“I don’t know how homeschooling families do it all.”
“I like the idea of homeschooling, but I could never do it all.”
“I can’t even imagine how you do it all.”
“How DO you do it all?”
Do it all?!!
In Part I, we explored the academic side of “doing it all” — finding support, planning carefully, and keeping expectations realistic. In Part II, we take a look the equally
important non-academic side of things: running the home, the importance of routine, getting your own needs met, and staying connected as a family.
Homeschooling families are particularly sensitive to housework and other issues because we tend to spend more time in our homes than families who spend their days out at work and school. Do all you can to simplify housework or make it more efficient. Finding ways for each family member to help out as part of the daily routine can help to ease the load.
Make chores a regular part of each child’s day and learning. Plan meals in advance to simplify grocery shopping and meal preparation. Foster independence. Older children can help younger ones accomplish routine tasks. Limiting each member to one cup, one bowl, one plate, and teaching everyone to wash their own after meals can simplify dishes. Even small children can help sort laundry if clothing tags are marker-coded for each family member (one spot for the oldest child, two spots for the next-oldest, etc.) Does all the underwear really need folding? Choose your challenges wisely and let go of the rest.
Routines and Rhythms
Are you worried about feeling overwhelmed? Predictable rhythms help families stay on track and thrive. Routines help ensure that the important things get done automatically without being bogged down in deliberation or negotiation. Establish set times for academics, rest, housework, and play (but always keep your expectations flexible). Take the time to post a plan for your day and week that all family members can reference. Use pictures instead of words so non-readers will know what to expect. Revisit and adjust your plan as you get a sense of what works best for your family.
Predictable rhythms can help family members feel a sense of pride and ownership in the home. In our family, we light a candle at the dinner table; the child whose turn it is to set and clear the table also enjoys the privilege of lighting and blowing out the candle. Weave together work and play, rest and responsibility, throughout the day to keep everyone feeling refreshed.
In many households, time feels tight and everyone always seems to be on the go. Many families fill all or most of their children’s available time with academics, enrichment, and social activities. These things are important, but unstructured time is also very important in a child’s development and deserves a fair share of each day.
Let your child have regular periods of time without structure or expectations. Set up indoor and outdoor spaces for safe open-ended creative play and investigation, and let children follow their whim, however “aimless” it might seem. Boredom is to be embraced; spin it as an opportunity, not a burden. Children who are not accustomed to unstructured playtime may need compassionate adult encouragement, but they will figure it out.
Homeschooling depends on strong, healthy parental involvement. What do you need? Be sure you get what you need to recharge regularly, even if that happens piecemeal. Fit in little forms of self care throughout the day — fresh air, exercise, rest, healthy eating, a change in scenery, social support, and some time devoted to relationships and/or hobbies. Many of these needs are possible to meet with children, and your children will learn self care from your example.
Many homeschooling parents also find it essential to have some time completely alone or in the company of adult friends. If you have multiple children, even going out with “just the baby” can be a nice break. Also give your spousal relationship the nurturing it deserves. It is very important to nourish ourselves so that we are able to meet the needs of our children.
Parenting and Staying Connected
Parenting is an integral part of homeschooling, in contrast to the division between parenting and education that occurs in conventional schooling. Take the time to address parenting issues promptly as they come up. Dovetail life skills and interpersonal skills with academic skills. Reassess daily where your child is most in need of support, and let that guide your approach for the day. Persistence, consistency, patience, and gentle repetition are valuable parenting investments that will pay off over time.
Homeschooling allows for constant physical presence, but emotional connectedness is an additional layer that deserves thoughtful care. Make it a point to regularly to connect with your child (and your partner) in ways that matter to both of you — without dividing your attention or multitasking. A little one-on-one attention can go a long way. If that is not possible, the book The Five Love Languages of Children can help you identify the kind of attention that will go the furthest with your child.
Express appreciation to your children, your partner, and the adults who help support your children, for their roles in your homeschooling endeavors. A set the expectation that you deserve appreciation for your own efforts. Successful homeschooling is a collaborative effort in which every family member plays a part. Make opportunities to celebrate yourselves and your accomplishments as a family whenever you can.
Working and Homeschooling
If you are balancing working and homeschooling, staying connected can feel like a super-sized challenge. (Many families do succeed at this, even with both parents working regularly.) Oak Meadow’s curriculum is designed to offer many opportunities to be flexible with schooling around other scheduling demands.
If you are splitting your time between work and homeschooling, use any flexibility you might have to keep things flowing as smoothly as possible for you and your family. Consider enlisting the help of a loving friend or family member, another homeschooling family, or a homeschooled teen to help nurture your child’s learning while you are working. Or get outside help with housework and other tasks so you can focus your attention directly on your child when you are available.
Aligning Your Expectations
Successful homeschooling families discuss and list their priorities, and focus on the top ones while letting the lesser ones go. Focus on your family’s highest priorities and make peace with the rest. Take care of yourself and nurture the connections within your family to avoid burnout. Make sure everyone in the family gets sufficient down time.
There is no one right way to live a homeschooling life, and (thankfully) there are many right ways to “do it all.” What elements and outcomes are most important to your family? Do not be afraid to align your expectations to your family’s capabilities. By tuning into your own family’s needs and crafting a personal definition of what “doing it all” means, you will succeed.