homeschooling / organize life while homeschooling

a homeschool interview: podcaster & author Rowan Atkinson

Tell me about your family.

My husband Chris and I have four children: three girls and one boy.  They are currently 23, 21, 18 and 16. I homeschooled the girls to the end of grade 11 and our son to the end of grade 8. He’s currently thriving at a small private high school. It’s been strange for me to graduate from being a homeschooler, but I think it becomes part of your identity that, once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler.  Our kids feel the same way about it.  I’m a second-generation homeschooler and found out that my grandmother was homeschooled by my great-grandmother, and both of my parents were taught to read and write by their mothers before going to school.

You’ve worked during homeschool, what did you do?

My husband works for a small non-profit organization, so I have had to supplement our income (and sometimes be the main breadwinner) over the years in order to pay the bills. Sometimes being a helper doesn’t just mean being a stay-at-home mom, but it can mean helping in whatever way is needed.  I have done home day care. (My mom ran a daycare for seventeen years when she was homeschooling my siblings.) I have done tutoring and Tupperware in the evenings. I’ve done respite care for autistic children and had a cleaning business. I currently own two laundromats and a dry cleaning depot. Being a homeschooler who prioritized being home with the children as much as possible has actually caused me to become an entrepreneur.

How challenging was that to balance?

I would say that homeschooling is challenging already, and motherhood and breadwinning are challenging too. Combining both was really challenging to balance, especially adding in volunteering. I’ve really had to learn to manage time and priorities, and even change my educating style because of how busy it could be. I also had to be okay with not having the house the way I wanted all the time. While all moms struggle with guilt or feeling like they are not doing a good job, in this situation it’s really easy to feel like you’re not doing anything well. But, the kids have proven to be quite successful in their endeavors despite how I felt I was doing. So I want to encourage others that it’s going to be okay. Learning to learn is more important than any specific fact.

What are you working on these days?

I’m on the board of my son’s school, and last week I got to teach his civics class and also speak at the school chapel, so I’m pretty involved. I’m guiding my third daughter in some social media marketing training. I lead the women’s ministry at my church, and I sit on the board of our federal riding association. I still have the laundromats, so that’s my “day job” but what I’m really passionate about is my new podcast for Canadian homeschoolers and the things I’m creating. I only wish I could devote more time to it! I’m working on the finishing touches of a book called Enough Already! Real Help for Homeschool Burnout, Freak Out and Zone Out that I hope will help and encourage homeschoolers that it’s going to be okay!

Tell us about your Canadian History curriculum.

Headphone History is a passion project that I have been creating for Canadian homeschoolers. It’s an audio history of Canada with stories and legends woven throughout. There’s a companion workbook versatile and reproducible for your whole family.  I studied history in university and have found, over the years, that many Canadians don’t know much about their own history and that moms don’t feel confident teaching it, either.  In our home, we loved ‘The Story of the World’ and other audio histories.  This is similar, but Canadian. Volume 1 is done and soon I will be working on Volume 2. It’s great for the kids to listen to in the van on the way to piano lessons, and helps busy moms with multitasking.

What homeschool mama self-care strategies do you suggest?

I could tell you to go take a bubble bath but I really think it comes down to your mindset: how you see the importance of your role and whether you are sacrificing your very identity for the children or if you have a more balanced view. We need to look after ourselves and not neglect ourselves for the sake of our children. Eventually, they will be gone and then who will we be? So, I would encourage moms to take stock of their perceptions of their role, how they are managing false guilt, and the degree to which the kids are actually running things instead of the parents being intentional.

Where can we find you?

If you want some encouragement and free resources, go to Canada Homeschools which is my podcast website. 

I have a lovely little newsletter with tips and encouragement for you titled ‘The Pod’. 

Headphonehistory.com is the site for the Canadian audio history.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to share.

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