by Leslie Fobbs
I consider myself still relatively new to this homeschooling thing even though we’ve done it for almost two school years and have been through several different methods and platforms. One thing I’m learning through it all though is that homeschooling requires an odd, delicate balance. Odd because it’s inconsistent and forever changing. Delicate because it’s so sensitive, that the consequences can be dire if the scale is allowed to tip too far into one extreme or the other.
My first lesson on this topic came when we first enrolled in a virtual school through the K12 platform. That first week we were doing work late into the evening. I knew we couldn’t last like that, so I tweaked things a little and took some liberties (aka bent some rules) so that we didn’t school from early morning to late evening. Adjustments took a little stress off myself and Dee, however, after awhile I felt like we still had no social life.
We were sequestered in our home except for the weekends and the one Friday a month that field trips were scheduled. I must also add that we had just moved here and didn’t know anyone, so that didn’t help either. It was enough to make me question my choice. I mean, how could it be better to sit at home by ourselves all the time over Dee being in school with other children to interact with. That’s because I didn’t know any better. I had not tapped into the fantastic network of other homeschooling families online and in person. If I had, I would have saved us a lot of unhappiness because I’d know that homeschooling requires balancing these five, essential aspects.
We already know this, of course. Some time definitely should be spent on learning whether you are traditionally homeschooling or unschooling. Learning can be defined so widely or narrowly; it’s really up to you and your child as to what and how you do it. When we were in K12, we were required to log in at least 6 hours a day. Coming from brick and mortar public school that sounded reasonable. BUT, when you consider how much of the time in B&M is spent on non-learning (see this amazing article to get a detailed breakdown) six hours is a lot!
When we switched to doing our own thing with an online curriculum I tried to block out four hours. Now, as an unschooler, I try to weave learning into everything; anytime, anywhere. In addition to that, I’m happy (and so is my husband) if I casually keep track of purposely doing something towards learning for two hours out of the day. That could include watching a Magic School Bus episode.
People really get spun up when talking about socialization and homeschooling. I know I do! We have to acknowledge that it is important though, and actively pursue opportunities for both our child(ren) and us to interact with other humans. Take it from me, after being pent up in the house for four months it can have you ready to climb the walls and go crazy. It’s not good for the relationship between you and your child to only be around each other. Some positive, outside influences go a long way towards providing perspective and affecting behavior. Consider also that, as they get older, children need lightly supervised time with peers; space to be themselves with friends. I like that my local group has tween/teen meet up times where parents are not allowed except for one chaperone that sits at a distance.
So, no, you don’t need to go back to public school for proper socialization. That is a myth! Homeschooling is really spreading around the country, so there are cities and even rural areas with a lot of activities and resources specifically for the homeschool crowd. Join a local co-op or support group. Check Facebook for online groups. However, if your area is a little dry, there are still ways to socialize. You just have to be a bit more creative.
Time for Nothingness
This is where a lot of families go wrong by ignoring this part of the balance. Having a full schedule of activities, learning, and outings is great, but it can really wear everyone down. We live thirty minutes outside of the city where most of our excursions occur. As an introverted homebody, it can be draining for me to go back and forth every day of the week.
I try to make sure there is a least one day we don’t have anything scheduled. Those days are like a retreat for us, and I allow Dee to do more of what seems like a waste of time while I do some time-wasting myself. It’s really not a waste of time though. It’s more like recharging your battery. When things get really hectic for weeks on end, I will even decline our usual meetups for a whole week just to be at home. Spring break is an excellent time to do this when less is scheduled anyway.
Time for You
Don’t forget to take time out for yourself. Not just to recharge, as I mentioned in the last section, but to also pursue your own interests. You can be all about your kids all you want, but when they are grown and gone, you don’t want to regret not having something just for you that provides special purpose and fulfillment outside of being a mother. I see it with my own mom. She worked so hard all those years at her job and then to take care of us at home, that she never really cultivated her own hobbies. Now as an empty-nester, I see her struggle with me and my siblings being gone and spread throughout the country.
With homeschooling, it’s difficult because you’re with your children almost 24/7, but you have to make an effort. I think having a work from home job or business is the best for providing fulfilling achievement for yourself. There are so many options out there and I hope to share some in the future that fit well with homeschooling.
After you have school time, time with friends, time to yourself and time for nothingness you also need to bring everyone back together to do something enjoyable as a family. I recognize that I need more of this with my own crew. Watching tv together every night is cool, but throwing in other activities every now and then is even better.
Board games, video games, reading aloud, and other interactive activities all allow for laughter, conversation, and bonding. Even just sitting around discussing the day (over dinner or not) is an excellent way to spend time together. Most homeschooling families have one parent (dad) away from home all day for work. Giving time and space for them to get involved is important for everyone, especially the child. Don’t forget to make time for family.
I’ve given five essential aspects to balance throughout your day and week as a homeschooling family. Achieving balance is a work that’s always in progress and never perfect, but very necessary. I hope new families will learn this lesson early on and that seasoned homeschoolers will revisit the topic often.
Have you achieved a good balance for you and your family? Share in the comments below how you make it all work together.