Home sweet home

Hi friends,

I hope you are healthy and at least in a stable holding position in the new normal. I was planning to make crawfish étouffée for last night’s dinner. We are trying to consume aged freezer contents first, and the very strong aroma upon opening the bag of crawfish suggested to me that the eight months past the sell-by date was something to take into consideration (Dave having asked me, very specifically, just yesterday afternoon, not to give him food poisoning). Our black bean étouffée was surprisingly good.

I wrote a new song a couple of days ago in response to the current world situation. As with the last song I shared, this is a rough version. Maybe I will figure out how to share more polished versions, for now I am very happy to be able to share this way : )

I’ve also put together a resource page for Life at Home. It seems useful to have various ideas in one place so, since I have a place, I’m collecting info there.

I laugh to think of myself providing any words of wisdom. I was thinking about this yesterday morning at 4:30 AM as I lay there listening to the rain, trying to let it relax me, knowing I would not fall back asleep. I woke up and came downstairs and tried to be quiet. Sam woke up early too and we made homemade apple turnovers because I found some old puff pastry in the freezer and thought the space could be better used for frozen fruit or veggies, assuming we can get some.

In case you are curious, the Jenny Goodguts/Jennifer Hole Homeschool has no curricular expectations. I’ve read and heard people worrying our children will “fall behind” scholastically. God didn’t decree a certain set of academic benchmarks from on high. We set what is “behind.” If every child in the country is home for two months, the expectations are adjustable. I think creating stress about “falling behind” is literally insane at this juncture.

Current mantra: Expectations are adjustable. They are made up. We can change them.

A few notes on cohabitation in a time of global crisis:

I wrote a bunch of other words of wisdom and just erased them. What the heck do I know? I do feel that it’s really important that we try our best to show kindness to the people we are living with right now. That might just be ourself. It might be our spouse and kids. Our parents, some other random people. I know you are stressed, maybe you felt like hysterical crying last night while watching Monsters, Inc. Your cohabitators may be annoying you. They are making bad choices. They are not helping enough. They have germs. Whatever they are doing, do your best (try, I know it can be very hard) to be kind to them. At least civil. Not nice. Not bubbly or romantic or clean. But kind. Acknowledging their humanity also. Meditate. Go for a walk. Ask for help. Call someone. Talk about it. Say what you need. Being unkind is worse for you than for them. And it is worse for all the others around you. You likely feel justified in treating them and yourself this way. But try to find a way through. Or don’t but then you and the people around you will be miserable.

I think we should stop with the child abuse jokes. I think we should have real conversation about what is hard. And what is making us laugh.

I think we need to expect more from our children. Our children, even the little ones, do not need to be entertained and distracted all day long. They need to participate and to be taught how to contribute to taking care of something. They need to understand that in order for a home to work well, or a business, or a community, or a world, that we all participate, that we participate kindly, considerately, without eye rolling, without shouting.

I think about Little House on the Prairie. They had no screens, few books, and pretty much no neighbors. For long periods of each year they sat in that house all together and made it. They had one school book and one slate each (if they were lucky). And the kids were helpful. Yes, they used corporal punishment and yes they believed in a stern, punishing God. But they had to make their own butter. They did not have electricity. No clothes washer. No convenient grocery store. I feel like with all of the conveniences we have, we should be able to figure out how to have the time and energy to raise strong, independent, considerate human beings who don’t think they are the center of the universe.

At the Jenny Goodguts homeschool, we are making sure that we know how to fold and put away our clothes, how to make our own lunch. That we understand that this is a time to be helpful, and that being helpful is caring for others. That we are staying in our own home to keep others safe. That we are thankful for the food we have to eat, whether we like it or not, because not everyone has food. And that we talk about ways we can help those without food.

The (current version of the) Jennifer Hole/Jenny Goodguts/Ingalls-Inspired Corona Parenting Plan

  1. Children are given a list of daily chores which they are expected to complete. These chores alternate between children on a weekly basis.
  2. Homeschool “requirements”: I am looking for things my kids can do that require less supervision and that are less screen intensive and don’t require me to figure out a lot of frustrating (and frequently slow) technology. Bird watching lists, book writing, journal keeping, reading good books, practicing an instrument (I’m teaching Sam to play piano). These take a lot of time (for them, and less for me) and teach some of the same things they are working on at school. I will use what the teachers are sending when it is helpful and not too technologically challenging for me and I am limiting the amount of time Maggie spends remotely learning via a computer. (So far even this approach has been a pretty full-time job.)
  3. Children are given free time to entertain themselves.
  4. Children may continue to have free time (screen-free) for as long as they are able to play quietly. Arguing with one another leads to
  5. one question: it seems like it might be time for a job? lack of acquiescence or other non-desirable behavior leads to
  6. Job time! I have a list of jobs they know how to do (different from the chores listed as their responsibility which should already be completed): dusting, washing surfaces, cleaning baseboards, washing floors, bringing down/folding laundry, sweeping patios or walkways, carrying things to the basement. I usually start by assigning one job and if someone complains it becomes 2 (and so on and so forth). Each job is relatively simple usually, 5 mins or less. Good reset, I ask if they are ready to have free time again. Yes? Back to free time.
  7. My other secret weapon is separation. Child 1 is assigned to one room, Child 2 to another. If you can play quietly, you can play. Otherwise, jobs it is.
  8. Children are served breakfast and dinner according to my schedule, I plan it, they eat it (no choice given about options but i know what they like and try to balance it so no meal is wholly abhorrent). We also have a regular and long-standing breakfast schedule because I got tired of complaints (four years ago). M-F breakfast is consistent week to week. Lunch they make themselves but they tell me a plan in advance: one fruit, one veggie, one protein, one starch and then we can be flexible but no sugar. If they eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a reasonable amount of time, without complaining (I unofficially allow one small complaint and a reminder), there is dessert available, the only sweet of the day, and sometimes dessert is plain yogurt with fruit. Or fruit alone. But right now we are being a little more loose with post-dinner dessert. (We made carrot cake for Sam’s birthday.)
  9. If children make it through the day being helpful and doing what they are asked without rolling their eyes or being otherwise disrespectful, if they complete all of their Life Skills training, they receive ONE ticket for the day (again, i try to help them get the ticket every day, i give a small reminder if i anticipate they might be about to grump at me: not a threat, a reminder, “you’ve done a great job today and I really want you to get your ticket for the day so please make sure you are thinking about your answer, do you need a minute?”). Three tickets = 30 minutes of video games. We also have video games on Friday nights. And we use movies as we need or want to, but have only watched two so far.

Will my children be scarred by my system? Maybe there will be a memoir. I don’t know. Why am I sharing this? Because I think it is perfect or amazing? Not really. Am I totally consistent? No. Do the kids get excited earning that one measly ticket for a whole day of good behavior that translates into 10 minutes of game time. Yes, shockingly they really love the tickets. I have to do a lot of overseeing the chores, and the jobs, but we have to start somewhere. So this is what we are trying today. It’s evolving. They seem pretty happy and healthy so I’ll take that as a good sign.

I send thanks and prayers out for all of the folks out of their homes right now, working in the wide world to protect the rest of us and provide us with the necessities of life. I am fortunate to be sitting here comfortably able to type these words to you. Dave built me a new garden bed yesterday. Today we planted tomatoes, peppers, basil, spinach, kale, calendula, parsley, sunflowers, watermelons (Sam’s choice), beets — that’s what I can remember. They were seeds we had left over from prior years so hopefully some of them will come up. I would also like to get some thumbelina zinnias. I also love poppies but they never grow here.

Warm wishes and love to you all. Take good care, wash your hands, and I will write again soon.

One thought on “Home sweet home

  1. I love your Corona Parenting Plan, Jen. The tips for ending arguing among children will be tested here. We have a loose schedule, but anytime that there’s peaceful non-screen playing, we let it be and just breathe.

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