Pouring from a full cup

Parenting three children with two almost full time working parents, home educating, occasionally dipping in to world schooling, living each day in a tourist fuelled county as if we were on holiday here ourselves, blogging, photographing and documenting everything! How on earth do we keep up the energy to do it all?

As I lay here writing this I marvel at my own ability of multitasking. I lie here having just finished our latest read aloud whilst breastfeeding my youngest to sleep. The older two are now lazing across my bed watching the movie of the book we have just finished. I have already jotted down the follow up activities we will be doing for the rest of the week to build on the knowledge we picked up from our latest story, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Our weeks plans include just the right mix of outdoor living and learning, adventure, excitement, engagement and plenty of free time for the children to invest in their learning as they see fit.

Never being one to truly fit in to any group of home educating methods I have learnt to flit between structured, child led, unschooling, Montessori, strewing, you name it we have dipped in and out of it as suits us. So with all those methods in mind our weeks plans are to hide around the smooth dunes at the beach, hiding our treasures and mapping out landmarks. And speaking of mapping, we will be spending the rest of the week learning the points of the compass, learning the boundaries of our home and making our pirate maps. Huge amounts of free play time will be carved out and I will scatter the pirate dressing up clothes around the house, the garden will be home to a den like Inn, boat and stockade ready for the children to reenact passages from their memory. The wall map in the classroom will be ready with marker pens to plot the voyage of Jim starting from Bristol. We have already visited the the Inn that holds the name of the Inn Jim lived in, the book coming to life as they read it. This one book will fuel our entire learning this week as it covers our English and in it I will work in the science, maths, physical education, geography, , design and technology, history, art and design and music.

But how do I keep the energy to keep up this momentum. Simple, I never pour from an empty cup. I listen carefully to my body and I am not afraid to ask for help. When I feel I’m becoming drained I pull in the assistance and take myself off to replenish my reserves. Evenings become all mine again as I take long baths, catch up with the tv I want to watch, podcasts and radio I want to listen to and replace the voices in my head which anxiously wonder if I am doing enough, have covered enough, have planned enough and have enough funds to continue the life we have become accustomed to.

Refilling my cup can now happen a few times a week or a few times a day depending on how much I am giving. I am never afraid to ask my family if they would help by taking the children for an afternoon whilst I either provide myself with some self care, I mean, how can I continue to sparkle if I don’t give myself a polish when needed, and its not the exterior I’m referring too, its that cup again. A little polish and a fill and I am ready to provide everybody, myself included, with the attention we all need.

Constant reflection is both necessary and draining for me, it can be hard to find that balance, I need to reflect to know what worked well for us and should therefore find space in our lives, and which weren’t helpful and should be weeded out. But this all takes some juice from my cup and I must monitor that I don’t become guilty of running dry and making everything that little bit harder.

In order to see that reading one book a week out loud to the children can provide so much more than words, I need to have the fullest of cups to give my mind the energy, vitality, strength and vigour i need to sustain a home educating household that is thriving, not striving.

I wrote this post for learning through living journal exactly a year ago. As much as many of it is still ringing true for me today, I must add that with it has come many changes. I am no longer quite as structured as I was just a year ago. We are now almost completely following the children on their interests and leads on what they would like to learn. Life has become a lot more relaxed. Learning to read has taken over their mornings as they have placed themselves in to a routine of doing maths and english immediately following breakfast. They then spend the afternoon doing things that bring them greater joy. Seemingly enjoying their play even more knowing the classroom work has come and gone before the outside air has even had chance to warm. 

Late afternoon sees them return to the classroom on their own free will. Art and crafting dominate this time, and accessories are usually planned and created to extend the game they have almost perfected through the day. 

Daily read-a-louds now happen more in the evening. Clementine  usually puts place to this. The rest of us tire of having the larger books whisked out of hands just a few lines in, and therefore reading is much quicker, shorted and sporadic throughout the day. Until Clemmie is taken to bed and the long chapter books come out and can be absorbed as the children would like them. This is just the phase we are in now, and I am sure it will sway and swerve to continue to suit us even more as all the children grow.

I still try and maintain my cup. It is harder now. Support which was once taken for granted isn’t there anymore, and we have to be smart about how we each fill our cups. I have taken to earlier nights in bed and my body has responded by waking earlier and trying to be both productive and quietly reflective in my own space before the house awakes. Burning the candle at both ends was definitely happening, and I was possibly guilty of prioritising things I enjoyed doing to fill my cup, rather than listening to what the cup needed and just giving it to it. Namely sleep. But I learn each day, and despite what I have always been told growing up. I do change. I change every day.

Kirsty is a mum of three and writer and photographer who has contributed to journals on subjects such as home education, Cornish living, travelling and lifestyle. You can read her last post about minimalism and chores by clicking here.