The Florida Parent Educators Association in my home state holds a wonderful convention every May hosting stimulating and encouraging speakers, hundreds of exhibitors, and featuring creative programs for the entire family. At the end of each year I look forward to the convention weekend as a celebration of the completion of another year of homeschooling. If you are anything like me, by the time May rolls around I am just as eager to be done with school as all of my children. So the convention not only recharges my batteries, but I usually get pumped up about the coming year and come home with all kinds of ideas. The seminars are either given by exhibitors – which means they feature a curriculum or method of education, or they are faith-based and provide the homeschooling parent with the encouragement they need to continue the journey.
One year when I really needed motivation and spiritual encouragement, I went to a seminar that was called, ‘Living Above Maintenance.’ What the speaker meant by maintenance was living such busy lives that the bare minimum was all that could be maintained. If you’ve lived for weeks thinking that if you only had time, you would … with your children or in your home, then you know what survival or maintenance means to a homeschooling parent. We sometimes focus so much on the great educational opportunities that are available to us or feel like our children have to be involved in every extracurricular activity that we miss the actual benefits of homeschooling. The speaker talked about having time to teach her children how to sew. They had a garden and started a home business with their children. The time that homeschooling provides us with is sufficient if we learn how to manage it well and with discipline. When I left the seminar I realized that I wanted to live the way she did, sharing the joy of learning with my children while they were home.
That year I had burned out. I wanted my children to play piano, get socially connected with their peers, and take the more rigorous writing classes. Many days during the week we had been in and out of the car and in and out of the house. School days were interrupted, lessons were continued over a number of days, and I took my frustration out on everyone. We had just gotten by. The seminar stirred a desire in me for more. I was not sure how to remedy the situation, but knew something had to change.
It was my husband who wisely suggested the solution. He strongly encouraged us to limit our days out to one per week. Although I resisted at first, I knew in my heart that he was probably right. When school started up again, the expectations were understood by all of us. Within two weeks, my children fell into the new routine. They were eager to start school and complete the day’s assignments. We had less purely academic expectations on the days we did go out and enjoyed the activities more. There was suddenly more time to do the things we all loved to do. We did not have to rush through our read alouds, we had time for projects, creative and educational activities, and long math assignments. It is true that sometimes our schooldays ran until dinner time, but we were able to look on all that was accomplished with a feeling of contentment.
Of course, we are not perfect, there were still weeks that were exceptions to the rule and old frustrations returned. But the following week we returned to the routine. The old resistance I had once come to expect from our children disappeared and in its place was a feeling of relief.
Our experience and the one-day-week rule may not fit into your home school. But I do encourage you today to look at what you want your child’s educational experience to look like and figure out how to best achieve that end. For us it meant making tough choices. But those choices paid off and I am grateful looking back that I learned how to live beyond maintenance.