Summer is generally thought of as a break, a vacation from the drudgery of school, schedules and 9 to 5 life. It brings to mind carefree mornings of sleeping late; lazy days spent sunning by the pool or at the beach; fun trips to the zoo or museums; late night movies and popcorn; and happy children, laughing and eating ice cream on the front porch.
But the part of summer many moms refuse to admit exists, and certainly don’t want to talk about is … [menacing dramatic music playing] the lack of organization and routine that makes it hard for Mamas everywhere to keep up with endless ball games, swim meets, camps, sleepovers, Bible Schools, laundry, meals, and on and on. To our secret shame, the lack of regularity during summer vacation makes us wish for school to start up again.
Back to School … The phrase brings sighs of relief, tears of joy, and shouts of triumph from many, many parents. It’s not because we don’t love & enjoy our kids. It’s not that we are happy to be rid of them. It’s because we’ve missed the routines and schedules and … order that school days bring.
As a homeschool mom, I can especially appreciate the return to routine that comes when regular school begins. We are year-round homeschoolers, but during the summer months we tend to only concentrate on one or two subjects. So when we go “back to school” it’s not a complete transition from ‘whoop-de-do and tra-la-la-la’ to ‘nose to the grindstone’. It is, however, a much more laid-back schedule that we adhere to the rest of the school year.
And because the kids’ extra curricular activities are scheduled around public school calendars, ‘back to school’ doesn’t just find us trying to ease back into a curriculum routine, but a ‘traveling to and from practices, classes, and games’ routine, as well.
In the beginning of our home school journey, it wasn’t too hard. We had 2 kids “in school,” and there was only one activity per season for each of them – rec soccer, rec basketball, rec flag football. They were young enough and close enough in age that their games were always in the same place at comfortably placed intervals and practices were usually on the same nights.
It was around this time that I really got into couponing to save money on groceries and household necessities so that we could continue to pay for all the kids activities because the economy went South. And I was making menus for the month, crock pot cooking … generally planning ahead and being awesome.
Then … we added a third student to our Academy, the two girls decided they wanted to take year-round dance lessons and the boy started playing tackle football on a youth team – that traveled all over the southern half of the state for games. This, of course, in addition to soccer, volleyball, and basketball for 2 out of 3. Things got dicey.
A couple years later, we added a fourth child to our crew. It was a difficult pregnancy that required me to seriously limit my physical activity and led to a prolonged recovery period. My menu template gathered cyber-dust. My coupon clipping service probably thought I died. My crock pot got used a couple of times to make refried beans and applesauce, but otherwise sat idle in the pantry.
By the time I’d physically and emotionally (mostly) recovered from that ordeal, my carefully constructed routine was in shambles and I was clueless how to put it back together. We were, quite literally, behind on almost every. possible. thing. a. family. could. be. behind. with.
I started freaking out and have been pretty much in a constant state of panic ever since.
Our fourth child will be turning 3 in October. For the past 2 years, I’ve been struggling to get a routine back in place. I’ve made a little progress. Very little. It seems the more I try to shoe-horn my family back into the orderly lifestyle we enjoyed just a few short years ago, the more they resist.
Apparently, they like the chaos. They seem to thrive on it, in fact.
All three of my school-age children have somehow managed to advance themselves not just forward, academically, but they have all moved an entire grade level ahead of where they would be in public school! Go figure. My children do not find it necessary or even desirable to adhere to a structured, scheduled routine. So. Weird.
But I need that. Desperately. So I keep trying to get us back on track and keep us there. And I doubt I’m the only mom who feels this way. I don’t know if it’s a ‘woman’ thing, or strictly a ‘mom’ thing, or maybe it’s just a ‘some women’ or ‘some moms’ thing. It is definitely a ‘this mom’ thing.
It is also one of the many, many reasons fall is my favorite season of the year. I love everything about autumn, including the return to regularly scheduled lessons, practices, programming, and events.
This year, our teenage son is playing football in a private school league. In the city. Which is approximately 90 miles from our home. One way. He practices 3 days a week. Our daughters have joined a performance/competition team at their dance studio. They have their regular dance class, plus 2 more advanced technique and choreography classes, two days a week. In a neighboring town. Which is 45 miles from home. In the opposite direction of the City where our son is going.
I’m so anxious about it all.
In the midst of stumbling and bumbling my way through this new activity schedule, I’m still trying to adjust to having a high schooler/teenager in my classroom, with another one turning into a teenager in just a couple months. I’m struggling to find a way to fit all the ‘book learning’ my older three kids need into our day, while managing my ‘three-nager’ who only wants to disrupt everything and be the center of everyone’s attention.
The anxiety often builds into a full-fledged Mama Meltdown.
But I am determined to make it work. I am determined to make a schedule that will work for all our needs and that we all can adhere to … happily. Or at least without complaint. Many complaints, that is.
This morning, as I walked my regular route up the drive, across the cattle-guard, up the lease road to the gas well and back again, I formed my plan of attack.
First, I will sit down with a calendar and the various schedules of our practices, lessons, games, performances, activities, and events. Next, I will calculate how many freezer meals, ’emergency meals’, and ‘gone-all-day’ crockpot meals I will need for a month. Then, I will coordinate this with my list of freezer, crockpot, and quick meals and choose which meals I want. I will make a detailed list of ingredients and supplies needed to prepare these meals and shop. I will find a relatively activity free day during which time I will prepare and properly store the meals for future use. I will celebrate my success.
I’m currently working on a Power Point presentation outlining my plan so I can share it with my family. I’m sure they will also find it brilliant and well thought out. When I’ve finished my presentation, I am going to work on a spreadsheet that will cross reference the recipes by main ingredient, grocery store sale cycle, coupon availability and flavor profile. I also intend to put together a database which will sort each meal into different categories – meat, meatless, casserole, soup, salad, etc. and then organize them seasonally.
It’s going to be amazing. I’m going to be so organized that my family won’t be able to create chaos no matter HOW hard they try! Ha ha ha ha! HA HA HA HA!
Well. Okay. Maybe that’s a little overboard on the planning. I mean … Hey! I could do all that. I could rock that spreadsheet like a super model. But in the end, I think it might be organizational overkill. It would definitely not decrease my anxiety because I’d spend too much time freaking out that I couldn’t find the time to create my organizing masterpiece to help me be more organized. It seems … a little much.
I really am going to sit down and try to put together a manageable meal list and take a day or two before we start back to school to shop and prep some freezer and crock pot meals. I really am going to plan our school days around other activities so we’re not rush, rush, rushing to finish assignments on a day we have to leave in the middle of the afternoon for dance class.
I feel like this is the year we’re finally going to make a smooth transition from summer mayhem to back to school order. It’s going to work. This fall will be stress-free and fun. The stars will align and I will be organized, together and prepared. It’s my destiny.
Or … I’ll get one week of meals prepped and frozen before football season begins and I am gone every single weekend plus 3 days every week through November and I become an anxiety-ridden mess. Whatever.
Either way, life will go on and we’ll make it through. It wouldn’t hurt for y’all to share your own ‘staying organized’ tips with me!
Love & Blessings,
That Farm Mama