Part of unschooling, homeschooling, and life in general is just being able to get along with each other. Getting along is a huge part of unschooling/homeschooling. I’ve heard more than one parent say they gave up on homeschooling, because they couldn’t stand to be around each other all day.
I’ve been feeling like that myself the past month. For whatever reason, things have been rather contentious around here. I haven’t considered sending him to school, but I’ve wished I could ship him off somewhere for a while.
Yesterday morning, I sat down with my planner and listed the times and events that lead to harsh words and conflict. Then I considered ways that the conflict could be avoided. Since we are a one parent/one child household, all the conflict is between the two of us, so none of my solutions take into account sibling conflict-for that you’ll have to go elsewhere.
Our main source of conflict is me being in a hurry-usually pertaining to getting to the post office on time, but also for various other appointments we have.
The solution is getting ready early, really, really early, much earlier than I think I need to be ready. Because with kids, something always comes up. Snacks are needed, boots can’t be found, and feet are always, always being dragged.
I say, “with kids,” but in reality, it’s often me holding us up. It takes longer than I think to package up orders. I can’t find my [fill in the blank with whatever I misplaced today]. When we rushing around looking for our keys, worrying about being late, this is not the time that we are gentle and patient with our kids.
So get ready early.
Mealtimes and snacks can be troublesome too. Isn’t it always the case that as soon as you start working or getting ready for bed that your kid wants a snack? And mealtimes, particularly dinner, can feel like so much work that we sometimes skip them all together in favor of eating junk.
The solution to this is similar to the prior solution: get ready early. Plan for snacks. Plan your meals, and maybe even start the prep before the week even begins.
I am going to start having a prep day every week. On Sundays, I’ll prep whatever I can for the coming week’s dinners, and also prepare snacks that my son likes. It’s helpful to make big batches of biscuits, muffins, and other breads and keep them in the freezer for snacks and to go with dinner.
Also I’m going to make sure I have dinner ready to put on the stove or in the oven or already in the crockpot, before we leave for any afternoon outings. Most afternoons we go to the gym for basketball, tag, running, and swimming. When we get home, it’s dinnertime, but I also don’t really feel like getting dinner. But if I prep dinner in the morning. All I have to do is dump it in the pot, and turn on the burner.
AKA the worst time of day. At bedtime, I’m ready crash. I work hard (sometimes), and I get up early (mostly). My son, on the other hand, is ready to wrestle, do flips on the bed, and always wants four different snacks (I exaggerate).
Mostly though, the problems we have at bedtime are problems of rushing. I’m in a hurry to sleep; he wants to play with me. When we get up to bed before I get too tired, I can handle this, but when it’s already ten o’clock and we have to get through a story yet, I have no patience for games.
I keep coming up with the same solution to all my problems. Get ready Early. Turn off the computer an hour before bed. Go upstairs for teeth brushing and story reading way before you think you need to. Take the time to play some games before sleeping (in bed, with the lights off).
This is a weird one. Sometimes he’ll want a bath every night, but other times, he treats the idea of bathing with complete horror and disdain. Now there is no need for daily bathing for kids (as espoused in this Washington Post article), but at least a couple times a week is my minimum. Plus when he’s enjoying himself in the tub, it’s so peaceful.
Apparently there are whole websites with ideas to make bath time more attractive to children. Bath Activities for Kids is quite entertaining. I bought a 20 pack of glow sticks from Dollar Tree, and Caleb had a glowing bath last week.
The other night I offered to have a pillow fight with him after he got out of the bath, and that was a very attractive incentive to get clean.
I hesitate to even put this one in there, because he doesn’t really have regular chores, beyond taking out the compost, but he does do chores for other things: money, extra screen time, etc. I loosely subscribe to the radical unschooling idea of chores (delineating on Sandra Dodd’s website here), which is kids that are encouraged (help is requested but not demanded), but not forced to do chores will have a better attitude toward work and helping out in general. It definitely does eliminate the fighting around doing chores.
But cleaning up toys is not on my list of things I want to do, especially legos. We’ve worked out a pretty good system for after dinner clean up. We have a race. I do the dishes and clean up the kitchen, and he cleans up his toys. Whoever wins get bragging rights (if he’s reluctant one night, actual prizes may be given out– i.e. a quarter, an extra cookie, etc).
Schoolwork, of course, we don’t do. Next week I’ll expound on why I think “schoolwork” is a blatant waste of time.
What areas are contentious in your home? Can you think of ways to smooth over the problems? Look at your fights from your child’s point of view. Watch your tone–would you speak like that to an adult that you liked?