There are seemingly infinite articles on parenting and self-care with very young children, with the consensus being that 1) when we become parents, we put our needs second, and 2) that it is important to keep time for yourself (and your marriage) when your children are very young, to keep from losing your sense of self. I think that this is triple-fold when you are home educating.
Most people send their children to school. Therefore, self-care advice is often aimed at parents with very young children, who are at home with them full time. And the assumption is that eventually, around 4 or 5 if you are a 'stay at home parent' until school age, or even earlier, at 4 months - 2 years old if you go back to work straight after having children, you will go back to some semblance of a 'normal adult life' at the point that children go in to daycare or school. I have had many years of this 'normal, adult life' when our children went to school, and I went to full time university and then to work, and it is a very different life to living full time at home with your children.
Life as a parent with children in school held several big differences to life with all of our children studying at home.
It included time for a coffee run, and uninterrupted conversation with my husband, on the commute to university or work.
Regular visits to the gym, before or after work, or during lunch break.
Lunch breaks with friends or work colleagues - often a whole hour of adult conversation! Where I could think about myself and talk about adult things!
Regular uninterrupted time in my work or study day to think about myself and cater to my own needs (going to the bathroom without little people knocking on the door, taking snack breaks or working on my own projects, with enough quiet to think clearly and miss being at home!)
A quick 30 minute shopping trip for groceries on the way home from work, where no little hands (or teenage hands) were grabbing loads of things and throwing them in to the cart. No debates about what I would buy and why I didn't think that was a good idea for dinner...
Weekend trips to the movies or out to listen to music with my husband or friends
There was a lot more time and space to just be me
Looking back, I am not sure if the extra space and time for self-care came from physical distance from the demands of family life, for up to 8 hours a day. Or the emotional distance that comes from being separated from your family for most of the week, and not feeling joined to them at every moment (which was always something that I had been uncomfortable about - and a big reason why I started thinking seriously about home education).
In reality, most of us could go to the gym every day for an hour and have our children/ teenagers stay at home, or enrol them in the gym creche. But most of us don't.
Most of us could go out on the weekend, or slip away at lunch to meet partners or friends, for child-free time, but we don't. My theory is that living each day alongside our children takes away much of the 'us and them' thinking that can develop when you spend most of your time away from your children. I don't have 'my life' and 'their life' anymore. We have our life together. And that can mean that when I go out to do something that is fun for me, I like to have them with me!
If I am going to exercise, chances are that I will find something child-friendly so that we can all go together.
If we are going to the movies, most often, it will be all of us.
And I know that I am not alone.
When we first started homeschooling, I had one friend who had just started home educating too, and we tried with little success to organise Mum's 'coffee dates' which were an opportunity to get away from our kids, and have some adult time.
We were still in a mindset that our veteran home educating families had long surpassed.
We wanted some time apart from our children, but they seemed to have little need for it!
What did they know that we didn't know? What did they do to keep their sense of self while being with their children 24/7?
Australian Homeschool Summit final talk - how to motivate yourself and your teenagers (without going crazy!)
Today marked the end of the incredible first Australian Homeschool Summit, online, and despite being 8 months pregnant, with fluid retention, and chubby little feet jammed up in my ribs, we had a really fun day with Kelly from Fearless Homeschool, talking about Motivating yourself and your teenager (without going crazy!). This summit was the second that I have ever been to (I wrote about my first over here) and the very first online homeschooling summit. I really loved watching all of the other presenters from my bedroom laptop, in my pyjama's, with the kids asleep! and everyone knows how much homeschoolers love doing things in their pj's!
Today we talked from the perspective of maintaining good mental health while homeschooling or unschooling your teenager, so that you are better able to weather the changes of hormones, increased physical and psychological demands on your teens, and the sometimes uncomfortable process that can be growing up! We looked at Mazlow's Hierarchy of Needs, and how to do a needs assessment of yourself, as well as your teens, to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as it can through this period of intense growth.
We also touched on the often heated unschooling topic of internet restrictions (do you restrict your teen's internet access? and do you have their internet passwords?) and being brave enough to admit that you don't advocate unlimited internet, if you are in radical unschooling circles!
I also spoke about why it is important to let your child be bored! to encourage minimalism and self-sufficiency, and to practice loving deprivation. Which gave me an excuse to showcase my (very rare) art project (above) - a restored chest, with chalkboard paint and chic chalkboard-label pasta sauce bottles (reduce, reuse and recycle).
You can read more about our chic chalkboard restoration project over here, and take a small tour through our creative tv-free spaces in our new home, over here.
I will also write a separate blog on the highlights of the first Australian Homeschool Summit over here, for anyone that missed it! And if you would like to watch all of the highlights, and keep the re-runs of the entire summit, you can purchase a membership here. This includes hours and hours of talks from homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning families, and professionals, bonus downloads, discounts and extra talks on everything from unschooling children 0-5 years old, to gaining university entry for homeschooling teenagers. I loved being a part of this summit and look forward to next year!