Lately, I’ve had a bad case of “vacation brain”!

As is usual at this point in the year, we have reached the end of our first semester, and are busy with our Advent creative block. Co-op is over until January, and we are spending our days making gifts, practicing music, and cleaning the house!

I had a nice, clearly blocked-out plan, but I am finding that we are only doing about half of what I had hoped to accomplish. Math for the bigger children and reading for the little guy hasn’t happened at all this week, and I think the problem is that I have a case of “vacation brain” and would rather sit and drink coffee than do what’s necessary to keep everyone moving.

To some extent, I’m fine with this slower pace. I know that we have worked hard through the fall, and that a few weeks of an lighter schedule will be refreshing. We aren’t just sitting around doing nothing—gifts are being made, and this week I’ve been doing a major housecleaning of all the corners and places that typically don’t get cleaned in our weekly rotations. I keep reminding myself that we are still learning and making progress, and that spending some time with less structure is good for all of us!

Having less structure is hard, though. I’m kind of an “all or nothing” person, so when we step away from our routine too much, I tend to just let everything go! Having that much slack makes it clear quickly where we all need additional sanctification, and I then have to spend a good bit of time working on attitudes—mine included!—and work ethic. (Did you know it can take two hours to unload a dishwasher?) It’s a lot of hard work, and I find myself more short-tempered than I would like to be. Our Advent time isn’t the peaceful, creative time I had imagined but a time of working to prepare in time for Christmas.

Then I realize—maybe working hard to prepare is exactly what an Advent “school” should be. After all, Mary would certainly have been working hard at this time; traveling across Judea by foot and donkey was anything but easy! Perhaps this time of preparation of our homes and hearts is meant to include not only the hard work of cleaning the neglected corners and sorting and discarding the things that have accumulated (treasured schoolwork?) but also the hard spiritual labour of opening the corners of our souls to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to turn out the rubbish that we love so much.

In some ways, I am just like my five-year-old. (Given the opportunity, he would keep all the things. Every. Single. Paper.) I would rather hold onto my “reasons” for being annoyed or frustrated, and my little grudges over life, and my imagination not being in sync with one another. I must teach him discernment in what to keep, and the Holy Spirit must teach me to lay down my “self” and my “rights” in order to grow in holiness. These are not easy lessons—and they may often involve tears—but they are a necessary part of preparing our hearts and homes to receive the Infant King.

A few practical thoughts:

  • I find it helpful when we aren’t following our usual schedule to just jot down a little “block” style schedule for the day—at least for the morning hours that are normally filled with academic work. This only takes about ten minutes and keeps me on track. Something simple like: MorningTime, 1 hour project block (with a list of which project each child is working on), 1 hour housekeeping block (again with a list of which children will do what during that hour), etc. I do this on notebook paper with a pretty pen and will file them in the December section of my 2018 binder to remind me what we did.
  • Make a point of keeping whatever daily spiritual practices you normally do in their normal place. It is way too easy for family prayer time or private devotions to disappear when the schedule slacks up, and this is a time when we need more and not less grace.
  • Be careful not to overschedule with fun activities! You don’t actually have more hours in the day, but you are just using them differently. Check out this blog post: White Space: Why It’s Essential
  • Make sure that you aren’t confusing what you imagine the time will be like with reasonable expectations. This is one of the fastest ways I know to turn into a super grouchy mom. Our imaginations always leave out the toddler deciding to potty train unexpectedly, the day of a family-wide stomach bug, or the almost-eight-year-old waking up with a full-on case of “the pesties”—our name for that mood in which a child can only bother everyone they come near!

Above all, use this time in love as you prepare to receive Him who is Love Incarnate.

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