Lately I’m hearing from a lot of homeschool moms asking how to juggle homeschooling, homemaking and preschoolers without losing your mind.
Maybe the popularity of this latest topic stems from the fact that it’s late winter, everyone’s been cooped up indoors for months and they’re sick of it. But juggling the kids, the house and homeschooling can be stressful; how well I know that from my own experience.
Looking back on the days when I was running back and forth between the big kids, the little kids and the washing machine, I recall that it seemed that there was no solution to my problem. Some say the solution is to send the kids to school. But that wouldn’t work for me because I never considered putting any of my kids in school. It seemed to me that would be punishing them because I couldn’t hack it. I just felt that I wasn’t keeping up because I hadn’t yet figured out how to do this the right way.
Of course, now I know there is no right way. You can usually find a way that will work for a while, but once you get used to things going better, something changes with your schedule, or your kids, or you get pregnant, and it’s all up in the air again.
Ultimately, I found that there were several things I could do to help myself through the rough spots. First off, I prayed for guidance, regularly and often through tears. I mean, if God led our family to homeschooling (and I believed and still believe that He did) then He could surely teach me how to do it, right?
Next, I asked my husband for ideas. The truth is that I wasn’t always as receptive to his ideas as I should have been, but he did come up with some good ones. For example, he’s the one who figured out what I could do when our 18-month old started taking apart the house while I sat nursing our newborn, who had a voracious appetite and went ballistic if I put him down so I could pull Miss Toddler off the curtains. My husband suggested buying some quiet activity-type toys that she could only use while sitting at the high chair during baby’s nursing time. This worked very well and helped get us all through that particularly frustrating period of time.
I also found that I needed to think about our schedule, and what I could change to make our days run more smoothly. I also had to ask myself some tough questions, including:
- Are we spending too much time on homeschooling, considering my kids’ ages?
- Do we need to switch from a formal curriculum to something less structured? (Or, once in a while, do we need to add more structure to our day?)
- Are my preschoolers getting enough rest time? (Rest time, by the way, was the main reason I didn’t lose my marbles in the days when I had four kids under 10. Rest time was the successor to nap time, when everyone had to take a nap after lunch, thus giving us all a break from each other, giving me some much needed peace and quiet, and giving the kids some rest so they weren’t so keyed up later in the day, when Dad came home from work.)
- Do any of the kids need help with behavior issues, and am I being consistent with discipline? (This is another area where my husband was a huge help. We learned early on to present a united front to the kids, which really helped, especially once we had teens who liked to argue.)
Eventually, I realized that our life went through stages of working and not working. When things stopped working, I learned not to become depressed or freak out. Instead I had to look at what was happening and figure out what kind of changes I needed to make.
This process continued the entire time we had kids at home, and it still continues. These days, with only two left at home and only one of them still being homeschooled, the problems have more to do with scheduling than behavior, although being menopausal, behavior is sometimes a problem with me.
So, if you’re wondering how you’re supposed to homeschool and make dinner and keep the toddlers off the window treatments, think about the changes you need to make at home so that things run more smoothly. Pray about it. Brainstorm with your husband. Come up with some new things to try, and be patient while you watch for results. And never forget that this too shall pass. Sooner than you can imagine, those kids that are driving you nuts will be grown and on their own, and you’ll be grappling with other questions, such as, where did all this gray in my hair come from?
©2010 Barbara Frank/ Cardamom Publishers
Barbara Frank homeschooled three children to adulthood and continues to homeschool her youngest son. She’s the author of “Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers, “The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling,” and “Homeschooling Your Teenagers,” as well as two upcoming books. You’ll find her on the Web at www.cardamompublishers.com and http://barbarafrankonline.com