Creating Time for Me, Home Educating Mum
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' for home educating mums and dads stems both from the expectations we have 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. 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. 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 outsource it to tutors, teachers, classes, online lessons. Some don't educate their children at all, they just learn together as a family living life. And many of us bumble along doing what we can, mostly a mix of all of the above! 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 our schooled culture says 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. 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 and blame 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 adult daughter, now a mum of three, 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 everyone's individual 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 labelled with pictures and words 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. 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-it-yourself 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.
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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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