Homeschooling and Living the Balanced Life=an Oxymoron???
Lots of juggling. Lots of interruptions. Lots of squirmishes. Too busy, they say. Hard to argue. There’s not a lot of hours in the day unaccounted for.
I certainly get a generous share of the kid’s struggles, arguments, ‘discussions’. If I could delete this out of our daily life, I really would, but turns out these ‘interruptions’ are part of the learning.
There is also a generous share of regular study subjects we engage in each day: math, writing, Latin and French, current affairs and history, geography and science, spelling and grammar; so there’s that juggling too (and loads of planning and organizing for it of course). I may be found in sweat pants and a tshirt at 3 in the afternoon for a reason.
Yet, I aspire for balance. Balance between activity and rest. Balance between my needs and their needs. Balance between noise and quiet.
Ummm, balance you ask? For real? How does that actually happen?
a. Purposefully include my stuff in my day. AKA the stuff I like to do that’s separate from the kids. In fifteen minute snippets, if that’s all I can imagine doing uninterrupted, but I include that stuff every day. Why do this? (I’ve got enough to do already): because I want to, because I get to work toward a project outside my regularly scheduled program, because it’s developing me. The longer we’ve lived the homeschool lifestyle, the more my interests have implanted in our daily life.
For me, that includes…
- Writing (in this present hour as I write this blog). The hour after lunch, where the kiddos sit in the Great Room with me and enjoy their assigned reading, while I sip a cup of tea and write, or read about writing, or think about what I’ll write next.
- Reading. A chapter a day of something fiction. Usually in the evenings before I would naturally migrate toward late night monologues.
- Reading again. Inspirational stuff, and classical music history, and art history, and parenting stuff. In the mornings, with a cup of coffee, in my writing room with the sun blasting down on me.
- Reading after lunch. Ideas on Pinterest for study ideas, gardening, landscape design, writing ideas, cooking, home décor, clever quotes, and crafts that I’ll likely never do.
- Okay, so yes, a lot of reading.
- An uninterruptable morning routine (hahaha, I attempt uninterruptable anyway). Coffee with my morning readings (see #3). I kiss the kids and ask about their dreams. Then I do a yoga and meditation routine. Then I’m ready to get the study day started.
- Physical activity. We all have to be intentional about exercise. So. many. activities. Basketball 21, hiking, tennis, canoeing, elliptical, kicking the soccer ball with my lil guy, gardening.
- Cooking. Just kidding. I like cooking but I get my fair share even when every child has cooked a dinner meal each week. Seventeen years x three meals a day…
- Visits. I often get to visit with friends and my children’s friends at the same time. Fun! And funny how we all like similar people. I can pretty much guarantee that the parents of the kids my kids deeply connect with usually become my friends.
b. Stuff I do for them..
- Teach them to cook dinner. Some of my kiddos are more motivated than others, but everyone can make a meal. Could be bean chili and cornbread, or coq au vin. They love the creative exploration. And you, mama, will have more time. You just have to let go of your clean obsessive ways, assume that they can also learn to clean up, and you are golden…so much more time.
- Teach them to clean. Once a week, everyone can participate in this necessary activity. And everyone will be mighty happy with the results, and maybe even consider the messes they make might require more of their effort (ok, no, just threw that in their to increase my word count).
- Teach them how to deal with their sibling conflicts. So. Much. Time. consumed if you’re trying to manage every tidbit of their frustrations. Give them tools. Let them come to you to talk through struggles if they really don’t know how to deal with something.
- Here’s a big one: lower your mama standards. Yes, this one is a daily practice for me. It goes against my grain like boiled vegetables on a kids’ plate. Must. Eat. My. Veggies. or Must. Not. Expect. Perfection. Really really hard for me. But when you see the fruit of this effort, it is hard not to see the benefits: happiness, peace, happiness, peace, happiness, more peace. Really, what’s not to love?
- Yet, impassionately, up the standards for the kids. No you really cannot insult your sister without consequence. No you really must put away your laundry neatly. You really need to be ready to get out the door at a certain time if we are going somewhere. There’s no counting to three; I meant what I said the first time. But I add the word impassionately. Insisting on these standards without rising in frustration. Yup, a daily practice for me, but the efforts expended are worth every effort.
- Make sure there’s lots of activities outside the home to engage their attention and curiosity. Give them lots of attention in ways that mean something to them ie: listening to their plans to create instructions for a new game, show you their recent DIY bedroom crafts or do candlelight yoga together at their request. But make sure they know how to engage in quiet activities regularly and independently too.
- When you make a mistake, stop wasting time shaming yourself. You overreacted, or underreacted, or didn’t choose the right reaction. Think about it. Or if you’re too frustrated in the moment, decide to think about it later. Come up with a plan. But move on. No use wasting time being frustrated about your bad choice either.
c. Stuff that’s non-negotiable in the enacting all these things…
- Assume your kids need to listen to you. And abide by you.
- Expect that they won’t listen to you sometimes. And have a contingency plan.
- Make it easier on yourself: let go of the emotional reaction to their ‘not listening’ ways. They’ll come to understand they need to abide by you faster when you don’t mix your frustrations with their frustrations.
- Assume that their needs are as important as yours.
- Assume that there are more needs to meet than just your kids. You are a major character in your family play.
These are some ways I ensure balance in my day-to-day. What would you add?