What about ME: On taking care of yourself as a homeschooling mom

On taking care of yourself as a homeschool mom
The following is a guest post written by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy.

I was ready to quit.

I originally chose to homeschool because I thought it was absolutely the best decision for my kids. I wanted them to have the excellent education, individualized curriculum, and flexible schedule that homeschooling could provide.

But last spring, I found myself wondering if it was the best decision for me.

For the past two years, I’ve been homeschooling my 4 kids–ages 9, 7, 5 and 2. But I’m also a writer, and work part-time in my pre-kids field. As we neared the end of our second year of homeschooling, I found myself intensely dissatisfied with its opportunity cost. Sure, my kids were getting a great education–but I felt like I was giving up too much of myself to make it happen.

I felt frazzled, and with 4 kids, my house was never quiet for a moment. Meanwhile, I was daydreaming about all the things I could be getting done if I repurposed the hours I was spending homeschooling: all the time I would have to write, all the ambitious projects I could tackle.

My time management was awful, and it was making me cranky: I was constantly trying to snatch bits and pieces of time to focus on my stuff, but I was never able to actually get anything done in the fragments of time I was stealing from homeschooling. The frequent failed attempts frustrated me.

I was ready to quit. I considered enrolling my kids in actual, factual school for the fall, just so I could get myself some breathing room.

My morale had reached a low point when my husband and I headed to a homeschool conference in April. We talked for hours that weekend about the state of our homeschool–and my attitude. I soaked up the sessions, listening closely for practical tips on how to fit more of me into my days.

I chatted with women I admire–like Susan Wise Bauer–about creative and practical ways to find time for my work and for homeschooling my kids, too.

At the end of that weekend, I asked myself, What would it take for me to be happy with this situation? The answer was pretty straightforward: I didn’t want to send my kids off to public school. I just wanted some peace and quiet, and two hours a day to write.

And you know what? Those two things were totally do-able.

Step 1: Take care of my introverted self.

I’m an introvert who homeschools four kids. In practical terms, this means my house is always noisy, and I’m always talking. Both of those things really drain me.

I reviewed our schedule looking for ways to cut out the noise: I made checklists for the older kids so I wouldn’t have to remind them to make their beds or brush their teeth. I streamlined snack time, which had been a draining twice-daily ordeal of circular conversation.

Instead of reading The Story of the World out loud like I’d been doing, I bought the audio versions. My kids loved them, so I bought and borrowed many more audio books. I instituted 30 minutes of silent reading time mid-morning so I could have some peace before lunch, and tried to recharge by crashing on the couch with my own book while my kids read theirs.

I got strict about Rest Time: everyone–including me–would spend 2 hours alone every afternoon. The kids can read, play quietly, listen to music or audio books, or watch the occasional movie–as long as they do it by themselves.

Step 2: Carefully guard my working and writing times.

Photo by AnastAssia

I knew that I’d be satisfied if I had 2 solid hours to write everyday. I’d love to have more time, but 2 hours would keep me from panicking that I’d never get to work on my own projects again. I planned on rising early and writing every morning from 5-7. If I was lucky, I’d get another hour at 8pm.

I also planned in advance how I would spend rest time. That time wasn’t suited for intense writing, but it was perfect for responding to blog comments, checking social media, making phone calls, and knocking other small tasks off my to-do list.

Knowing I could count on these dedicated work times kept me from futilely trying to work in bits and snatches during the school day.

Ready to quit? The solution might be easier than you think

My kids are loving the new and improved routine–and so am I.

Homeschooling is such a big-picture life decision that when my life wasn’t working well, it was easy for me to blame homeschooling. But it wasn’t the root cause of my problems.

If you’re thinking about throwing in the towel, first look at the root causes of what’s not working. You may find–like I did–that your problem is smaller than you thought, and much easier to solve.

Have you found ways to care for yourself as a homeschooling mom? What would it take for you to be happy with your homeschooling situation?

This post originally published on August 29, 2012.

About Anne Bogel

Anne is a certified bookworm and homeschooling mom to 4 crazy kids. She loves Jane Austen, strong coffee, the social graces and social media. You can find her blogging at Modern Mrs Darcy.

Comments

  1. Great post! What honest open dialogue that so many hs moms need to hear. I love your blog and can’t wait to read more. Thank you for your great advice.

  2. You’re post came at just the right time! I am experiencing everything you talked about in your article– trying to raise two children, homeschool my special needs son, teach two courses in the evening (with about 50 papers to correct every week) and continue my weekly blog post (by the way, I’m very disappointed with this week’s because I wrote it on the fly, “stealing time” to get it done)–and I need to make a change. The problem is that I’m so busy and overwhelmed that I haven’t had time to make a plan for improvement. So….I’m heeding your advice. I scheduled a babysitter for tomorrow so my husband and I can take a few hours of time for ourselves to think, talk and craft out a workable plan. Maybe it’s not time to throw in the towel. Maybe we just need to make a few adjustments. Thank you!!!

  3. Ooops! Rushing! I meant your not you’re!!
    Heather’s latest post: Hold Up. Did I Just Call the Dog My Daughter’s Name???

  4. Excellent!! I really needed this today! I too have been feeling like I had given up my life to homeschool. I have been threatening to send my 11 and 9 year old back to school almost everyday. But, I really just need to re-structure our day and give myself some “me” time.

  5. I struggle with making my time for writing as when I feel I plan it, something happens that is more important than taking care of myself. I find many days that often I don’t even have time to eat myself, let alone to do anything like write. Thank you for reminding me that I need to plan it out better.
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Week #3

  6. I really loved your post! Last year I was so frustrated homeschooling my 4 noisy, energetic, young children. I couldn’t figure out why I was so overwhelmed when I love organization, planning out the curriculum, teaching, learning, and doing crafts with my kids. My days were sooooo full and so loud and there was so little alone time that I felt absolutely frazzled. I’d stay up really late in the evenings trying to get alone time, only to be cranky when the kids got me up at the crack of dawn. In the last couple of years I’ve realized I’m an introvert. Having this realization has REALLY helped. I do exactly like you now, I take 30 minutes in the morning by myself before lunch (kids have recess outside) and strictly enforce quiet time after lunch, without feeling guilty. My husband has realized I’m more fun to be around with if he lets me read or hang out by myself for an hour after the kids are in bed. That hour of quiet really recharges me after a day of constantly being needed. I also simplified my exhausting homeschool routine. We’re keeping things super simple with Classical Conversations this year, and all 3 of my 4 kids of school age are doing Foundations so things are really streamlined. I’m a much happier homeschooler now!

    • “My husband has realized I’m more fun to be around with if he lets me read or hang out by myself for an hour after the kids are in bed. That hour of quiet really recharges me after a day of constantly being needed.”

      Oh my goodness, YES to this. I completely relate, and am glad I’m not the only one!

      • I’m going to bookmark this post so I can come back and read it (and the comments) over and over again. Introverted mama, extroverted child, AND homeschooling. I’m recharging in my room after our day. :)
        Melissa D’s latest post: Top 10 Posts of 2013

  7. Thank you for this! I have been really struggling the past few weeks, this week in particular and I KNEW the answer wasn’t putting the kids back in school, but I have been feeling like I’m drowning. I am going to look into the audio version of Story of the World immediately – any ability to reduce my talking is a welcome solution. I, too, feel like I talk all. day. long. I just want a little peace! Not a lot…just a little. :)

  8. Not a homeschooling mom, but a parent who juggles the homework and activities while her spouse works, and THANK YOU for the reminder that schedules can be built to your entire family\’s advantage! (ie Quiet reading time, etc.) we have had a harried first quarter and I\’m looking for any way to improve!
    robbie @ going green mama’s latest post: Natural bug repellents that work

  9. i still don’t get how you did it. Did you have a sitter come in?

  10. I needed this today.

  11. My apologies, I haven’t read through all 2 years worth of comments :) But if anyone is listening in, please do tell me how to get the rest time to actually happen. I can manage 30 minutes, but with 3 boys, one of them being 4, it’s hard to send everyone to their rooms and not have a fight erupt over lego pieces or something silly.
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