Music for the Afternoon Mess


A Music Playlist for the Afternoon Homeschool MessSomewhere amid the tidy online images, the Mess exists. I capitalize Mess because it seems to live and exist on its own, creeping in and out of corners unannounced. Between the creative projects and delicious meals are spilled paints and sprawling colored pencils, stacks of books and papers with scribbled writing and illustrations. Sometimes a glass jar of bugs sits with us. Nearly always a small cup lingers with the last bit of coffee, cold. The energy of our homeschool day pushes and pulls between cleaning up and pouring out. These rhythms seem in conflict with one another, yet they are connected, one requiring the other. The tidy space draws us to create, to read, to write, to build, and yet our busy hands and minds can destroy a table space, a living room floor, a kitchen counter in a heartbeat. The Mess is a part of the process; it is a part of our home, a part of living. On the days, I am overwhelmed or frustrated by it (more than I wish), I remember our learning is not a tidy experience, coiffed and prim. It is wild and organic, ordered and sometimes pruned, but so full of life. Mess does not always equate to disorganization. Our days are fairly organized in the order and routine, and Mess is a part of it. Here is what our table often looks like at the end of an afternoon, and as two older mothers reminded me last week, I’ll miss it one day.

To keep the Mess at bay, we’re focusing on three brief periods of clean up and chores during our day at home: just after breakfast, just before lunch, and just before dinner. I hope it will help us learn how to better partner with Mess, to let it move freely during our learning, but also prepare the space for the next segment of our day. We’ll see.

Several people have asked about the music I sometimes play in my IG Stories, so I put together a playlist of favorites for our afternoons of read-aloud, illustration, and writing. A playlist for the Mess.  Enjoy.

Apertura Gustavo Santaolalla | Digging Shelters Neil Halstead | Where’s My Love Syml | 33 “GOD” Bon Iver | Try Escondido | Riptide Vince Joy | Yes/No Ears of Light | Break Apart Bonobo | Celeste Ezra Vine | White Noise Ella Vos | Planet Earth II Suite Hans Zimmer | Everything Ben Howard |  Heartbeats José González | Stanley Park Aoife O’Donovan | Mushboom Feist | All Yours Widowspeak | I Need a Forest Fire James Blake | String Quartet in F Major, M.35:2 Maurice Ravel | Lullabye Emitt Rhodes

Playlist on Spotify

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  1. Pingback: This & That | The Art in Life

  2. today i ordered and rearranged our school-living-lounge-playing room. I didn’t want them to touch anything to keep it ordered for at least a moment >:) Yes, Mess is a person. Sometimes i say to my husband, this is not mess, it’s reminders of what has happened during the day…. mementos :)

    on another note… Bethany, i want to ask you, now that you do your read aloud in the afternoons with science.. what do you do in the mornings??

    1. Author

      Currently, my husband leads their morning homeschool four days/week while I write, and he does math, logic, spelling, and history with the two middles children. My youngest heads down to my sister’s house mid-morning for reading and spelling with my nephew, and then the two of them come back for afternoon read aloud and activities with me. It’s the first time I have had shared the homeschool day, and it’s been wonderful. Also for a long time, we wrapped up our day in the morning and used the afternoon for play and errands, but as my oldest’s work has increased and he has to work longer, the younger ones days have stretched out too. So we take more breaks in the middle, including the morning. They have many periods of intermittent free play during the day and morning. ;)

  3. It’s a beautiful mess though! And thanks for reminding me about Neil Halstead. The album Sleeping On Roads is the best soundtrack to cleaning up with open windows letting fresh air in. I can remember doing so when I was a college student in my 400-sq ft apartment… a lifetime ago! ;)

    1. Author

      Ha! I love how music is a time capsule, a memory. Thank you for the reference, Holly! I’ll have to check it out. x

  4. I can’t even imagine what my house would look like if my kids were homeschooled. My daughter is off school today and being “creative” all over the house. Cleaning up together (rather than me doing it all) is a goal we are still working on, and my kids are 12 and 14. Thanks for the playlist. Looks good! I’m always looking for new, gentle tunes to listen to when I’m homecaring.

    1. Author

      Our children do much work around the house, but it still requires attention and time for them to learn properly, something we’re still working on. It’s nice to know we’re all learning similar lessons in our own homes.

  5. That first paragraph is true of life in general. We are organic creatures that are comprised of beauty, stink, organization, systematic, chaotic, random (seeming). We breathe, grow, stretch, retreat, atrophy. Parts of it are ugly, but taken in its sum, Life is a work of art. See what I did there with that capital L?

    1. Author

      So, so true, Dawn. It is indeed an organic process, with much nurturing and pruning. Also I love personification.

  6. Hi! I’m a new homeschooling mom here! We’ve been making plenty of messes lately, and I completely resonate with your love-hate relationship with the mess. It’s beautiful! It’s productive! It’s….driving me crazy! One thing I’m trying to really focus on is the follow through. I want to be relaxed about the mess when it’s productive (and even have fun too!), but also diligent in teaching everyone that there has to be a clean up time for every mess. That’s one thing I’m loving about homeschooling – there is so much time to nurture these qualities. It’s not just about learning through the mess, it’s also about cultivating a responsibility to the mess/our home/our life.

    1. Author

      Bravo, Rebekah, and welcome! Follow-through is always the hardest part, isn’t it? We also are re-focusing our routine and clean-up time again, which is so difficult with so many things happening here during each day. Thank you for the reminder and encouragement.

  7. Thank you for this reminder that a Mess isn’t a bad thing. We live in a small home while looking for a permanent place which makes Mess seem like a pretty frequent visitor! Adding little breaks to our daily rhythms to clean up will certainly help with the visual stress that Mess causes. Blessings!

    1. Author

      We live in an older home with little closet or cabinet space. The gift and curse is that there’s not much space for stuffing things elsewhere, for hiding what we don’t want to deal with right away. It seems there is always a pile to sort and put away, which is frustrating sometimes. I’ve had renewed focus to relax and also to create more consistent routines for cleaning up after ourselves. In the very least, it’s encouraging to know we aren’t alone, yes?

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