Monday, February 6, 2012

Balancing Life Between Work and Home Schooling

Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong.

I'm starting with the quote above largely because it motivates me to always strive for more. But now on to the rest of the post!

I recently visited a work-at-home-mom's blog that was new to me called The Work at Home Woman. She had a forum for many different WAHM topics, including one that asked, "Do you home school your kids?" The post was started by the site owner, who asked folks to post tips on balancing work life and home schooling life. The first respondent was someone who (clearly) was not a home schooling mom. Her answer was,

I dont like the whole concept of homeschooling because i (sic) deprives the kids from non-academic learning such as learning to share, accepting failure, team work, value of friendship etc. Homeschooling can be a great way of teaching but it does not help a kid grow up as a sensitive individual. I think that kids should attend traditional schools and homeschool only on the topics that interest them.

I do not understand how people can continue to think that socialization is the number one problem facing home school families. Not only that, but what was her real need in posting her opinion in a forum asking for tips on balancing it all out? Okay, rant over. That just steams me. That one individual opinion aside, here is how I responded to the real purpose of the forum.

No socialization going on here... Nope.

It is admittedly hard sometimes to keep the balance and time schedule that homeschooling and a successful business require. The ONE THING that seems to be the sticking point for people who are not familiar with the ins-and-outs of a home schooler's day: socialization. How to act and react around others. 

We don't live in a vacuum. We attend home school events, competitions, sometimes group classes, etc. When my children are out with me (which means nearly everywhere I go, they go), they are socializing with those around them: the check out person, the librarian, other children, other customers, etc. They are interacting with one another, they are learning how to behave and deal with the various social issues that might arise in any given situation.

To answer other questions:

1) Organizing my time and schedule can be one of the most difficult aspects. We do not have a nanny or other type of hired sitter come in but I do expect my older children to help with the younger children on a daily basis. This is for several reasons:

  • my older children can be and are good mentors to my younger children, 
  • the younger children learn that they can trust and rely on their older siblings for help and advice,
  • they are strengthening bonds that will last them a life time - that they will need long after I am gone, 
  • the children learn to be helpful and responsible members of our family and
  • the children become teachers to one another and solidify their own knowledge through interaction. 
There are so many more benefits that I could go on, but that would make this post way too long! 

Other ways I work my schedule include: 

  • teaching the children how to work in and with certain areas of my business - including them in things like preparing envelopes, working with some of the stained glass pieces I am expanding to this year, etc. In short: letting the kids participate in the daily aspects of the business so that when I need time away to do things solo, they understand that there are just some things that Mom needs to do and some things they are instrumental in helping with. 

  • I try to get out of the house at least once a week and leave all of the children at home with their Papa so I can go sit somewhere to focus on writing. This allows me a mental break from needing to be on top of things all of the time and also gives the kids the very important time to bond with their father.

  • I strive to get up at least 30 minutes before my children. This is really only enough time for a bit of quiet before the day begins and to get the cobwebs out and plan out what needs to be done that day. I save my exercise time to do with the kids (they get a kick out of Mom joining in or getting to join Mom with yoga, etc.) and just use that time to read the Bible a bit, etc.

2) Organizing for space - The kids’ school items can be found in one of two places: on their desks or in the community closet (which is only opened during certain times of the day.) My business things are in my desk or the cabinet nearby if it is paperwork, or down in the workshop if it is for hands-on craft items. Keeping things filed sometimes becomes difficult because I fall behind and then my desk gets a bit piled up. I try to tackle those items at least once a week to stay on top of things.

3) I really don’t separate my work out from our home schooling day much. There are times that are JUST family time - just after dinner and before bed primarily. During dinner we talk, read classic stories (Robin Hood, etc.) and after dinner if the kids did their chores well and on time, we might watch a show together on Netflix or play a game. 

4) I use a LOT of online resources for homeschooling - the ones I use most are Thomas Jefferson Education (for inspiration and tips on being a better mentor to my kids), Sheppherd Software (good educational games), Khan Academy (good free resource for science and math). Much of my business right now is writing so I don’t do a lot of online things with that but my children are beginning to make items of their own to sell so later this year I expect we’ll be setting up an etsy site as well.

5) Some days, “balance” is a hard word to use and I (quite simply) don’t. Other days it goes swimmingly well! The best thing about home schooling is that I am not tied down to the schedule set by the local school and can be flexible. If it’s a nice day outside, I can take time to go outside with the kids and put both business and school on hold - or do school outside. My older children are good about self-teaching, so they really only come to me when they are stuck on a concept. In fact, the farther along we go in our HS journey, the more I see that my kids don’t need to be sitting at a desk all day to learn what they need to know.

The difference between my kids and a lot of the kids I see in schools is that even when we’re not “doing school”, my kids are asking questions, reading books, working out problems, etc because they want to and not because they are made to. They want to learn about the world around them and that is my ultimate goal - to teach them and give them the space to learn even when they’re not with me any longer.

This is long but I hope my answers are helpful to some. I am always happy to “talk shop” if anyone wants to know more.

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