Definition of DYNAMICS
: a pattern or process of change, growth, or activity<population dynamics>
: variation and contrast in force or intensity (as in music)
As an unschooling mama, I often analyze what is working for us during our peaceful, happily-learning days, and what isn't working for us on our squabbly, could-be-better days. One thing that seems to support a positive flow in our household is taking time to do things individually as well as together. If the dynamics seem particularly stressed between two of the girls (Sylvia and Ayla, lately), I will try to engage them in separate activities, or play with them closely to help dissolve the tension.
It doesn't have to be elaborate. Ayla and Sylvia were squabbling over the homemade playdough and the tools that went along with it. Sylvia loves tactile sensory things. So, I asked her to sort the beans that I was soaking in warm water and to take out any split or damaged ones. She was happily engaged doing this for quite a long while. Meantime, I took out Moonsand for Ayla to play with. Soon after they finished those activities, both were happily sharing and playing together with the playdough.
A bit later, while I helped Sylvia set up a color-changing mini volcano, I asked Ayla if she wanted to whip cream. Ayla was there at the table with us, watching, but having her own project to keep her hands busy, she didn't feel the need to grab the pipette and squirt citric acid solution everywhere :). Sylvia was free to squirt and experiment. "Hey, what happens if we add more baking soda?" "Let's see!"
Ayla has a little plastic push car that she likes to ride around the livingroom. Sylvia was pretending to be her mechanic, pumping gas, fixing flat tires, etc. They both enjoyed this for about five minutes, after which Ayla wanted only to ride and Sylvia wanted only to fix. After asking the mechanic to relinquish the vehicle to its rightful owner, I brought in a pedal tractor that needed serious engine help, and some extra tools.
When I am attentive before problems arise, we have a more peaceful, happy household. They are less likely to get frustrated with each other, and I am less likely to feel overwhelmed. Hunger, thirst, sleepiness, too much activity, too little activity, too much togetherness, and too little togetherness are all factors that I take into account (hopefully) before moods get surly.
On days when we are all together, all day long, out of the house, I pay special attention to the food, thirst, and rest factors. The girls each wanted to spend the money they had gotten for Christmas, so we made the long drive into town (leaving around sunrise), and spent the morning browsing and shopping and snacking. Camille bought a snap circuit set (I love the educator discount that most large bookstores give to homeschoolers) . Sylvia bought a Spa Science kit with natural and organic ingredients and recipes as well as a sparkly, zebra-print, frilly outfit :). Ayla bought a cat-shaped keyboard with a microphone, and a sparkly beribboned tutu. We ate ice cream from the Chocolate Shoppe and stocked up on snacks from the health food co-op.
In the afternoon, Camille and Sylvia had a homeschool class at the nature center with friends, and Ayla napped in my lap while I relaxed and chatted. Not wanting to end the time spent with friends, we shared some more snacks and took our entourage to a library with a large children's section. There was checkers, legos, a puppet theater, computer games, art supplies, a wooden castle, and more.
Spa Science (of course). We did an oat-banana-cornmeal foot scrub, and a honey-oat face mask.
The fun thing about each of the girls following her own interests, is that often someone else will see it and go, "that looks cool! can I do it, too?"
"Why can't I eat the science?"
And then, when she could, "Science is good for people. Science is yummy."
And my personal favorite, "Oops, I got science on my panties."
Snap circuits (of course) in many different configurations.
By midday, I wanted to get outside and invited everyone along. Sylvia stayed in to play on PBS Kids. Ayla, Camille and I sledded down our hill several times, then I went back in to see if sledding was something that Sylvia was interested in yet. She was. We sledded in every possible combination of twos, threes, and (one time) all four of us squeezed on.
*photo by Camille
I think one time, even the dog tried to jump on!
With multiple children that are together most hours of the day, it's so important to take the individual personalities, preferences, and moods into account. Today we watched The Neverending Story (all together), watched The Busy World of Richard Scarry (Ayla), played the Where's My Water app on a tablet (Camille and Sylvia), played on a cat-shaped keyboard (Camille and Ayla), read aloud (Mama to girls), smeared honey on our faces (Mama, Sylvia, and Ayla), played with snap circuits (Camille mostly), did dishes and knit a little (Mama), napped in Mama's arms (Ayla), sledded (all together), and various other activities in various groupings.
This kind of flow works for us. Little streams merging, separating, meandering, and coming back together, stronger, happier, and more bubbly for the time apart.
Cereal Girl, a favorite funny food song around here