Perhaps you and your children started homeschooling with high expectations of it being an exciting new adventure. You were all going to have lots of FUN together. Much like an avid gardener poring over seed catalogs in anticipation of spring planting, you eagerly researched the multitudes of homeschool curricula available, finally settling on the perfect one for your family. But that was months ago, and now reality has set in. You and the kids are not having nearly as much fun as you thought this was supposed to be, and the workload is overwhelming.
Yes, homeschooling is a lot of work, but there are ways we can make it better for ourselves — and keep the fun in it. Part of it is about changing how we think, part is spiritual, and part is just plain making some practical adjustments.
Cutting back on nonessentials
First of all, if you are going to have the staying power you will need, life will not be able to go on quite the same as it did before homeschooling. Some things will most likely have to slide a bit. Let the nonessentials take a back seat during this season of your life.
Maybe neither you or your family will be able to handle as many outside activities or hobbies as previously. Sports activities and classes for dance, art, or music are great, and can be included as part of your homeschooling experience, but if you are losing your peace or grinding yourself into the ground to make them happen, it’s time to assess which are most important and curtail the rest.
Pre-homeschooling, my house was tidy most of the time. I made all our bread and fixed time-consuming meals. I did a lot of scratch food preparation. But once we started schooling at home, the house wasn’t quite as neat, the meals became simpler, and the bread making died — because if they hadn’t, I probably would have had a major meltdown. Preserving your sanity and staying peaceful are important!
Make two lists of ways you currently spend your time. Label them “Essential” and “Nonessential.” Be ready to cut out what isn’t as important, as you need to. You don’t have to let go of everything all at once, as long as you and your family are peaceful. Modify your lists regularly, because both priorities and preferences change over time.
In my opinion, maintaining a daily prayer life belongs on the essential list. It’s easy to let prayer slide when life gets busy, but if we make our time with the Lord top priority, He has a way of making all the rest of our day go much smoother. In God’s economy, if we make time with Him our top priority, the other stuff tends to get done. I don’t know how He does that for us, but it really works.
Time devoted exclusively to your spouse also belongs on that essential list. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a weekly date night. That works for some, but for others it adds to the stress, especially if finding a baby sitter is part of the equation. It doesn’t have to be a marathon event. If a daily fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time chatting with each other right there in the living room works, then do that. Make it a joy, not another reason to feel overwhelmed.
I never have a moment to myself!
Yes, it’s true. Me-time does suffer. You probably won’t be able to socialize, whether on the computer, phone, or in person, as much as you once did.
Keep in mind, though, that a half hour with the Lord in prayer and Bible reading will do more to help you regain your peace than that same half hour airing your frustrations to your friends. The Holy Spirit refreshes us with His presence. He renews our strength as we wait upon Him, according to Isaiah 40:31. If God says it, we ought to take His advice.
If possible, do occasionally schedule alone time for yourself or coffee with a friend, if you really need those to recharge your battery. Well-rested moms do a better job of parenting and schooling than worn-out, frazzled moms. If you have children who are old enough to watch the younger ones, set aside a day of relaxed activities they can do while you are absent. Some homeschool support groups provide ways for moms to take a break, too, whether by sharing child care responsibilities or scheduling co-op classes, activities, and events. Some of those will require that you take your turn at volunteering, so other moms can have a break; some require a fee to pay the people who are teaching the classes or supervising the activities.
Next time, we’ll talk about a few more ways we can avoid or cut down on overwhelm.