For the month of September we are writing a series of Homeschool Posts… the nitty gritty kind of homeschool posts for mom who feel like they have been homeschooling forever and still have a long way to go… I know “all” the homeschools in the world look so much more wonderful than your own homeschool, just a quick peek at instagram and you might have this idea that a homeschool is where small children sit around listening to classical music and producing wonderful works of art, while teenagers collapse on couches and research a cure for liver disease. A big part of the homeschool image is a collection of perfect parents providing perfect environments for their children to learn and grow in… the truth is a little closer to moms trying to just keep up with school management, home management and life management…. It isn’t as easy as it looks, but I firmly believe it needn’t be nearly as hard we make it out to be either. Start by losing a little bit of the quest for perfection and enjoying the resources you have available to you…
Se7en Ways To Stay Sane While Homeschooling…
It is very easy to wear yourself out with homeschooling… literally wear yourself out. Don’t do it… your children won’t thank you and you won’t be giving them the fantastic education that you were dreaming of, because you will simply be too tired to do your best. Instead you will be providing a shadow of yourself and no one will be winning.
- Stop Staying Up All Night Preparing: If school prep is keeping you up all night and you can’t stop yourself from searching the web for wonderful ideas to supplement the already fantastic curriculum, that you are using. Just give it up. There is really no need to do hours of preparation, the joy of homeschooling is that you can learn alongside your children. If you have a fairly tight curriculum, then most likely everything you need will be provided with it; and if you are more flexible… then gather your resources together. For example, head for the library, read your own book on the floor next to the shelf on dinosaurs… they will discover things quite happily without having to create plasticine dioramas or life-size cardboard cutouts. Learn alongside your kids, make the preparations part of what you are doing together… your children can most likely get the watercolours out and find their own nature notebooks and you could go to bed a little earlier.
- Stop Looking for More… and More: Your child/children are most likely doing enough. Stop looking for more… stop trying to peak their interest. If you have a math program, stick with it and don’t start another one simultaneously for extra practice… one thing at a time is enough. Children need to discover their own interests and the things that intrigue them. Reading a double page spread on vikings, with your small children is quite enough to spark their interest and inspire hours and hours of play. Find a viking story to read and your job is done… leave the rest to them. Your children do not need hours and hours of supplemental worksheets, no matter how beautiful the worksheets are… they do not need to spend hours learning how to spell Scandinavia or recreate a viking dinner from vegetables grown in your back yard. Read a story and make yourself a cup of tea, provide a cardboard box to make a viking ship and leave them to it.
- Stop Demanding That They Do Their School Work: Children will rise at dawn and settle down to work through their piles of work for the day… said no homeschool mom ever. That being said, their school is their school and their responsibility. Just as you expect your child to fasten their seatbelt when they get into the car, and you check that they have before you drive off… so you expect them to do the school work you have asked them to do and it is your job to check that they do that. You don’t have to do their work for them… how ridiculous is that, when you homeschool and no one is even checking to see if your child can build a trebuchet out of hand made spaghetti. It is very tempting to do their work, or drill things that they should learn… but don’t do it. It will lead you to a state of nagging collapse and your kids will have missed the point of the assignment, which is to learn how to work.
- Stop Going the VERY EXTRA Mile, ALL the TIME: A lot of the magic of childhood is because it just happens, you don’t have to keep on creating it. Your children will create their own magic. A family read-a-loud can just be a great read that you enjoy at the dinner table over a period of two weeks… it doesn’t have to be a recreated feast in full dress-up, a pile of related reference books and all the associated activities. For example Little House on the Prairie is an amazing book to listen to, but you don’t have to drive on a horse drawn wagon through the woods to pick apples and spend a month making ten varieties of apple pie, so that there is always a pleasant snack available while you are reading… you can actually get the audible, (the Cherry Jones version is fantastic), and listen to it together while you are cooking supper. There is nothing wrong with doing “Extra”… but that “extra” that leaves you exhausted and hating the entire series of books because nobody actually wanted to wear a starched bonnet for the activity… is not actually “extra”… it is just too much.
- Stop Doing All the Jobs So That Your Kids Can Have More Time For School: I firmly believe that children need to do jobs, not just to learn how to do jobs, but so that they know that they are an important part of your home. You don’t need chore charts, I am useless at them anyway. You do need clear expectations… if you give a child a task, make sure that they are absolutely sure that they know what they expect. If your kids are not sure what you expect when you say clean up from dinner… trust me they are not going to wipe the counters, or sweep the floor, they may just put the dishwasher on, but then you may need to tell them to put ALL the dishes into it first. The point is… clear expectations are a great way to lessen your load. And when you have left them, turn AWAY…
- Stop Being Their Teacher All the Time and Just Be Yourself: your kids need to see you doing the things that you love doing in order to grow up and be the person they are meant to be… they need a good example of great adults, not someone to exhausted to read a book for pleasure, to tired to enjoy watching a movie of their choice. Go on an outing and enjoy it… if you want to spend the afternoon creating something, or decorating something… thats okay, it isn’t frivolous, just because it isn’t a school project doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it.
- Stop Frowning: I know… it seems silly, but it isn’t… we forget to smile and smiling makes everyone feel better. We get so busy going from laundry to second grade math, to making lunch, to high school chemistry and back again… we can quite forget to smile. I want my kids to remember a happy laughing mom, not a grumpy grouchy mom.
- STOP… JUST STOP: It is completely okay to say, “I just can’t go on.” It is okay to take a break… homeschool moms cannot typically get the day off… they go straight from schooling their kids to parenting and switch in and out of those roles all day long… it is exhausting. There are no sick days, no bank holidays… because those are really just days to catch up on housework that you can never get done because you are always busy with school. Take a break… the house will not fall apart and your kids will still grow up educated. The break you take today may actually be the one thing that sparks your children to explore their own resources and discover the thing that will turn them into well adjusted adults. Trust me, your kids would probably love the opportunity to make lunch while you put your feet up on the couch… turn a blind eye to the mess for just one day and get the rest you need.
If I had to give you one tip as to how to be everything to your kids as their homeschooling mom, then I would have to say… just be you. Your kids want to hang out with you, they want to know their mom and spend time with her. They don’t want the perfect educator, who knows latin declensions or double integration… all that they can look up in a book when they need it… but they will never get this time with you back again. Homeschooling is a massive gift of time to your children… they will most likely never appreciate it when they are kids. That’s fine. Give it willingly and enthusiastically, but don’t give it until you have absolutely nothing left to give. Trust me, they don’t want to spend time with their mother, the wreck. Invest time in your health: get the sleep you need, go to bed early with your kids if need be. There are definitely seasons when the absolute minimum time spent devoted to school is essential to a mother’s health and the season will change, there will be other seasons. Stop worrying about what the world thinks homeschool moms should be, or what your homeschool should look like on instagram. Just be yourself, do the school you need to do with your kids… that might mean putting on a parade for all the world to see… or it might mean reading through a series on the couch for days… whatever it means… just be your authentic self.