#realmothersdiversevoices : Josie Elston

In this interview series my intention is to reveal the endless ways our family values can inform our Daily Rhythm. The mothers I have interviewed lead diverse lives but they each have a huge sense of clarity about what their Family Values are (even if they change over time) and consciously and creatively strive to create a Daily Rhythm in alignment with those values. 

It is my hope that through these stories more Mothers feel inspired to explore what their own family values are, to question them and bring them to life in their everyday experience. I know that seeing the world through another Mother’s lens will develop more empathy, understanding and compassion between us.

Today I am honoured to welcome Josie to the Whole Family Rhythms community. Josie is a homeschooling mama of four wonderful little girls living in Tasmania, Australia. You can find her on Instagram @onwillowsbend.

Who are you? Can you introduce yourself, your work and your family? 

Hi everyone! My name is Josie and I live in a little country town in Tasmania with my husband Erik and my four girls April (8), Willa (6), Wren (4) and Nina (2). These days my main work is that of a homemaker and homeschooling parent. I spend my days with my girls, teaching them, learning from them and caring for them. At some stage I plan to re-train as a play therapist but for now I am very content to enjoy being with my girls whilst they are young.

What is one of the greatest joys you experience as a Mother?

Being lucky enough to give my girls the time and space they need to be little. They spend so much time playing and it is truly wonderful to see.  It is by far my favourite thing about this lifestyle we have chosen for them. More recently I have really enjoyed seeing my eldest daughter April transition from spending all of her free time playing imaginatively to now beginning to follow her individual interests and spend time on independent projects. However much I value our time spent “on-task” with our homeschool work I also try to constantly remind myself not to interrupt her play and projects- because so much valuable learning and growing happens then too!

What is one of the biggest challenges you face daily as a Mother? 

I’m sure the challenges I face will be familiar to most Mothers. Parenting can be relentless and tiring and homeschooling means that I spend most of every day with all four of my children. I’m a very task-oriented person and I love checking things off my to-do list,  but I often feel that when I’m succeeding in one area something else is falling apart in the background. I know I can’t do everything and yet too often I try and then end up feeling tired and frustrated when it doesn’t work out. Something I am constantly working on is being more present in the moment and trying not to worry about the things that aren’t getting done. That being said I am lucky to have the help of a supportive husband whose work hours really complement our homeschool lifestyle and my lovely mum who lives in a little house right next door to us, so I often do find pockets of time in the day to be productive with some help from them.

What does having “Rhythm in your Home” mean to you?

Our home rhythm is what defines our days and weeks. Rhythm to me and my family is what helps us find balance, not only within our days but our weeks and even years to some extent.  To my girls it means predictability, comfort and feeling safe. When I think about our rhythm it helps me to think about the bigger picture. Is our day balanced? Are we spending enough time outdoors and being active? Are we spending enough time quietly being restful? When it comes to our homeschool work have we used our heads, hearts and hands? I also try to think about the bigger picture when considering the activities we take part in outside the home. As homeschoolers it can be so easy to fall into the trap of  signing up for every wonderful activity on offer, but as well as a good daily rhythm a balanced weekly rhythm is also important. 

Can you give an example of some of your most cherished ‘Family Values’?

My children are all still very young, so until now my main focus has been on protecting their childhood. To me that means creating time and space for play, choosing toys that are natural and open ended, limiting screen time (and making sure they don’t hear what’s on the news!) spending lots of time in nature and cultivating a reverence for the natural world, giving them daily opportunities to be creative and delaying their introduction to academics. As we approach the upper primary years I’d like to encourage my girls to find ways to serve their community through voluntary work, fundraising and participation in community events.

Can you outline a typical ‘Weekday Rhythm’ for you and your child(ren). Specifically when/where/how do you and your little ones eat, sleep/rest, play inside/outside, work/learn and make time for selfcare? 

6.45am– I wake up and creep from our room so I don’t wake the Nina! I sit quietly with my coffee and then I start the day’s work. On a homeschool day I always prep food first thing in the morning so our day runs more smoothly. This usually involves chopping fruit and veggies for snacks and meals later in the day and occasionally baking or preparing bread dough. I also prepare Nina’s morning medications ready for her when she wakes.

7-8am– Between 7am and 8am all four girls usually wake, I  sit  on the couch with them and read stories until everyone is up and wide awake. When Nina wakes up she has her first dose of medication for the day and then she has to wait for an hour before she can eat- so of course everyone else must wait too!

8.30am– Breakfast- on homeschool days everyone eats porridge to keep things simple and quick. The girls help to clear the table and sweep and wipe up whilst I wash the dishes.

9am– We get dressed and ready for the day and begin our morning chores. Everyone makes their bed, cleans their rooms and does their chore listed for the day on our chart (pictured). The younger girls often need help with these jobs and I also spend this time cleaning and tidying before we head out.

9.45am– Morning movement- This is the time of day when we get outdoors and get some exercise. I named it “Morning Movement” to encompass the many ways we can move our bodies to stay healthy and well. I bring a basket full of things for the girls to use if they want to- skipping ropes, balls and cones, sidewalk chalk etc. We usually head down to the sports ground near our home which has a track around a large football pitch and a little nature reserve with a creek and lots of great climbing trees. I run laps of the track with Nina in the pram whilst the older girls ride their bikes, run around with the dog, play games or climb trees.  I’ve found that the girls have a much calmer and more focussed day if they expend lots of energy in the morning.

10.30am– We get home and I set out a morning snack for the girls and have a quick shower. After eating Nina goes for a nap and Wren usually wanders down to visit with my mum next door or plays quietly.

11am– Violin and maths practice. Both my eldest girls play the violin, they each practice for 15 minutes whilst the other does some maths or number work and then they swap. I do any more lunch prep that’s needed and make sure I’m ready for our lesson time.

11.30am– Main Lesson time. Our main lesson time has a rhythm all its own, based on the philosophy of Head, Heart and Hands. We start with morning circle, singing, movement games and rhythmical counting. Next we sit down to either wet-on-wet painting, form drawing or poetry. At this point I spend some time with April one on one to tell her the main lesson story or hear her re-call the story from the previous day. She then works on her main lesson books or any other activity I have planned for the day. Once I’ve got her started I tell the younger girls out Early Childhood story for the week- although April will usually come and listen too! 

1pm– The girls finish off their work. It’s time for me to finish the lunch prep and make up Nina’s midday dose of medication. I can usually sneak in and give it to her whilst sleeps without waking her up! Whilst I’m cooking April reads to me.

2pm– Lunch time. After lunch the girls do ‘afternoon movement” this involves either playing outdoors or doing some yoga (we love cosmic kids) whilst the adults clean up and spend some time together.

3pm– Dad heads off to work and Nina usually wakes.

3-4pm– Free time- The little girls play and April sometimes joins in but more often than not she will choose to work on her current art project.

4pm- Afternoon snack

4-5- Quiet time/free time- The girls are free to come and go at this stage but most often they will choose to do something quiet with me. I’ve found that if I pile the coffee table with story books and handwork baskets and get out my own knitting they will usually come and join me. It’s also a good opportunity for me to sit down and rest! Nina will often go and visit with my mum during this time, which means I’m able to help the girls with their handwork without 2-year old distractions.

5- I prepare a very simple dinner, organise Nina’s evening medications and tidy up the house.

6- Dinner time

6.30- Stories

7– Bedtime- April and Willa usually read and draw in their room for another hour or so before lights out.

When does your family rhythm get thrown off kilter? 

This year has been a trying year for our family. Our youngest daughter Nina has complex congenital heart defects and over the past four months she has been hospitalised 7 times. She has times of relatively good health and times when her condition becomes very difficult to manage and of course this has an impact on our whole family. When she and I are in the hospital my husband spends a lot of time driving back and forth with the three other girls so we can be together. During these times we are in survival mode and our rhythm is completely forgotten. This is difficult for all of us but it’s also unavoidable, and we don’t want Nina to ever feel that her health is a burden to our family. We are so lucky to have her here with us and she has taught us all so much about resilience, bravery and letting go of our expectations! One thing I have noticed is that every time we come home from the hospital all four girls cannot wait to get back into our usual rhythm again. The first day home from her most recent hospitalisation we had finished our morning chores and I realised that Nina was nowhere about. I found her on the deck sitting in her pram, patiently waiting to go out for a walk like we do every day. It made me realise just how important rhythm and predictability is to my girls- it’s a feeling of comfort and safety for them.

Do you consciously re-evaluate and change your family rhythm with the seasons and ages and stages of your kids?

Yes, absolutely. The rhythm I outlined above is fairly new for us, we have probably been following that rhythm for about 6 weeks. I noticed that the girls were becoming increasingly restless and wanting to go outdoors before our main lesson time was over. I realised I needed to change our rhythm to make sure they had plenty of active outdoors time before our main lesson begins. One thing that I find difficult as a homeschooling family is making sure our daily rhythm meets the needs of all four of my children. My two youngest need more quiet time at home to rest and play than my older girls do, so I have to make sure to consider their needs when I make any big changes to our day. Over the summer we will take a break from our academic work and spend more time outdoors. Even then I will make sure we have a rhythm in place so our days are balanced  and predictable with enough time for rest and quiet play,

When you’re feeling stuck, tired, frustrated with your role as Mother, what do you need most to shift your energy and perception?

This is a difficult question to answer because it’s something I’m not really very good at. I know that time alone is really helpful for me when I’m feeling overwhelmed but again I often get caught up with my to-do list and don’t take the time for myself. When I do take some time off during the day I usually go for a walk or have a quiet coffee at a local cafe and read a book but that’s a pretty rare occurence. Something that’s really important to me is the time I get alone in the house in the evening when my husband is at work and the girls are asleep. It’s an opportunity to work on my own craft and sewing projects, drink hot cups of tea and do some yoga. Evenings are definitely my time to recharge and take care of me! When alone time isn’t possible or we are having a difficult homeschooling day then it usually helps to scrap all our plans and get out in nature. Our whole family loves to go bushwalking and it is the perfect way for us to reset and start afresh when things are feeling off kilter. 

If you could recommend one book to ALL Mothers out there what would it be? 

Easy! Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.

Thank you so much for your presence here Josie! And for so openly sharing your family values, rhythm and vision. 

 

 

 

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