Wednesday, February 5, 2014

~The Teetering Balance for the Homeschool Mama~

Homeschooling Allows For More Family Time!
Hannah, JJ & Gracie pose for a pic

I feel broken in's been a touch less than 2 years of homeschooling  for me ...and although I'm not a novice anymore, I am constantly learning more as I trudge along.

One thing I have had to learn the hard way, is that for the homeschooling Mama, there is a great need for B-A-L-A-N-C-E....balance is the key to sanity and to maintaining some semblance of order in our often overflowing lives!

Waking up, feeding the kids, cleaning the house, learning & teaching, feed the kids...repeat...extra-curricular activities, church, visit family, organize bills, phone calls... the list seems endless at times...

We know homeschooling has SO many benefits, and here are some of them:

-extra family time
-opportunity to see character issues up front & deal with them
-individualized learning 
-ability to get extra help for children with learning issues
-a freedom of schedule so your children can pick up important 'real life' skills 
-a chance to model co-operation between loving family members
-work & co-op opportunities as children approach high school & college age
See a post I wrote about this in detail: "The JOYS of Homeschooling

& there's so much more I don' t have the space for...

However, any HONEST homeschooling Mama will tell you that there are also unique challenges that other parents may or may not face, or at least not as often. Here are some I've personally experienced:

-lack of personal time & space
-having to be more diligent to keep up friendships/relationships
-extra pressure on our marriage 
-extra pressure on our finances
-house may not get as cleaned, and I guarantee you if it does it won't last that long!
-some of your personal goals may have to be put on hold, or take longer to achieve
-discouragement when your children continually struggle in a particular area, whether it be in the academic or character realm

In the last 2 weeks I've had many, many tear-filled moments....a sick baby incessantly crying, explosive diapers, another child repeatedly puking, sibling conflict, feeling so tired that I want to sleep for the entire day (but I settle for a 15 minute catnap on the couch instead!), a child struggles with a particular subject so much so that we are sitting at the table at 5pm STILL trying to complete an assignment, spills, splatters, attitudes & the normal buzz of life as the icing on top.

I must remind you at this point about the more positive list above :) Yes, there's a reason we're still homeschooling...

Today, I wanted to share a few tips that I've found helpful to get through the rough patches, the discouraging seasons, and to try and maintain the 'balance' in the home...although any HONEST Mama will tell you that this is an never-ending battle!

It's time to re-prioritize and make some changes, myself included! Balance isn't a one-time's much better to re-evaluate from season to season. Here we go-->

  • Take Time to Refresh! 
If you've ever been on a plane you may recall the instructions "in case of emergency, put the air masks on yourself first...BEFORE your children or anyone else." Why is this? Quite simply, we cannot help someone else when we are struggling for breath! I feel it's very similar for a homeschooling Mama. Being short-tempered, impatient & overall sluggish with our kids from day to day isn't really helpful to our goals as parents. Of course, we will ALL have those trying days, but the less the better! Taking time to get up, get ready, have a quiet time in the morning with the Lord, shower, change...basically whatever makes you feel ready for YOUR crucial to being one step ahead of the game. Aim to get up half hour (at least) before the kids do.

  • Make Sure to Exercise & Keep Yourself Physically Active
Goes with number 1; it's important to keep ourselves in the best condition we can. Five minutes of the treadmill (or walking) is enough to get your circulation system pumping. More would be optimal. Weight bearing exercise is a bonus & a great MUST if you're 40 or over. Walking. Running. Swimming. Just get active & start with small increments as low as 5 minutes, even 2 if that's all the time you have right now! Here I share my own journey after my fifth pregnancy--> No More Excuses

  • Make as Healthy Choices as You Can
Matches with number 2; if our body's are not properly fueled we will not be functioning at our BEST. Fruit, fresh veggies, legumes, nuts & seeds. Soups, stews, lean-cut meats & a variety of herbal teas & herb/spices to season things up. I'm a holistic nutritionist and realize how important this is...but it still is a personal battle for me given the lack of extra time & money. My goal is to do the best with what we have...and that little bit of change can make all the difference in the world in how you feel. 
Here's a post I wrote on this: Top Ten Easy Steps to a More Nutritious You!

  • Guard Your Marriage
I never knew how little time I would have for my marriage as a homeschooling Mama...I think EVERY homeschooling manual & support group should touch on this sensitive topic. Your marriage needs to be guarded and made a priority. Date nights. Evenings alone without children. Time to pray together, dream, set goals...hang around other couples that are encouraging to you both. I wrote a post about this recently called Messy Marriage

  • Take Time for Field Trips
After a few back-to-back looooong days a field trip can be a great RESPITE from the fatigue of regular schooling. The list of possibilities is endless for the homeschooler. The only limits are your budget and imagination! I personally recommend you join a local homeschooling support group & find some like-minded friends that you can go on the trips with. Discounts are abundant, usually for groups of 20 or more. We've enjoyed places like the local farm, museums, large play areas, businesses, and many more! Here's a fun post one of our close friends did on her field trip to an aquarium: Homeschool Unit Studies & Field Trips

  • Talk/Pray with Other Mamas
Sometimes a simple five minute phone conversation is refreshing enough to help me sigh a big breathe of relief...sharing our days and memorable moments...sharing dreams & future goals concerning our children...even to simply shoot the breeze is often enough to achieve that 'balance' we are all looking for. Don't forget to BE that kind of friend that others might need in a season of discouragement or difficulty! 

  • Get the Kids Outside
This point is DOUBLY important if you have one or more boys in your homeschool! I repeat...get them OUTSIDE! (smile) Outside activity is helpful to ensure that WHEN the children are inside they are able to concentrate better, and that they continue to stay in good physical shape. 
*Note: if you do have some wiggly boys feel free to be encouraged here--> Raising Boys

  • Take Time to Get Out with Friends
Maybe this point may sound selfish to some of you, but I believe too many of us can easily swing the other way..."I don't need anyone"..."I don't need any help/encouragement/accountability." I am so thankful for our local support groups. Even online support groups have a place for those days/weeks when you can't get outdoors much. Adult talk is a must, and with some struggles it may be prudent to talk about with other Mamas who are in the same boat as you. If they've been homeschooling for any length of time, they should be able to relate :)

  • Find Some Recommended Books/Blogs to Refresh Your Vision
I recently got a nice little package in the mail with some new favs: "Educating the WholeHearted Child" by the Clay & Sally Clarkson, and "More Hours in My Day" by Emilie Barnes & Sherri Torelli. These are helpful treasures to add in any library! But there are soo many others...I personally enjoy parenting/homeschooling books by "Dr. James Dobson", "Duggar Family", "Mary Pride", & "The Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling" to name a few off the top of my head...and one of my fav homeschooling bloggers is Amy at Raising Arrows--> Check Amy's Blog Out Here

  • Maybe Your Perspective Needs to Change
It could be that you no longer have time for your elaborate garden. Or the nagging feeling that you are somehow 'missing' out on something after you just get off of Facebook (don't you love social media for that?!)...your kids are still having their struggles & you are trying your hardest to keep your head afloat. Sometimes all that's really needed is a perspective change. A new lens. A new way to look at your struggles. Keep the long-term vision in mind. Eternity is forever, but today goes by so quickly....Read "The Lens That May Need Some Dusting Off"

Let's be real: homeschooling is NOT always easy! Homeschooling is a sacrifice that you & your family have chosen for the blessing of your children. Your laundry may be piled up...your house may be stained with lil finger prints...your backyard would not impress the likes of Martha Stewart...but your heart is full & you are taking it day-by-day.

At our home we have decided that we'll reassess year by year for each one of our children. So far we have seen a lot of benefits from homeschooling, but we don't frown on our friends & loved ones who choose a different path. We are currently praying & assessing already for the next school year...

Homeschooling is a great way to add in fun extra-curriculars!
JJ at a homeschool race

~Please feel free to share any tips that have worked for you to maintain your balance! I love to learn from other seasoned, or not so seasoned, Mamas out there. ~

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  1. thanks Rachael. So very very true to life!

    1. It's a never ending struggle maintaining it, isn't it? Thanks Heidi for stopping by :)

  2. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us here at "Tell Me a Story." In my day, schools were better than now, and the children did learn and were safe. Our daughter homeschooled her five children when they were NOT learning at school. It worked out for her and them. I enjoyed your list of benefits.

    1. Thanks Hazel again for stopping by! I am so glad to hear it worked out for your daughter with FIVE children (just like us, right?)...more encouragement for the long haul :)

  3. You've hit on some very important points, Rachael! Can I offer you some encouragement? We are going on year 5 - when we started, I had a 2&3 year old and was expecting our third. Those first few years - your post brings me back. But in just the last two years, we've finally hit our stride and homeschooling is mostly a joy for all of us! I've heard that it takes about 4 years to really figure out it out - the balance, the learning styles, the pace, the are not alone in the place where you are.

    My #1 tip for finding balance: start the morning with Jesus. Whether it's just five minutes of reading a favorite Psalm, or locking yourself in the bathroom to pray and ask Him to guide your day and your heart - spending time with Him first thing can really change the perspective from "surviving today" to "guiding little hearts to eternity".

    We also homeschool "one year and one child at a time". They are each so different in their needs and how they're wired, that I can't imagine locking them into one method for life (even if it's my desire to homeschool till high school!).

    I am so blessed to have found your blog. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks Lisha for your encouragement! I am so looking forward to the season of finding my stride & rhythm with all the kiddies :) Right now we're not quite there...and that's what leads to the discouragement I'm sure. I also find from talking to other newer mothers, or listening to their posts on online groups, that this is a common theme after pulling kids out to homeschool. When you're used to having the kids 'in school all day' and you pull them out...well, that can be a bit of an adjustment for our schedules as you can imagine! That's why I wrote this post, to offer encouragement to those who need it, and a big reminder to myself I suppose...homeschooling IS doable with a bigger family. And with lots of outside pressures/activities and well, just life.
      Thanks so much for stopping by Lisha! Appreciate you sharing :)

    2. PS do you have blog link? Please feel free to share it in a reply line. Would love to read it & stay connected :)

    3. My blog is and I also have an FB page (The 'Blish).

      I hope you are having a sweet weekend! :)

  4. I'm into our second year of homeschooling also. There sure are a lot of frustrations. There's also so much joy when you see the light bulb go on over their head and they finally master something difficult. I'm also assessing homeschooling one year, one child, and one mom at a time. I assess whether homeschooling is having a positive effect on myself. If not it could damage my marriage, relationship with my child, and the family as a whole.

    1. I agree Julie. We can't put the whole philosophy of homeschooling above our calling to be a great wife, awesome Mama and contributing healthy member of the family :) So true: assess every one year, one child, one Mom at a time.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I used to try and sneak out at dawn for a run or walk on the bach, it wasn't very successful, if either of them woke up I'd feel too guilty to go. Date night? What's that? We've only had baby sitters twice in the last almost-10 years! But it is very important to get out and keep moving. Homeschooling, working on the internet and being at home have been very bad for my health, I know it's time to go for a walk when my ankles start swelling from sitting at a computer too long.

    1. I hear you! I have been having the same issue with leg swelling, when I'm on here too long....but I do feel getting out & small breaks are so important we have to keep looking for the (sometimes) rare opportunities. I feel it's very important for our mental health, and contentment. Otherwise I find myself getting resentful, or even worse, burned out. Thanks for sharing your heart openly. Glad you were able to stop by Alyson :)



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