As a school aged child, I clearly remember enjoying my long, vibrant and adventurous summers in my grandparent’s village. Each day was filled with amazing wonder and exploration. It seemed as if the sun, the village, and all the magic of the day, filled me with abundance.
Once the weather began to change, something within alerted me that summer was coming to an end – it would soon be time to return home, and school was just around the corner. When those school doors would open, I felt a shift – it was time to unwind, slow down, and have a cozy, simple pace throughout the winter holidays and season.
Now as a mother to school aged children, as the weather cools, there is a different feeling that exists in our culture. It is the “school time buzz”. Lists of what to buy for school are given to families; lines grow longer in Target and Staples for supplies; after-school activities begin; there’s homework to be done; Festivals, fund raisers and bake sales to prepare for; and somehow…our schedules fill up very quickly. The larger the family…the fuller the schedule. Parents have become chauffers, tutors, and playdate chapperones, PTA members, and the list goes on.
Some of us have instinctively wanted to slow down and pull back a bit, but are not really sure how. I often overhear parents talking about how it is “too much” to handle, and all the stress that a family or the children go through, as they try to juggle it all. I get the sense that most can feel that all this planning and coordinating doesn’t seem right…
Although this seems to be the way of our time, my husband and I have agreed to do Less in order to Be More as a family, in order to create balance. On one hand, we would like our children to enjoy what many other children do – on the other, we also want to enjoy each other and not lose sight of what is most important. After much personal inquiry, we were able to figure out what we wanted to create for our family.
The first question that needed to be asked is:
What matters most to our family?
For us, the answer was a family dinner; early bed time (so that our children can have a productive school day – and catch the bus!); and for the kids to be home at least 2 days a week for downtime. Of course this and all answers are unique to each family, which is why its worth asking yourselves.
Next question was:
How many activities per child, per season?
Children do not need to be in more than one activity per season. If you don’t give them the option, they will understand that this is simply how it will be. Similar to them having to be in school…there is no option – it simply is. Overloading children with activities and sports can be stressful and overstimulating to their bodies, thus leading to anxiety and emotions that children normally wouldn’t experience.
How do we cultivate family time during the school year?
Making sure that you have even just a few minutes a day throughout the day will allow for family connection. We like to enjoy our walk to the bus (and sometimes drive to school) where we can talk about anything that comes up. We cook together, read books before bed, and also make sure we have about 10 minutes before lights are out. These 10 minutes can be for a silly laugh, a meditation, a long prayer or to simply allow our children to vent and decompress about their day to us. This way they do not go to sleep holding onto anything that could’ve otherwise been resolved.
Making the most of our weekends together is also important. We do not attend every birthday party we are invited to, nor do we make it to all family functions. This way we make sure that part of our weekend is dedicated to rest, relaxation, and family time.
We also enjoy honoring the holidays, and change of seasons with different celebrations. I recall how this always allowed for a cozy Fall and Winter feeling to exist for me as a child, and I feel it is important to pass it on to our children. More on winter holiday rituals and celebrations in future posts.
In my “weekly tips section” I include several ways to make a school day easier, simpler and even fun. Check out how to create a simple morning during the week!
Do you have any simple school ideas or routines that have worked well for your family?
Have a great start to the school year everyone!