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October 2001
Volume 9, No. 5

Taking Care of the Homeschooling Mother (or Father)

Amanda Bennett

We hug them, love them, teach them, and share with them - wiping away tears, assuring them that monsters are not in the closet or under the bed, even helping them through algebra. We are our children's caretakers and we care for them so deeply and completely that we sometimes forget to care for ourselves. If we get too stretched out and burned out, we aren't as effective at taking care of others very well.

One of the things that I learned through my early years of homeschooling and being a full time mom was that I had to take care of MOM first. One of the best analogies for this is the statement that is made when you are going through the safety talk before takeoff on an airplane - when the oxygen masks drop in an emergency, the adult should put their mask on first, then assist the child with theirs. We can't help them if we are incapacitated - that's my interpretation. And this holds true in all that we do, particularly when it comes to parental well-being and the individual feeling of fulfillment.

I learned early in my adventures at home that I had to make time for myself. I would have one night a week that I would go to the library, without the children, to read and enjoy the silence! It can be so difficult to make time for ourselves Üthere are so many other pressing needs that get in line ahead of our own. Just as in days gone by when folks would talk about having to "prime the pump" to get it working, we parents are the same way. We have to read, rest, relax, get some alone time so that we can focus on our own needs - we have to refill our own wells from time to time - re-priming the pump so that we are at our best.

You say, I don't have time to read - consider getting some books on tape from the library or through websites that rent them, like www.booksontape.com. Perhaps you aren't sure of tapes that you can listen to while driving the children back and forth to various activities? We have thoroughly enjoyed some great books on tape in the car - Cheaper By The Dozen, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, The Hobbit, Danger to Windward, the Mitford series, and so many more. Try to get the unabridged versions of books on tape, so that you can hear the author's words in whole, without losing some of them in the editing process.

Hobbies - who has time! Most of us don't have time for them, but we need to try to make time. To do something recreational, relaxing your mind, taking it off of all of the other worries and stresses of the day -that is what I'm talking about in a hobby. Granted, most of us don't have time to go take up golf or tennis, but we can possibly find time to take an evening pottery class once a week or join a quilting group that meets twice a month. Someone mentioned the idea of volunteering as a docent at a local museum, or finding a ceramics shop where you can go and paint ceramic figures for fun and gift giving.

I know - it seems to be impossible to even consider finding time for yourself, with soccer practice, ballet lessons, support group events, and not to mention the orthodontist and pediatrician! Here's an idea that works for me: a friend once told me that her mother had taught her to write a check into her savings account every payday, even for a small amount, before paying any other bills. This way, she would get her priorities in order and build a good habit early in life. Well, this idea can also apply to our own personal daily and weekly schedules. Block off your time on the calendar FIRST, then add all of the other appointments and demands later. Preserve your appointments for yourself Üprotect this time and use it for your own well-being.

This time is so important, yet so easily sacrificed when other "more important" things crop up. Just as you try not to interfere or make demands on a working spouse's daily work routine, protect this time for yourself as part of your "work" schedule. When I was young, I remember my mother getting up before daylight, quietly going to the kitchen and making coffee. She would sit at the kitchen table with her coffee, looking out the back window into the woods, enjoying the silence for a while, before all of the children woke up and broke into her quiet time. I never understood just how important this time was until we had our own children, and now I appreciate her exasperated look when one of us would awaken early and wander out before daylight!

1. Take time to make time. Begin by blocking off an hour each week that is YOUR time, no exceptions. Even if you go and sit in the library and read a magazine Üjust go!

2. Use your time for your needs, not others. What makes you feel better Ü reading, catching up on letters, sewing, quilting, walking?

3. Read or listen to books on tape - to help broaden your horizons, add some perspective to your daily life, and open new areas of interest.

4. Try to get up early every morning to have some quiet time before everyone wakes up -read, pray, listen to the silence.

5. Check out videos from the library that interest YOU - travel tapes to places that you have dreamed of visiting (Scotland, Australia, Great Britain, Africa, etc.), or perhaps videos that teach things like painting, quilting, cooking, and more.

6. Keep a journal - write in it every day. Not only does it help you see all that has been accomplished and record the daily happenings - the simple act of journaling provides a constant steady reminder of the passing of time. As homeschoolers, we tend to get wrapped up in marking time by years until graduation, instead of enjoying the value of each and every day.

7. Make time to see just how far you have come. Go back through picture albums occasionally. Look back over goals from years past. See just how far your family has come, and you will also notice some new directions that need to be taken.

8. How can you help others? Along with hobbies, it is important to many of us to give back to our community. Can you read to the elderly, sew nap quilts for the abused children's home, help out at the library from time to time?

I hope that these suggestions have helped you to see the importance of taking care of the caretaker! When you get some time to continue your own personal growth, you will probably have more patience with your family and your homeschooling efforts. Remember to seek help and support when you are feeling stressed - you are not alone and your needs are very important! As they say around our house, "when Mama ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy!"

As you begin to take care of your needs, your children will learn a valuable lesson Üthat everyone has needs that are very important. As parents, our needs tend to get pushed to the background and set aside, and this isn't healthy for the individual or the family.

Here are some websites to visit when you can use some interactive support and encouragement from fellow homeschooling parents:

URL: http://www.homeeducator.com/HSN/discussionlist.htm
Join the Homeschool Support Network support/discussion list.

As I head off to the call of waking children, thanks for sharing a cup of coffee during my quiet time this morning! Here are some thoughts to ponder as you go about your busy day:

"When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life. Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., "Windows of the Soul"

"The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly." Henry David Thoreau, Walden

"To laugh often and love much - to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children, to earn the approbation of honest critics - to appreciate beauty - to give of one's self, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation - to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived--that is to have succeeded." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Take care of YOU, and God bless!

Amanda Bennett is a homeschooling wife and mother, conference speaker, and the author of her very popular unit studies. Her new series of Unit Studies include great lists of resources and websites as well as weekly schedules, daily learning plans, activities broken down for elementary, middle and upper grades, and weekly reviews to help you stay on track. To contact Amanda, visit her web site: http://www.unitstudy.com

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