As a homeschooling parent, seeking balance is essential. If we’re out of balance and we try to teach our children, we diminish our effectiveness as teachers. We might miss the subtle cues in the learning process that enable us to be good teachers, or we might cause our children to become more imbalanced also, which reduces their ability to learn effectively.
Here are some tips to help you maintain a sense of balance in the midst of your busy, messy, wonderful life.
1. Know your priorities
Be clear with yourself about what is most important. Make sure everyone in the family knows what those things are. Talk regularly about the reasons why your family does things the way you do. Be open with each other when it feels like it’s time to revisit or reaffirm your family’s priorities.
2. Always start with a plan, and be flexible enough to change the plan as needed
If you need help with planning for the younger grades, our parent planners can be a big help. Planning ahead really helps the family’s rhythm stay steady and keeps each member on track academically.
3. Don’t try to do too much
Keep things simple! Avoid over committing and let people know when you need to dial back. If you feel self-conscious when plans need to shift, remember that your commitment to your family’s needs may be an inspiration for others who are struggling with the same challenge.
4. Help your children establish roots and grow wings.
Balance the two by first giving them a strong, supportive foundation, then give them some room to practice flying on their own. It’s quite a thrill to see your child take off independently when they are ready, and it’s reassuring to know that you have prepared them well.
5. Take very good care of yourself and reconnect with your source daily
Spending all day, every day, in the company of even the most wonderful homeschooling children is a challenge. It’s important to take time to not only care for yourself, but to reconnect with those things that fill you with energy and purpose. Even though it may seem impossible, the most effective time is first thing in the morning. You might reconnect through prayer, hiking, yoga, meditation, journaling, gardening, running, art, or some other activity. Find something that works for you and do it every day.
By making your own well-being a priority, you model an important and lifelong habit for your children, who may grow up to parent homeschoolers themselves.
6. Find a friends who will listen, and accept their help
Build a network of homeschooling friends who support each other. Finding balance is so much easier when you have a support system to tap into. Turn to friends when you need to get things off your chest as well as when you want to celebrate homeschooling triumphs that the rest of the world has a hard time grasping. Talk about your joys and challenges regularly.
Ask for help when you need it, and give to others when you can. Take turns so that you can each get a break sometimes. Ask family, friends, and neighbors to engage with your children’s learning, especially if they have experience in areas that you do not. Be clear about your needs and gracious when others help meet them.
7. Pay attention to your internal GPS
You can start to gain a sense of balance simply by creating more self-awareness. Check in with your internal GPS every now and then to figure out where you are. For example, if you’ve been engaged for long hours on a computer, you probably need to be active physically. If you have been running errands all over town with your children, you may need to sit for a bit and read a book. By checking in with ourselves regularly, we can start to innately recognize when we need to make adjustments to restore of sense of balance.
8. Recognize your triggers
It’s no surprise that life often feels unbalanced. Consider often how we are bombarded by external stimuli: masses of information, constant sounds, demands of email and phone, social media updates. Sure, all parents have eyes in the back of our heads and three arms, but we can still become overwhelmed.
By learning to recognize what triggers that sense of stress, we can help restore balance. If you feel you can never get anything done because you have to respond to every email as it comes in, maybe you’ll want to switch to checking email just two or three times a day. Give yourself a break by leaving your phone behind when you take a walk or work in the garden, or (if that’s too uncomfortable) just turn it off. Allow yourself to disengage from the hectic demands of global connection.
9. Spend one-on-one time with each of your children
Even if it doesn’t happen often, it is still an important thing to do once in awhile. Let this be a time when they can check in about how things are going for them and talk freely with you about their wishes, dreams, and interests, regardless of what the rest of the family needs. Let your child help plan how to spend that time so that it has meaning for both of you. When the needs of other family members take priority, both of you will have the memory of these one-on-one times to carry you through until the next time.
10. Laugh together!
Have fun as a family that is at least equal to the amount of hard work you do together. Eat meals together regularly and tell funny jokes at the table. If you start feeling stressed during the day, have an on-the-spot dance party. Go on spontaneous adventures sometimes. Find things to do that you can all enjoy. Stay connected with each other in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with educational expectations.
By following these guidelines, you can regain your innate balance, which will allow you to better show up for your family. By allowing yourself the space to take care of yourself, remember that you’re also modeling behaviors for your children. Find your own balance and you’ll be able to help your children find theirs.