Don’t hate on me, because it is the calendar’s fault. We are past the mid-point of July, and we all know what that means — back-to-school is barreling down on us. My calendar is screaming at me that studies start in two weeks. I don’t even have most of my school books.
Don’t judge me.
As I make my book-order lists and check them twice, I’m thinking of and praying for several of you I met this past spring. Particularly you Oklahoma and DFW friends I talked with in conventions. Remember, when we commiserated on the work/homeschool tightrope and how hard yet rewarding it is and how do you do it I don’t know how I do it but we survive. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Thinkin’ of ya. You can do it!
And while I was chatting about “how do we do this” with my coworkers, I was struck by how varied we all “do” it. There really isn’t just one easy solution to the chaos that is our life. But we all use some combination of the following strategies.
So, like a salad — no, a delicious SMOOTHIE! with Vanilla Extract! — pick your own ingredients and make the combination that is right for you. Then enjoy your crazy concoction! Cheers!
Ways to Make Working and Homeschooling … Work. For You.
1) Block off specific work/teaching times. I had an epiphany this past year. Setting specific times for working and teaching and resting and reading and errands … these time blocks did not merely make sure I got stuff done. Though that is great. More importantly, it set limits to what I’m doing so I don’t let my Mommy-is-in-the-zone over-run my priorities.
2) Be creative with work times. This is awesome. I grab “found time” during a sports clinic, a choir rehearsal, a Dad-has-to-go-into-work-on-a-Saturday … any spare hour that looked like “wasted time” could usually be redeemed by a drop-off and dash to the Starbucks at the corner. Bonus — no one whining in my ear. BINGO!
3) Limit teaching time, but not learning time. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but my husband was persistent in reminding me weekly until I started to believe it. I don’t have to be sitting next to my child for him to be learning.
Let that sink in.
I’m not condoning educational neglect, but there is a great truth here. Once I started holding my student responsible for the learning and limiting my lecture/explanation times to specific blocks of time, I noticed my children grew in their own study skills. Mommy doesn’t need to spoon feed what they are capable of reading and understanding themselves.
So, maybe the actual teaching time you invest is 15-20 hours a week. Your students can double that in learning time with their independent reading, research, experiments, homework … youtube viewing of frogs mating … duct tape wallets …
4) Involve your spouse. Hey, you are not only a mom of many hats, you are literally (I used that word correctly!) literally working two regular jobs. He has to give you fist bumps for that. And it is not ridiculous of you to ask him for help. Ask him what he would like to do, and he’ll probably already have a “favorite” he wouldn’t mind taking off your hands. Errands? Cooking? Laundry? Spanish class? Sports taxi driver? He also works for kisses. Can’t beat the price.
5) Enroll in virtual classes. True confession: I never wanted to see my child sitting in front of a computer screen as a replacement for the awesome-sauce education I can give him one-on-one. Ok, we homeschool moms have an extra helping of self-confidence, but you know what I mean. I did finally come to the point where I had to admit that a) I was not able to give awesome-sauce education for eight classes to four children while working full time, and b) students need to learn how to learn from someone not related to them.
So I tried two classes, one each from Red Wagon Tutorials and Lampstand Learning. And it was the best decision I made after deciding to homeschool. My son got deeper instruction in these areas, enjoyed conversing with me about both every week, and woke up to academic commitments in the real world. And I freed up hours of preparation and instruction time on my end. Win-win-win for everyone!
6) Enroll in co-op classes. Similar to the above, but in “real life.” The downside is the travel, but if you use class time as “found time” to work, it can be a big help.
7) Enlist help from older siblings. I actually stuffed my face with breakfast burritos a couple months ago while a gifted (she is gifted, and she teaches gifted math students. I have awesome friends) public school teacher took me to task on this. Why am I not letting my children grade each other’s math papers? I thought it was a cop-out on my part, and she gave me a withering gaze. No teacher worth her salt will try to be-all and end-all to every student. Use the people you have to maximize your teaching ability. Yes, Ma’am.
8) Reduce the electives. Is it hyper-important my middle-school student study government, art history, and ancient church literature? um, probably not. And does my second grader need to build his own timeline, create a topographical globe out of paper mache, and articulate the differing theories on global warming? help me, no!
By high school, my students need certain courses covered and thus-and-such electives in common areas. But my elementary and middle school students need the basics and all else is gravy. I get the reading, writing, and arithmetic down every week and celebrate any other learning. WOW! I’m super-super-super mom! You had history AND science this week! Don’t you feel like a genius?
9) Become more eclectic. I love classical homeschooling. But my children use a textbook for math. And … true confession time … they do grammar worksheets. But the more open I am to whatever works for me, the more freedom I have to teach how I like. Consider throwing out the rule book and doing it your way.
10) Limit other commitments. The guilt comes on fast and hard every time I’m asked “would you like to help with …”. There is no way I can be AWANA leader, community volunteer, team mom, and children’s club sponsor. So, I choose one volunteer activity that is meaningful for me and politely decline the rest. I still blush all shades and stammer incoherently while trying to defend my decision, but by the time I get back home, I’m glad not to have one more thing on the calendar.
So, how do you make working and homeschooling work for you? Do you have more strategies to help balance the chaos?