Homeschooling | Me Time
Personally I've been "formally" homeschooling for 4 years now. My kids have been homeschooled their entire education so technically I've been schooling at home for 9 years. 9 years of spending all day, er'y with my kids. There's never been a season where they've gone to school, preschool or day care. That means we've put in some serious hours with each other!
In my adult life I have been consistently keenly aware of self care and my mental health. I don't want to just survive my life - I want to thrive. Very early on in having kids I realized that as a social introvert being with people all day drains me (even people I love so very much) and that alone time recharges me. When you homeschool - alone time has to be an intentional thing.
If I had to boil down the most crucial ingredient in our family's plan to make sure I get alone time I'd say it is my husband's dedication to fathering our kids and partnering with me in our children's education.
When we decided to homeschool it was a decision that both of us made with a lot of thought. There was never an assumption that it would only affect my life as the homeschool teacher. We were both going to have to invest in this.
Thankfully we started some of the routines early on and they have just become a rhythm in our life. From day one, my husband has be primarily responsible for the kids bedtimes. If I was nursing, I'd nurse and pass them off. It's been great as this has always been guaranteed time he has with them for bonding. This is especially crucial for us in seasons of life where he works until 5:30 pm and the kids were going to bed at 7:00 pm. Bedtime is their time. For me it means that I have a good hour where I am not answering questions, making snacks or directing my kids. It is a much needed break after doing that for the previous 8-10 hours. Sometimes I am just SO tired of talking!
I don't know about you but even with their dad 3 feet from them my kids will out of habit still seek me out. My answer in these times is typically "You have a dad. Use him." lol. It can be VERY easy for us moms to just continue with the flow of the day and without thinking just keep doing all. the. things. for our kids. I have to be intentional to redirect them to my husband so that it reinforces that we are a team and sometimes you just need to ask dad.
For me this is also the hour that I often leave the house. Not sure about your kids but even though they are 9 and 7 they still act like every bedtime is the first one we've ever done. Brush your teeth! Get your PJ's on! Wash your face! Get into bed! Stop coming out of bed! That's our nightly soundtrack. It gets old. So, I excuse myself and either hop in the hot tub during bedtime routine, head out for a walk or grab a decaf coffee and peruse the aisles of Walmart just cause I can. It's amazing what that hour does for my mental health!
On the topic of bedtime - that has been another sanity saver for us. We have enforced an early bedtime for our kids. For most of their lives up until last summer they were in bed by 7 - 7:30 every night and asleep shortly after. My husband and I are both night owls so that meant that we typically had from then until at least midnight of just us time. We can hang out, play games, work in the yard, work out, write, or just chill and watch T.V. It also meant that for us we couldn't go out often in the evening as a family (as pushing them past their bedtime was not a good idea for us) but the long term benefits far outweighed the times we chose not to go out. Individually we can easily go out for a couple of hours and do so weekly. I play tennis weekly and attend a ladies connection night and my husband plays basketball weekly. We've even been known to hit up movies at the theatre on our own cause who talks to anyone during a movie anyways?
For those of you that are morning people I'm guessing that you can get up before your kids to have some alone time. I seriously wonder what that is like - my kids can sense I'm awake so I've never gotten more than 5 minutes on my own in the morning!
As soon as I felt my kids could manage I spent the summer teaching them how to make breakfasts. I wanted them to have a range of healthy food they could make independently and once they learned I left that responsibility on them. For me this means that I can take my time to have a cup of coffee and maybe read a bit while they make their own breakfasts and eat. I like it!
I'm pretty lucky in that my husband only works 2 blocks from home. This means he's able to come home every day for lunch. Since I don't love working out at night and I'm really not a morning person I've been working out over the noon hour for the past couple of years. I love it because my husband is there for them to field questions from the kids (read less interruptions for me) and it flows well with our homeschool day for them to have a break.
As fortunate as I am that my husband has a 9-5 ish job with lunch hours at home and all weekends off, this didn't happen by accident. We live in an industrial town where the majority of jobs are shift jobs. Because of the "yes's" that we have said to things like making daily family time a priority and having weekends to spend together it made it easier to be intentional and say "no" to job offers that didn't line up with our goals. My husband has turned down many jobs over the years (many that offered a lot more pay) that would have required him to work 12 hour shifts and thus greatly affect our schedule. We both decided that those jobs wouldn't work for our family and our personalities. On the flip side, I have friends whose husbands work shift and then have regular 4-5 day stretches off that work fantastically for their families. My point is not that one is better than another but that it pays to be intentional with your choices.
I have a lot of other passions and interests that are outside of homeschooling. I've found that making sure I have time for those things promotes thriving in my life. Alone time is great but being alone with nothing to do would be more annoying to me than not having the time at all.
I love photography and thus run a photography business. At my max I take 2 clients a week in the evening. It gets me out and using my creativity while also providing extra income. Sometimes I just need to build something. If my husband isn't around or we want to work on a project together, we'll hire a babysitter to hang out with the kids so we can work without being disrupted. Some of my friends have had great success in working out a childcare swap. They make an agreement with another family with similarly aged children and pick two nights a month where they swap childcare. They put parameters in place that work for them like set hours, and feeding your kids before dropping them off and it allows them to have a "free" date night once a month.
One practice that I'm terrible at keeping consistent is having a set quiet time each day. We've done it periodically and though it takes some effort to define the boundaries of it and get my kids accustomed to spending that time alone each day it was worth it when we did it. Even half an hour in the middle of the day where every one goes to their own corner can be a great "reset" for everyone.
Though I'm not great at staying consistent with quiet time I've found that now that my children are old enough for independent reading time that I really make use of that.
There's obviously no set way to make sure you're getting what you need. We're all wired so differently! My hope is that in some way this post can give you a few ideas on how to make time for yourself and at the very least emphasize the importance of taking care of yourself as a homeschooling parent. If one thing is clear to me, it's that getting "me" time is more about recognizing the value of it as family and being intentional to make it happen than it is about actually finding the time.
I'd love to hear how you incorporate self care and "me time" into your homeschool routines! Please comment with them - then we can all learn from each other!
* All images in this post done by Crystal Lee Photography *