Deciding to home school your child is a real commitment. After the worries of curriculum, lesson plans and discipline fade, you might find yourself wondering how to separate the parent from the teacher in life – and more than anything how to magically create more time in your day to do all the things you need and want to do.
Being a home-schooling parent is a choice that is as rewarding as it is challenging. You might also have other commitments, like a part-time, work-from-home job, that you need to do to pay the bills. If that work is not what feeds your soul – blogging for pleasure, writing a novel, painting or sculpting, for example, then you will somehow need to find the time to recharge and rejuvenate yourself.
Because, let’s be honest, running yourself into the ground does no one any favours – not you, and not your family. You will end up exhausted and burnt-out, maybe ill, ready to scream and tear your hair out at the tenth algebra question and the thirtieth “Muumm!” of the morning. Taking care of yourself is essential if you want to take care of the people you love – this is true for all parents, but more so for those who taken on the added responsibility of teaching their children at home.
But how can you make time for yourself when 24 hours is not enough to do all the things that need to be done? One of the main ways to do this is change your perspective, and have a paradigm shift when it comes to all the things you want/need to do. You will need to make the time somehow. And you need to sleep!
So, what is this shift in attitude?
Here it is – you need to let go. Yes, yes, I hear you say, but let go of what? Of many things – the fact that you need to keep a super-clean house, the fact that you have to do everything that needs to get done, that you need to make three meals a day for your family, and the fact that you need to teach your children yourself, because of course no one else can do all these things, and do them as well.
Don’t kid yourself. It is true that you have a specific skill set and the things that involve those skills, you definitely need to do. But the rest of the things that can be done by other people, you need to let them do.
Your children and husband can help with chores – an elder sibling can help the younger one put all the toys back in the box. You can hire a weekly cleaner. Somebody else can scrub the bathtub or the toilets, while you teach your kids or work on your garden. Where are your skills needed more and what brings you more joy? Think about that a bit.
You don’t need to cook great meals every day. You can get take-away delivered, or buy pre-grilled chicken and pre-cut salads that are available in the supermarket, that your partner can pick up on the way from work, at least some nights of the week. The rest of the time, your kids can be doing their homework on the kitchen table while you whip up a quick and easy meal. Start to look for healthy shortcuts that won’t break the bank.
Children can be taught to work quietly, and responsibly, while you do something else within ear-shot. Don’t think that being a teacher means that you need to be actively teaching every minute. Students do a lot of group or independent work and research, as long as they have been trained to do this. If truancy and disobedience are problems, look up discipline programmes and contracts that make sure the dos and don’ts are clear, with rewards and consequences.
Ask for help. We don’t do this enough, as we think that we need to do everything as a parent, not to mention our child’s teacher. However, friends and family will be happy to help share some of your burden once a week or once a month. It may be fun for your outdoorsy auntie to plan a nature-walk lesson for her niece and nephew, or your IT-whiz friend can set up an online treasure hunt for your children. Your friends and family will be happy to help as long as they don’t feel imposed on, and if it means they get to spend more time with a less-harried version of you more often.
Join a group. Whether online or in person, you can get to know many parents who are home-schooling their own children. You can take turns teaching – group work is a very sound pedagogical strategy. Having other people teach your children means that you can plan some guilt-free grown-up time, as well as give your children the benefit of another style of teaching. It’s all good.
Also, as much as you don’t want to hear it, you will have to give up something to get more of something else. Since we all only have 24 hours a day, you might have to give up 2 hours of telly to get yourself time to do some yoga. Three times a day is plenty to check your email or social media. Don’t let your precious and limited time trickle away like water, doing things that will not add to your quality of life.
So, coming back to the main point, like the song says – let it go. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Others can help, including your own children. You don’t have to be perfect, and neither does your house nor do your meals. It might mean giving up things like telly and not browsing endless Facebook posts, and instead looking for quick meal ideas and posting on a home-schooling site. These are not huge sacrifices to make if it means you can be a better parent, better home-school teacher and better person. Not to mention a saner one.