What is this elusive balance of which people speak about?
We are all searching for it, like it is the holy grail (that no one can really find).
So here are the truths about balance as I see it, after many years of homeschooling and preparing to graduate our first homeschool graduate in the spring:
There are seasons. Some seasons of parenting are just busier than others, and some seasons of teaching are busier than others. There were years were I went to every homeschooling conference I could find, read every homeschooling book and lecture I could find because I was hungry for it all. With Waldorf homeschooling, I had to learn the arts-based end of things that I had never learned or refine the skills I did have. It was a lot of work.
Some seasons are more intensive in parenting. Our two high schoolers really, really need me right now. Perhaps not as much for academics – I farmed some outside classes out for our oldest high schooler, and our middle child is technically homeschooling but is in a hybrid school so I don’t really feel as if this is the homeschooling with all the planning and teaching I am used to! – but emotionally availability is important for our adolescents. I think as parents, we always want to be the soft space for our children to land. So, it can be a constant check-in – do they need me more as their emotional guide right now than as their homeschool teacher? Do I have the bandwidth to do both well right now, or do I need to focus on one area?
It’s okay to not do everything. Outer balance for the family and yourself comes at a cost; there is a cost to wholeness. Sometimes you have to say no to something in order to be able to go away with your spouse for a long-needed, long-neglected few nights away because you have both been just pushing and grinding out 12-14 hour days. Sometimes you need to say no to something fun because you really need to be home and regrouup. Sometimes you need to say no to push yourself out of the house and connect with community. I think this is why there will never be a defining “this is how you do balance” because everyone needs something different for their own kind of balance on the outside.
Balance for the inner self is another kind of balance. There is a lot of talk about self-care and also about designing a life that doesn’t feel exhausting. Again, there are seasons in life and some seasons are just exhausting and you get through the best you can. Balance for self can really be divided into not just caring for our physical bodies, but for our emotional and spiritual selves as well.
Investing in this for ourselves takes time, and often takes the support of our family and friends. It is hard to invest in self-care if you can never catch a minute to yourself, especially if you have been running on empty for years. The emotional toll of parenting and homeschooling can be high – the constant worry of am I doing enough? Am I not doing enough? What does the future hold? My main suggestion in this is to look at sustainable routines and habits when your children are smaller that involve more than just you doing and directing everything – sustainability that involves others besides you sets a great habit as your children grow and their lives outside of the home become more intensive and more adults are involved. If you are a single parent, do you have friends like are like family? Get over not wanting to ask for help! Plan some time for just you to recoup in a rhythmic way – weekly? monthly? quarterly? You will be a better parent and teacher for it, and the years can fly by with no time to touch base within yourself or with your partner alone if you don’t plan at all. (And if you make this your resolution for 2020, I want to hear about it and how it goes!)
Know yourself, and know your children. That is the true key to providing balance. Some children are self-motivated; some are not. Some thrive on a more strict schedule; some don’t. If you know yourself well and your children well balance is much clearer to see.
If you are a new homeschooler, my greatest piece of advice goes back to sustainable routines and rhythms for the family. You can plan all these wonderful lessons and take all weekend, and every night before teaching to work on these plans (and you may have a very compliant child that will follow your lesson plans – many of us are not that lucky!), but do not neglect your greater role within your family and in your own humanity. You are more than a homeschool teacher, you are a wonderful parent and human being who also deserves to have a life outside of homeschooling if you want that (some are perfectly happy solely homeschooling, and that’s awesome too! However, I think for many of us close to 50 or early 50’s, we are earning for something more outside of that. Just my experience. If you are in your 20’s to mid 40’s, this may not resonate). For some, this outside life may be small, like seeing a friend a few times a month or it may be large, like homeschooling parents who still work or are in school or who are very active in their communities. Only you can decide how that balance will play out, but you have the choice in how you do it. Don’t just keep piling more on your plate without conscious thought. Know yourself and what really fuels you as this is your life too, not just your children’s life.
I would love to hear your ideas about balance in homeschooling and parenting.