumpy when he doesn't have established boundaries for behavior and daily routines. He needs his mother to say NO when necessary and remain firm because he has not yet learned to make himself say NO in many areas of his life. He needs his mommy and daddy to be sheltering, immovable rocks that he can lean upon. This makes him feel secure and happy even though he may, at first, resist new rules. Most importantly, our own example of patient, firm love and good personal habits will influence our dear children far more than persuasive words. Here's some more helpful advice from Miss Mason:

Acquiring a habit takes some effort, but once the habit is in place, it is rewarding because a habit is pleasant in and of itself. It's easy to do something on auto-pilot, something that doesn't take a lot of thought or will power. This is what mothers often forget. They forget that habits, even the good ones, are a pleasure. When the child has formed a habit, the mother thinks that continuing to act out of habit is as tedious as it was at first when the child was having to make a conscious effort to form the habit. So she admires his effort and starts to think that he deserves some relaxation from doing the habit, a sort of reward. So she lets him break the habit every now and then to give him a rest, and then he can continue on keeping the habit. What she doesn't realize is that, after a break, he isn't continuing on, he has to start all over, only now it's harder because he has both habits and must make a decision each time about which one to follow. The little relaxation she thought would be a treat turns out to form a new bad habit that now has to be broken. In fact, the mother's misguided sympathy is the one thing that makes it so hard to train children in good habits. vol 1

A typical 'not so ordinary' day looks something like this:
I let the children know we are going somewhere (a few days ago we had to drive 2 hours to our new, very dirty house to clean and repair it. It was infested with wasps and has some rodents too. eek!) and then I declare a "readings only" day. My 15,13, and 9 year old know that this means they don't write narrations or any other assignments that require writing but just read the assigned books on their daily schedules for that particular day. This cuts a four hour school morning into about 1 and 1/2 hours. If they have time, they work on Math. If further time permits, they work on Apologia Science too. If not, that is okay. All other subjects are simply cancelled. ONLY the scheduled readings must get done. Some oral narrations are shared in the car or at the supper table. In this way, the children never get behind in their 36 wk schedules but they don't feel undo pressure either. We have used this emergency schedule for several years now and it has enabled us to stay caught up with our schedules in spite of traveling across the globe every two years and living in other folks' homes for months at a time.

The reason we can feel good about skipping some basics is because we have been diligent to stay at home most of the time during the important morning hours throughout the earlier years. My children have filled many notebooks with written narrations and now write well, so I can be confident that they can afford to skip some written narrations when time is limited. I also know that we will pick it all up again in due time because we have disciplined ourselves to do so. They have plenty of time to learn the three Rs. By the way, I have a neat little bookshelf system that I have used over the years. It enables me to easily find and pull each child's schoolbooks needed for the major trips we have to make. I plan to post about it soon.

Now, my kindergartner's simple school schedule doesn't always get accomplished during this move, but I just read aloud if and when I can fit it in and make sure he reads to me or another family member daily for at least ten minutes. (He's learning to read this term). He plays the occasional math computer game when we're really busy, but already his life is full of natural math learning opportunities through the games we play and the conversations we have, so I'm not concerned about completing the list because the routines have been established through time and consistency. We just fit the rest in whenever we can. After three kids, I no longer worry about the kindergarten years. I know my child is living in a stimulating home learning environment. It is enough.

If you make the choice to begin now to establish simple routines and good work habits with your children, the peace that follows is well worth your efforts. I can certainly testify to this with enthusiasm. Even a life change can be just a bump in the road rather than some huge obstacle for your family.

one step at a time...


  1. Thank you so much for this post. I really enjoyed reading it and it is the kick in the rear I needed after a period of slacking.

  2. Sharron7.4.08

    Boy was this timely!! I just had a particularly ugly bed time with my eight year old. While she is extremely "weak willed" I know that I must be partly to blame. I was just praying about my being inconsistent (sp?) somtimes and wondering, how do I sometimes show grace but still be consistent? I've thought in the past that the grace came through second chances or special priveleges, but that can't be it. It has to come through my demeanor and the rules have to stay the same.

    Would you say that's right? Sometimes I think I have no idea what I am doing!!!

    On a lighter note, I loved hearing about Pipi and the coke machine. I always love hearing about your experiences and look forward to hearing more that you maybe were not able to share before.

    Congratulations on your new home!! Do you even know what to do with all that closet space? :)


  3. Thank you for that encouragement to keep on keeping on. Bit by bit it will come if we continue to work at it.

    I hope everything is falling into place for you and your family.

    I look forward to reading your post about your bookshelf system.

    Take care,

  4. I too am looking forward to hearing about your bookshelf system!

    This system of keeping up with school is great... I will be using it. It took so much time to plan our school year around 3-day weekends, field trips, etc... it would be much easier to simply keep up w/the reading for that day. The kids can just bring their books in the car.

    BTW our school year is going so much better... your suggestions in reply to my email back in the fall were so helpful. Narration has been such a powerful yet simple tool that has helped my kids (high schoolers!) grow tremendously in their reading comprehension ability.

    My kids are close to yours in age... 15, 13, 8 and 3. It is fun having some of every stage, isn't it? :-)


  5. Thanks for this post. I get so tired feeling like all my time and energy is spent inculcating the most basic habits with my toddlers (now you hang up your shirt . . . hold the plate flat so it doesn't spill the food . . . we don't ask for things by fussing . . . ) Not the part of motherhood I was really looking forward to! I do appreciate reminders that it pays off eventually.

  6. Thanks for sharing this. It's such a confirmation of so many things. I appreciate being reminded that certain things, like reading days, are sufficient!

  7. I love that quotation about how parents often try to reward kids who have established good habits--by letting them break them! I think that is what I am all too guilty of.

    We have worked hard at creating a schedule, too, but I have found that perhaps I spend too much time with my children during the day and don't do let them do enough by themselves.

    Thanks for the reminder. I shall ponder this a bit and maybe amend our own "habits"!

    Hope those wasps are out of the way...

    Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

  8. Belinda11.4.08

    Hi, Linda Fay,
    I'm glad to see you semi-settled. I saw your home at another time when I popped by and find it interesting that out of all places, you've landed in Texas.

    Though we've not had an international move to deal with, I could so relate to your post. You're right; when habits and discipline (my add) are in place, schoolwork happens without a great ordeal. We've had a number of middle-of-the-day meetings at church for a recent campaign we're helping kick off. The kids have had to take books and travel with us. People are dumbfounded (sp?) that they can get their work, or even read books, without being a distraction to anyone. Even the 4-year-old (provided she's not tired) will work on a coloring or phonics page for a time.

    I've been praying for you and I'm glad that things are coming into place so very well for you.

    Belinda @ With a Taste of Chocolate

  9. We struggle so much with this. Life just has a way of taking us out of our routine and schedule. I'm learning to go with the flow more. I like the way you shared that some things have to be left undone (school wise). Very realistic. We find ourselves in another transition time now. I do think we must rely on Him to show us what our kids need -- whether it is some fun time or studies.

  10. A nice post to read!
    I think we do our children AND ourselves a disservice when we don't bring them on appointments and errands and necessary shopping trips and teach them to behave in those settings.
    I smile as I read about your youngest one's lessons always gets bumped out...but he learns, just as you say, in a "stimulating environment" with his older siblings.

  11. deyna21.4.08

    Dear Linda Fay,

    Thanx for continuing to write even in the midst of the tough transition. You all are in our prayers. Drop us a line when you can!

    Love ya, Deyna of Central Anatolian Day School

  12. Thanks for sharing these words of wisdom. I realize that all too often, I try to give my daughter "a break", and I'm actually doing a disservice to her. Thanks for pointing this out!

  13. Thanks for sharing this. I have let the kids off too easily on days that have unplanned or even planned activities out of the home. Consistancy is so important. Glad I found your blog.
    love, a Southern California homeschooler ;)

  14. I have not been nearly as consistent in picking up toys and keeping clothes neat but I am encouraged that I too have brought a young boy to a long appointment and he did just fine in the lobby and you pointed this out as a result of training. I had not considered this benefit as being the result of specific training in that way.

    One time our then three year old boy had a drink spilled on him at a convention evening "mixer". The apologetic woman sputtered "I did not expect to sea someone that size here". His presence had not drawn any notice via noise or disruption. When I am not able to follow on school each child follows their school card and daily routine. I have gotten very funny phone calls about watching Lone Ranger on Daddy's business computer etc. But only a few since the answer to such novel ideas is always DON'T. I honestly have not been very aware of how I trained these habits into the children. I thought of them more as being learned through opportunities that encouraged long attention span.

    I may not be successful at such a clear formula as yours but I should be able to copy and paste the often opportunity approach to other areas. It is still line upon line here a little there a little.