Being "On Call"...
A friend once remarked that one of the main problems she saw with home education was needing to be on call twenty four hours a day. In addition there was the problem of not being able to take a break away from her children, or to have a life of one's own.
For most homeschooling families this is simply a fact of parenting - it comes with the job. Homeschooling families take parenting very seriously. For many long term home educators it has become impossible to take the education out of the parenting. Home education is about parenting. The distinctions blur over time!
Many of us educate our children at home because we want to be totally immersed in the parenting experience. This usually involves learning how to cope with having a life of one's own. Being a full-time parent can be hard, especially as society doesn't seem to value parenting very highly. It puts a lot of pressure on both parents to be out in the work force to derive an income. It is easier to maintain a sense of self and self esteem out in the work place. Parenting, and house keeping, is not regarded as legitimate 'work'.
In recent years the essential work of parenting has been recognised by a marginal payment for low income families, but this is merely a token in the right direction. And financial recognition is only a small step toward full recognition of the value of parenting as a full time career choice.
All professions have their bad weeks, months, years even! Parenting is a bit like a vocational choice for homeschoolers. I couldn't imagine not being on call twenty four hours a day, and wouldn't want to delegate that responsibility to anyone else. When the children were little I found it hard to leave them in the care of baby sitters, even grandparents. This sense of needing to be there as their primary child carer continued throughout childhood and provided essential continuity in their growth and development.
In all this I realised parenting isn't a forever thing. I know I have another five to eight years of this fabulous close and intimate time left with my kids, before our relationships change and childhood is all over. The process of separation has already started with my eldest.
'Being there' all the time is not a negative aspect of home education. But I guess for some people, it might be. How they deal with it is a personal choice. I have been very careful to build into my day time that I have to myself, to pursue my own interests. I make sure the children are helping me with some of the things I need or want to do, that benefit the whole family - like cleaning, cooking, shopping, mending and gardening. This is how I tend to balance the work of parenting, educating, and my day.
When I need to be by myself, writing letters, my novel, studying, etc, I make sure the children are happily busy playing or doing some project of their own. During this time I am generally accessible, but we have a rule in this house. Each person is allowed to work uninterrupted. It is up to the worker to let others know that the 'do not disturb' sign is posted!
By allowing the children lots of time to pursue their own interests and time for play, and training myself not to constantly interrupt them, they have learned to respect the time we all seem to need to get on and do our own thing. Sometimes we run into a few problems, but not often. When the children were younger I'd notice that the times they were cross and prickly with each other coincided with times I had been absent from participating in large parts of their days. I learned that by giving a large slab of my time in unconditional play or activity with them they would quickly settle back into a happy balance.
I learned that children love the company of their parents more than almost anything else, and a little quality time with them went a long way in freeing up lots of time for myself.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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