family life / homeschooling / parenting

homeschool mama self-care: how to find quiet, build boundaries & handle overwhelm

You’ve got a few voices buzzing around you if you’re a homeschool mama. All day, every day. They’re sing songy voices, chirpy voices, sweet voices, whining voices, barking voices, grunting voices: depends on the age, stage and mood. But there’s always voices.

You went into this homeschool thing because you love these voices. You love hearing their made-up stories, their nighttime dream recounting, their Lego plans, their Barbie’s tales, their frustrations with friends, their plans for the future. You want to hear their voices.

But you need a little quiet. Some days you know that. Some days you don’t. The years will tell you.

Boundaries. We love these voices, but we need separateness too. Either we need to take activities off the list, set boundaries so others can learn our needs, or we have to sell a kid. Three options.

One of those options is illegal. The other two are doable, if only you have perspective and a plan.

One of the biggest hurdles to our peace of mind is learning how to exist together. (A common reason parents share why they wouldn’t want to homeschool). Every parent needs to learn how to exist with their kids. Not every parent is present for their child’s twenty four hour day.

We need to learn to exist with these different-than-us kids, these sometimes frontal-lobe-challenged kids, these always-needing-something kids.

How to find quiet, build boundaries and handle overwhelm:

  • Time alone. Frankly, whether you see it or not, you need time alone. If you’re in your first six months of homeschooling, you may not identify that, yet. Just like the wedding honeymoon, there’s a homeschool honeymoon. For some, it is much longer than six months; for some it’s much shorter. Whatever the amount of time it takes, we come to understand that homeschooling isn’t family utopia, and it is most definitely challenging to find alone time. Alone time, scheduled, in a different location than the kiddos, not just a different room. No child in sightlines or yelling range. Quiet facilitates perspective. Separateness facilitates desire to be together again.
  • You need your own thing. Whatever it is, it needs to be an ‘all about you’ thing. Whether it’s a knitting club, a cycling group, a home-based business, a reading checklist, or a full-fledged career, you got to remember to do you. My first two homeschool years, I sat in Starbucks with a latte and a journal and I wrote. That writing practice has built and built until I have now self-identified as a writer. The home designing, homestead building, bed n breakfast organizing elements of my life squeezed in there too. If you’re not energized, you’re surviving, and definitely not thriving.
  • Value Quiet. In my observation, the longer a family homeschools, the quieter the children become. I don’t believe this is just because those children are maturing, but rather that parents need separate thinking space and awareness that quietness only happens when you build boundaries toward it. We need our own mental space as we commune in our families. This is challenging no matter how hard we try: to enact boundaries on noise. It’s a slow process that enables our kids to focus in their work and in their play. They learn to be attentive to friends and non-parental leaders. And they learn to be more empathetic because they listen better.
  • Daily separateness practice. Head into your room with a cup of morning coffee and read an inspiring word or two. Early on, when they’re little, they won’t believe that a closed door means you’re unavailable. So when they peak their little noses into the doorway, you can ask in your most surprised tone, “Is the house on fire?” Apparently, the house isn’t on fire and they back out of the doorway. If you’re routinely addressing their needs and listening to their little voices, then practice sitting in your house clothes for just a little while longer. (It’s not just the home educated kiddos that have a hard time getting out of pajamas. Home educated mamas have five sets too.)
  • Recognize overwhelm. Learn to recognize overwhelm in yourself. Sit with your feelings more. Observe your interior. Recognize what the feelings are under the iceberg of frustrated feelings. Accept your feelings despite their uncomfortableness. Honour those feelings. Attend to them like young children. Recognize that your feelings pass like weather systems. And recognize the underlying needs of those feelings. With kindness and continual efforts, we learn what we need. Some days those lessons need to be learned and relearned. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  • Enmeshment. Recognize that our children’s struggles are not ours. We were meant to participate in helping to unravel struggles they may have. We are here to offer tools and be a listening ear. But those struggles aren’t ours. Though they are our children, they are not us.

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