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Posts Tagged ‘Swings’

My two sons took down the swing set recently. It had grown rickety and unsafe…and my childre

n had grown upand seldom used it anymore. Watching my big boys take the swing apart was a bittersweet moment for me. A flood of memories came rushing back as they carefully took down the swings and took the beams and posts apart. I remembered the Christmas that we had gotten the swing set for the children. There were only three children then, about ages 5, 3, and 1. I remember how carefully my husband and I chose which set to buy…choosing what would be best for our children, eagerly anticipating the children’s reactions when itwasunveiled on Christmas morning. I remembered how we had had an unseasonable snow storm here in the Great Northwest that year. The snow had piled up to the bottom of swing set seats, but it had melted quickly and the children were soon enjoying their new swing set with the passion and wild abandon that are typical of that season of life. I remembered many warm summer days pushing my baby, and the 2 more who arrived in later years, carefully buckled into the baby swing. I remembered how the sun dresses of my little girls used to fly in the wind as they pumped higher and higher over the wind of swings, squeals of joy ringing in the air. I remembered their contests to see who could swing the highest, and I remembered the bottoms-out feeling in my stomach and heart the first few times that they jumped out of the swings yelling “Hey Mom, watch this!” and then the relief that flooded over me as they landed blithely on their feet.

I thought about how the seasons come and go. I imagined my children year after year swinging on those swings, each year a little bigger, older, and wiser…always the same back and forth motion, and yet all the time they were changing and growing imperceptibly until one day they had outgrown the old swing set and were ready for…no, not better or greater things…but just different things.

You know, family routines are like that. They provide structure and continuity as the children grow. The safeness and predictability of knowing what comes next is much like the continuous swinging back and forth, back and forth on the swing set. And then there are times when we “jump out of the swing” so to speak as the routine is changed for some exciting or unexpected event. Routines in our lives can be the “small and simple things” that “bring great things to pass.” (Book of Mormon, Alma 37:6). That few precious minutes each day reading with your children or singing to them at bedtime is a small thing each day…such a small moment, and yet it yields priceless and eternal gold in the relationship you build with your children over the years.

And just as my children outgrew the old swing set, family routines also change and grow with each family and child. I remember the first routines that we had with my oldest child. A long bath time right after breakfast each morning with lots of bubbles. Bedtime stories at night…and sprinkled throughout the day…but always at night after jammies were on and before being tucked in for the night. I remember how bath time changed and became part of the bedtime routine when the children got older and spent long hours out of doors in the grass and dirt.

I’ve noticed the same thing with the structure of our days with relation to the children’s studies. As the seasons come and go and also as the children grow and change, the routines must also change. …not to better things, but just different. I used to try to hold onto our routines each year. We’d start in the fall and make a routine to serve us for the year. It would work well for a few months, but then something happened. Instead of lending happy predictability to our days, our routines sometimes became dull drudgery…a list of “have-tos” that we must do. After a few years of seeing this pattern, I got wiser. I realized that the routine must change to accommodate our needs, our moods, and the season. The routine seems to need to be tweaked and changed with each literal season of the year.

I’ve also noticed that the routines must change with the seasons of childhood…with each child as he/she grows. Just as bedtime routines change from mom or dad watching over the brushing of the teeth and the tucking into bed to a short “remember to brush your teeth” as they are on their way to bed. Study routines also change as the children become more independent. All of that one on one time that I spent with my children when they were very young, teaching them to read, helping them to form habits for study…all of that becomes unnecessary in later years as they begin to study on their own, checking in from time to time as guidance is needed. And at the same time, those early years of unstructured exploring center down into focused study as they get older.

And routines definitely change as the family changes. A new baby, a move to a new house, an illness…all of these things require adjustments to the routine for any home educating family. Not only do such adjustments help to relieve the stress of some situations, but they also help the family to take full advantage of other situations. The year that we built an addition to our home, we made huge changes to our routine. From the outside looking in, some might have thought that we were almost un-schooling at that point, and perhaps we were. But the things that my children gained from having more freedom during that time are immeasurable…certainly far more valuable than a few pages in a workbook. Those changes actually laid a groundwork for more freedom in our home studies even after the addition was complete. And the help of our children in the work to build the addition was also immeasurable!

One more thing that I noticed about swing sets…and routines. When my boys had finished taking the swing set down, you’ll never guess what they did next! Curiously, they hung a rope in one of the tall trees in the back yard…for another swing. I guess that there are some things that we never truly outgrow. Though they aren’t a part of our daily lives anymore, we still sometimes feel the need to come back to some of the older ways and routines. Independent readers still need to be read to occasionally. Hard working scholars still need carefree moments reminiscent of their earlier years. And big boys still need hugs and occasional snuggles from their moms.

RC

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