Five Ways to Keep Your Balance in an Unbalanced World

by Lawrence Williams and DeeDee Hughes
reprinted from Living Education (Fall 2014) 
adapted from Living Education (Jan/Feb 2001)

I once admitted to a wise friend that, as a parent, I honestly didn’t know if I was being too strict or too lenient. She said, “That’s normal. That’s what finding the balance is all about. There is no static balance point. You are always tipping a little too far in one direction and righting yourself, or tipping too far in the other direction and righting yourself.” I found great comfort in this at the time, and I still do today.
Finding the balance in parenting and in life is an ongoing process. Am I working too much and forgetting to play? Am I being an overinvolved parent and not respecting my children’s abilities and independence? Am I trying to keep them from making mistakes? Am I letting them make enough mistakes? Am I investing enough time in my friendships but forgetting my self-care? Life can feel like doing yoga on a stand-up paddleboard while being rocked by waves. We’re constantly shifting and making adjustments, and there are lots of near-misses for getting dunked, but we’re doing it!
As a homeschooler, 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. Reconnect with your source daily
What energizes you? What helps you feel centered and creates harmony within you? 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. Even thought it may seem impossible, the most effective time is first thing in the the morning. Reconnecting with our personal power source first thing in the morning enables us to embrace the day with greater purpose and clarity.
2. Recognize your role as co-creator
Through our thoughts, feelings, and actions, we all create our lives moment by moment. When we work in conjunction with our children, with our partners, with our friends and neighbors, we become co-creators of the world around us. When unexpected events arise, we have a choice of how we respond. If we respond from an inner sense of balance, we can turn difficult circumstances into new possibilities for ourselves and our children. When we take responsibility for creating our world, we enter into a fascinating dance, an on-going improvisation that is one part strength, one part grace, one part compromise, and all heart. When we live with a sense of actively creating the life we want, we feel more content and centered.
3. Pay attention to your internal GPS
Envision a see-saw with mental activity on one end, physical activity on the other end, and feelings in the middle as the balance point. We all know how easy it is to overemphasize or ignore one or more of these aspects, and we know what happens to the see-saw when we lean too far in one direction. 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. The same holds true for kids – remember to check in with where they are and strive for balance in the rhythm of their day. Being able to adapt to the needs of our children this way is one of the great benefits of homeschooling.
4. Allow yourself to feel
Our innate capacity to feel is one of our greatest tools in parenting and in teaching. It helps us to clearly perceive what is going on in ourselves and others, and to communicate effectively. When you are talking with your children, don’t just focus on the words they’re saying. Open yourself to what they are feeling and address that with as much attention as you give to their word.s If you are walking down the street, look at the trees, the plants, and the sky around you and appreciate their natural beauty. Soak it in on a feeling level. By opening your heart to simple acts of feeling as you experience the events of each day, you will find that your mind becomes quieter and you feel more stable and poised.
5. Recognize your triggers
It’s no surprise that life often feels unbalanced. Consider 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. If you start to feel scattered after a morning of noisy activity, institute a one-hour noise-free zone in your house, or get outside where the only sounds you’ll hear are nature sounds. 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.
By following these guidelines, you can regain your innate balance, which will foster the expression of your natural intelligence. Many schools seek to develop intellect, so they spend their time focusing on mental activity. At Oak Meadow, we are interested in developing intelligence, and this arises from physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual balance. Intellect alone will never enable your children to be fulfilled, self-directed learners, and it will never enable them to become dynamic individuals who can have a positive impact upon the world. Find your own balance and you’ll be able to help your children find theirs.

___________________________________________________________

Lawrence Williams is the co-founder and owner of Oak Meadow, and the author of Oak Meadow’s original curriculum. He and DeeDee Hughes have collaborated on a number of articles and curriculum materials, including the new 40th Anniversary edition of The Heart of Learning.

10 Ways to Create and Maintain Balance as a Homeschooling Parent

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. Spending all day, every day, in the company of even the most wonderful homeschooling children is a challenge. Eat well, exercise, and make sleep a priority. Also make time for the hobbies and passions that boost your energy and enthusiasm. Keep your reserves full by taking regular time off for yourself where you are able to turn off your parental radar and relax.  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 friend who will listen when you need to get things off your chest, someone who will also help you celebrate those homeschooling triumphs that the rest of the world has a hard time grasping. Talk about your joys and challenges regularly.

7. Offer and accept help. Ask when you need it, and give to others when you can. Build a network of homeschooling friends who support each other. Take turns so that you can each get a break sometimes. Offer wisdom and support to those who are newer to parenting or homeschooling than you are. 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.

8. Keep the fires burning in your marriage. Tend your marital partnership, if you have one. It can be all too easy to let those needs be superseded by the needs of your homeschoolers, so do whatever is needed to keep your primary adult relationship healthy.

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.

Working and Homeschooling

“I want to homeschool, but I need to work.”
Is it really true that working parents cannot homeschool? It can be quite a challenge, but many families manage to do it successfully. Many working-and-homeschooling families challenge this assumption every single day.  How?
Consider all opportunities for flexibility in your work
The more flexibility you have, the more smoothly you will be able to manage the demands of homeschooling. Some work situations require regular hours but may be adaptable to working all or part of the time from home. Others allow for significant flexibility in when, where, and even how much work is done.
Flexibility may not be something your employer routinely offers, but a thoughtfImage: Rogers Familyul proposal might change the status quo. If your current work is inflexible, consider a job change. If change is not possible, don’t despair! There are many ways to make working-and-homeschooling work.
In families with two working parents, it may be possible for parents to adjust their working hours so that one parent is home whenever the other is working. You might divide the responsibility for homeschooling equally, or one parent might take primary responsibility for education while the other takes more responsibility in other areas.
Single parents who work can still homeschool. If your work is done entirely at home, and if there is a good fit between your child’s ability to be independent on one hand and the needs of your job on the other, you may be able to multitask throughout the day. Whether or not this is successful will depend largely on your temperament and that of your child.
If the needs of your job and the needs of your child are too much to manage at once, or if your job takes place away from home and you cannot bring your child along, you might piece together a scenario that includes time for learning with a parent or another adult.
Be flexible with your expectations about how you will homeschool.
Homeschooling can happen anytime, anywhere. There is no rule that says homeschooling must take place during school hours or at a desk. Focused, supported learning activities can happen before parents head off to work in the morning, after they return in the evening, or on the weekends.
Image: Doughty FamilyOne of the most wonderful benefits of homeschooling is that students can learn the same things in less time than they would in public school. Homeschooling, especially if it is done one-on-one or with siblings who are at the same or a similar learning level, can be very efficient. If you plan to devote a portion of the day to helping each of your children with bookwork, how much time would you need? What time of day is your child the most focused and receptive to learning? What kind of learner is your child, and how can you help make learning most efficient for him or her?
For some homeschooling families, a rigorous, detailed curriculum is the best choice. Others have the time and drive to piece together a carefully selected, eclectic combination of materials. When your time and attention are already stretched, you might find it easiest to use a comprehensive all-in-one program, such as Oak Meadow’s full curriculum package. Or you might find that a very relaxed approach to learning allows your children to happily absorb the basics and then pursue their passions. Don’t hesitate to shift gears if you or your child are stressed or unhappy with your current approach. When you find something that works, celebrate and stick with it!
Assess your child’s capacity for independence and make intentional use of it
How old is your child (or children)? How much direct attention, supervision, and care does he or she need? When is your child happiest to accept guidance from others, and when will only a parent do?
Young children will need a direct caregiver all or most of the time. Many caregivers are open to supporting this age group in gentle learning activities involving nature, art, handwork, storytelling, and play-based exploration. You may need to make suggestions or provide materials. With a thoughtful plan, your care provider can become a homeschooling ally.
Preteens may be able to tolerate being left to themselves for periods of time while you are working at home, but there will be limits to their independence. They may needX-WestFamily3 or want to engage periodically even if you are nearby. With your child’s input, develop ways to connect and reconnect with each other as needed while you work.
Older children and teens may be able to handle all or some of their homeschooling work on their own. Some subjects or activities might require more regular support than others. You might work in short bursts with scheduled breaks so that your child knows when to wait and when he or she can have your attention again.
If you have a wide range of ages in your family, perhaps an older child could be engaged to help a younger child or children while you are working at home. Carefully plan ahead to set them up with suitable assignments or activities. When you are not working, your attention can shift to the younger children while the older ones focus on their own learning.
Remember why
Families who choose homeschooling invariably have compelling reasons that make it worthwhile. Why are you working and homeschooling? What would be different if you made a different choice? Would those differences be acceptable to you? Identify the motivating factors in your situation and remind yourself of them whenever you need a boost.
Working while homeschooling can be a formidable challenge, even with children who are older and fairly independent. For many parents who do both, the combination is not really ideal. But when other options are unacceptable or even more challenging, it can be worthwhile to do what is necessary to make it work. If you choose working-and-homeschooling, you are in good company.

^