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.