Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Making Time

People often ask me, "How do you have time to get anything done?!"

They seem to be impressed with all the work they imagine homeschooling requires, and tell me "Well, I could never do that." Maybe they are thinking "Jessica is just so awesome and different than me."

I am hereby publicly announcing that, although I do LOVE people thinking I am awesome, I am actually no more awesome than you. Also, really not so different. Sometimes I lose my temper. Frequently I find ways to avoid folding laundry (my most dreaded chore). Often my house is messy or maybe I let something go so I can get something else done. I'm better than I used to be at saying "no" but I still tend to get overwhelmed from time to time.

I struggle every day to keep organized. In fact, just last week I totally flaked out on a tutoring session for my son (who is dyslexic and is enrolled in a special program for that). Even when the tutor called me to ask if we were okay, I still had no idea why she was calling. FAIL.

I am just an average mom who, like everyone else, is doing the best I can. When we decided to try homeschooling, we were terrified. What things on my very full plate were going to shift to make it work for us? What did I need to give up? How were we going to adjust? And could I even do a very good job at it? If you are familiar with farmer's hours, then you know that My Farmer and I never even considered the idea that he could help with lessons.

As it turns out, homeschooling is not something I make time for. It seems to make time for itself. The time I had been spending on committees, as a room parent, and volunteering at the school we had been attending went away. All of a sudden, I didn't have backpacks to go through, forms to sign, homework to check or papers to send back. And, glorious freedom, I was not driving to-and-from our farm to the school every day, which alone saved me over an hour every weekday.

I needed that time to learn the ropes of how we were going to grow into a homeschooling family. We stayed just as busy, but our days are backward from the way our life used to be. We have slow, lovely beginnings to our school mornings. The children wake up on their own, usually around seven, and thirty minutes later we are eating breakfast and beginning our first lessons at the table. It only takes four hours, with plenty of breaks, for us to finish an entire day's schoolwork.

And we front-load our week, so we have very little work on Friday's.

Instead of busy, hurried mornings, our evening calendar began to fill. With so much free time in the afternoon for the kind of self-directed play and creative opportunities we wanted for our children, as well as the ability to sleep in after a late night if needed, there was much less pressure to avoid evening activities. Suddenly we were doing the things I'd always wished there was time for: year-round swimming lessons, rock climbing, water polo, taekwondo, dance, gymnastics, 4-H, nature club, homeschool groups. We tried all kinds of new things. Some we stuck with, others didn't end up fitting the bill - but it was wonderful to feel we had the time to do so.

My Farmer and I began to make more time for each other. Any time it rained, I found a sitter and we had a date. We had never done that before - my schedule had been so wrapped up in making sure the children were asleep by 8:00 so they could be ready to face the alarm at 6:30 - if he was free on a school night, I was still unavailable. Besides, I hadn't seen the children for EIGHT HOURS each school day and I was loath to give up a single moment of the time I did have.

All at once it made sense to make more time for myself. It no longer seemed an extravagance, now that the kids and I were together all the time, for me to carve out some moments just for me. I took up running. We also got a family membership to our local YMCA and scheduled the children's activities at the same times so that I could work out or run on the track while they were having fun.

We began noticing how much more time the children were spending with their father. It was okay to stay out on the combine with Dad until harvest shut down. If he was headed to the cattle sale at 9:00 on Tuesday morning, we could all go along if we wanted. I had time to drop off and pick up kids from the field. When Dad needed help or was working on something especially interesting, some or all of us could take part. And if it happened on a weekday morning - well school could just be moved to afternoons, evenings or weekends for that one time. If Dad got to come home for lunch, we were all there to tell him about the learning we'd been doing.

Don't get me wrong - I'm always juggling and forever wishing there were more hours in a day. But our schedule is finally lining up with our priorities.

The best part about the time homeschooling makes for our family is the fun we have doing it. Reading together, discussing what we are learning, watching the lights come on when they master a new concept- that is precious time I will never regret spending.

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