I am so honored to have been invited to do a homeschool mom feature on the Homegrown Adventures blog – I am so inspired by that mama on a weekly basis! While I work on completing the interview questions Irina sent me, one in particular really stood out.
Her question that really got me thinking, and I want to write about it today…”How do you do it all?”
My answer is…I don’t.
Number 1: My husband is incredibly supportive of the homeschool journey. Although he isn’t doing any instruction (yet!), he gets the value of what we are providing our children, as well as the importance of activities outside of our home. He makes it possible for us to offer our children individualized instruction, while also providing them with the opportunity to interact with larger peer groups.
Number 2: We are blessed with outside help. The only thing I really have to do in our school day is teach our children. We have ladies that come in 4x/week for a few hours to help with the housework and meals. The days they are not at our home, our Sweet Peas are old enough to help out now. They take turns helping to prepare meals and clean the kitchen, and we have a chore system that works when we use it – LOL.
Number 3: My daily priorities are flexible, and evolving!! This has been a learning curve for me – actually relinquishing the standard of “doing it all” and taking more of a “wait and see” attitude. My “all” meant that I tried to instruct our children and do every activity every day, keep up with all the groups I was in, establish myself as a blogger, and also take the lead in event organization…it was too much. Crazy Mama was showing up far too often. Suffice it to say I do not like her. She yells too much and she forgets that the people in front of her are children. She is also a very short-tempered wife – none of us like her very much.
Once I adjusted my expectations, Peaceful Mama was free to show up and remain present. I took a day to myself to make a list of what was really important to me. No surprise: my family came out on top.
As far as the school day, I had to decide what my absolutes were…what did I **have** to get done every day in order for our children to progress in their learning and growth? And then, what was the fluff…the subjects that are nice to have in our schedule, yet no one is going to fall completely behind if we do not do not complete them every day? And, beyond that, recognizing that we homeschool…so we can be flexible. If it didn’t get done today, we can catch up later in the week.
The best thing I learned to do a few years ago was to plan “catch-up” weeks into the year. I also schedule “reading weeks” every five weeks. A “reading week” means that all our children have to do is keep up the math and reading schedule…everything else takes a break. It is nice to have a week with less pressure and more playtime – it helps keep the focus consistent throughout the whole year, instead of taking 2-3 week breaks because we are all brain-fried, and then taking another week or so to ramp back up to our full schedule. Our consistency has been hugely improved since I adjusted my expectations for our school days.
What about the rest of the day? Ideally, schooling is only 6 hours per day for the five children I homeschool. Sleeping, so that I can make room for Peaceful Mama, is my top priority. Next, I try to prepare our school day before our Sweet Peas wake up. If we can start early, we finish early. They get to play and I can take care of emails and writing/editing during the day so that I am not up late at night.
The third part of that was figuring out that I don’t have what it takes to be a top blogger. I am not willing to “bleed on the page”, so to speak, and reveal all my dirty secrets and/or private life on the internet, I don’t have the time or energy to court sponsors and deal with the paperwork/taxes, nor will I spend the time it takes to interact with a large audience because our children hate it when I am on the phone or computer instead of interacting with them. Besides, it’s part of practicing what I preach. If I am limiting them to two hours a day of screen time, then during their waking hours, I want to hold myself to the same standards. Releasing that freed me from the pressure of “I have to post daily”. So what if I miss a day when I usually post?? No one is going to complain about it…so no big deal.
And finally, I made the decision to step back from so many birth groups. I have the desire to be at every meeting every month, and attend groups in other areas so that I can stay connected and be a force for change in the birth community. I had to come to terms with stepping back…realizing and accepting that the world is not going to end if I missed a meeting. Yes, I do miss seeing some of my favorite people. However, being present for our children is my strongest desire: they are only in our homes for such a short period when you consider the length of a lifetime.
I stopped attending one group altogether, and adjusted my expectations so that I didn’t fret about missing a meeting here or there. What a huge relief it was to focus on attending only two consistently, and then leave the others to a “wait and see” outcome. If all the stars line up for me to attend, I go…if not, then I don’t and I enjoy the time with our Sweet Peas.
Since our children are onto a new season of greater independence, I am able to do volunteer work again. They attend classes for two-hour stretches; they don’t particularly care if I am sitting outside the door waiting for them. Their father is able to do it, so he does. Doing volunteer work fills my cup just as much as attending birth-related groups, and I can do that without the Sweet Peas feeling like I am cheating them on time when I go out at night.
Now comes the task of compacting all of these sentiments into a shorter answer for Irina’s blog feature. For today, I figured that writing it out and sharing my journey with our crew of faithful readers was a good first step to finding a shorter answer.
I do want to take a minute to thank all of you that are regular readers. It has happened a couple of times…just when I think about giving it all up, one of you will send me an email that encourages me…so here I am – still – three years later for our family blog. I appreciate those of you that take the time to read and interact…it’s great to know I am not writing into the great void. Thank you.