There is a lot of movement toward becoming “unbusy” – however when I look at many of these Facebook groups and websites, it almost becomes more about de-cluttering than it really is about picking the priorities of being unbusy or about…well, the life that happens along the way of homeschooling and parenting for many years. To me, the material de-cluttering is actually the easy, if not time-consuming part. The bigger question becomes, ” How does one become “unbusy” from too much life?”
This is important to think about because the reality is, for most people and for most homeschooling families, life does get busier the older children become (unless you have an roadschooling/wildschooling lifestyle or your children are just very introverted and don’t care about doing much). Most older teenagers, especially, are eager to be busy. When I talk to mothers of older teenager, they are busy. I have grown to think that in this season of life, it isn’t bad. It just is.
The other thing to couple into this is that if you homeschool (and parent!) long-term over decades, LIFE just happens. There may be illnesses in the family, death in the family, separation and divorce happens. Life happens. Sometimes there is more life than homeschooling. It is one thing to sustain a very calm homelife for many years, but surely in fifteen to twenty years or more of homeschooling a family probably will hit some bumps along the way!
My very best advice for those of you with younger children is to figure out how to enjoy your days at home and of being outside in nature with a simple rhythm but no real agenda. Practice the art of just being in the moment. I know the days and nights at home can sometimes feel endless, and parents sometimes rush to fill it all up. And some of that comes from worry or fear. Maybe you worry (just a little bit) about fitting in with mainstream society.. Maybe you worry ( just a little bit) about all the other children are starting gymnastics at 5 and cello at 4 and how will your child ever compete later on. Maybe you worry about your child not having any friends. Many of these things can wait. You only have the time for your children to have this protected innocence of being little once. The life of activities and more formal learning will come. An d, by learning to be present in these early years, you can learn to survive the coming years of ups and downs.
For those of you on the cusp of becoming busier, my plea to you is not to have your eight to fourteen- year old carry a schedule or behaviors like a sixteen year old. There will be time enough to ramp things up. We used to start things later, like sports in middle school. We were just starting to get our feet wet in middle school, and our playing peaked in high school. So, I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, when everyone is learning and doing things much earlier and for more sustained periods than we ever did in my years of growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, but I guarantee talent and drive can still lead to great success in the high school years, even if your child didn’t start something super early.
If your child is under that fifteen/sixteen change, boundaries are still really important. Don’t let them carry the behaviors or the straining separation from the family that the 15-17 year olds carry. Those in the 8-14 range are not there yet; if they are pushing to go there try creating a community for this age instead of a bunch of friends you don’t really know. Family is life. The separation will happen eventually, but I still think the goal is to have the family unit be the most important unit of togetherness. If your child’s friends can be integrated into your family fun, and your child into family life of families that you are super close to, all the better for enriching everyone’s lives. It becomes a community, not just an outside friend. Our older daughter’s closest friends are like this, and we so appreciate it still.
Make time for family nights, dinner together, family vacations, limits on technology, long drives and long talks. Help siblings learn to be together. Help children learn to be content without being constantly stimulated, entertained, or with friends. These are skills that will determine health.
Think about your priorities as your children expand outside the home. Sometimes this expansion happens in your neighborhood, or school, or through an activity. Our older girls ride horses and we are pretty wrapped up with horse care. For the most part, I enjoy this. It is a close knit community of support and love for all of our children. Yesterday I was outside all day during a horse show while our son played all day outside (hay bales can be a full-on day of entertainment!). Win-win. It is good to think about these things when your children are 8-14. It isn’t just about what your child wants to do but also can it be a supportive community for the whole family?
For those of you with older high schoolers past that 15/16 change….they have their WHOLE lives ahead of them. It doesn’t all have to happen in four years of high school. Life is way beyond the high school years, and the late teens and early twenties I think are a hard time period where young people still need our support. My cousin and I were talking about this just last weekend – how hard the early twenties actually were hard times and how family support, even in the form of letters back in the day, were very helpful. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a different in the life of an 18-22 year old.
In homeschooling high school, I see many homeschooling parents, including myself sometimes, feel antsy about these years. Are we doing enough in our teaching? (We are!) I always think that the children who are brillant in school probably would have been brillant at home too, and the children that aren’t so brillant at school probably will do better at home than they would at school. Find the balance between the need for chill and the need for accountablity, perhaps with you or with someone else. Some high schoolers really need the “someone else” to rise up. That is okay. Most of the parents I talk to talk about the long days their teenagers keep, especially those teenagers in pursuit of colleges, and how they boh teenagers and parents are exhausted. You can read more about why the average American teen is exhausted and burned out here. If this is what we are coming to as a society, I think we as parents need to rebel for the health of this future generation. Balance is needed for our future leaders. Help your teenagers find your family priorities, and learn that give and take.
Choose to be unbusy in all the right ways.
Blessings and love,