Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Many Hats: Balancing Mom and Teacher

The topic of the meme this week at Heart of the Matter is "Balancing Mom and Teacher".
"While many homeschooling moms know that being a mother includes teaching their children daily there are those who find the 'line' between teaching their homeschooling child and being a mom fuzzy. What are some of the best tips you can offer a new homeschooling mother who is sorting out those gray areas? How do you manage the balance between the two?"

After 14 years of homeschooling, this is something I rarely think about anymore. Being a teacher is part of being a mom, just like being a cook, nurse, chauffeur, advisor, cheerleader, disciplinarian, guide, and friend. But when I first started homeschooling, I did think about this more. I remember a friend commenting more than once that she felt she would be a better "mother" if she was not homeschooling. I knew what she meant by that comment. She meant that she would spend more time doing " fun stuff " like baking cookies, going to the park, decorating the house for the holidays, planning parties, and playing board games if she didn't have to worry about "school". To her, "school" meant struggling through math lessons, drilling spelling words, and correcting workbook pages. It meant being strict and no-nonsense and tough ~ or else her children would take advantage of her tenderness and not do their work! I would probably be a better mother if I didn't have to be a good wife too! Or a friend, or a daughter, or a neighbor, or any of the other things that make up real life! We don't normally think about separating those "jobs" from our view of ourselves as a mom; neither should we separate the job of "teacher". It is just part of the package.


The "ideal mom" that my friend was comparing herself to was out of balance. Being a good mom is not only about making life fun and happy for our children, although it should INCLUDE those things. Balancing being a teacher AND being a mother means addressing character issues in the midst of the science lesson, or engaging the whole family in discussion at the dinner table or while riding in the car. It means recognizing when my kids aren't feeling well or are having a bad day, and lightening up, or even putting academics aside altogether. It means modeling sacrifice and service and a good attitude in my own work, in my home and outside my home too. It means celebrating a soccer goal or a finished book report with an ice cream cone, and taking a whole day to carve pumpkins and collect colored leaves, and making homemade soup and bread together for a sick friend. The books will still be there tomorrow. 
Perhaps looking at "school" in a new way is the answer. Thinking "out of the box" when it comes to academics frees me to loosen up and realize that our day does not have to be divided into "periods" or "subjects". For us, integrating education into our flow of daily life means that we "do school" in our home - sitting on the couch, lying on the bed, sitting at the kitchen table - and not in a "school room". Chores, playtime, errands, and activities are woven throughout our day. Each child has an "assignment sheet" outlining the school work that I expect to be done that week, with some things divided into daily assignments. That represents our goal for the week, but I will adjust it as we go along. The process of learning is the focus, and not checking off boxes. 
Younger children require my direct attention and involvement in their lessons, but the older they get, the more independent they are expected to be. I do not assign grades, but expect work to be done thoroughly and well, or it is redone. I feel free to shorten a lesson, or skip problems in the book, or modify a plan to suit the needs of the child or the family on any given day. Short lessons for younger children, interspersed with plenty of creative play time, makes both of us happy! Older children learn that academic work CAN be done in the evenings and on weekends too. ( a novel idea to most homeschoolers!) hahaha! Homeschooling has become our LIFESTYLE, and not just something we get through or stick into our day.
I don't take OFF my mom hat and put ON my teacher hat, I wear them both at the same time.


GrammaJelly said...

This is a lovely testimonial to the balance that you've been able to achieve in your life...balancing all of the elements that go into raising that wonderful family of yours. Hope lots of people read's a 'gem'! Love

Shaw6pak said...

Very well said. You are a great role model for me and other homeschooling moms. I am very glad that we are friends. I look up to you and it helps me to be more confident learning from you.

Thank you. ~~~Kristi

Creech Family said...

Well put and a great reminder that I needed - it's harder to separate the two "hats" and I'm glad of it!! Thanks!!

Carolina Mama said...

Wow what a great post! Glad things are going well. Isn't Fall feeling good!