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Homeschool Advice

Dear Helping Hand,

This is my second year homeschooling, and I'm feeling overwhelmed. I feel like everyone is making demands on my time and energy. I'm being pulled this way and that and don't feel like I'm really accomplishing anything. Help!


The first thing a new homeschooling parent needs to do is also something they rarely do, whittle down all the 'things' they are doing to a level they can manage and homeschool, too. Most homeschoolers are the worker bees of their churches, schools and women's groups. They are 'can do' people who choose homeschooling because they believe they can do it. They're also the people that are regularly asked to lead a project or accomplish a task. Doing for others makes them feel good. It's the way they show others they love them. That's why it's so easy for them to get overburdened and so difficult for them to say no.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, you need to take time to determine just what all your responsiblities include. If that means going into your room and shutting the door and telling the kids you're conducting parent teacher conferences so they get the day off, do it. Then make your list. Once you have your list start looking for items that you can eliminate. Yes, the ladies group has always relied on you to do the table decorations for their big mother daughter luncheon every year. No one is irreplacable. They will find someone who can do it. No, it won't be the same, but different can be good, too. Meanwhile, you've just relieved yourself of some of the pressure.

Did you remember to include housework on your list? How many times are you cleaning your bathroom? You really only need to thoroughly clean it once a week. In between times give the responsibility for policing the bathroom to one of your kids. A bin of those antiseptic bathroom wipes and list of instructions should make the job simple for even an 8 year old. Are there other household chores that you are still doing by yourself because that's what moms are supposed to do? Punt that notion. Being a good mother has nothing to do with being a hand servant to your children. Get them involved as much as possible for their age and abilities.

Once you've eliminated all the extras in your schedule that you really shouldn't be doing, you will find yourself with more breathing room. Then you can focus on another major reason homeschool moms feel pushed and pulled, school work itself. First realize that every homeschool mom has at least one bout annually with the "am I doing enough, doing it right, damaging my children" blues. If you suffer from PMS that may occur monthly. When you feel that way, it's time to focus on your accomplishments for the last 1-2 years. Think back to what your children were like when they first started homeschooling. Maybe they are struggling with academics, but have they taken strides forward in their social skills or spiritual walk? Find the good, the growth, and use that to encourage yourself.

Children will pull you this way and that. High strung children can be particularly difficult demanding your attention now and not 10 minutes from now. When you can give them that attention now, great. But when you can't, they need to learn to wait patiently or to move on to another task and return at a better time. It's important that they learn to deal with frustration. Taking time to teach them this will be a blessing to you. If you don't get to math because you've spent extra time working on patience, so be it. They'll get to the math eventually.

Are you a slave to your curriculum? Do you feel that you haven't accomplished anything until every problem has been solved, every activity finished and the last page completed letter perfect? Stop! Take a deep breath and let the notion that curriculum is meant to serve you seep into your mind. You do not need to do everything a teacher's manual says you should do. Some of the things that textbook curriculum requires is specifically designed for the classroom situation, You are not in a classroom. You are tutoring an individual who may need more or less practice, may be ready or not ready for a particular assignment, or may find a particular topic boring. You have the choice to add to or take away anything in a curriculum which doesn't help you meet a particular goal for your child. That could mean taking a unit test before you do the unit because the first chapter in a math text is almost always review.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, maybe everyone in your family is feeling overwhelmed. It could be time for a break. You could announce game week. Spend the morning playing dominoes or board games, then hit the local park or ice rink in the afternoon. Declare the day library day and spend the day at the library. Give them a treasure hunt list and have them search for books about particular topics. When they've found everything on the list, have them show you their treasures. While they are hunting, go catch up on some of your favorite magazines.

I've given you a lot to think about, but I've got one last suggestion that may give you a sense that you are accomplishing something. At the beginning of the day make a list of five things you want to accomplish that day. Make it a reasonable list. A typical list for me might include: work with my son on revising his story, make dinner, spend half an hour writing, strip the beds, and wash the sheets. You might think those last two should count as one, but they don't at my house. Why do I add making dinner to my list? I don't always make dinner. Sometimes my older children make dinner, sometimes my husband makes dinner, sometimes I get a roast chicken, bag of salad and dinner rolls at the grocery store, and sometimes my kids fend for themselves. At the end of the day I can see five things I really wanted to accomplish have been accomplished, or if they haven't, I also know why they weren't accomplished. The list doesn't include the 'always do' items. Posting that list on the fridge can also give you a sense of accomplishment each day. Just be sure you only put things that you really always do on that list. If you include things you want to do or think you should be doing, that could be a very depressing list. We're not after depressing ourselves here.

It's a homeschool mother's lot in life to feel pushed and pulled from time to time. How we deal with those feelings and the root causes will determine whether we press on or give in. Don't give in. Find yourself some breathing room. Demand it if you have to. Learn to focus on the positive and find solutions to the negative.

Helping Hand

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