Home schooling is hard work. Yes, it’s a blessing. Yes, we enjoy it. But it is also a difficult job and one that can be extremely stressful if we let it.
There is the constant concern that we aren’t doing enough or that our children are behind in some way. There is almost no alone time in which we can gather our thoughts. The house is harder to maintain because the kids are home messing it up all day long. It’s like being a first-year teacher for multiple grades… and we do it over and over, year after year. Being a mom can be stressful in itself; but, being a home school mom increases our stress load exponentially… especially on those days when nothing seems to go right and we feel incredibly behind. De-stressing is essential!
So, what can we do to decrease our stress load? Here are some tips:
Have a back-up plan. We know there will be bad days. When this happens, know in advance how you’d like to handle it. When your best laid plans go haywire, how can you recover well? Have a field trip idea or a super fun lesson waiting in the wings for you to pull out and spring on your children. Sometimes just a change of scenery or plans will help to get everyone back on track.
Make a list. Once you’re feeling stressed out, it can be hard to think clearly. Think of five or 10 relaxing things that you enjoy doing and write them down. Try to fit some of these things into your schedule on a regular basis. If you don’t have the time to enjoy them very often, at least keep the list handy for when you feel the telltale signs of being stressed out. Be sure to share this list with your partner so that they have ideas to suggest to you when they see you are overwhelmed. They will probably notice that you are feeling out of sorts before you do.
Take a lunch break. We all need a few minutes alone each day in order to maintain our sanity. If our children are young, we need to take time for ourselves while they are napping. If they are older, we can train them to read books or play outside or engage in quiet activity while we take a break. Train the children to leave you alone during this half-hour or hour of time. If your kids are old enough to be left alone, you might want to consider taking a walk by yourself. These few moments of silent time, where demands aren’t being made on you, will go a long way toward decreasing your stress level.
Ask for help. The quickest way to burn out is to attempt to do everything on your own. Ask your partner to pitch in and help out with certain aspects of home schooling. Ask the grandparents to take the kids and give you a break. Ask another home schooling parent to swap child care duties with you so you have a chance to run errands on your own. Ask your family to pitch in with more of the household chores. Some of us are blessed enough to have people who ask how they can help. Most of us, however, will need to ask people to help. Don’t be afraid to ask! People don’t know we could use help unless we tell them.
Stop comparing yourself or your children to others. Everyone is different. Our children are all unique, and we are unique as well. Our home schooling experiences, while similar, will not be exactly the same as anyone else’s. Some families will excel in areas in which we struggle. Some will spend time doing many things that don’t even hit our radar. That’s alright. We all have different priorities, different reasons for home schooling, different strengths and different children. We need to stop comparing ourselves to other families and run our own individual races.
Consider joining a co-op. Some subjects, such as gym, are hard to teach at home. There are many home school co-ops all over the world which offer various types of classes and activities. You may want to investigate the ones near you and evaluate whether or not it would be good for your family to join one. We are part of a co-op which meets on Friday mornings every other week. The cost is minimal and the fellowship has been great - for myself and for my sons. Having an outlet where we can visit with other home school parents on a regular basis can be very positive.
Enrol your children in a class or extracurricular activity. There are many different opportunities for home schooled children. You may want to consider finding one where you can drop your children at various times to give you a chance to be alone or to run errands on your own. We have found several awesome opportunities such as hands-on science classes and nature classes, which have given my boys a chance to learn from someone else and to give me a chance to catch up on writing my newsletters and such. We’ve enjoyed these opportunities when they present themselves.
Join a support group. This is another great way to fellowship with other home school parents. If you join a support group, be sure you come away from it feeling energized and encouraged rather than feeling like you’ve just attended a complaining or comparing fest.
Being a home school parent can be quite stressful. With a little bit of thought and preparation, however, it can be an enjoyable journey in which parents and our children can benefit immensely over the long-run.
Michelle is a home schooling mom, and the author of several home schooling publications including Learn & Grow: Hands-On Lessons for Active Preschoolers, Teach Me About God: Hands-On Bible Lessons for Active Preschoolers and Time Capsule: Medieval England. For more information about these books, visit her website, www.homeschool-your-boys.com.
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