As a homeschool Mom or Dad you are often faced with the challenge of finding enough time in the day to do everything. While this is true, you must be able to create white space in your day. Read on to learn why.
There is a dreaded question that almost every mom or dad will hear when they tell someone they homeschool their children. We all know it, but let’s get it out of the way right now.
“What about socialization?” Just typing that out made me cringe.
Socialization has always been the number one argument that people have used who question whether homeschool is a valid way to educate children.
Let’s set aside for the moment that parent-led instruction has been the number one way that children have been educated since the beginning of time. It has only been over a century ago that formal schools began and this experiment in industrializing the educational process became the standard by which the culture measures success and failure of a human being.
Here you are thinking that you were going to read an article about how to make room in your calendar for down time, also known as white space, and I am speaking about socialization. Why would I even go there?
I have discovered that busyness is a major issue for homeschooling families. With the myriad of options available to the modern day homeschooler, it is no wonder we happily fill our calendars with rich learning opportunities. Depending on where you live, there can be so many choices. Admittingly, I stalk Facebook homeschool groups and businesses that offer these beloved day time classes. I want my kids to get out and about, meeting other homeschool families and well, socialize.
While I absolutely disagree with those who question the viability of homeschool when it comes to socialization, I will be honest. I get my kids involved in activities so they can meet friends and learn to work in a larger group setting. We strive to stay active and engaged in our community. If there are opportunities for us to experience new things and possibly discover new passions, then the time spent on those seems worth it.
It seems like for a lot of homeschoolers, though we may reject the socialization concern, we still seem to engage in a way that often makes me wonder if it is isn’t still top of mind. We can reject the idea that Johnny will become socially awkward because he is home educated, but at the same time we can feel guilty if he is home more often than he is away participating in activities.
Home learning certainly does not mean that everything we do is in the confines of the house where we dwell. Finding solid activities outside the home creates new and engaging ways to learn subjects and provides a real life application that can sometimes be hard to replicate at the kitchen table. Some homeschoolers find subjects like science labs, for example, are easier to do when there is a larger group where everyone shares in the experience and the cost of science experiment supplies.
With all this said, it is certainly understandable why homeschool families engage in a variety of outside opportunities. There is a better chance for your children to make friends that they can get to know over the years if they see them regularly. It is really hard to remember anyone if you only see them once or twice a year. Regularly scheduled activities such as dance class or a homeschool co-op creates a way for children to not only participate in the class instruction, but to also participate in the process of building relationships.
Outside homeschool activities are pretty important for many families especially if families do not know a lot of homeschoolers. If you don’t know many homeschoolers, it can feel like you are homeschooling on a deserted island without the ability to lean on anyone for support. Let’s face it, not only do the kids need to make friends, so does the homeschooling parent. We need to be able to talk with people who completely understand our challenges with teaching math and offer a word of support if the kids were acting like wild animals this morning during group time.
Therefore, outside activities are not at all bad. The problem doesn’t lie in the activities or our good intentions. It lies when we have too many activities and good intentions. It is important as we plan out our homeschool year, that we consider what is truly valuable to our children’s learning, what interests they would like to explore, and how can we go about those activities while still keeping a place for white space in our calendar.
Stick to the Important Stuff
It may feel like we should take advantage of every field trip, class, homeschool group, or play date that comes our way. The truth is, that not every field trip, class, homeschool group or play date is valuable to your family. As we weed through opportunities, we must consider what is important to our homeschool. Consider the reasons why you chose to homeschool.
Having a homeschool mission statement that helps to carefully define the priorities of your homeschool, can become a compass for deciding which direction you should go when selecting outside activities. A homeschool statement is a simple short paragraph, usually about three to four sentences, that is the overall idea of what your homeschool is all about. Considering your reasons why you chose to homeschool, you can build a homeschool mission statement that can serve as a quick reminder when you need to make choices about how you will spend your time and money.
When you are gauging what activities to do, think about the reasons why you chose to homeschool in the first place. These are the important reasons why you decided that homeschool was a better educational option for your family. If you wanted more togetherness and needed to strengthen relationships, perhaps an all-day co-op isn’t the best use of your time. On the flip side, if your highly-sociable child needs more interaction, then a co-op might be the right decision. Each family should consider their own needs and choose what is right for them.
Another thing to consider is whether the outside activity flows well with the plans you have made for the homeschool year. While not every homeschool field trip is going to pair perfectly with your history or science curriculum, it is worth taking a look at whether participating in something is worth the time and money spent right now. Don’t ever worry that you will “miss out” if you don’t do something this year. There are usually plenty of chances to get involved in something when the time is right.
For example, I have found myself caught up in the notion that if I don’t allow my kids to go on a specific historical site tour, then they may miss out on a valuable experience. However, when I took a step back and considered whether it was beneficial to my children to go on that trip this year, sometimes I have found that the answer is “no”. Most historical sites aren’t going anywhere, so if you can plan for something later on when it will enhance your family’s studies, then it may be worth waiting.
Consider Your Child’s Interests
What may not be worth waiting on is what your child is interested in learning. I have found over the years that interests are always coming and going. Pretty regularly I have a daughter declare that she absolutely loves to do some sort of hobby or is passionate about a new topic. She will talk about it all the time. If this has been your experience, you may feel a little excited about it yourself and begin researching ways to nurture this new found passion. To your delight, you may find there are a ton of opportunities in your area to surround your child with other’s who also share this passion.
Before you go on a wild signing-up spree, take a moment and consider whether that is worth your time right now. If this is a new passion, then it is best to tip toe your way in versus jumping in with both feet. You certainly want to nurture your child’s interests. This is one of my favorite reasons for homeschooling! We just have to take baby steps before we commit to something to see where the interest goes.
If your child declares that he loves studying outer space, then that homeschool science club at the library may be a great commitment in both time and money. However, it may not be a good idea to sign him up for a week long space camp that is months away. While it may ignite a life long passion in studying the stars, it could also end up being a fleeting interest. If by the summer he decides that his new favorite subject is art, then you may have invested money and time into something that wasn’t worth it.
Listen and observe your child to learn her interests. Take small opportunities to test those interests to see which ones fizzle and which ones become passions. While we have the ability to take a deep dive into interest based education as homeschoolers, we need to use our time and resources carefully. Have regular discussions with your child to learn more about why they love something. Ask a lot of questions to see what it is about that particular interest that makes it appealing. This can help tremendously in deciding in which activities to pursue.
Why White Space Matters
It can feel pretty intimidating to meet Suzy Homeschooler who has kids involved in every single activity known to the homeschooling community. We all know someone like that. No matter what activity we choose to do, her family is there. Or she is in charge of it. Or she is volunteering her entire family for the cause. Or she knows the owner of the place because they serve on three different charitable boards together. You know the person. If you are Suzy Homeschooler, then high five! If you love everything you do and cannot stand having “nothing to do”, then do what you love if everyone is benefiting in your family from it.
If Suzy Homeschooler scares you and you don’t know how anyone can possibly have the time or energy for all of that, then keep reading because I hope to give you permission to not be like her. If you are her and you are burning the candle on both ends and the family is feeling the stress because of it, then I want to give you permission to start saying no and not feel guilty because white space does matter.
It may seem like that scheduling a multitude of activities for your kids proves that you are doing this homeschooling thing right, but your kids may need something far more important. Teaching our children to learn to be at peace with down time is an important habit that many parents fail to practice in their own lives let alone teach their children. With the fast-paced world we live in, if we aren’t busy working, communicating, or being entertained by something, then we start to feel antsy or bored.
This feeling has created a generation of stressed out, overworked, and scatterbrained individuals who cannot focus. Take screens out of the equation, though an obvious problem that is affecting our attention spans, our schedules are so jam-packed with things to do that we barely have time to breath much less just take time to rest. Homeschooling is a very busy time, but if we stay too busy we end up putting all our energy into the rat-race of completing the “to do’s” instead of relishing in the time we have with our kids.
You have a finite amount of years to homeschool your kids. Even if you are just now getting started with your five year old and plan on homeschooling until graduation, I am telling you, it will go by fast! It may be great to look back on all the years of trophies, badges, and portfolios and remember those times fondly, but will you remember those rainy afternoons cuddled on the couch reading your favorite children’s story to your kids? Because your kids will. They will remember those moments of quiet when everyone was together giggling about what the preschooler just said or they will remember that Wednesday afternoon when it was warm for the first time in who knows how long and you all just sat outside eating a snack and enjoying the sun on your faces. No badge earned.
Let your kids see you relaxed and peaceful. Let them see you give yourself permission to sit down for a few minutes and close your eyes. Let them see you read a book for pleasure. Let them see you make decisions to take care of yourself so you can stay healthy. Because hopefully one day they will make those same decisions for themselves, too. Give them a slow-paced childhood and allow them the opportunity to fill their memory bank with the moments that truly matter.
Homeschooling is a time of wonderful opportunities and adventures. We want the best for our children and desire to see them engage with others in healthy ways while being able to pursue their interests. While it may feel necessary to keep up with what other’s around are doing, every family should evaluate their own reasons for homeschooling and create a homeschool planner filled with valuable educational trips and interest explorations that work for them.
Most of all, make sure your homeschool planner has lots of white space to allow everyone to breath. Make it a priority that your children see you enjoying the small moments in life that will make the biggest and most cherished memories.
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