Monday, January 28, 2013

Making time for the littlest one

I'm cute, even with a dirty face

Today I took my 3 year old daughter with me to Costco. It was just the two of us; the boys went with Daddy to get the oil changed on our truck (man time - very important!). As we headed out of our neighborhood, we passed the neighborhood school; the school my oldest went to for his kindergarten year, and the school both my boys would be attending if we weren't homeschooling.

The thought occurred to me, as I enjoyed some silly banter with my girly-girl, that she might be missing out on some special one-on-one time because the boys are home. We don't drop them off at school in the morning, and then head out to run errands together, or go home and read picture books and build puzzles, just the two of us. It is rare that she gets me all to herself, and if the boys were in a traditional school, she would.

Am I missing something here? In choosing to homeschool based primarily on where my oldest son was at the time, did I overlook the time my daughter would have had alone with Mommy during these precious preschool-ish years?


I admit it sent me down the mommy-guilt road, even if just for a little while. She does love her mommy time, and yes she does have less of it than she might have otherwise. At least for now.

But she does have other things, as a result of this funny life we live. And she'll have even more of those other things as she grows - things she wouldn't have if we weren't home educating.

She has time with her brothers. They are home with us all the time, but really, that's a plus. They all love each other a heck of a lot, and get along pretty well. Maybe I'm in for it later, but there isn't a ton of bickering amongst my kids; some, but not the overwhelming sort that makes me wish I could pack them off to school all day.

She has all sorts of learning opportunities at their side. We go on field trips as a family. She goes to the art museums and the ballet performances and the nature walks and the zoo trips. She sits at the table with us as we work and colors or cuts paper. She sees them reading and working and learning; these things are simply a part of our days, a part of our life, a part of our world.

In the long run, she'll have far more time with me, alone and otherwise, than she would if she was headed for school in a year or two. She may not have mornings alone with mommy while her brothers are at school, but she also won't be away from me at preschool (and isn't now) for several hours a week. And later, she won't be away from me for 7 hours a day, as she would if she were traditionally schooled. I think my worries about time spent with her are truly no worry at all.

The key to making this life work well for all of them, I think, is to mindfully spend time with each of them, each day. That has always been easy with my oldest; he loves attention and if he's feeling neglected, he will be right there to tell you all about it. I naturally spend most of our school time with him; he's older with more work to do. I've recognized that for a long time, and done my best to make sure to attend to the needs of my younger son as best I can. He's quieter in his own fashion, and doesn't wear his emotions on his sleeve, so I know I need to come to him to fill up his "love tank."

But my sweet girl, she needs that same effort. She needs to be held and loved and read to. She needs me to sit with her and watch her paste stickers or glob glue on construction paper. She needs me to integrate her into our day as I can, instead of pushing her off so I can get things done with her brothers.

It isn't easy, I'll tell you that. Schooling two instead of just one this year has made a pretty significant difference in how our days flow, even though my kindergartner's workload is gentle. Adding a third is a challenge. And it isn't a curriculum or a set of plans that she needs. She just needs time. I have the resources; the books, the toys, the art supplies. I just need to be sure to set aside the time to be with her. It's what I'm working on as we head into the second month of the year.

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