September is upon us. Usually people with kids look forward to this time, because it is when their days become their own again. They have several hours in which they can do whatever they want. Freedom. The school year is like summer–for adults.
I, too, have a long list of things I want to get done this September, grown-up things, things for myself/my career. I need to do a writing marathon, and get ready to pitch my book in October. I have places to go, people to see. Unlike most parents, however, my ten year old won’t be going to school. We homeschool him, ASD/OCD/ADHD and all.
My husband and I had thought about homeschooling since I was in college. It was an interesting idea, one that appealed to the mom and teacher side of me. Then, when my son was about 2-3, I said, “Heh, maybe public school IS the way to go… Did I really want six of these things??” It wasn’t until it was time for us to think about signing up for kindergarten that we said, “There’s no way our son could survive.” The most important things for us when considering our son’s education were his happiness, his love of learning, and his ability to be himself. None of these things were going to happen/be preserved in public school. I had the benefit of having older nephews in ps, and I could see the things they were going through. Watching them navigate the ps system year after year, I know we made the right choice keeping our son home.
Even though I’m a “homeschooling mom,” I also have my own career to think about, and my own identity. Yes, I find homeschooling very fulfilling, but there are other aspects to me that I need to fill as well for me to be satisfied as a person. When we first started on this journey, it was very frustrating. With my son’s quirks, he needs a somewhat structured day, at least. I can’t do what a lot of other homeschooling families do, and let him go off and learn his own things as the day goes on, and do my own thing. We need to have a structured part of the day to have “school” in, and even free time needs to be structured to an extent (or else we end up with a lot of rolling around and self-stimming). At first, this felt like a prison sentence for me. When would I have time for me? I was a person, too! And yes, I would have done anything for my son, but really, if I was not at 100%, I could not give my son 100% either. I needed to find some balance.
For a time, I thought the solution was a schedule. I read so many time management books, and followed their advice. I mapped out the day, and we tried following it. Yes, we got everything my son needed done. But still, there were not enough hours in the day for anything I wanted to do. The solution presented itself when I took a good hard look at “our” schedule (here’s a sample of an afternoon).
This was not a family schedule. This was my SON’S schedule. Sure, he was happy, because he had his time mapped out like he needed. What was I doing at 1, though? I wasn’t playing, unless my son wanted another person to be a dragon or alien or something. At 3, I was quiet, sure–quietly going crazy trying to figure out how to do all kinds of things that wouldn’t fit into the day. The solution might be clear to many or most of you, but it wasn’t to me, not for a couple of years, where I felt drained and exhausted. When you are in the middle of a huge mess, not just normal housework and school stuff, but also trying to deal with special needs, you’re brain is constantly in panic and survival mode, and actual planning/thinking can be something that seems like a luxury. One day, however, I woke up and said, “This is no way to live. There has to be a better path.”
This was when I discovered there was a difference between following my son’s schedule (where on off-times, I would simply fall onto the couch, exhausted, and catch up on email and Facebook), and having an actual schedule of my own. I was so busy making sure he was where he was supposed to be that I paid no attention to where I should be, and let my whole day slide past. I’d rush and do laundry during an off-time, check my email, grab a tenth cup of coffee. Life was NOT satisfying, even though the day ran smoothly enough for my son. *I* needed to have a schedule so I would know what to do with the 24 hours *I* had. I also had the added challenge of making it work with my son’s schedule, to make sure we had time to get everything done he needed to do, and…
Oh. Yeah. There’s another person in this family–Dad. We have to fit him in too!
Stay tuned. In the next post, I will begin to describe the process I found helpful in order to bring peace and harmony to our household and to my career path/writing life. In the meantime, any questions or things you would like me to cover? Feel free to email me (my address in in my profile, I believe) or leave a comment!