Making Home Education Sustainable

Home educators are usually quick to talk about what we love about home education, the thousands of benefits it has for the whole family. We love to tell anyone that will listen about how great it is for the children, how much fun we have learning about things that we never got to learn. The times we can spend reading and drawing and building and talking. All of that is amazing and true and very, very satisfying.

But like everything in life worth having, it does have a cost. Home education does cost time, and energy, and resources. It costs effort. Years of effort. It is, quite frankly, hard work!

When our bucket keeps being emptied, and not filled, that is not sustainable.

When we are always putting off things we want to do for ‘later’ that is not sustainable.

When we don’t want to go to bed at night because the morning will come quicker if we do – and because that is the only time when things are quiet – that is not sustainable.

When we are giving more than we have to give, that is not sustainable.

When we are surviving on chocolate and caffeine, that is not sustainable.

Home educators find it hard to talk about burnout, and fatigue. Most mothers find it hard, but home education mothers are doing something not mainstream, and know the instant they admit to struggling someone will comment “Have you thought about school?”*. It can be easier with home educators, but there is difficulty here sometimes too. So many perfect home education blogs. So many gushy facebook updates. So much talk about how much more wonderful home education is. Everyone else seems to be coping so much better than I am!

Let’s change that.

Let’s talk about home education and making it something that works for everyone.

Because by sustainable, I mean able to be maintained in the long term. How can we make home education sustainable for everyone in the family, including mothers, who usually do the bulk of the day-to-day work? How do we cope with extended, unending time with our children, and the complete lack of support from the wider community for what we spend a large chunk of our time and energy doing? How do we deal with the cost of home education – the opportunity cost? How do we make sure we are giving of ourselves at a level we can continue to do, day in and day out for many years? These are big questions, difficult questions and one blog post isn’t going to answer them. But if we start to share the questions we just might get somewhere.

So I am starting with this: I am tired. I love my children but they are intense and exhausting. I am introverted. I need time alone. I am wondering how long I can continue with things as they are and I don’t like the answers I am getting. As the one with the most power it is up to me to figure out how to make this work. Here’s what I am trying:

  • Quiet time. Yes, an oldie but a goody. Although we are finding it tricky as Tercio has outgrown naps and yet is a little too young to really get quiet time.
  • Re-reading an old favourite Sarah Ban Breathnach and taking time to journal again.
  • Making sure I am clear in my own mind about when I will be able to plan. For me, knowing my children really need more strewing in there lives, but not having a plan for how I can find time to make that happen is very stressful. I am claiming time to organise, plan, search for ideas or resources.
  • Trying to catch up with people who I like to see more often.
  • Going to bed at a decent time.
  • re-read all these old survival strategies.

What is of course difficult is that all of these things require energy, and energy is in short supply here! So here is the unending question. Where do I get the energy to keep up the things I know I need to be doing to keep my energy up?

That’s what I need to make this really sustainable.

Let’s talk about this. What makes it work? What makes it not work? What can we do about it? How do we make sure our own homeschooling is sustainable? How do we help each other make it more sustainable?

If you have ideas that you use, good blog posts on the topic or if this triggers off some thoughts of your own, please pass it on. Let’s start the conversation and just see where we end up.

 

 

 

* YES. I can guarantee, if there is one thing a home educating parent has thought about, it’s school. Okay?

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Mummy’s Little Helpers

A few mothers days ago I posted this. It was all about me. Today I feel its time to acknowledge something we don’t mention enough. The wonderful people who help us be better Mummies. The communities without who I would be a blubbering mess (well, more often than I am, anyway). So here’s to Mummies Little Helpers who work behind the scenes to make me a better parent.

Here’s a glass of red to the co-parent who help me be the parent I want to be, and who picks up the slack when I give up. The one who mucks in with dirty nappies and discussing gravity, and gives us time out, so we can be a better Mummy.

Here’s a Raspberry Leaf Tea to the women who tell me that yes, sometimes it sucks, but it will pass. The ones I can answer honestly when they ask how my day has been. The ones who sympathise when I complain without suggesting school (or formula, or CIO, or whatever is flavour of the month) will fix it all. The ones who bring  meals and beads and positive affirmations.

Heres a warm cup of coffee to the sleep deprived ones, who help me laugh when it all seems too much.

Here’s a glass of bubbly to the rare friend who doesn’t have children of her own, but listens to me blabber about mine like they are important to them too. And for the occasional close-to-child-free dinner.

Here’s a spot of tea to Mummys who swap book tips and cool excursion ideas.

Here’s a virtual *chink* to the online friends who can identify with my children’s weird idiosyncrasies, who remind me I aren’t crazy. Or making it up.

And last, but not least, a giant Kaluha bottle to the diamond friend who helped me clean a giant nappy explosion in the middle of the city, instead of just pretending she didn’t know me.

Being a mother is a hard work, but it’s just so much more bearable with all of you. A share of my chrysanthemums and chocolates belongs to my helpers.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Dealing with Meals

Having my children at home means that by necessity we eat at home more often too. And that means a different type of work from making school lunches. I wanted to share some of the things that have worked for us. As usual, Your mileage may vary.

What doesn’t work for us is leaving it free for all, all day long without specific meals for a plan in my head for what we are going to eat. I am sure some people work well with that, but when we do it, it results in a great deal of mess, dishes that could cause an avalanche and children who have eaten nothing all day but apples! So we gave that one up.

 LUNCHBOXES

Sometimes we do this even if we are going to be home. Sometimes it works. 😉 Lunchboxes allow us to have a variety of foods ready, so my boys eat protein and salad and complex carbs. I can include lots of things that they enjoy but might not necessarily think to eat on their own. Lunch boxes have saved us in the early babydaze, or when I am unwell,  since DH can do them in the morning and they are all sorted for the day.

The down side of lunch boxes is that sometimes my older two would eat the most interesting bits out of them and then spend a lot of time complaining about what was left.

COLOUR CO-ORDINATING

I’m not going to lie. This is one of those things I never thought I would do. Who wants to be stuck with the specific colour all the time? Then there is the colour battles when a certain colour isn’t available. BUT as the children and sleep deprivation have both increased, and the workload too, I have discovered why generations of mothers have done it. It makes life simpler. It’s much easier to omit disliked, or reactive food items from specific plates, dramatically reduces washing up, and makes clean up much easier. I am amazed at how much more happily my children respond when I can remind them specifically that they haven’t yet put their plate on the sink, instead of generally pronouncing that someone hasn’t put their plate away.  It even makes it easier to repackage uneaten food too! Morning tea fruit can be put in the fridge on the colour coded plate and then just put next to lunch’s sandwiches. And my children love it. Go figure!

LEFTOVERS

Leftovers from the night before do make great lunches, but think broader. Children can be somewhat wasteful sometimes, and while I am not going to be draconian about that, I do want to minimise it as much as possible. So I try to reuse leftovers. The colour coding makes this fairly easy. And if you are a little creative, it doesn’t feel like leftovers! Best tip from my mum: Uneaten fruit can often be chopped and quickly stewed for a breakfast topping, ‘desert’ or even snack.  Lots of other foods can be ‘repackaged’ by adding a sprinkle of cheese, or putting it in a sandwich, serving it over plain pasta, or on a cracker. Ta-da!

EAT OUTSIDE

Call it a picnic. Just take out the mess with you. Don’t forget to bring the plates back in (See colour coding).

SERVE YOURSELF

Self serve really draws children in. Primus will serve himself (and eat) more salad than I would ever get away with! Autonomy is SO important. Remember that dishing up what you will actually eat is a pretty complex skill and one even adults get wrong. And don’t forget all the fine motor skills and social learning that takes place!

RHYTHMIC MEAL TIMES

Everyone’s rhythm is different, but I found it was really important for me to notice and prepare for the ‘hungry times’. For example, I found that  my children would often be starving an hour before dinner, eat a pile of fruit (because I was distracted trying to cook), then not be hungry come mealtime. Then they were waking up starving during the night or in the early morning. The solution has been to offer a substantial snack about an hour before they were eating. Bingo! No energy crash!

GET LOTS OF IDEAS AND EXPERIMENT

I haven’t got it all figured out and even if I did, what works for us might not work for you. Just try it and see. And I am always open to good ideas, so share yours with me.