All kinds of life happens to everybody all the time.
Sounds kind of obvious right? You would think so, but for me it was a concept that took me some years to get my mind around in relation to home education.
Family members get sick, pregnancy (for me) made me quite poorly, we move house (a lot), the car broke down on the way somewhere important, someone hurts themselves, hubby looses a job, a child at uni needs you quickly, family comes to visit, birthdays, holidays, friends and family may need help with something.
These are the moments of life that for years I thought got in the way of our home education rather than embracing them AS home education. Home education is a life style and all of that inconvenient stuff, is a part of life too.
On Monday I took Joey to the eye hospital for his check up. We arrived for our 11:15 am appointment and didn’t leave until after 3 pm. We then went into birthday mode, as it was hubby’s birthday the next day, meaning I didn’t get home until about 6 pm. Not a long day by working standards that’s for sure, but a long day if you are worried about what home education has taken place that day.
Not me. Not this time.
Monday evening, I gave myself a mental pat on the back. Years ago that kind of day would have stressed me out no end. ‘Pack some work to do kids so that we can make the most of every opportunity and it doesn’t look to the outside world that I am failing you.’
But time in waiting rooms has taught me that if a school kid is there with us, they aren’t doing work either, they are just there, as bored as we are.
I have grown a lot. I took a book, Joey as pack of cards. He spent much of the time learning new tricks, or finding someone new in the waiting room to play cards with. And when that novelty wore off, he made paper air planes with some paper he found, and began a test of design vs distance covered.
(Don’t worry, we were in a corner of the waiting room, where no one else was)
So why was I putting these expectations upon myself all those years?
I have identified a couple of reasons why I might have been unduly pressuring myself.
A compartmentalised view of life.
Rather than embracing life each day as it came to us in a holistic manner, I was compartmentalising our time. We had school time, and work time, and chore time, and leisure time, and me time and you time, and, and, rather than just time. So whenever anything crossed over out of its designated time slot this made me anxious. I started to feel I had to shuffle time around until it all fit again.
This was a really unhelpful way for me to live. It made me anxious when I couldn’t control time or the unforeseen events that life threw up at me.
What I really needed to do was take a deep breath, switch gears and take the new direction for what it was. Work on other things that day, maybe it was a good day for us all to practice patience, build resilience, learn to help others and give freely of our time. To look at what lessons life was teaching us that day, rather than what lessons did I want everyone to learn because they were on my schedule.
I was worried about public perception.
Rather than just taking the kids to the dentist, I wanted to make sure while we were there it looked like we ‘did stuff.’ So my 4 school aged kids and the toddler would sit in the surgery with their books and do school. It was madness. It caused them stress, it caused me stress. I am not here to criticise other people doing that, because we all have our own journey and do things for whatever reasons we need too. But what I did start to identify about myself was, that it was all about perception. I didn’t really care if the kids finished their maths that day. I did care that our large family gave out the right impression to the world around us and we looked like we knew what we were doing and it we challenged public perception, both about large families and about home education.
I was a slave to the schedule.
This one didn’t last very long, because schedules don’t come naturally too me. I tried in our earlier years to have them, but life was too blooming unpredictable to keep to them, and I felt I was always swimming against my natural bent. A trait I noticed about myself when we did have one, was that I became really irritated when something got in the way of it. The schedule, became more important than family life rather than it either enhancing or aiding family life. We became slaves to it. I don’t think that evoked a very nice atmosphere in our home. Again, not a criticism of people who use them, it just wasn’t us. We now keep a very loose schedule of what we do drama on Monday’s, home day Tuesdays etc but the days are much more fluid now in terms of how we use our time.
Please don’t take these points as criticism about how others do life, they are not. That is the beautiful thing about home education, it can be bent to suit any family, any personality type and every unique setting. But that is also a big part of the journey. Working out how you work best as both individuals and as a family unit. If everything is structured around how mum or dad likes it, then one or some of the kids might struggle. If everything is structured around how the kids need it, then mum or dad might struggle.
There has to be some give and take and fluidity around the journey.