Homeschooling and Time for Me
BY BEVERLEY PAINE
Investing time into my children was the best self-investment I ever made. Encouraging my children to
develop a life of their own based on their needs and wants and working efficiently and effectively to meet
those needs meant I naturally focused on my own. I had to be the role model they needed to emulate. What
could be simpler than that for making sure I got all the ‘me development’ time I needed.
The problem of wanting ‘time for me’ stems both from the expectations of parents shaped by our culture
and our corrupted understanding about what education is and how learning actually occurs. We’ve
mythologized and institutionalised education to become something different from learning and called it
school. Why have children in the first place if we’re not willing to give them the attention they deserve and
need to grow into the kind of human beings we desire them to become? What guarantees do we get if we
hand them over to a school for six hours a day, five days a week, forty weeks a year for twelve years or
more that they will indeed have the chance they need to become those people? None. We are responsible
for bringing these people into existence; it’s our job to make sure their needs are met.
Homeschooling Provides More Time for Parenting
As home educators we have more time to parent than our peers. We get to decide how we spend and
manage our time. Finding time for me is a management issue. Some of us make home education our hobby.
Some of us make it a chore. Some make it a lifestyle. Some don’t educate their children at all, they just
learn together as a family living life.
If we want to make our children’s education the most important thing in our life that’s our choice. Our
children don’t actually need that. Basically they just want to get on with living and learning and if you ask
them, they’d say that the least amount of fuss involved in that process the better for them! We invent tasks
to teach things (because schools say it must be done that way) that children learn naturally without needing
to be taught at all. Create a supportive, interesting, busy and productive environment for children to grow
within and they’ll learn. It’s up to us to develop strategies that work to meet the needs of everyone: for each
of our children and for us as parents.
Legally we are required to be accountable for our children’s education. This translates into keeping records
of our children’s educational progress. It doesn’t necessarily translate into being their teacher 24/7, 365
days a year! It means being mum or dad and noticing and noting how they are learning over time, what
their interests are, what we can share and learn together, what they need next, finding those resources that
will help them… Simple stuff like that.
Homeschooling and Keeping It Simple
Keep it simple. Because it is. Get grounded in thinking simply, living simply, clearing the clutter from our
minds and homes. Give ourselves permission to have fun, to enjoy the process, to not stress over this stuff,
to just ‘be’ with our children because ultimately, at any age, that’s all they really want and need from us.
And that generally means ‘doing’ things with them. We are important people in their lives and they know it.
It’s time we acknowledged it instead of listening to all the hype marketed at us about who we should be.
Honouring who we are as individuals is dependent on our ability to meet our own needs. When infants
needs aren’t being met life gets noisy! When we ignore our needs we get cranky and demanding too. Our
resolve to be the kind of parents we want to be breaks down. In this overwhelmed state we react
defensively, usually shifting the responsibility to our children, situation, homeschooling, etc. Feeling guilty
and dwelling on the expectations of others feeds our sense of powerlessness.
What is needed is an ongoing focus on developing management strategies to create time and space in daily
life to nurture ourselves. For some this translates into practical activity. My daughter does batch cooking
and freezes ready-to-eat meals. This means that at dinner time, the usual period of the day when dad comes
home and the kids are demanding, tired and hungry and excited, she can be more attentive to their needs.
She loves to cook and would prefer to cook every day, but this system works for her family now.
I developed a system of open shelves with picture labels at a height the children can easily access so that if
they needed paper, glue, cardboard, a toy, etc they could get it out for themselves and put it away afterward.
My focus was on developing independence and a sense of responsibility for their actions and belongings.
Helping the children learn this skill often meant working with them to put materials away after games and activities had run their course. I found that doing this together took less time and energy than nagging the children and feeling swamped by a huge mess no one felt like tidying. Doonas meant the children could make their own beds. Open boxes for clothes and not owning many clothes meant they put away their laundry after I’d sorted it. We cleaned teeth together. Ate together. I
encouraged the children to make their own breakfast and lunches. Tweaking the environment and changing my behaviour to make it easier for them to be independent, as well as giving my time to the children freely and without resentment during this
developmental stage of their childhood, helped to create the pockets of ‘me’ time I needed.
Grateful for the Time You Already Have
I also needed to recognize the pockets of ‘me’ time already deeply embedded in my life, the things I took for granted and didn’t readily notice. It’s easy to want more and not value what is already there. And it is easy to focus on what we want when we see others enjoying it. I slowly cultivated the habit of ‘counting my blessings’. And my blessings were many. The more I noticed, the less stressed I felt.
As my children grew and became more independent I found I had time to put into practice my childhood ambition as a writer. Throughout the early years though, my children allowed me time and space to build, garden, landscape, teach and read. My busy life was based on my dreams and goals: every day was organised around meeting my desire to live a do-ityourself self-sufficient owner-building lifestyle. I had the time and freedom to organise my day according to the needs of my family, not the local school or school bus schedule. While other mums hassled their children for hours a day to meet the needs of school, I could enjoy a cuddle and story with my child, leisurely explore a topic over months or years, play LEGO (and call it ‘maths!’), cook and clean and laugh and garden with them…
Through home education I had the opportunity to enjoy their childhood in a way that other parents only experienced on the
weekend or during school holidays.
As a parent nothing beats that kind of nourishment.