When I was homeschooled, there were strict rules about staying indoors until 3 p.m. Any child out of school before then was often questioned and sometimes reported to the truancy officer. Homeschooling was in its infancy and besides limited choices in curriculum, there was even less to choose from when it came to enrichment.
With my homeschool graduating class of less than ten, no one thought about holding a co-op, enrichment classes, or starting a basketball league. Piano was about the only extra in those days. That was the “not so good” part of homeschooling during the pioneer era.
What Homeschool Buzzwords Tell Us
In those days, you would hear buzzwords like burnout and unit studies, but rarely did you hear the word busy. Moms stayed at home most of the day, and evenings were filled with family dinner and playing games (most homeschoolers did not have TVs!).
Homeschooling is no longer a rarity but has become a standard third option. Today, homeschooled kids can be seen driving around town at any hour of the school day. With this growth, the doors of opportunity have swung wide open. In our part of the world, there are dozens and dozens of activities and “extras” to choose from.
With homeschooling’s expansion and acceptance, the word burnout has dwindled due to the local community, the lack of stress which pioneers felt to “prove” the homeschool way, and online social networking. Unit studies are no longer the new kid on the block. Now there is classical education, the Charlotte Mason approach—along with hundreds of other options.
These days, the buzzword for homeschool mommies is definitely busy! I hear it around my friends and at conventions, but mostly out of my own mouth. We fill our days with home management and schooling our children in the core subjects. Then we add the extra three to five subjects that we feel pressured into doing because our homeschooling friends are doing them or because it’s new curriculum that looks so neat. Finally, we add meal preparation, church activities, working from home, and homeschool enrichment. No wonder homeschooling moms say they are busy—they simply are!
While on the one hand this fullness is a blessing, on the other hand it can make tackling the homeschool day or week a challenging one. You have your schedule laid out, you’ve worked out your lesson plans, and you have each day and week organized with checklists. But it can all fall apart if you are too busy with other opportunities to actually follow the schedule and get the lesson plans done.
Those Five Important Homeschool Questions
So how do you enjoy the greener grass on the other side without slipping into the slope of homeschool busyness that produces unfathomable fatigue? (Yes, I said that in a MegaMind voice!) First, make sure that your schedule, lesson plans, and daily lists really are manageable. Then set boundaries that help you buckle down and approach the year well.
Here are five rules that our family implemented in order to get the most out of our day while still maintaining our priorities.
1. Is it possible to avoid outside activities before 1 p.m? It never fails that when we leave the house before lunch, school almost never gets done that day. This is why we make it a priority to schedule the “extras” after the morning school time.
2. Is this activity merely fluff? Take a quick glance over the enrichment classes offered at co-op groups, and you can see that knitting, sign language, Lego building (okay, that sounds like a cool class), and hand bells might just be busy work. When deciding on classes, we evaluate the long-term benefits for each child, not just the momentary hour a week that ends up getting wasted.
3. Will this activity take away from family time? Far too often, dinner around the table is now cut for a class in the evening. Children grow up fast, and memories around the table cannot be replaced with the guitar picking, swing dancing, and baton twirling.
4. Can we really afford this? Homeschooling has become much more expensive when you add in all those “extras.” Be careful not to stretch yourself financially—there is a library, and books are a kid’s best friend!
5. Could I spend this time developing my relationship with my children? As a mom who has seen four out of five children graduate and head out into their adult lives, I know how limited the days of one-on-one time are. If I could do some things over, I would chuck a few “extras” and spend the time having tea or building Legos. You can never go wrong that way!
We busy moms have many choices to make. As Spiderman’s uncle said, “With great power, comes great responsibility!” This year, make it your goal to make careful and considerate decisions about where to spend your time, choosing to build better relationships with spouse and children, avoid fatigue, and handle the academics well.
Do you have the type of personality that tackles the plan well, or do you tend to find yourself caught up in a wide range of opportunities beyond the plan? Take our Planner Personality Quiz to find out more about your planner personality type.