Home is Where the School is: The Logic of Homeschooling and the Emotional Labor of Mothering got me thinking about how I might integrate learning, living and loving within my own home as a mother and educator.
Jennifer Lois, Associate Professor of Sociology, interviewed a group of homeschooling mothers from conservative Christians to new age liberals, tracking the highlights and lowlights of their experiences over a span of 10 years. As I was reading, I made note of the parents’ growth, the author’s realizations, as well as my own learnings, which are applicable to anyone who has his or her hand and heart in the education of a child:
- “You can have it all, but not all at once.” Your life isn’t on hold because you are a parent or have chosen – or have no other choice but – to homeschool. Develop a broader perspective; there is time for all of it to happen: the career, travel, housework, etc. but don’t miss out on what is happening. Childhood is a time sensitive matter.
- Be available for the “teachable moments.” The more engaged you are, the more engaged your child will be (which will save you time and energy in the long run). Besides, desirable emotions are enhanced in the present moment, so be in the here and now to increase your own level of satisfaction.
- The more you base your sense of self on your child’s achievements, the more likely it is you will burnout. Relax. Highly structured activities will not decrease your anxiety… but they will decrease your child’s motivation, and, therefore, performance. Your child is a unique individual. So are you.
- Homeschooling – or even parenting – maybe not have been a choice, yet you can make the choice at any moment. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are making a sacrifice for a child or you will overlook the amazing position you are in.
- Learning is a part of life, not separate from it. Make the curriculum or even extra-curricular activities work for you and your family, so learning doesn’t become a burden. Follow your instincts. Learn through play whenever possible. Even incorporate household chores and healthy habits. And unstructured family time – without stress – is essential.
- Your partner is not another person to meet your standards. Looking for a particular type of involvment may cause you to overlook the ways in which he is. Try to notice and be grateful for the ways he is already influencing your child’s development and invite him to come up with his own ideas for meaningful interactions.
- See what happens without the “teacher” and “parent” labels. You are a learner, learning alongside another learner. Explore your personal passions along the way; you may even discover overlap with your child’s interests.
- Give yourself a break. Just because you aren’t instructing all the time, doesn’t mean your child isn’t learning. Learning is like breathing and space is essential for growth.
- Socialization is more than identifying with a group of children who are the same age and like the same things. Look for opportunities for you and your child to engage with several, multi-aged networks. And you don’t have to do it all alone: find online resources, take part in community projects, hire a mentor or tutor for particular subjects.
- Know your child’s biorhythms and work with them, rather than forcing him or her into a desk or schedule. Your child will be the first to let you know what works and doesn’t work. Observe. Listen. Forcing your child to conform will only cause him or her to fight back, or worse, you will succeed in crushing your child’s curious and creative spirit.
Essentially, integrating learning, living and loving can be efficient, effective and enjoyable for all those involved. Challenging, yes, I’m sure, but it is a challenge I welcome.