The older – and perhaps wiser – I get, the more I crave a slower, uncomplicated life. I don’t want big, extraordinary things. I want simple joys like home made bread straight from the oven, lathered in butter dollops. I want veggie gardens and clean floors. I want a simple pace. I want flowers in vases and tightly made beds.
These school holidays have been a total re-set. We’ve said no to most of the outside world. Crowds and rushing and parking and packing and things, things, things were just no comparison to home and rest, to igniting little imaginations with indoor activities, to games together and planting gardens, to staying in jammies and having no place to be, but together.
No doubt, the hardest thing about staying home with children full time is – well – staying home with children full time, and within that, developing a rhythm that works for everyone. One of my biggest struggles is my children’s need to be entertained constantly. I feel assaulted every ten minutes in their demands for me to come up with a new game or activity. And not only that, when they are bored they turn on each other so fiercely that the fighting feels not much different to stabbing a fork into my eye. It hurts me, you guys, deep in my soul – that place inside of me where I lose all cool and control. So I either put my all into a whole erray of events, run myself so ragged in my constant engagement with them, to only end up with a heart full of resentment, or I detach completely, handing them the iPad and putting in no effort at all. Instead of resentment, all I am left with is guilt.
Neither were outcomes that ever felt good for me.
What has dawned on me lately is that in all of my five years of parenting, I sort of just jumped into it without any intention. My goal gradually involved occupying them enough so that I could get stuff done. However, as anyone knows, when we are split, nothing gets done well. We were all suffering for it – me, lacking direction and flow, satisfaction or enjoyment, the kids, from a mother who wasn’t her happiest.
After looking into some home rhythm guides and reading a lot about Steiner, Montessori and other home-schooling methods like Charlotte Mason, I’ve been trialling a different way of parenting kids at home these holidays and I’ve been stunned by how much things have changed, how calm our days are together, how enjoyable it’s been and how each of our needs are being met simultaneously, making for the most beautiful home life. One of the biggest things I wanted to cut out was absent-minded screen time, and the bad habits which were forming around its use in our home.
Without going into too much detail, the basic change has been the intention behind our daily rhythm. We follow a basic routine, which is certainly never set in stone, but consists of a combination of structured interaction (a baking activity, a craft activity, etc) where I can fully engage with them, dappled with independent play where I might set the kids up with watercolour paints or send them into the backyard where they can make mud pies, play in their fairy garden, rides their bikes, etc, and I can return to myself, my needs and the needs of the home. The kids know this is free play time and they are to make up their own fun, and then we will come together later when the clock says this time, for another structured time spent together making lunch or playing board games, reading books or going on a nature walk — whatever is next. The guides break up each week into themes, giving you a focus to your days and to your children’s learning, activity ideas to do together, things you could bake, and say, a focus of a nature walk, like sounds or flowers.
It’s been such an incredibly enjoyable two weeks. Screen time has been cut out by about 90%, the kids are learning so much from our structured activities, and also from their own imaginations during independent play time, and I have a nourishing rhythm of serving my kids, completely enjoying them when I do engage with them, and then also having time each day to nourish my own needs and get things done. Bad habits are diminishing, as are their, “what can we do now, mum?” requests, and basically, I’m one google search away from looking into home schooling them.
Some favourite things we’ve done:
Easter egg dying.
Always a favourite tradition.
Making bird feeders.
So simple – just roll pine cones in peanut butter or honey and then roll again in bird seed and hang with twine.
The kids love running outside and checking it regularly to see if any birds are there.
Going on nature walks.
Where a focus can be set, i.e flowers, and within that a whole series of learning ideas: colours, shapes, sizes, etc.
Making a fairy garden.
Which is totally the kid’s responsibility to water and care for, teaching them about how plants grow, and what they need to thrive, but also sparking imaginations as they play make-believe in the fairy house with a few toys they bring out to it from inside.
And lastly – making hot cross buns – a new favourite easter tradition. Eaten straight from the oven and slathered in butter…heaven on a plate.
Easy Hot Cross Buns
What you’ll need:
- I teaspoon dry yeast
- I cup slightly warmed milk
- 1 beaten egg
- half a teaspoon of salt
- 4 cups plain flour
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 50g butter
- 50 g brown sugar
- 1 cup sultanas
Stir the yeast into the warm milk and add the egg and about 2 tablespoons of the flour. Mix together and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about 20 minutes.
Rub the butter into the flour and mix in the sugar, spices and sultanas. Combine this with the yeast mixture and knead to form a soft dough, adding a little more flour if necessary. Leave again in a warm place, covered with a damp tea towel, for an hour.
Grease an oven tray and divide the dough up into buns and place on tray. Leave room between each so that they can expand during baking. Make crosses on buns using a flour and water mixture of glue consistency, and piped onto the top of the buns.
Bake at 190 degrees C for 15-20 minutes or until cooked and golden.
Best eaten hot with a dollop of butter. Seriously so good and I can’t believe this is the first year I’ve made them.
And that brings us to the long weekend! Wishing you all a happy Easter, full of favourite traditions and being with those you love.
See you back here soon!