“Everyone I know who home educates makes it look effortless. Honestly, I can’t believe how hard it is some days. The good parts are FANTASTIC, the difficult parts are really challenging – like getting some space for myself, the house always being a mess, the kids arguing for days on end sometimes.”
“I feel so exhausted I am seriously considering putting my children back into school. Everyone says it will get easier but I don’t know if I can even get through the rest of this week to be honest.”
“You must be an AMAZING mother to homeschool! I can’t count the number of times I have heard this or something very much like it. The thing is, I don’t feel like an amazing mother most of the time. Home educating is hard. Added to that, the fact is that I rarely escape four big little feet padding their way through the house after me, and some days are just impossible. Some weeks I’m secretly plotting what I’m going to do with myself should I ever get five minutes alone. Some months, school is looking like a very good option.”
Most of us can relate to the comments above. Most of us have been in a similar place at some point or other on our home education journey. Self-care is an important aspect of finding balance as a home educating parent. And key to self-care is having some time out. So how do we have time to ourselves when we are seldom alone? There is an art to it … read on below.
When you decided to home educate you did not give up your right to self-care. You took on the responsibility of having your children 24/7, but there is no requirement that the price you pay to home educate is personal sacrifice. While days … sometimes weeks or months … can see some home educators in phases of refereeing sibling arguments, trying to motivate struggling learners, dashing from one child’s activity to another – it’s important to remember that home educating gives you a lot of power and flexibility in designing your family’s lifestyle. The first step to self-care is evaluating what needs to change. It is not selfish to have some time to yourself, you are modelling healthy habits to your children.
How do other home educators do it?
“My partner starts work early four days a week. I get up with him and we have breakfast together, then I have about an hour before the kids wake up. Other times, if my kids are happily playing outside or in their rooms, I just sit quietly reading or sewing. I give my kids lots of free play time, which I think has helped them to find ways to amuse themselves without me. I also aim to do chores with them so that I don’t get caught up in those activities when I have time to myself!”
“I have ‘quiet time’ for my boys after lunch from 1.30pm-3.00pm. They go to their rooms and either read or play quietly with Lego or whatever. I put the little one in bed for a nap even tho he doesn’t sleep much. This time gives me a chance to get a few jobs done uninterrupted or have some down time of my own. This works so well for us that I think it will keep happening until they leave home!”
“I let my daughter have the computer after lunch while I read or nap or find somewhere by myself. Morning cuppa is sacred time, leave mum alone or the day does not start well!”
“I ask Who wants to help in the garden? … I pretty much always get some alone time.”
“My mother was a solo mum who homeschooled two of us. Her rule was we had to be in our rooms at 8pm. We did not have to have lights out until later (depending on age), but up until we were in our late teens that was her rule so that she got time to relax or have a friend over for supper, etc”
“I say that after 8pm is time to be settled and sensible, and after 9pm is Mum’s time.”
“I got a German Shepherd puppy, I often take her for walks at night when the kids are in bed. It’s also a good excuse to go for a very long walk on a Sunday!”
“My children get to choose when they go to bed but I have always been firm that ‘adult time’ begins at 8.30pm and the kids need to be in their own rooms so that my husband and I get some space. Getting time to myself during the day has become easier as we’ve gone along … often my three will be absorbed in some game or activity and I will just make myself a coffee and sit on the couch reading a short magazine article. Sometimes I just stare out the window lol. I aim for several short spaces of time during the day rather than one big amount. If it’s just an absolutely terrible day for us then I put on a DVD for the kids, and get on Facebook to my homeschooling friends so I can rant freely, and then I feel better and the day improves for all of us.”
“I go to bed early then get up at two in the morning, make a cuppa, have quiet time then back to bed at about four and sleep till five or six. However sometimes the peace is so beautiful i just stay up.”
“Ever since my children were young I have taught them to have quiet time for an hour in the afternoon. They read, play in their rooms (together or apart), watch a DVD, watch YouTube clips, etc. During that hour I make myself a cuppa and sit down. I read a book, blob in front of the computer … whatever, but I do NOT do housework, planning or anything like that. Now that my three kids are 6yrs, 8yrs and 9yrs they know the drill. Most afternoons they chose to go and have quiet time by themselves too.”
Tips from other home educators:
- Challenge your ideas about what it means to have time to yourself. See it as something more to do with your ‘head space’ than with whether or not you are alone.
- Give your children lots of free play time so that they can become involved in their own self-led games, freeing you up to have some space.
- Set up quiet time for your children in their rooms at a consistent point during the day or week.
- Find activities your children can do independently and schedule this into your weekly routine.
- Send the kids outside on their own every day.
- Don’t view DVDs or the TV as evil. Use these tools to your advantage.
- Find a Chipmunks or Inflatable World or equivalent in your neighbourhood and let the kids go crazy while you have some space.
- Find some exercise you can do individually but in the same place as the children – like jogging while they bike alongside you, walking around the boundaries of the park while they play, etc.
- Take a book to your child’s activities and use the time to zone out. If you have other children, bring books or toys or a tablet to keep them occupied.
- Even young children can prepare their own snacks or breakfast – teach them as early as you can so that they are doing more for themselves.
- Make an agreement with your partner that you will take ten minutes time out as soon as he/she gets home.
- Put on some music really loud, let the kids dance outside or on the deck while you groove along doing some housework.
- Connect with another like-minded homeschooling family and swap childminding for an afternoon each per week.
- Stop doing ‘school’ and take time out to recharge. Just let go of expectations and focus on having fun for a while.
- Remember that nothing lasts forever … if the children are going through difficult phases, scale everything back and focus on just getting through together.
- Make your own rules – have a bath in the middle of the day if bathing is how you relax, don’t schedule morning activities if everyone likes to sleep late, etc.
- Get together with another family on a weekend and let the Dads take the kids exploring while the Mums chat. [swap the terms “Mums” and “Dads” as appropriate to suit your family].
- Talk to your children about the importance of self-care, and brainstorm ideas about how each person can get their needs met.
- Embrace the flexibility that home educating provides – change what you are doing when it stops working.
- Talk to others about what they do and find something that works for you.