Musings at Midnight

It’s midnight and I’m sitting at the computer. No surprise there – with two young kids running around the house all day, I usually wait until they’re in bed to work on my business. Tonight I’ve put the finishing touches on some new materials and spent a little time surfing the web.

Today was a busy day, but aren’t they all? The kids are up by 7 am and wanting breakfast. My son is old enough to get food for himself, but my daughter still needs some help – and doesn’t want him to be the one to help her. Still, they are cute together. They often pop in a computer game first thing in the morning (JumpStart Language Club is a current favorite) and play it together. Today they printed some crafts from the game, then sat cutting and gluing Aztec temples and Japanese pagodas.

After breakfast, they enjoy a little “indoor recess” before we start our school day. This gives me a chance to check email and do some chores around the house. I always have a few emails – sales from my store, questions about Montessori or my materials, or blog comments. I enjoy all of it, but I like to respond as quickly as possible and I don’t always have the time to do that in the morning. I’m working on releasing myself from the pressure of responding to everyone instantly. I just can’t always do it.

My morning chores include making the bed, unloading the dishwasher, feeding the animals – cats, fish, and hermit crabs – and starting a load of laundry before school time. That’s the only way I can keep up with laundry, my least favorite chore. Erma Bombeck once remarked that doing housework was like putting beads on a string with no knot at the end. I think of her often when I sweep the floor for the 1,782nd time, with the knowledge that I’ll need to do it again before very long.

The kids start to bicker, which means one thing: we need to start school right now! They put out their rugs facing each other and begin the process of choosing work. I like to give them as much freedom as possible, even if it means that my son routinely chooses a Green Series word list over map work or research. The kid loves spelling; what can I do? He’s just come out of a phase where he spelled everything to us, as in “M-o-m, may I have a s-n-a-c-k?” It was a little annoying, but he was so excited to be able to spell so many words. And my daughter can spell plenty of words now, herself, just from hearing him.

I really enjoy watching them work. I love the short bursts of concentration when they become oblivious to what’s going on around them. My son is fascinated with language in general, not just spelling, and makes comments and observations constantly. He loves puns and word plays. He wishes that the guidelines for the English language were sensible and consistent; it’s fascinating to watch him lament each time he bumps up against another exception to the rules. He loves the Green Series work, because it helps him to categorize all the ways we make the same sounds with different letter combinations.

My daughter chooses some nomenclature cards and starts putting out the control cards with the pictures and words together. When she really concentrates, she sticks the tip of her tongue out, and it’s adorable. I have a quick flashback to this time last year, when all she was interested in was pouring water and scooping beads. What a difference a year makes! Now she traces the letters on the word cards, looking at the shape of them and then finding the words that match. Each time she finds a match, she flashes me a darling smile.

As I sit there watching them, I wonder for the millionth time if I am doing the right thing by having them at home with me. I run through the mental list of homeschooling benefits (a long list; lots of good things) and the corresponding list of Montessori school benefits (another long list; lots of good things). Will I always wonder? Is it just the “grass is always greener” syndrome? If they were in school, would I be constantly wondering if we should be homeschooling? They ask for a snack and I decide to leave that debate for another day – probably tomorrow. I guess there’s no perfect answer.

After snack and a little more work, they head into the backyard for some “outdoor recess”. I love having a large, fenced-in yard. They get busy crunching in some leaves, which means I can check email again and visit a few blogs. Then it’s time for lunch and naptime for my daughter. She’s nearing four, but she still naps every day. She needs it, too. I won’t mind when she stops, because it will free us up for longer field trips and days out. During her nap, my son and I do some reading, some math, some journal writing, and a science experiment. It’s actually really nice, and I think he likes it too. When we’re done, he gets to watch a show or two on PBS Kids and I have my first true time to myself during the day.

My best friend recently had a baby, and she is homeschooling her two older girls, but sometimes we get a chance to chat and afternoons are good for both of us. We’ve only known each other for a couple of years, but we’re like two peas in a pod – we both love to analyze situations and people and basically try to figure out the answer to life, the universe, and everything. We never solve every problem, but we sure have fun talking. So we often talk on the phone during this time, but if she isn’t free, I sit down at the computer and work on some materials.

When I first started my business by opening an eBay store in March of 2005, I had about 25 items to sell. Early items were Roman Numerals, Research Guides, and Pink, Blue, and Green Series Spelling Cards. Those were things I had made for my own classroom when I was teaching. I remember thinking that after a few months, I would have made all the materials I could think of and I could sit back and relax. Here I am almost three years later, still making materials and still keeping a list of many more to make whenever I have the time. I’m glad I didn’t know about all the work ahead of me when I first started out, because I don’t know if I would have even begun.

After my daughter wakes from her nap, they play a little bit more and then eat dinner. Their evening ends in a flurry of baths, stories, songs, and cuddling. My husband handles most of their bedtime routine, giving me a chance to do dishes and clean the kitchen. After they’re in bed, we have a chance to talk, watch TV, or – you guessed it – work on my business. Bruce has been a huge help to me, especially this past year as things have gotten really busy.

I guess I’ll always wonder if I’m doing a good job of balancing my business, homeschooling, mothering, and homemaking. I watched my mom struggle with the same thing when I was growing up – how to find her own identity outside of our family. I think my generation is more fortunate than hers, because the internet makes so many more things possible. I don’t take that for granted. Now it’s time for me to wander off to dreamland, resting up so that I can enjoy whatever tomorrow brings.