When you have four children, there can often be so much noise and activity that it is difficult to sit down and reflect. My thoughts are usually drowned out by crying and screams, laughter and innocent questions from curious wide-eyed children.
But then there are moments that make your insides smile.
Like when my 6 year old and 3 year old were happily getting along.
Liza asked if she could eat lunch in her room one day. Usually I would say no, but this time she had our little wooden table set up in her room with the two wooden chairs. I said, “Sure, but don’t make a mess.”
A little while later, I poked my head into her room and saw the sweetest sight. Liam was sitting at the table with her, and they were both quietly eating their lunch together while watching a cartoon on the iPad.
Usually, if one of her brothers even dares set foot in her room, she screams bloody murder.
But there Liam was, and he was being so well-behaved.
In preparation, for homeschooling, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to read more to the kids during the day and to give them more opportunities to paint and color with crayons. I think the reason I haven’t been doing these two things lately is because it can be quite difficult to get three or four children to sit still and listen to a whole book. But we will be doing a lot of reading this fall, and any progress I make now will be time well spent.
I discovered a blog post by Elizabeth Foss. She has six children, and she homeschools. While reading her posts in search of encouragement and support for when I start homeschooling next month, she said that one of the most important things she does with her kids is read. They read every day–in the morning, in the afternoon, at night–whenever and wherever. And she reads to whoever will listen. She doesn’t try to get all her children gathered together at once for a story. She will grab whichever child is willing and start reading.
This encouraged me that I can do the same. One day, it was just Liam who would sit on the couch and listen at the beginning. Before long, Levi came along and Liza too, and there were only a few interruptions from Logan, the toddler, but we ended up reading two books.
As for painting, I dread the mess it makes. Three kids painting can feel like a bomb could go off ant moment—or maybe that’s just me. The first time I let them paint a week ago, everyone was so excited, they all simultaneously demanded for their paint colors as I poured them onto the paper plates. I want red. Red now! Me too! Green! I need green! “Start painting with your other colors until I get to you,” I said. No! I need all the colors right now!
Let’s just say, I’ve learned a few things about painting with multiple children, and our second painting session went much more smoothly. Perhaps have their paint ready before you have them sit at the table that way you won’t feel like an overwhelmed waitress serving a restaurant full of impatient, demanding customers. Also, the more your kids paint, the more they will be accustomed to it. It is still exciting, but not so exciting that they go completely crazy when you bust out the paints.
Seeing how my kids were brimming with creativity as they painted, only made me want to let them paint more, and I have determined that we will paint at least a few times a week.
I also had everyone draw with crayons the other day. We had just finished a story, and somehow we started talking about ships (and then naturally, pirates). I don’t know how or why because the story had nothing to do with those things, but I went with it and suggested, “We should get out the crayons and draw a ship!”
Everyone jumped at the idea, and soon everyone was trying their hand at drawing ships. It is so fun to see my three year old and four year old’s crayon strokes as they experiment with lines and shapes on the paper. But Liza surprised me the most. She drew the most detailed picture of a ship. There were sails and a pirate’s flag, cannons shooting cannon balls. There was a cabin with a door leading down into the ship, and a pirate standing on top of the mast, brandishing a sword while the captain stood at the wheel. I was quite simply amazed at all the detail she put into this picture and how much imagination she used.
When we were doing school at home in the spring due to the pandemic, she would draw if instructed to, but sometimes it would be quite painful. Sometimes if her picture didn’t look exactly like she wanted it to, she would start crying or get angry and storm off to her room saying she didn’t want to draw anymore. That is one reason why I stopped pushing crayons and paper on her. I dreaded the outbursts if it didn’t turn out how she wanted.
But it seems that the times art comes naturally to her is when it is organically inspired. For instance, if we see a rainbow over the city while we are driving she will later draw a picture of a rainbow and a pot of gold. Or if we are talking about pirate ships she will be inspired to draw what she sees in her mind’s eye. And let me tell you—I had no idea she saw all that in her mind’s eye!
This gives me hope for when I start homeschooling in the fall. Perhaps, it will go well. Perhaps we will discover things I never imagined would be possible. Perhaps grace and moments of magic, imagination and a love of learning will be inspired in each of my kids. Instead of an inconvenience, maybe homeschooling is just what we needed after all.