Recently I started feeling rather guilty about the lack of time I've been investing in my littles. While I keep busy making sure the math lessons get done, the grammar lessons accomplished, and the laundry be kept at a minimal level of chaos, I find myself ignoring the needs of Maddie, Ella, and Charlotte- atleast the needs that go beyond diaper changes and meal preparations. When Peter and Kate were babies, toddlers, preschoolers, I had much more time to spend coloring, talking about numbers and letters, going on walks. I always had their naptime in the afternoon for me to handle the housework, laundry, phone calls, etc. As I've gotten busy with the two oldest and all their "important" school work, I've let the simple pleasure of those activities with the younger ones slip away. I started thinking, when is the last time I just sat and put beads on a string or colored a picture or sang a song with motions? And what am I really teaching Peter and Kate about the blessings of family when I am yelling at Maddie to be quiet (ironic, huh?) so we can work or telling Ella to just stop whining and go play?! So, what to do about it?
I started doing "morning folders" for Peter and Kate. These folders contain the school work that they can (in theory) get done without my help. The idea is that once they are done with these assignments, which include a page in their spelling workbook, copywork (a Bible verse and one of their Classical Conversations facts), and their math worksheet, they can play until lunch time. Usually Kate is still working on hers in the afternoon because she is so easily distracted. I am hoping this changes eventually! Peter is a little bit more motivated and often gets finished in time to play with legos for an hour before lunch. While they are doing their folders, my plan is to read and do activities with the littles. Often, though, I find it is very easy to get them started on something and go do my own thing like returning phone calls, checking email, take a shower if I didn't get up before all of them, or laundry. I know I need to just ignore all of those things and just spend time with the girls, specifically Maddie and Ella as Charlotte takes her morning nap. Yesterday I did just that and it was so fun! I read them a couple of stories, we sang some Christmas songs, we did a numbers puzzle, and I used our super cute Spanish flashcards to teach them a few words. I think if I consistently spend a good hour with them it just might change the atmosphere around here.
Another area I realized not long ago that I'm failing in is the amount of time I spend teaching Maddie and Ella from God's Word and from Bible story books. When Peter and Kate were younger we had a really solid routine. Everyday after lunch I read them a Bible story and 2 library books and then they had a nap. Well, now I do "reading hour" with Peter and Kate, but I am always in such a hurry to get the other 3 down for naps that I might read them 1 quick library book and that's all. By the way, our reading hour consists of the following- for 15 minutes we each read our own Bibles quietly, for 15 minutes we each read our own book, then for 30 minutes I read aloud to them. So I am working at reading a Bible story to Maddie and Ella now before their naps.
It is so easy to let the littles get sort of lost in the shuffle when we're all busy living and learning together all day. There's so much work to be done to just keep everyone in clean clothes and get 3 meals prepared, on the table, and cleaned up everyday that it is so easy to become almost robotic in the way I attempt to accomplish everything. I hope and pray that the Lord will give me fresh ideas and inspiration for how I lead these little ones. And for you as well, my friends- may He give us joyful spirits even when we feel buried in laundry, snotty tissues, books, junk mail, toys, and all the other things around us that can so easliy clog our minds!
I'd love to hear any tips you use to keep the littles in your family happy so that you can work with your other children!