Teaching our kids is a full-time job. No matter what methodology you follow in your homeschool – it takes time, effort, focus, and work. There are a million things needed to make the experience work. Considering how important a priority this learning process is to homeschoolers, it easily can become a big stress and permeate deep into our every day lives. How can we not let homeschooling consume every thought, feeling, moment, and emotion?
Homeschooling involves a lot of parts: research, planning, prepping, buying/selling, teaching, evaluating, etc. All of these parts together can take up a lot of your time. Too much of your time, maybe. If you have multiple kids, you need to multiply the time and energy needed by that number. It’s easy to get caught in this perpetual hampster wheel of never ending thinking about homeschooling. We wonder what curriculum is best, how our child did on their math work today, if there’s a field-trip experience we can tie into our lessons right now, what educational computer games or tv shows there are, how to schedule our plans for the year so we can take a break at Christmas, checking to see if we are on that schedule, sorting through the bookshelves to see what we have, stalking the library for the next book in our read-aloud series, researching for a different curriculum than we’ve been using because we are having a horrible time with it, sifting through book sales or websites for the best deals, reading blogs and searching through Pinterest to see how other families are tackling their homeschooling journey, etc., etc., etc. It’s a never ending stream.
But if homeschooling becomes your main or only focus, as with anything on our priority list, other things get missed. We will become blind to the fact that we’ve forgotten to enjoy time together as a family with no educational intention. We will ignore our own self-care needs. We cannot let our role as teaching parent supersede our role as parent, spouse, or friend. It’s just one of our hats, not our only hat.
We too often let our homeschooling experience be lead by fear. Fear that we are failing our children. Fear of judgement. Fear of comparison and of our own insecurities. This can quickly lead us to being obsessed to succeed, perform, and stress to accomplish goals that are unrealistic for our kids.
Here are some ways we can avoid the overwhelm of balancing homeschooling.
- Flexibility within the Plan.
Plans are great. They really are. Having an idea of what you want to do when in your lessons is a terrific way to make sure you reach the educational needs and goals that you want to see accomplished by the end of the year. But if that plan is so structured and rigid and unadaptable that is it causing you stress, fighting, feelings of failure, and pressure to perform…. not good.
Someone once told me to plan in pencil. That way you can change it, erase it, or get rid of it all together. Pen is too formal. It’s unmovable.
Add space in your plan to allow flexibility and fluidity. Allow things to flow naturally and take the pressure off yourself and your child.
- Be willing to let go.
Whether it’s a rough day, knowing that you won’t get through the full year of your plans, or the kids hate the curriculum you’ve chosen …. you need to be willing to let it go. It’s ok to give up. Close the books for the day, get outside for summer, pick something new. Trying to force things just makes it worse. It will stress both you and your children out.
- Take breaks.
Intentionally take breaks. Not just for the kids, but for you! Some people like a long summer vacation. Others like to school for 6 weeks then take a week off. Others like to do school 4 days a week and take long weekends.
Try to purposefully avoid using that break to plan anything prep anything, or focus on learning. Give yourself permission to take time off.
- Meet your child’s needs, not the book’s needs.
There is this weird conundrum as a homeschooler. We invest a lot of time and money into it and when it’s not working it can be hard to give that up. If the book says that today you are supposed to do xyz, but your child isn’t ready for that yet, or they are refusing to work, or they just can’t get the concepts presented….. stop. Follow your child, not the book. Trying to figure out HOW to make the system work when it isn’t can really suck you into a place of frustration and irritation. It’s much less stressful to go with the needs of your child.
- Re-evaluate what you are doing.
Instead of obsessing all the time about how things are going, take scheduled time periods (whether that be weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, or all of the above) to look over what you’ve been doing, seeing how well it’s working for your child and for you, how “on task” you are, and if you still love what you are learning. Make changes as needed.
- You don’t have to be a teacher. You are not always on duty.
Even if you are a firm believer that you are always learning, you don’t have to be the teacher 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is more to you than just being the one in charge of your child’s education. First of all, remember you aren’t a “teacher.” Unless required by the regulations of where you live, you don’t HAVE to do things like stand in front of a blackboard giving lectures, rubrics, testing, evaluations, grading work, report cards…. these aren’t obligatory. Don’t give yourself more work than needed. Consider yourself more of a facilitator than a teacher. Lead your children to learning for themselves. Also, when “school” ends for the day – take your teacher hat off.
Find a system that works best for you to make school easy and successful. For me, it ended up planning out my whole year in advance. Trying to wing it ended up with us doing…. not much with our school seasons and left me feeling like we were failing in our attempts to homeschool. Some people love having everything come in an open and go package for the year.
Finding ways to let your kids be independent are helpful as that takes the pressure off you to be on top of every child all day. Get in a routine each day so they know what to expect when. The Keep It Simple, Silly principle is a great one to apply to ourselves as we homeschool. Don’t make things overly complicated.
The most important piece to not letting homeschool overwhelm you is to trust. Trust yourself and the choices you are making for your child’s education. Trust your plan. Trust that your kids are going to learn, even if things aren’t perfect. Trust that you have made the right decisions in your curriculum and allow yourself the grace to change it if needed. Trust that this journey is going to be right and so much will be lifted off your shoulders.
Want more tips on how to better handle the different parts of your busy life? Check out the other posts in this 10 day series: Homeschooling & The Myth of Balance.