I’m totally lucky to get to balance a job I love with hands-on homeschooling, which I also love, but hitting that balance isn’t always easy, and I’m learning to be okay with that.
We all want our homeschools to produce curious, creative kids, but we shouldn’t forget that our children copy what they see us doing. If we want our kids to love learning, we have to show them that we love it, too.
Finding time for yourself as a homeschool parent is essential — but it’s probably not something that’s going to happen on its own. You need a plan — and you need one that adapts with your homeschool.
Don't let your kids have all the fun! Shelli puts her project-based learning skills to work learning something she's always wanted to know how to do, and it's just as amazing as she hoped it would be.
This morning I met some long-time, female friends for breakfast at a quaint bakery-café in town. This was a luxury for me — both meeting friends and getting to eat at a quaint bakery-café.
I have been meeting with these women off and on for fifteen years. I met them when I was single, in my late twenties, and I taught a journal writing class for the adult community education programs at the university. Basically, for the four of us, the class never ended, but over the years, the group morphed from a writing group to a book discussion group to a woman's group. We just talk about anything! But the glorious thing is that it's an intelligent conversation, and it's not always about children's needs or the ups and downs of homeschooling. If the conversation does go in that direction, then it's me talking because all three of these beautiful women are older than me, and none of them have children.
For several years, we met every month, but then I had my boys. For a while, I tried to bring my eldest to the meetings, but that didn’t last long, and it was impossible after I had two boys. For a few years, we didn't meet at all, and I feared I had lost touch with these creative, insightful women. Then, when my eldest son was old enough to go to summer camp by himself, I asked my husband if he'd keep our youngest for the day so that I could arrange a meeting with my friends. He did. So for the last three years, we have met once a year during summer camp. Yes, only once a year, but that was better than not meeting at all!
This year I realized meeting during the week was a burden to one of the women who works full-time, so I decided to schedule a meeting on Saturday. And then it occurred to me…Saturdays would be good for me too since my husband is off and the boys are more self-sufficient. Hey, maybe I can do this more often.
I always tell parents of very young children that it'll get easier as they get older. I say that even when some things are still hard for me. Although my husband helps a lot, I'm still the major caregiver for the children, and for a long time, I was the only parent my youngest son wanted anything to do with. He is still a mama's boy, but finally he is okay with daddy taking over for part of the day. And my nine-year-old... well, he prefers his dad now. Mama is starting to get boring.
Before I get all choked up and sad and oh — pooh! *sniff sniff* — I have to remind myself that I actually kind of enjoy having a little more freedom.
But it comes very slowly, and it takes some getting used to. On the rare days I find myself leaving the house alone, I have that heavy feeling of having forgotten something. But it’s really that part of me that wants to stay right here next to my boys. Will they need something that only I can give them? What am I missing if I’m not here?
Then I start driving away from the house, listening to one of my favorite podcasts, and I sigh with relief that no one will interrupt it! It's then that I realize I can and will get used to doing things alone again.
I will start slowly because I am in no hurry for my boys to become completely independent of me. For now, I will begin to get my women’s group together more often. None of our schedules will allow us to meet once a month anymore, but I'm going to try to get us together once every season.
And maybe, with these intelligent, kind, inspiring women’s help, I will start to find my way again in the world...sans children.
A decade ago, I began homeschooling my children for selfish reasons. Sure, I thought homeschooling would be good for them too, and I read a stack of books about childhood development, learning styles, and homeschooling methods to back up that belief, but ultimately my reasons to homeschool were selfish. I wanted my children to learn free of negative social influences, gold star grading systems, and hours of pointless homework, but mostly I didn’t want to wake up early every day to rouse my sleeping children, pack brown bag lunches, and hurry them out the door. Waking up naturally and snuggling on the couch to read books before we began our day of curiosity driven learning was my romanticized fantasy of homeschool life.
There were many days that we lived out my fantasy, but many more days that I lost myself in the service of parenting and homeschooling. When mothers with more experience than I had counseled me to take some “me time”, I didn’t even know what they meant. All the hours not devoted to the enrichment of my children were spent cleaning up from said enrichment, planning for the next day’s enrichment, and recovering from all the enrichment, plus the usual business of running a household. When exactly was this “me time” supposed to happen, and what was I supposed to be doing for myself?
I recently listened to an interview with a 107 year woman and when asked for the secret of her longevity her answer was to eat well, exercise, sleep, and avoid stress - four of my favorite things to do now, but not my priorities during those early years of homeschooling. Hearing it from a woman with a tremendous amount of life experience affirmed that taking care of myself is my definition of “me time”, and hopefully it will buy me even more time.
As the new school year approaches, and you thoughtfully select and prepare curriculum for your children, consider the enrichment of yourself as well. Schedule “me time” in your daily planner, and keep the lesson plan simple: eat well, exercise, sleep, and avoid stress.
Here are a few sample assignments:
- Eat vegetables with your breakfast, because at the end of a long day when the idea of making a salad seems as monumental a task as teaching Latin to a preschooler, and you wonder if the marinara sauce on your pasta counts as a vegetable, at least it won’t be your only vegetable that day.
- Station your kids on the front porch with a timer and have them record how long it takes you to walk (or run!) around the block multiple times. Find the mean, median, and mode of your times and call it a math lesson. Extra credit if they cheer you on.
- Schedule a twenty minute power nap for that particularly stressful time of day when you begin to consider packing a lunch for your children and dropping them off at the nearest public school.
- Replace a “should” with a “want”: I should (insert an activity that stresses you out), but I want to (insert an activity that feeds your sense of self). You can’t avoid all shoulds in life, but if you’re not careful you may successfully avoid all of your wants.
- One of the greatest lessons I learned and passed on to my children is the importance of taking care of oneself. If you don’t make yourself a priority, who will? A bonus to this lesson is that others often benefit from your acts of selfishness. My selfish desire to homeschool was a selfless act of service to my children, and an inspiration for friends to choose alternative educational paths.
Families make great sacrifices of time, energy and resources in order to homeschool, but caring for yourself does not have to be part of that sacrifice. This school year, make “me time” a mandatory subject. What is good for you is also good for your children.
We often write about the cool things our kids are doing as they receive a home education — an education fueled by their passions and interests yet curated by the adults who know them best. As a parent who loves learning, I have my own ideas for what makes a great education, so while I give my children's interests a priority, I do not "unschool."
Perhaps part of the reason I don't unschool is a bit selfish. Not only are there topics (besides reading and math) that I believe every student should have a basic knowledge of — history, world religion, a foreign language, and art, just to name a few — but I want to learn more about these important topics, too. In my traditional public school education, I only skimmed the surface of some of these subjects, and others were not part of a traditional school curriculum. Now that I’m homeschooling my kids, I can give them the education I think they should have, and I can benefit from it, too.
I should note, however, that if I introduce a topic to my kids, and they moan and groan, we just skim it too. I'm not going torture them. But I feel as we link these bits together, it will someday complete a strong chain of knowledge that will enhance their lives and personal endeavors, and they may come back to it at a later date.
There are also times I introduce something to my kids, and they want more, so we dive in! This happened when I introduced space exploration and weather science to my eldest son when he was little. We have the time and flexibility to spend as much or as little time as we want on a subject, which I treasure about homeschooling.
Whether or not my kids want to learn more about a subject, I have learned that I can have my own projects! Even if they don't join me, I can keep reading, exploring, and creating. In fact, this is a crucial part of homeschooling... I should be modeling the behavior I want them to have, right? This has been a very liberating aspect of home education that I didn't realize would happen when I started.
Perhaps even more delightful are the subjects that my children have brought me to. In them, I have found some of my passions. I think these passions were always there, but they were not fully realized. My sons were the keys who opened these doors for me.
For example, when my eldest son was four I discovered that nature brought him alive. I accompanied him to several nature and science classes at our local nature center, and his shyness fell by the wayside as he hiked on the nature trails and listened to the naturalists. As for me, I fell in love with the whole atmosphere. I fell in love with science!
Science was my most dreaded class in school. (Perhaps second to P.E.) I never understood it. My teachers were horrible. As a result, I had huge misconceptions about science. And worst of all, I thought I was bad at it. But seeing science through my son's eyes, and being reintroduced to it through the nature center programs, I am hooked. I even developed a deep appreciation for snakes and amphibians through my son's first love.
Without my kids, I now read science articles, nature memoirs, and I began my Year of Citizen Science projects. I share these things with them, if I think they would be interested in them, but I consider these endeavors part of my own education that I'm pursuing while also home educating my children.
Here are some more examples of the endeavors I have started since I began homeschooling:
- My eldest son spent a long time learning about carnivorous plants when he was seven. Now he grows them, and I help him. I think they are so pretty that I'm sure I'll be cultivating these plants long after he moves out of the house.
- My younger son has a great passion for birds, and this has been contagious for the whole family. In fact, I have a little morning ritual of observing birds out my window before my boys even wake up! (And now I have this book on my wish list.)
- Through my younger son's love of drawing, I started a sketchbook habit that I hope I'll continue the rest of my life.
- Recently, I began a project all of my own. That is, no one else in the house started this interest, though they’re all reaping the benefits. I am on a mission to learn how to bake bread with natural yeast, and I’m taking it little by little as I have time.
I think more than anything, homeschooling has taught me that if I want to do or learn about something, I can do it slowly and in increments. A little bit goes a long way! Reading for 15 minutes... finding a few minutes to sketch every week or month... finding a new YouTube video about bread baking every once in a while... I don't have to accomplish my goals this week or this month.
It's about giving my interests attention on a regular basis.
I never realized that this is what it looks like to have discipline. While I was capable of finishing what was required of me when I was younger, I rarely finished those things that I wanted to do... those personal goals that no one was making me do.
Sadly, I don’t think traditional school teaches children how to have self-motivated discipline. Because kids are having to work so hard to accomplish goals set by other people, they don’t have the time or energy to explore and develop their own interests. At least, I didn’t.
But in homeschooling my own children, I have learned that real learning happens slowly. I have learned to manage my time better (because I have to!), and I have learned that I can have many projects going at once. While I try to focus on just one or two at a time so that I can make progress, it is liberating to have no deadlines. Those things we do for ourselves should be joyful and stress-free, though certainly a steady progression forward is what brings happiness and fulfillment.
Watching my children work on their interests in a slow and deliberate manner — and how they do more as their capability increases — has taught me these things. I feel extremely lucky for the education I’m receiving while homeschooling my kids!
Read more from Shelli
Sometimes in the middle of a busy homeschool life, silence is the most beautiful sound. Lisa celebrates the magic of a moment of silence.
An online quiz may not be the bedrock to base all your life choices on—but these five tests can be surprisingly revealing when it comes to illuminating your post-homeschool life. (And hey, quizzes are fun, right?)
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator :: The MBTI can tell you all kinds of cool things about yourself: how you like to learn, where you get your energy, how you make decisions, what kind of structure you prefer. (The detailed feedback in the official online version may be worth the $50 price tag, but this free online version is a good option, too.)
Career Strengths Test :: The Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation developed this series of tests for Oprah to measure specific skills, including inductive reasoning and foresight.
Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator :: A friend’s mom swears by this personality test, which tells you whether you’re a reformer, helper, achiever, individualist, investigator, loyalist, enthusiast, challenger, or peacemaker.
Pymetrics :: Play a series of games to test your cognitive and social know-how, and get a summary of your strengths and weaknesses. (The results may surprise you in a good way.)
My Next Move o-net Interest Profiler :: This U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored tool helps you identify possible career paths and clues you into opportunities along those paths that match your level of experience.
Read the rest of our "Writing Your Next Chapter" feature in the winter issue of home/school/life.
This week I took my daughter to an appointment where we happened to run into a family from her old school. The mother was always someone I could chat to in the playground, but I haven’t seen her in a long time because my kids are no longer there. As she was leaving, she said, “Lisa, I’ve hardly spoken to you! And how aaaaarrrrrreee yoooooouuuu?” She said it in such a pitying sort of way, I realized that she assumed that the everyday life of a homeschooling mother must be a truly terrible and exhausting thing.
Homeschooling is an every day choice. If we wanted to, we could sign our children up for school tomorrow. But we don’t choose that. We actually CHOSE home education because, when you scrape away the arguments and irritations of daily family life, we LOVE it as a way of learning and as a lifestyle.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some drawbacks. Dealing with those takes a little more care and consideration. Prioritizing my own wellness has been one of our greatest challenges. A letter for a routine medical test came in the post and all I needed to do was make one phone call. But who makes phone calls when there’s home education to be done? It took me over a week to deal with that letter and make that appointment.
I’ve had a sore throat this week, and really wished I could have a duvet day, snuggled in bed with a good book. But I can’t do that either. I’ve tried, but eventually find that the needs of the family draw me back and demand attention.
Making time for wellness practices has been integral to maintaining a sense of groundedness and joy in our homeschool day. We homeschooling mothers can be experts at putting our own needs last. I have found that, when I put myself last, I feel last and that eventually turns into resentment. Instead, giving myself small but significant wellness breaks throughout the day makes a bigger overall difference than handing the kids over to my husband for a day and heading out on my own (although I wouldn’t say no to that, now and then).
My tiny wellness practices are simple but meaningful. Every morning I pour myself a big glass of water before the children and I sit down to read together. When they have screen time I make a point of ignoring the chores for a time. Instead I sit on the sofa and read my book for a while. Sometimes I go out to the garage and ride the exercise bike for a quarter of an hour. First thing in the morning I try to get up at least 15-30 minutes before my husband has to leave for work and practice some Yoga and meditation in my room (sometimes alone, sometimes with the other four members of my family milling around looking for socks). I add little inexpensive treats for myself to the shopping list: a chocolate bar, cut-price flowers, a new box of pencils (Yes: geek. Guilty as charged.). I spend three or four extra minutes in the shower when I’m doing nothing but enjoying it.
We all need to feel valued and nurtured. My children don’t necessarily know how to give me that, and to some extent it’s not really their role. As an adult I have to look after my own needs. It doesn’t have to be something time-consuming or expensive, just something for me. What do you do to nurture yourself? How do you prioritize a wellness practice amongst the busyness of homeschool life?
Moms, we know how hard you work all year long. Your efforts truly make the world a better place. So, with the holiday season upon us, I’ve decided to do something different this month. Instead of bringing you my latest, greatest curriculum discoveries, I went digging for resources intended especially for you—and I think I’ve found just the thing!
Amy Bowers blogs beautifully about “creative family living” at mamascouts.blogspot.com. She is also the host of periodic online learning labs. This month, for the fourth year in a row, Amy looks forward to helping folks gear up for the season with her online resource, Holiday Lab. The primary aim of this lab is to inspire a calm, restorative holiday season and help readers find ways to be truly present to the beauty of the season.
In a letter to subscribers Amy explains, “Holiday Lab is a process (your process). A yearly reflection and meditation about tradition, creation and the shadow and light in our lives. This is not a to do list, a manifesto, or a guide book. It is an invitation and permission to carve out a tiny bit of quiet and to reclaim ownership of a season whose success and magic is often borne on the shoulders of moms and women.”
Sound good? I thought so, too! Here’s how it works. As a subscriber, you receive a lab in your inbox ten days in a row—weekdays only. As each lab is yours to keep, you can work at your own pace throughout the season.Each lab opens with an inspiring quote followed by a lovely essay written by Amy. In past years these pieces have been reflections on such themes as maintaining health, making space—both physical and mental, the value of simplifying the holidays as well as her thoughts on family traditions.
Do you journal? Is this a practice you’ve been meaning to establish forever? Get started by using Holiday Lab’s thoughtful journal prompts. Each prompt is a question inspired by Amy’s essays and will get you thinking about the way that you approach the holiday season.
The creative projects portion of each lab is great fun. Here Amy provides ideas to try with your family or, if you prefer, to do all on your own. Previous project ideas include vision boards, making ornaments and surprising someone in your community with a special handcrafted treat. Each idea nicely complements featured essays and journal prompts.
I love the recipe ideas that Amy provides in a section she calls “Soul Food.” Each looks nourishing and delicious, but also simple and straightforward—just what we need this time of the year.
A very special Holiday Lab feature is the private Facebook group Amy moderates for participants. Here members offer one another additional support and ideas to infuse the holidays with meaning and mindfulness.
Holiday Lab celebrates Christmas as a cultural tradition and is secular in its approach. Amy notes that everyone is welcome; the themes explored are “broad enough to serve any religion or ideological framework.”
In the upcoming months of homeschooling, holiday magic-making for family and friends, pause for a second and give yourself a gift. Holiday Lab starts November 30th. The cost for the lab is $30. To register, go here.
In the festive days ahead, you’ll probably find your days are especially full. Throughout this time, give yourself extra self-care. Make time for creativity, reflection and good food. Dance and laugh with friends. Drink cocoa! Make many moments to pause with your little ones and just absorb the simple beauty of the season. Happy holidays, everyone.
Before I was married, I loved to take long walks. It wasn’t just for exercise. I could relax my mind while walking. I enjoyed looking at the houses, people, trees, and anything I would pass. After we got married, my husband and I walked our dogs most evenings, and it became a daily ritual where we reconnected and talked about our day.
We continued with our baby in a stroller, yet as my son got older and could walk on his own, it was hard to go for a walk because he wanted to stop and look at every stick and rock along the way. That can be fun too, but eventually, he didn’t want to walk at all, and my younger son followed in his footsteps. I’ve gone many years without having daily walks.
It’s necessary for me to spend most of my limited free time writing, or I wouldn’t get anything done. But writing is very sedentary, and as I get older, it’s pretty clear that I could use the exercise too. But I’ve put off trying to make walking a habit again. When? I thought. And how do I do it so that it doesn’t disrupt everyone else’s routine? Because no one in this house makes extra time for Mama, except Mama.
Recently it occurred to me that now that my boys are almost nine- and almost six-years-old, they are both much more independent and able to occupy themselves for a while. So I should be able to figure out a way to make walking part of my daily routine, right? Well, it wasn’t easy, and it’s still not easy. But I found a time that I try to walk on most days, and I found a way to get the boys to join me sometimes too.
One night after dinner, I left the dishes in the sink, and I said I was going for a walk. I asked the boys if they wanted to go with me. They said no, but that was okay because daddy was home, and they could play awhile before bath time.
The next night, I invited them again. Wanting to spend time with me, my five-year-old decided to come with me. Another night, the eight-year-old came with me. The night after that, they both came. Finally, I said, I’m going to try to walk every night after dinner. You’re always invited, but you don’t have to go, if you don’t want to. However, if daddy is not at home, you have to go because I can’t leave you at the house by yourself.
Giving them a choice has made all the difference. That little caveat about having to go, if daddy isn’t here, doesn’t seem to bother them too much since they understand the reason behind it. (They are still young enough to not want to be left at home alone.)
I also give them choices when we’re out walking. Which way do you want to go? If you’re tired, we’ll head back home. I don’t try to get a power walk when I’m walking with the boys, and I don’t care about distance. I let them meander, and I enjoy spending time with them and being outside, moving my body. In my mind, I’m establishing a habit. As the boys get older, as they leave the house, I’ll have a routine. I’ll have my exercise time.... At least, I can hope!
A surprising byproduct occurred by establishing this walking routine: I have given the boys an opportunity to act like a grown-up and decide how they are going to spend their time. Not that they didn’t do what they wanted to before, but now it’s an intentional act because we all stop to think about it each evening. They know they have the option for some Mommy-time. Only now, I don’t feel so dragged down about it. I am usually tired by this time of day, and I’m not in the mood to play or look up answers to questions on the Internet. Now I’m able to do something for myself while also offering something to them.
“Hmmm. I want to take a bath,” the five-year-old might decide.
“I want to water the garden,” the eight-year-old might say.
“I’ll walk with you, Mommy,” one or both of them might say.
My five-year-old likes walking with me, and I think the biggest motivating factor is looking for feathers. (Tip: If you make your walk sound more like a mission to search for something interesting, it appeals to little kids.) He collects feathers, and he’s discovered that if he goes walking, he sometimes finds one. Sometimes we find two! You’d be surprised at how many feathers you can find, if you just start looking.
My eight-year-old is also opting to walk with us frequently. He likes looking for snakes, rocks and feathers. But sometimes he decides to stay home and practice his piano, water the garden, or just play.
It’s exciting to me to see the boys make their own decisions. It feels good when they decide they want to walk with me – an activity that has been so important in my life. I’m not only creating a new ritual, I’m creating memories.
How do you work exercise or self-care in to your busy schedule?
If you’re planning to return to work when your homeschooling days are done, now—right now—is the time to start getting ready for career reentry
It’s the thing we all dread: That moment in the future, in two years or ten years or twenty years, when we have to sit down in front of a computer and try to figure out how to fit a decade-plus of homeschooling into our resume.
Whatever your reasons for returning to the world of work, you couldn’t have picked a less hospitable time. Moms returning to the workforce have never had it easy—a Cornell University study found that just being a mom makes you half as likely to get called for an interview than your single peers. And now, with the economic downturn and high levels of unemployment, you’re going to be competing for jobs with other unemployed people who have more current experience than you do. How, then, can a mama with a hefty, homeschool-size gap in her resume, track down a gig in this competitive climate? The key is to start preparing for your job hunt right now, well before you’re actually in the market for a new job. Homeschooling has probably helped you hone and develop all kinds of new skills, but you will have to help companies understand your value—and to do that, you’ll need to speak a language that they understand. Here’s how to set the wheels in motion for your return to the working world.
Revisit your options. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, consider whether the work you left is the work you want to return to. The degree you earned two decades ago may no longer be the right fit, and making the switch to a career you’re genuinely excited about can be liberating. Not sure where your career passions lie? Think about what people always compliment you on, suggests Whitney Johnson, author of Dare, Dream, Do.
Plug back in to your field. Knowing the buzz on issues and current players in your field keeps you from seeming like an out-of-touch, out-of-the- game applicant. make a point to get back up to speed by subscribing to a major newspaper, such as The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, and any go-to journals in your field.
Reconnect to your professional network. Ideally, you’d still be in touch with old bosses and coworkers, but realistically, you’ve probably been too swamped to even think about people you once worked with. That’s okay. you can start rebuilding your network now by reaching out to old work connections (Linkedin is great for this) and considering who your new connections might be: the photographer who shoots your co-op yearbook? The marketing director at the animal shelter where you volunteer? Establish your new network, and make a point of reaching out to the people in it every few months. When you’re ready to start job-hunting, your network will already be in place.
Make the most of volunteer time. Volunteer work works for your resume. so be strategic with volunteer efforts, and look for opportunities that will grow your resume in the direction you want it to go—whether you’re writing a monthly newsletter, soliciting community donations, or planning a donor party, community service can boost your resume with current skills.
On Tuesday I mentioned to a friend that I’d gone back to a new-to-me writers group on the previous night. She smiled broadly and said, “Congratulations!”
The word, “congratulations,” normally reserved for engagements, wedding anniversaries, promotions and the arrival of a new baby, might seem inappropriate in this situation. But you and I both know that I deserved that congratulations from my friend. She, a seasoned mother of five children and a fellow home educator, knows that it can take a military-style operation to get out of the house alone. She would also know that it takes a huge amount of bravery and derring-do to step outside one’s comfort zone and go into a new situation, especially when you half expect that there are toddler-snot trails on your shoulder and your most recent conversations center around the prize in a Kinder egg, rather than the latest literary prize.
The first time I went to the group, I changed into my pajamas, lay down with my youngest child (as usual) and waited for him to go to sleep. Then I got up, re-dressed into my jeans and fleece pullover, and drove across town to the group. If my son had known I was going, I doubt he would have gone to sleep. There would have been too many questions, tears about unmet expectations, and his need, ever-present need, for me.
The next morning we talked about it, and it turns out he’s okay with my going out to the group. The next Monday I gave him a kiss goodbye and walked out the door, and his dad lay down with him instead. That was the day I got caught in construction traffic, then drove round and round the patchwork of streets near the group’s venue, couldn’t find parking and after 45 minutes drove home. On the downside, I didn’t get to go to the group. On the upside, 45 minutes alone was rather a novelty.
(As an aside, did you know there are programs on the radio that are specifically aimed at adults? Yeah, crazy. Oddly, none of them feature “The Wheels on the Bus.”)
This week, I made it to the group, struck up a conversation with the person sitting beside me, and even shared something I wrote without running panic-stricken from the room. On reflection, I realize that I struggled to make eye contact with my fellow writers because for me, writing can be like a dirty little secret—something I do alone and rarely discuss with others. Talking about it somehow feels like uttering a profanity. It’s just not the done thing. Certainly not in mixed company.
I suspect that going to the group is going to be good for me, even if it does take a lot of organization and effort to get there. It’s stretching my skills and taking me out of my comfort zone. It helped me realize that maybe my son is ready to be left with his dad and have a change of routine now and again. It’s reminded me that I am an adult with many gifts and roles: mother and home educator being only two. And it’s reminded me what it’s like to be a learner again.
So when you congratulate me, I’ll say just smile and say, “thanks.” Because we both know there’s a lot more to it than just going to writers group.
I don't know about you, but I often torment myself thinking that I need to do more. How can the days pass so quickly, yet in a whole week, very little gets checked off my to do list? I add more to it than I can possibly accomplish in a given day.
I have learned that having children stifles the kind of productivity I was used to achieving before I had them. But is that really true? Sure, I used to be able to run in and out of stores in a jiffy. I was able to write without interruption. I could exercise!
But when I really think about it, I accomplish so much more now than I ever did before I had children. While they were infants and toddlers this wasn't true, but over the years, having less time has taught me how to manage my time much more wisely. I have also gotten better at sorting priorities, and, truthfully, I have changed my dreams to more realistic goals for myself.
At one time, I had youthful dreams of stardom. But my children have taught me that this environment that I thought I was creating for them—this environment where learning and making and being creative is part of our daily life—is actually what makes me happy. All that time I thought that happiness would come once I reached my goals, but no, happiness can be found in our daily choices. How do you want to live? What do you want to do? DO IT.
But how do I get anything done with children? Well, in two ways. The first one is to work alongside them on whatever I can. As I follow along in their interests, I have found so many ways to be creative as I support their endeavors. I am expanding my own mind as I learn with them. I have made time for art, literature, science, nature exploration, and social activities. It doesn’t all happen in one day or even one week, but little by little, as each year passes, we delve into each of these subjects, and if I don’t get too stuck on what we’re supposed to do, these things make for a very fulfilling, life-long-learning kind of life.
There are things I want to accomplish that I can’t do with my children, and for these things, I have learned to be patient with myself. I do a little bit at a time. I let go of perfection and outcome. I watch my work build up over months instead of days. As Karen Lamb said, “A year from now you may wish you had started today.” You would be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you work diligently just a few minutes per day.
I also try to remain flexible about what I ultimately want to accomplish, but I continue striving because I know it’s important for my well-being. And it’s important for my children to watch their mom be more than a mom.
In some ways, a slow, meandering life with children is more conducive to reaching practical goals. It makes me shake off the meaningless junk and see more clearly about what is important to me. But only if I let it. Not tormenting myself about what-I-want-to-do-but-can’t-right-now is a daily practice, but I’ve gotten better at it over time.
How do you accomplish your goals while rearing children and homeschooling?
For my debut entry at the home/school/life Magazine blog, I thought I’d write about one of those happy side-effects of thirteen (or so) years of unschooling three kids. I call this side-effect: Unschooled Mom Friends.
This past week, you see, I drove to a playdate… alone.
It was the same highway that has been host to hundreds of games of I Spy With My Little Eye and a maybe a dozen versions each of 20 questions, the alphabet game, and can-you-rhyme that once kept my children entertained for the hour-long ride to the at-least-once-weekly playdates with our eclectic mix of homeschool friends. It was the same highway, but without the backseat full of chatter and kid/DJ riding shotgun, customizing song selections to set the mood for the day.
Our Mom-gatherings started as Mom’s Night Out, an occasion to dine together without anyone having to worry about house or kitchen clean-up. For several years, we called our meetings Book Club. We were even studious, intentionally broadening our horizons by occasionally reading books.
Playdates evolved. The kids did what kids grow to do. They went from trampolines and skateboards to driving around in cars. Some got jobs, joined clubs, tried out school, got girlfriends/boyfriends, suffered broken hearts…
With kids in tow, and sometimes without, we moms continued to gather as schedules allowed. Where we once assured each other over late readers and screen time, we continued to assure each other over our children’s relationship developments and first apartments.
Get-togethers without the kids began as our way of helping each other remember that the job of being Mom, while big, was not all-encompassing. We still needed to make time for ourselves, once in a while, and in doing it together, we gained experiences and explored and socialized, much like our kids.
The kids who once filled our houses and backyards when we gathered, or wandered off on park trails for hours at a time, got busy with their own lives, and my Unschool Mom Friends and I… we made a conscious decision, at some point, to keep getting together regardless of kid schedules, because we still had so much to learn from one another.
New friends for myself was not a perk I expected when I started on this journey so many years ago, but it’s one I would encourage every mom who makes a commitment to homeschooling to look for. Make sure you take some time to make friends with parents who are embarking on similar journeys. They will make you stronger, over time. They will help lift you when you are down. They will give you words you need to hear when you are at a loss for comforting your child, your teen, your young adult.
Your kids will refer to you collectively as “The Moms” and you will appreciate having adults in the lives of your children who understand the kind of investment and choices you are making as a family.
Yes, you are doing this for your children, but you are growing in your own right, as well.