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Do you long for more balance in your homeschool life? If so, you may be confused about how to achieve it. I know I was. But now I know how to plan my days to achieve the balance I crave. Before I tell you what I’ve learned, I want to explain why I think we’re confused about what balance is.
Why we’re confused about balance in homeschooling
When we consider all the parts of our lives, the balance equation is complicated. We are parents, teachers, spouses, homemakers, adult children of aging parents, church members, volunteers, income earners, and more. Add to these roles our personal needs and it’s no wonder we’re left scratching our heads as to what a balanced life should look like.
What homeschool balance really is
In 19 years of homeschooling and parenting six kids, with various volunteer and work responsibilities to manage, I’ve discovered that balance is a lot simpler than it seems. Balance isn’t about splitting our time and attention evenly between all our roles. In fact, if we cling to this equal-time definition, it’s no wonder we are constantly worried that our lives are out of whack.
A Strong Mom: #1 Key to Balance in the Homeschool Life
Instead, homeschool balance is first about you. In a traditional scale, the center piece is the support structure. If the support structure is weak, adding weight to the pans on either side will collapse the scale. Most homeschool moms worry about devoting time to everyone and everything else but themselves. Pressure is applied to the scale with homeschooling responsibilities, housework, and paid or volunteer work. Demands from young children, spouse, or other family members also pile up. When we are not strong enough to bear the load, we become ill, stressed out, and burned out.
To achieve balance, focus on you first. This isn’t selfish. We can’t do all the things we need and want to do unless we as the support system are strong. These things must be included in a plan for a balanced homeschool life:
- Adequate sleep
- Regular exercise
- Food that’s good for us
- Time for hobbies and relationships that renew us
- A daily reward
Your homeschool plan should take into account your ideal sleep schedule. I schedule eight hours a night because I am at my best with this amount of rest. Your plan must include exercise. You don’t need to schedule an hour a day, but at least twenty minutes a day of walking or strength training will vastly improve your physical and mental health. The best way to make sure your nutrition is adequate is to plan your meals each week. You’ll be far less tempted to hit the drive-thru. Make hobby and girlfriend time a part of your schedule too. I have a weekly scrapbooking session planned with my friend and daughter. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, I come away feeling refreshed. Then plan a reward for each day. Research shows that the more unbalanced our time is with respect to obligations, the more likely we are to make poor eating choices. Every day plan something to look forward to, so you can counteract this imbalance. Consider reading, a show, a walk with your spouse, or a get together with a friend.
When you take steps to make sure you’re strong, a balanced homeschool life becomes possible.
A Reasonable Workload: #2 Key to Balance in the Homeschool Life
Homeschool balance is also about managing your workload. Instead of trying to calculate a formula for balancing your entire life, consider how to keep your work time in check. Homeschooling is our work. Even though we are at home and spending time with our kids, we are working. If we don’t recognize this truth, we run the risk of an imbalanced life. To find balance in the work part of your homeschool life, I recommend you spend less time homeschooling. I did a podcast episode on this topic that you might enjoy.
One of the biggest jobs we do next to teaching is managing extracurricular activities. For most moms who are stressed out, too many activities outside of the home is at fault. Honestly consider whether the time commitment of your kids’ activities is worth the investment. I have seen families make an extreme sacrifice for a child’s participation in an activity that paid for very few college credits and/or wasn’t pursued in adulthood.
Of course, homeschooling and managing kids’ activities aren’t the only work we do. If you work in or outside the home, you have to add these hours to the work side of the scale. But that’s not all! We also do the work of maintaining a home. Homeschooling adds to home maintenance responsibilities. There are more meals to prepare and there is more housekeeping to do. As a mother of six, I can testify to this! Make sure your kids are sharing the load. If you need more help, hire or barter for it.
Look at a schedule of a typical week for your family for this school year. How could you create more unscheduled time? The lighter the work load side of the scale, the easier it will be to achieve a balanced homeschool life.
Intentional Relationships: #3 Key to Balance in the Homeschool Life
Most of us understand that work is a part of the balance equation. What I think we misunderstand is that relationships are on the other side of the scale. We homeschool primarily because we love our kids and want what we believe is best for them. But in the process of homeschooling, home maintenance, and working in other capacities, we can end up expecting relationships to stay strong with our leftover time. Lack of intention typically means that our kids, husbands, extended family, and friends will be left hanging, waiting for us to have time for them.
We’ve all heard that at the end of life, no one wishes they would have worked more. In the same way, at the end of your homeschooling years, you won’t wish you would have done more classes and sports practices and fundraisers. You’ll wish you would have been present more. Your memories with people you love will be so much more precious to you than anything else.
Relationships that are in balance with work must be intentional. That means we need a plan. Planning may mean that we make sure to schedule a girls’ night out, a date night, and one-on-one time with a child on a regular basis. It also means that we remember relationships in our daily planning. I suggest that homeschool moms choose a relationship focus each day. Perhaps there is a particular person you want to be present with. Has it been ages since you and your husband really talked or been intimate? He might be your focus for the day. But relationship focus can also be activity- or attitude-based. Maybe you want to focus on playing with the kids, so you’ll get out the board games. Or you could choose to focus on smiling. Our families love it when we smile.
Whatever our focus, being intentional about fostering relationships is what will help give us the balanced homeschool life we crave.
A balanced homeschool life is possible. It requires that we take care of ourselves as the support system in our homeschools. It means that we reduce our workload to a reasonable level. And it means that we are intentional about fostering the relationships that matter to us. If you, like me, need reminders to stay balanced in these ways, you may like The Organized Homeschool Life planner.
Which key to balance is hardest for you to use at this time in your life?