You Don’t Have to Relax
The Day I Started Treating Homeschooling Like a Job
I really feel like I need to preface this post by telling you that I homeschool for philosophical reasons. I homeschool because I feel that where I live, the public education system is flawed. I homeschool because I have always felt that this path is the right one for my children. I am not an accidental homeschooler, or unexpectedly homeschooling. I chose this life and with the full support of my partner, as well as my exhusband, and the kids – we homeschool and this is the path that we’d prefer to stay on through to the end of high school. I do this by treating homeschooling like a job.
I say this because sometimes when I am struggling or when life is tough – and the first reply I get is “oh just relax, it’s not a big deal”, my first reaction is one of annoyance and depending on the day? Maybe a bit of anger or resentment.
I’ve taken on, freely by my own choice, the full commitment of educating my children. This is not a role I take lightly, and when someone says “ahhhh just don’t do work for a while if everyone is struggling”, that isn’t always the most helpful reply.
If my children were still in the public education system, and their teacher said “ah…let’s just take a few weeks off school work, it’s no big deal” – I would probably be FURIOUS. If I wouldn’t let a teacher, principal, or school board eschew their responsibilities and put my child’s education at risk? Why should *I* get a free pass to do that?!
There has been a real surge in the homeschool world lately. A push AWAY from “school at home” and towards “Eclectic homeschooling”. Which I LOVE – I am so excited to see more people really crafting their kids’ educations in ways to suit them best. I am so happy when I see homeschool parents encouraging other parents to make the best choices for their family, in whatever way that looks for them.
This is an enormously positive move in the homeschool world.
Except for one small thing.
There are some people, myself included, who want to strive for a more academically challenging homeschool. There are people who want to find ways to get through the hard days (which there always are, there’s no getting around them) without sacrificing their child’s education. And when those people are met with “oh just relax” or “learning is life, so just live life and your kids will be fine” – it isn’t always the most helpful response.
The Day I Started to Treat My Homeschooling Like a Job
Late in the 2016-2017 school year, I was struggling. I was struggling to navigate the waters of being a home educator who loved the Charlotte Mason method but didn’t want to be a purist. I was struggling with finding a path that met my goals as an educator and also met my kids where they were. Around that time, a post written by Pam Barnhill happened to be in my Facebook feed. While she herself isn’t a secular homeschooler, I love her approach to homeschooling and I enjoy her blog and podcasts.
The post I read that day was about whether we treat homeschooling as a job. At first glance I was like “heck no, homeschooling is just us living life….right?” After reading the post, however, I was so encouraged as a home educating parent to hear another home educator say “this is your job, treat it as such”. It was empowering and it was rejuvenating for me. It was also hard for me to read – this idea that up until now, maybe I wasn’t making choices that reflected our homeschool being the top priority in our family.
Treating Homeschooling Like a Job
Let me say here that I didn’t turn into a strict school marm overnight, and I didn’t start cracking a whip. What happened when I started to take this role seriously, as the parent in charge of educating the kids, is that I started to find a balance. I want to make sure that my kids’ education is my top priority but I also value and cherish our ability to have fun, to take mental or physical health breaks when we need them, and above all else I want my children to LOVE learning.
So this change, this paradigm shift – it happened in my head and in my heart. But I didn’t outwardly become an overbearing fun-sucker. Our days didn’t change all that much, but how I approached them did change.
How? Well, here are a few of the ways that I have found help me see my role as a home educator as my vocation or ‘calling’:
1. Professional Development for the home educating parent: this has been really vital for me. I decided early into this 2017-2018 school year, to sign up for a Homeschool Consistency Bootcamp. It was amazing for me – surrounded by fellow homeschooling parents who wanted to get (and stay) on track but struggled with it. Besides that, listening to podcasts and attending homeschool conferences (particularly the most recent SEA Homeschoolers Fall Online Conference) are other ways that I can fit in some “teacher inservice time” here and there throughout the week. Treating homeschooling like a job means that I take the time to develop myself so I can improve my skills.
2. Tune Out The Extraneous Voices: okay, this may seem to be the opposite of professional development but what I mean here is to really be careful about WHICH people you listen to. Take care to not overload your brain with a million buzzing voices, all telling you to do things THE RIGHT WAY, their way. Protect your heart as a home educator, and be very selective about who/what you’re listening to. If a certain blogger or podcaster or speaker regularly makes you feel anxious and fearful that you’re doing it all wrong? Tune.them.out. Find the people who lift you up, who offer you real solutions, who support you in moving forward.
3. Writing a Homeschool Mission Statement: this sounds super hokey, I know. But trust me on this – you want to take time on a regular basis to think about your goals and long term vision for your children and for their education. Once you have a solid vision in place, you can weigh against that any new path or new resource or new schedule. You can use your ‘mission statement’ to decide who to let into your professional development space. You can look to your vision and mission on those days where it all feels so.very.hard and when it feels hopeless. The day to day of homeschooling can feel slow and tedious – so having a light at the end of the tunnel will help you keep putting one foot forward.
4. Make a Plan That You Can Actually Implement: this doesn’t have to be some super rigid homeschool schedule laid out to the minute for each day of the school year. In fact, for me it’s been the total opposite of that. Making a plan that I know I can implement everyday has meant deciding which subjects/lessons MUST happen each day; deciding what times of the day each of my kids work best at and planning to work with them during that time; making an ‘ideal week’ plan that has everything I want in it – but that I know if it doesn’t happen, that’s okay too.
5. Once You Have a Plan, Stick to It: this is where I usually break down, and start to shirk my responsibilities as a home educator. Consistency. It’s my weak spot. This has been my focus this year, and so far it’s been not too bad. Armed with a plan (that will work), and knowing what my minimum must-have requirements are for the school day, I go into each week knowing that we will do school every day, unless someone is sick – and with grace days built in for those days where something fun comes up at the last minute or we get stuck in a rabbit hole discussing something the kids are interested in. If homeschooling is my job, my vocation, and my top priority – I need to treat it as such. So, we go into every day knowing it’s a school day and unless something pressing comes up, then we do school each day.
6. Protect Your Time: as a home educating family, it can be really easy to do all sorts of things each day that don’t necessarily further our goals in terms of the kids’ education. This year I have been really careful to protect my homeschool days, and the hours in those days. It doesn’t mean we sit at the table from 9-3 every single day and work – it means that I try not to schedule or plan anything into those hours that isn’t related to school or the kids’ activities. I don’t plan doctor’s appointments if I can avoid it, I dont’ say yes to every single activity or outing that our homeschool group organizes. I put away my phone and my tablet, and the kids’ electronics are off limits til school is done. My ‘job’ is to give my kids the best education I can, and their job is to show up and do the work of learning. We can’t do those jobs if we don’t protect the time we have to do them.
You Don’t Have to Relax
It’s okay to want to focus on your role, your job, as a home educator. It’s okay to take this very seriously, and it’s okay to want to provide an academically challenging education for your kids. I know that there can be a stigma or a bit of a judgment on parents who want those things – and just as I think it’s perfectly fine to be relaxed and laid back, it’s equally okay to want to dig in deep and treat home educating as a vocation and a job.
You can have fun, you can follow their interests, and you can be the best home educator you can be. You can laugh and joke, and throw a dance party in the kitchen in the middle of the day. You can schedule and plan, you can read home education books and attend every conference in your area. You can do all of this while still treating homeschooling like a job. This is your homeschool, and you don’t have to relax if you don’t want to.