I am happy to report that yesterday and today have been much better than Tuesday. I’ve done a better job anticipating the children’s needs which has helped the days flow. I also have been giving Honeybee tasks to do when I am working with Dimples and Boo, rather than trying to teach her at the same time. This morning she cooked the ground beef for chili while I did math with the little girls. She was happy and proud of her work, rather than frustrated that I wasn’t sitting next to her doing math.
I also sent the children outside to play, which I do nearly every day, even when it is cold. It is a challenge getting all of the socks and shoes on, and they often fuss about it, but once they are outside, they run, jump on the trampoline, and burn off lots of crazy energy. Today it gave me enough time to finish making chili and clean up the kitchen before they came in and we started back into schoolwork.
I’ve been contemplating my answer to our most recent question:
What has made the biggest difference in creating a warm, peaceful environment in a busy household?
There are so many things that help create a peaceful environment, but one thing keeps coming to my mind and it is what I call “Anchors”. My friend, Kimberly, and I were talking one day about certain activities that occur every day in our families, and if they are done well, they are like Anchors holding everything else in place. For us those Anchors seem to be breakfast, Quiet Hour (even more than lunch), and dinner.
The kids have the same routine every morning: get up, get dressed, make their beds, do their chores, and have breakfast. Since I run in the morning, my wonderful husband oversees much of this. He decided about a year ago that we needed to have a more serious breakfast because the kids would start fussing for a snack if they hadn’t been filled up well in the first place. I was impressed when he began whipping up pancakes, french toast, and our special oatmeal (made with milk and apple juice concentrate). And just to show how we really can learn from one another, last week after reading Laurel’s comment about getting my kids more involved with cooking, I began having Ladybug and Honeybee prep the ingredients for breakfast the night before. On Tuesday and Thursday Ladybug made pancakes, while Honeybee made french toast on Monday and scrambled eggs on Wednesday. The girls are so proud of themselves!
Since Russ hasn’t been responsible for cooking this week, he has been ready to leave for work earlier. With the whole morning running more smoothly, we’ve been squeezing in a little Bible and prayer time with him before he heads out the door. It’s been great! We have regained something precious that we had lost along the way.
On mornings when things don’t go right and breakfast isn’t a significant event, the children flounder. They don’t get their chores done in a timely manner, they may not get dressed. Some will eat, some won’t. Left to themselves without the Anchor of breakfast, they feel unsure of what to do and begin to squabble or get into trouble.
Our second important anchor is Quiet Hour. All of my children, from Ladybug on down, are required to have an hour of quiet time alone in the afternoon. After lunch we clean up and the kids may play a little bit more, but by 1:00 I begin getting everyone settled. I start with Little Man who likes to have a cup of milk while snuggling on my lap. He loves to sing, so I usually sing to him while I hold him. His current favorites are Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and The Farmer in the Dell. Then I tuck him in his crib.
Next I take Eby upstairs, read him a story and tuck him in a sleeping bag on the floor next to my bed. This is his cozy spot where he keeps a pillow, his stuffed dog, and a few favorite books. Sometimes he finds his way there during the night, but most often I’ll find one of his sisters in it when I wake up.
Once Eby is tucked in, I gather Honeybee, Dimples, and Boo on the living room sofa. Ladybug has quite a bit of schoolwork, so she is generally working on her own. The three girls and I read a story from our Bible and then at least one picture book. When I’m not too tired, I let them each choose a book. Then Dimples goes to rest on Sweet Pea’s bed, Boo unrolls her little sleeping bag in the upstairs hallway, and Honeybee rests on the living room sofa. They can have a small stack of books to keep them company. Sometimes I let them have CD players, but the need for batteries, more CD’s, etc. seems to be more hassle, during my one hour of quiet, than it is worth. I also write down the time that they can get up. If they get up before the designated time, which is one hour, I add five minutes to their Quiet Hour each time.
Our last,and most special Anchor, is our family dinner. When the children were young we were always together at dinnertime, now there are many nights when some of the big kids are gone to classes, labs, meetings, etc. My mom was exceptionally good at making great dinners every night. It wasn’t that the food was fancy, but it was always good, always ready, and my dad was almost always home with us. My mom also lit candles on the table each night, a tradition that I have continued in my home. Over the years our dinner times have included read-alouds at the table, family prayer and Bible reading, going around the table with one person telling about their day at a time, or other routines. But the most important part of this Anchor is simply gathering at the same time in the same place as a family each night.
When I fail to prepare for these “Anchors”, the environment of our home begins to slip. The children lose their bearings and some of them get anxious, which is usually followed by naughty behavior. These simple routines help them know what is coming next. The activities of the morning may change, but Quiet Hour happens every day. On a given afternoon we may be out and about, or we may be home and I may be working on the computer, but dinner will happen at 6:00, Daddy will come home to eat, and all will be well.
I also got two more great comments to share:
Ann wrote: The way I find peace is ear plugs! And lots of laughter which creates a relaxed environment but not a quiet one 🙂
She writes a great blog that you should check out. I wish I were half as fun as she is.
I second what was said about the mother’s attitude being so important to having a warm, peaceful, loving feeling in the home. Another thing that has helped contribute to a warm, peaceful feeling in our home is good music. It has also been a tool for bonding with my adopted children that has been very beneficial. (When the brain is processing music, both sides of the brain are “talking to each other.” You know how you can still remember the songs you learned as a child-tv commercials andsuch:-) In our homeschool, we learn a lot of factual informationto music. 🙂
It seems if my attitude or the tone in our home is less than desirable, if I put on some sweet music, or start humming, whistling, or singing, things generally turn around.
I have to agree with Becky. Over a year ago Russ bought me a little Ipod which the kids loaded with music for me. Then for my birthday he got me a speaker/dock-type thing which sits on top of a cabinet in the family room. It has been a great purchase. Rusty loaded some of our favorite children’s music on it and now we play music throughout much of the day. During breakfast and clean up we often listen to good children’s music, during school we listen to instrumental music, including movie soundtracks that my sister-in-law, Lori, got me into. When we clean we listen to happy, upbeat music. When the little kids start getting grumpy, music often goes on and it improves the mood of everyone in the room. Eby has moves that you can’t believe and Dimples does some crazy gymnastics when the music gets turned up.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I am learning from all of you.
Les’s question is next!