A Mother’s Sacrifice

I sent my daughter to kindergarten on the first day of school.  She did just fine, but I didn’t. She never went back. I loved every second I spent with my babies.  That particular baby is all grown up with three babies of her own. Her babies go to school in a “real” classroom.  I don’t begrudge that; everyone deserves to parent in the way that works for them. I love to see some families who send one child to a traditional school and keep another at home. I see in that a mother who is in tune to the needs of the individual. What a gift she is giving her children.  Recently, a dear friend who has homeschooled her children from the beginning told me that her four children will be trying out a full-time classroom experience next year. What a tough decision for a mom who has dedicated her life to educating her children at home. She will shed tears on their first day of school.  How brave to part with all four at once. She is giving them a wonderful gift, the ability to try something new even though it is hard and perhaps not what her heart desires. Sometimes our struggle is in holding on and sometimes it is in letting go. It is hard no matter which way you look at it. What a wonder being a parent is.   It is the ability to put your child’s needs ahead of your own, even though your heart may say “I want you by my side to educate you in love and joy at home”. Sometimes they need the experience of a classroom and sometimes they need to be at home. Don’t feel guilty moms, do what you know is right. Follow your instincts and trust that you know what is best for your babies. Motherhood is such an amazing thing!

Avoiding Mom (Parent) Burnout

Homeschool moms are amazing women who are committed to the success of their children.  They often have incredible drive and tend to forget themselves as they strive to care for those around them.  Typically when a mom takes on educating their kids at home they don’t give up something, they just add education to the list.  The normal busy life of a woman is compounded not only by the need to spend time educating, but simply by the fact that there are extra bodies in the house ALL day. Children who continue to make messes, eat food and have other needs.  There seems to be no end to the daily “To do” list.

 

Signs of burnout.  I am not an expert (that’s my disclaimer), but I have seen burnout rear its ugly head in lots of different ways. Potential “burnout” signs: lack of patience, the feeling of dread or panic when it comes to homeschooling, overwhelm, exhaustion, lack of joy, or confusion as to why you started homeschooling in the first place 🙂  

 

January is the perfect month to slow down the pace and take a little time to enjoy life and avoid burnout.  

 

Don’t worry about falling behind. When you return to your routine you will ALL be invigorated and refreshed.  This extra vigor will get you right back on track in no time. It is better to take the time to take care of yourself BEFORE you are forced into slowing down due to illness caused by burnout.  

 

Let go of the guilt.  If your guilty conscience is the driving force behind your day, it is probably time to take a break.  Being a Homeschool mom is hard. If you are not enjoying school, chances are your kids aren’t either.  Give yourself permission to relax and play. Remember you kept your kids at home because you love them. Taking time to enjoy them will help them be more successful and it will remind you of the love behind why you are doing this in the first place.

 

Trust me, the kids will also benefit from a happier, healthier mom who is excited to teach.

 

Fun things to do when feeling burnout

 

Music

Turn up the music and dance in the kitchen.  If the kids won’t dance with you, (invite me over I will :)) at the very least, they will know that mom knows how to have fun.  You may find out years from now that they were secretly watching and practicing your signature moves behind closed doors.

 

Art

Nothing soothes the soul quite like creating something out of nothing.  Youtube is a create source for free art instruction or simply get out the paints and create with the kids.

 

Get outside

Build a snowman all by yourself :).  Send me a picture! Take a walk or go for a drive.

 

Games

A great way to enjoy your kids is to play games with them.  Build a fort and become a princess for the day. Make sure the kids know YOU are the princess and they should cater to your every need.  Play a board game (warning – they may be accidentally educational).

 

Declutter or Rearrange

A learning house is often a messy house.  Taking time to declutter and/or rearrange can be refreshing and relaxing.  Organizing your homeschool resources and changing your routine is a great way to reconnect with your excitement to learn together.

 

Read a Book

I challenge you to read a book that ISN’T self-help, educational, parenting or homeschooling.  LOL! I struggle with that one too. Find something that you can get lost in or wrap up in a blanket with the kids and read together.

 

Movie

Leave the world behind and escape to a movie, yes in a theater.  It is good for the brain to forget it all for a while.

 

Whatever you do, be kind to YOU.  You are the very best thing in the lives of your children.  To be the best you, it takes kindness and care. Wrap your arms around yourself and give YOU a big hug.  You ARE doing a great job! And you are enough!

 

The Elusive Schedule

When I first started our home education journey, I felt completely overwhelmed. My children were good at entertaining themselves (the beauty of the pre-device era)… but they got so good at this that structured learning time erupted into epic meltdowns. Sometimes it was one child, sometimes another, sometimes me… and some very special days, all of us! I felt the pressure time slipping away. I knew we were getting further behind in our curriculum. Then, the fear kicked in. Was I ruining my children?

So, I tried several things that different friends suggested, including a beautiful, color-coded, mega-schedule from Managers of Their Homes! It was a WORK OF ART! I was so pleased! Who cares that it took me an entire week to create it – I had arrived! And then I tried to implement it… Brick Wall! Exhaustion! Overwhelm!

We all have faced this in one form or another. It takes time to find our own path to a method that will actually help us. We are trying to balance an impossibly long list of home education goals:  academic skills, strong knowledge base, character development, work ethic, thinking skills, attitude, 21st-century skills, etc., How do you fit it all in? In addition, there are other details such as growing closer as a family, feeding, and clothing the crew, and actually teaching them! Finally, we hope to do all of this while not tipping us to THAT side of CRAZY.

I have HAPPY news for you! There are LOTS of options and one of these schedules will fit your own family needs… or you will morph a few together and it will start to flow more smoothly.

There are a few thoughts that I suggest you keep in mind:

  1. The type of schedule MUST fit the DE parent’s personality and energy cycles, not just the student’s.
  2. No schedule will work every day and for every season – because life happens! Be prepared to be flexible.
  3. The journey of discovery is worth it! Don’t worry if you don’t have the perfect fit today… you can ease into it, learn from trying things, and it WILL improve with time.

Where to Start

Whether you use a basic spiral-bound notebook, a printout from the internet, a lesson plan book you can get at any office supply store, a digital drag-and-drop option, or an app for your tablet, start by getting organized.

First, brainstorm. Make a list of activities, subjects, goals for each child in no particular order of importance – this is to capture a broad picture of what you are hoping to accomplish for this child. Write anything you think about. Then, start to organize it all. Sort through it. Jot notes like what it is this child most needs right now in their life, how often to do each subject, and what you can do to simplify the list (suggestions below). Some things are a better fit for daily practice: reading instruction, mathematics to promote the practice of skills and recall; also, consider handwriting practice and foreign languages.

Now start thinking about the flow of energy throughout the day. For example, we found in our home that math daily right after breakfast made certain it didn’t get bumped from the schedule… and quiet reading time every afternoon was my sanity time. Even my littles learned to sit with a big pile of books and “read.” Science and history we looped and blocked (see below) and we ended with family read aloud before bedtime. Hook it into what the rest of the family has going on (regular appointments or lesson schedules) and you have a master schedule.  The schedule you create will need to be modified after you try it out and as seasons change, but start somewhere. 😉

One last thing – you notice I did not put times… but general time guideline around our family routines (after lunch, before bed, etc.) to give me a bit of flexibility if the day implodes. AND, so you don’t spend so much time planning that you don’t have time to teach lessons, HERE are some really great tips and advice from a veteran mom on keeping it simple.

Looping

This is a simple way to cover all the extras subjects or resources you may want to fit in with your student’s academic skills schedule. You can loop all of your subjects or just the extras, leaving out the dailies. Then, start at the top and go as far down the list as you have time. The next day, start where you left off. Looping is great for adding a little variety in our life, including some fun after daily skill practice. It also could be great for rotating through some of those awesome resources you check out from the CGA Resource Library. Every day, after we finished our “have to do” list, we would spend about an hour on our loop subjects together before my children all started on their independent pursuits. Fridays we often skipped the skill practice altogether so we had extra time for loop subjects together. 🙂 Some topics we put in this category were art study, art projects, coding, music, root words, new skills (leatherworking, origami, etc.), math games, and poetry. So fun! Here are some more ideas about looping.

Block Schedule

A block schedule uses blocks of time to focus on a specific subject. If your list of subjects is too long, it is hard to give it all the focus it deserves. Maybe you do science for a week and then history the next. Or, history for a month, then science for a month. Or, history before Christmas and then science the rest of the year. Perhaps you focus on art this year and then sewing the next. You get the idea – you are just focusing on a subject for a block of time. A block could be a week, a month, a half of year, etc. You decide.  You can plan all your subjects in blocks or just certain subjects… and you can combine this with another format of scheduling, like looping. Maybe your Morning Time schedule loops a picture study, drawing practice, and poet study first semester and then switches to a loop studying architects, architecture, drawing up plans, drafting, and building the second. In this example, you are blocking by semester but looping daily.

Checklist

This is a simple but effective method. All you need is a pencil and a notebook or paper. This is eventually where I landed! Write down the list and then check them off. We sorted things into dailies, looped must-dos, can dos, and individual wanna dos. My children loved being able to choose which order they did their dailies which always had to be done before they moved on to the can dos or the wanna dos. The looped must-dos were our family learning time subjects.

We did not write down the assignments- just math, read to self, read to someone else, etc. They knew which math assignment… it was wherever they left off!  And they LOVED to check them off as they are completed. After they were older, they would create their own checklists and just pass them by a parent. And, of course, parents can keep a checklist too!

Each change of scheduling techniques in your home will take some time to embrace. Don’t throw out an idea you feel really good about just because it doesn’t work right away. It takes teaching routines, implementing, practicing habits, reteaching, and definitely some mercy points along the way before it starts to flow. Remember my crazy mega-schedule? It eventually gave us a beautiful experience and helped to morph it into what really ended up working for our family. Looking back, I wish I could have told my younger self not to stress it.  The journey to finding the perfect schedule for our family taught us.

Rebecca Harrison