When you home-school your children, you have to do it all. Not only are you the mother and the regular teacher, but you have to make sure that your kids get their fair share of extra curricular activities. Music, sports, dance, art, and so much more falls on your plate. If you want your children to receive all this training and experience, you have to provide it or provide a means to attaining it. When there’s just one or two kids involved, the steady stream of driving to this event and carpooling to the next isn’t so taxing. When you’ve got several kids, however, and they each are doing different activities, the strain on your mental and physical capacities increases sometimes astronomically. The question then becomes what is more important? Their extra curriculars or your sanity?
Every mother takes on the role of Superwoman, but no woman is quite equal to the task. Being mortal, we have limits. Yes, even moms have a stopping point. The trouble is that too often a mom doesn’t realize her boiling point until it is too late. She piles on one activity after another for her kids, all in their best interests, until she finds herself spread too thin. She becomes increasingly worn down and exhausted until something snaps, and all the activities disappear because she just can’t handle it anymore. No mother wants to end up with this problem, but avoiding it does take some self-knowledge and a careful balancing act.
So you don’t want to pull your hair out, but you do want your kids to get out. After all, we want to avoid the home-school stereotype of introverted, sheltered and unsocialized kids. There are a few tricks to this trade that I have picked up from my mom and other home-schooling mothers I know. If these are followed, your stress level will decrease and the happiness level will increase.
1. Know your limits. Before you can even begin to sign-up for events and activities, you have to know your personal limits. How many nights a week can you commit to on a regular basis? How much time can you afford to spend running kids places? How much time will your daily schoolwork take? Is there any way to share the trips with other parents? Can your husband help with some of the drop-off/pick-ups? Once you have answers to some (preferably all) of these questions, you can begin to understand your limits.
2. Choose the best activity. Now that you know how much time you can devote to extra curricular events, figure out which one(s) best suit your children and what you want them to learn. If music and the arts are important, place those at the top of the list. If sports and physical activity rank higher, keep that in mind. Oftentimes, asking your child what they are interested in pursuing can help guide your decision, although you do have the last say. Sometimes a child does not want to have music lessons, but it is a good experience for them. Likewise, many kids may oppose joining a sports team of any kind, but that experience is also exceptional. Let your kids help decide, but keep in mind that you’re the adult.
3. Overlap events. If you have several children, sometimes you can find a way to place several kids in the same extra curricular program. My sisters all take music lessons through the Home School Music Association. All the children meet during the same block of time once a week. The same overlapping can be done sometimes with sports teams or lessons. Another trick of overlapping is finding friends who also have their kids in the same activity. Try to carpool rides. This cuts down on each parent’s driving time and eases the stress enormously.
4. Learn at home. Sometimes a child shows a keen interest in something, such as music, but you just can’t afford the time or the stress or the tuition to get them lessons. Don’t despair, though, if you can’t get little Sammy or Sue their piano lessons. If a child is interested enough, they have the drive to pursue it themselves. Sometimes you just have to provide the tapes or books and leave the rest to the child. I taught myself to play piano because I wanted to learn. Eventually I had lessons for a few years, but the majority of my “lessons” came from my own determination. I’m not claiming that your kids will become experts by themselves, but they will learn if they try. And who knows, maybe one day they’ll put so much effort into whatever they’re learning that they will become the expert.
Given all of the above, the one thing you really need to keep in mind is balance. Juggling kids and school and activities and life is tough. Striking the perfect balance is doable with hard work, so don’t give up. Make adjustments as the years go by. Sometimes you may be able to do more than other times. Just keep in mind that the mother is the heart of the home. If the heart fails, the entire household crumbles. Keep the heart in good condition, and you will never regret it.