I like to be organized. I like to be balanced. I like to be prepared. I like to be punctual. And for those of you who know me well, you're probably laughing right now, since you know that I'm NOT organized, balanced, prepared, or punctual.
The summer before we began homeschooling, I started stressing over how I was going to be a good wife, mom, housekeeper, and teacher. Much as I wished to be a good homemaker, I wasn't a competent housekeeper even before I took on the task of teaching the spark plugs. So how was I going to add their education to my already-full plate without dropping the ball in some other area?
And then something a friend asked really resonated with me: how do you find balance when there isn't any?
When there isn't one?
I had never before thought about the possibility that I was looking for a balance that simply didn't exist. I had assumed that, miraculously, I needed to find the missing key in order to do it all. But I think my friend was right. There simply isn't a key, or a balance, to be found. It's not there, or at least it doesn't exist as we see it in our minds.
After this mental breakthrough, I stopped stressing (as much). Each day, we try to get the bulk of our school work done, with a few household chores sprinkled throughout our day. And when the housework builds up to the point that it's inhibiting either our functionality or our health, we simply reverse our priorities. We try to get the bulk of our housework done while we listen to audio lessons (books on tape or podcasts, anyone?).
Am I neglecting the kids' education by doing so? Not at all. Not only are we still accomplishing lots of learning on our cleaning days, but I also realized early on that homeschooling has very little to do with workbooks and a great deal to do with life. Teaching children about home management is just as necessary as learning to count. Keeping our home tidy is a good witness to others, since it enables us to have people over at the drop of a hat. It's doing what's Biblical (see Titus 2). And it encourages better learning on other days, since we're not constantly hunting for lost school books and misplaced pencils.
Plus, we can also incorporate learning into scrubbing bathroom sinks. We can sing through our educational songs while working. We can count the toys as we toss them into the toy box. We can stop to read a book before sliding it back on the shelf.
And, if the house is clean, I'm a happier person, which translates into a better teacher the following day. The spark plugs gladly put up with a day of chores rather than deal with a constantly-grumpy mom. And the kids are also recognizing the benefits of a clean house. "Mom, I actually like it when my room is clean. I have room to play with my Legos now!" Turbo told me triumphantly.
This system of changing focus as needed isn't a perfect solution, but it's what's working for us at the moment. As our needs change, so will our strategies. These days, I find that I'm learning at least as much as the kids are. To me, that's really exciting!
Life truly isn't balanced, and it was quite silly of me for trying to make it so. This is yet another area where I'm learning to roll with life's hiccups. Perhaps someday I'll actually discover my sea legs instead of falling apart every time a wave of life hits!
Your turn: How about you? How do you manage homeschooling and homemaking? What methods do you find most effective? I'd love to know!