I’ve been asked by a number of you to share more about our family’s homeschooling, and specifically how I make it all “work”.
Short answer: It’s a precarious balancing act.
Before I give the long answer, I want to remind you that this is only a sliver of my life that you’re reading about. I know how easy it is to read someone’s blog and think – wow, they’ve got it all together. I certainly project that kind of idealized perfection onto the lives of the bloggers that I read.
But believe me when I say, our house is a mess. I struggle to keep my cool under pressure. And I’m doing none of this because I’m some kind of superhuman.
Like all moms, I’m just doing what I think is best for my family – and trying to figure out how not to get swallowed up by the chaos in the process.
And P.S. I know that not everyone cares about this stuff, so feel free to skip these posts and come back for the deals.
When I tell people that we homeschool our sons, I usually get some version of the “Are you crazy?!” question.
The truth is that yes, I may be crazy — but that probably happened long before our decision to bring our boys home for school. Unfortunately those same personality quirks of mine can sometimes make homeschooling challenging — not necessarily for my kids, but definitely for me.
Let me explain: As I’ve shared before, we decided to homeschool for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we came to believe that it’s best for our particular kids’ learning styles.
I constantly marvel at our ability in homeschooling to truly teach each of children where they’re at. We have been able to watch them grow – exponentially – in directions they never would have discovered in a traditional school. (And we have been able to slow down and really dig in on the stuff that is confounding them.)
This is the good stuff.
The hard stuff, for me at least, is three-fold: First, when you homeschool your kids, they’re at home. All day. Some parents are amazing with 24-7. I’m gonna be really blunt and say I’m not. I’m an introvert, who needs her alone time. I get easily over-stimulated, especially by auditory input. Ask my husband; I get freaked out when three people start talking to me at once.
Second, I’m a perfectionist (like so many moms I know). The pressure to not just get it right — but perfect — with my kids’ schooling can be really overwhelming. Yeah, yeah, the good enough mom is good enough. But that’s kind of hard to believe when the educational future of your children depends on you.
Third, I work. And like most working moms I know – whether they work at home or out of the home – our family’s budget depends on my income as well as my husband’s. This blog is my full-time job. I blog for you, and without you, I’d have no blog. So if/when I blow off the blog to teach my kids, I lose my traffic. I’ve learned how to focus most of my writing, deal hunting and posting to a few concentrated (morning) hours each day. But those hours are pretty non-negotiable.
Last May, I realized that I needed to tweak some things in our homeschooling so that they’d work better for me. Of course, the better things work for mom, the better they work for everyone.
Already last year, we determined that I really need to be online from (at a minimum) 9 am to noon, Monday – Friday. My 10 year-old was fine with “doing” school in the afternoon, and entertaining himself in the morning. But this was really challenging for my 7 year-old.
By the time I was ready to start school at 12:30, he’d be off in another world. His prime “brain” hours are the morning ones. The first three to four hours after he gets up are his most productive — and we were squandering them with our late-start schedule.
We decided this year to hire a tutor/teacher to work with him for 90 minutes each morning, Monday thru Thursday, teaching math and a few other subjects (the ones I was least invested in teaching myself).
Once I figured out that I needed this mythical person to help make our schedule work, I set out to find her.
I worked personal connections, but then a friend suggested I look on Care.com. I’m so glad I followed her advice, because we found the perfect person.
She has a degree in early childhood education (with a minor in biology) and a lot of experience with homeschoolers! She has a wonderful disposition and, best of all, my kids love her.
(As an aside, if you’ve not used Care.com before, I was really impressed with the site and heartily recommend it if you’re looking for any kind of help – babysitter, nanny, house cleaner, etc.)
I’ve talked before about how spending money on “help” requires us to consider the delicate balance between time and money. I know not everyone can afford to make the same choices, but I’m very grateful for these 90 minutes a day.
The other big change to our schedule is that my husband is teaching math to my 10 year-old. I’m gonna be honest and say, math is not my strongest subject. I can handle elementary math, but it’s probably a good idea to have my husband step in now before things get more complicated.
Since my husband works from home as well, he generally has the flexibility to work with my son in the mornings.
(For those who have asked about limudei kodesh, we’ve had tutors working with our sons since the beginning of our homeschooling. I teach them Hebrew k’riyah and modern/conversational Hebrew.)
By 12:30, when I’m ready to start teaching, my boys have already gotten half of their daily schedule checked off. This is a huge relief for me – as not only does it mean I have more time to work uninterrupted, but I also feel less of that perfection pressure.
The other thing we’ve done, schedule-wise, is decide that we are schooling four days a week, Monday thru Thursday, and Fridays are field trip day. At least twice a month, I’ll schedule something that requires a bit of driving. It’s good for my homebody self to get out of my comfort zone sometimes — and invariably the “experience” part of schooling makes the biggest impression on my children.
(I was re-inspired about the importance of field trips while reading the enjoyable autobiography, Love In the Time of Homeschooling.)
This new Friday schedule means that I’ll need to (a) prep Shabbat Thursday night and/or keep things very simple (more likely the latter) and (b) work a bit less those mornings. Those are compromises I can live with, especially since I know the pay-off is so great!
As with all new systems, everything above is subject to change – and if you really want to know how this is all working out, I’d recommend you check in with me again in February. But for now, day #7 of school, I’m feeling hopeful about the balance between work/school/mom/me and all the other backslashes I try to fit into my day.
Any other homeschooling moms out there? I’d love to hear how you keep it balanced. Of course, as woman, no matter where our kids are learning (or whether we have kids), our lives are a constant balancing act. Have you decided that outsourcing a part of your responsibility load will help keep you more sane? And finally, can anyone else relate to my whole “someone is always talking to me” freakout?!