The pendulum of homeschool life never seems to stop swinging. Our families grow and change, not just because our children are getting older (and so are we) but because our location, budget, health, work schedules - all of these things can change as well.
One of the adjustments we often have to make is how much time we spend at home, or should I say, home alone. At different points in our homeschool life we've been unbelievably hectic, then a couple of years later, almost totally isolated. There is always a struggle going on in the back of my mind as to how I can maintain a balance for myself and my kids.
Can you relate?
Isolationism can happen without our notice. When I'm busy overseeing our children's education, organizing and cleaning the house, planning and preparing meals, dealing with emergencies both big and small, trying to get enough rest to keep going the next day because there isn't enough coffee in Columbia. . . there doesn't seem to be any time for extracurricular activities, ministry, community, or meeting up with friends.
If we are isolated, so are our homeschoolers.
One of our goals is to encourage self-motivated, independent learning. However, among the skill sets our children need to develop are communication and collaboration. We also want them to make connections with other people and learn how to empathize. Our homeschooling kids need the mental stimulation and emotional growth that human interaction helps develop.
The habit of remaining withdrawn and detached is unhealthy for everyone. We must find time for friendship, teamwork, and service.
Sometimes isolation of a sort is necessary. New babies, illness, tragedy – some folks need company for comfort while others need solitude. Location can have a bearing in how often families are able to travel and join up with others for fellowship and cooperative learning.
Our family has experienced times of isolation during our years of homeschooling because we were caring for my mother. She suffers from dementia, and could not be left home alone. Arrangements had to be made for the briefest of errand runs, and we couldn't even consider the regular monthly field trips we used to enjoy.
We still made the effort to fellowship at church, our local homeschool support group - and thank goodness for the ability to connect online.
All of this taught me that even though we are homeschoolers doin' our own thing, we still needed companionship and the assurance that we weren't journeying through this life alone.
We-are-never-home homeschoolers, sometimes known as 'car-schoolers'.
Your friends know not to bother calling or stopping by – you aren't going to be home. You and the kids are at a club meeting, a co-op class, a soccer game, choir practice, dance lessons, or volunteering.
It's not that those things are bad – of course they aren't. But you'd think as homeschoolers you'd occasionally be, you know, home.
I've noted the multitude of educational activities and games for families who spend much of their time traveling from place to place. We want to soak up every minute of learning. Hence the nickname "car-schoolers".
Raise your hand if you made your kids sound out street signs and business names, pointed to trees and birds for identification, and lectured on road safety while on your way to the grocery store? Did you give them maps of the neighborhood so they could color the route you took?
Yep, been there, done that.
How about those co-ops? I remember when there were very few support groups or extracurricular options for homeschoolers. Now there are so many just thinking about it makes my brain overload - I want it all!
If you feel like your home is becoming a Motel 6 instead of a haven of rest, it's time to re-evaluate.
Families always-on-the-go are often the first to claim exhaustion and homeschool burnout. Their lives are so full of wonderful activities they are unable to reflect and take pleasure in the richness of their lives.
I can't help but wonder how much of this activity is wasted effort without the awareness and understanding time spent in meditation can bring. Children - and parents - need to occasionally be alone and in silence for introspection and contemplation to occur.
So how do we find the balance?
You tell me – are you too far on one end of the spectrum? What do you need to do to bring your family back into a healthy balance of social and learning opportunities with solitude, relaxation, and reflection?
Try these strategies:
- Say "Yes, we'd love to" more often, or
- Learn to say "No, we can't fit that into our schedule".
- Have a family meeting and talk about how you can work as a team to make sure everyone has equal opportunities for learning, a social life, ministry, and quiet time.
- Make a schedule with some built-in flexibility to make it easier to deal with emergencies and interruptions.
- Consult the schedule whenever new activities become available.
- Don't allow others to volunteer you or your family for commitments of any kind.