Over the past four years, I have found homeschooling to be a fascinating journey full of highs and lows. The high moments, such as teaching the older girlies how to read and watching their father guide them as they assemble sugar cube replicas of Egypt’s Great Pyramid, are truly exhilarating. Low moments such as the fearful times when I wonder if I’m being an effective teacher or the discouraging times when a heavy workload threatens to overwhelm me, can sometimes bring me to tears.
When zooming downhill into the homeschool doldrums, I often come face to face with a major homeschool hazard. These destructive hazards threaten to hijack the joyful, educational journey God wants for me. Homeschool hazards are common and are not easily removed from our paths, so I’d like to spend the next several weeks addressing the top five homeschool hazards I have faced and discuss ways to combat each of them.
Week one of the Homeschool Hazard Series tackles the topic of overscheduling. How do I know I’ve overscheduled? When I need at least 10 to 14 days notice to schedule a playdate for the girlies. When I’m unable to complete lessons because I’m so busy riding all over the county. When the best view of my children comes from the van’s rearview mirror. When the thought of traveling to an activity makes me want to curl up in fetal position under my kitchen table. When the mere mention of the the schedule causes tension between my husband and me.
How we can defeat the ominous ogre of overscheduling? Let’s examine four myths regarding overscheduling and counter them with realities that will allow us to put on our turn signals and move from the passing lane into a slower, more easy-going lane.
Myth: If my children participate in many activities, they will be happy.
In the beginning we’re all happy. I am the happiest of all and why shouldn’t I be? This activity is aligned with our current studies. That activity exposes the girlies to a new skill or craft, while yet another other activity will give them the head start they need in subject A, B, or C. The girlies are happy too. They’re eager to learn something new. They’re excited about an opportunity to meet new children and make new friends. They want to take on a new challenge and do well. As we ride to and fro, hither and yon, back and forth, our van rides are pleasant.
However, if we’re overscheduled, an unpleasant change soon occurs. I am stressed as I struggle to maintain our daunting schedule. I no longer care about how well this activity aligns with our curriculum. We haven’t had ample time to study the lesson anyway. I discover that new craft I was so eager for the girlies to develop takes extra time and money I hadn’t considered. The head start I hoped the girlies would enjoy fizzles away because I’ve had to skip a class every now and then because I’m too tired to press forward. Van rides become traumatic because we’re tired and cranky. No one is happy.
In the beginning, a week packed with activities may be a source of happiness and excitement. However, if you’re schedule is driving you, you’ll soon become unhappy with entire situation. For us, we’re happiest when at home.
Myth: If my children participate in many activities, it means they’re becoming well-rounded children.
I’m not sure when I began to believe that outside sources were key to helping my girlies become well rounded children. I believed the myth and began to immerse the girlies in a schedule saturated with music, art, and sports in an attempt to help them grow into strong, adept leaders. Our crazy schedule swallowed us all and we nearly drowned while running all over town. Unfortunately, I had forgotten the importance of surrounding my children with love, happiness, opportunity, and encouragement at home, where they’ll develop the skills and confidence later needed to reach their goals outside the home.
Homeschoolers can cultivate special skills and interests at home before spending lots of time and money on fancy lessons and classes elsewhere. This allows us to gauge if a girl has a true interest in a subject or if her interest is a fleeting phase. It also affords us an opportunity to use our home as a comfortable place of education and exploration. This semester we spent lots of time and money on a robotics class for Sweet Pea. She loves the class, has learned a lot , and is doing well, but we won’t send her to another class. Instead, JT will create and teach a personalized robotics class just for her here at home. We save money, nurture the one-on-one Dad time Sweet Pea loves, and lighten the schedule.
Some of the best lessons and activities can be done within the home! The internet places the world at our fingertips, so we can use it to bring a plethora of rich educational resources into our homes. Later, when time and money permit, offer a child the option of taking classes to further develop the seeds of interest you planted at home.
Myth: If homeschool friends are doing a specific activity, my children must also participate as well.
Over the past few years, we’ve developed very close relationships with two other homeschooling families. The children spend lots of time playing and learning together and the parents enjoy regular fellowship with one another too. When one family learns of an educational opportunity, outing, or activity, we often share the details with the other two families. One family will decide to register their children for the activity and will invite the other two families to do the same.
Sometimes we join in, but other times we thank our friends for the offer and decline the invitation. This may mean saying no to the fun of a monthly Lego League meeting or passing on that exciting trip to the planetarium. None of us have hurt feelings when another family declines. None us applies pressure to others in an effort to bring them in. If saying no will keep my mind at ease or prevent my schedule from clogging up, I’ve made the right choice. Just because others we know and love are participating in an activity, doesn’t mean we have to do the same. Do what’s best for your family at that time and recognize you may be able to participate at a later time.
Myth: If my children don’t do this activity now, they’ll never get a chance to do it.
For some reason, I have a tendency to view most activities as golden opportunities that will slip away forever if not immediately grasped. That hands on art class may never be offered again! This is the last mother-daughter book club the library will ever host! This faulty logic has often caused me to pack our schedule unnecessarily.
The truth is that our area is full of interesting and worthwhile things to do. We can use leisurely family time to visit places of interest rather than overschedule our school week. If we do decide to register for classes, chances are the popular favorites will be offered again. You can also be sure that new classes and activities will surface as well.
Has debunking those myths lightened your burden? I hope so. Please recognize I’m not recommending that homeschool families remain isolated at home at home all day every day. We certainly do not and I have effectively done some Homeschooling on the Go. The point is that as we schedule activities for our learners, we need to make sure we’re not compromising anyone’s sanity by running ourselves ragged.
If you’d like to read more about the dangers of the overscheduled family and the effects of extreme busyness on children, I have two book recommendations. The Little House on the Freeway by Dr. Tim Merrill offers a Biblical approach to taming our schedules and drawing nearer to God. The Hurried Child by David Elkind is a classic read that uses a secular approach to address how busy schedules force children to grow up too soon and how this can usher in problems as children become adults. Both are useful resources.
Do you have any tips for calming a chaotic schedule? If so, feel free to say so by leaving a comment.
© 2013, Andrea Thorpe. All rights reserved.