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.
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?
“Do your kids get the summer off?”
It’s another one of those questions I get when people learn that our kids don’t go to school. I’ve still not mastered the answer. The question they are asking, of course, comes from the realm of traditional public schooling. What they really want to know is: Do your kids get to spend the summer running wild and free? Do they drive you crazy with all their summer-time needs and wants? Do they get a break from all that learning? Do you look forward to your time with them all summer long, or do you long for the structured days of school again? If your summer break isn’t really a break… how do you cope?
This time, the answer came out something like this.
Well, they are teenagers for one. I mean, they are pretty self-sufficient at this point. They “do” in the summer pretty much what they “do” the rest of the year-round. I see my job as staying in touch, trying to keep up, helping them look down the road a bit to make sure they are accomplishing what they need to accomplish now in order to be in a place they want to be down the road. It’s an ongoing conversation, just as it is the rest of the year. Routines may change, but we don’t take a break from eating, drinking, sleeping, or breathing just because a new season is here.
I talked about some of the projects the kids are currently working on. The 4-H fair is right around the corner. I’ve come to think of these summer months as a season of finishing things… or of deciding which of their projects are deserving of a finish. My daughter—my seamstress—has been meeting with a younger club member, helping him on a sewing project. She made a jacket to go with her formal dress last week. She’s tweaking a pattern for an upcoming project. She’s got the old bed sheets out, working on a draft before she tackles the final project. My role in this has been as a brainstorming partner. What if I split the pattern here? Of these two patterns, which do you like best? (I picked, she went with the other one.)
My son has already gone to and returned from his one and only summer camp this year. He’s working on a voting simulation class that he will lead at a local day camp soon; he’s working on ideas for getting 7- to 11 year-olds excited about their future in the democratic process. He took over his oldest sister’s babysitting job this summer, he continues to ride his bike to get around town, and he recently switched from studying Italian to German. He’s making plans to travel to Germany and I’m feeling a bit behind on the news. I’m sometimes tempted to tell him he’s not allowed to leave home without me, but somehow I don’t think he’ll fall for it.
Three of us are reading the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, joined by a fourth, my oldest, about half the time. Though it is harder to find the time for it, this much has not changed—I love listening to the voices of my children. I enjoy the discussion that springs from our together-reading.
As a family, we are working our way (again) through the Hobbit movies, and we’ve just switched our online viewing service from Hulu to Netflix, so I imagine a few series marathons are in our future.
Both girls are studying near-daily with their dad, in preparation for a math class they plan to take in the fall. The oldest will be entering her second year of college. She is working on an essay today, as part of the application to enter the honors college this fall. For the middle one, it will be her first class on campus, her first traditional classroom experience.
We’ve got a friend’s wedding on the calendar this summer. We are still trying to work in a few road trips to visit with distant friends. All three kids are quick to help me out at the farmers market when I need it.
It’s summertime, and things are much the same as they are any time of year. I don’t think my kids consider themselves “off” for the summer. I don’t think they consider themselves on, either though. They are just living, day-by-day, as we all should be.