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Juggling Committments - Working from Home and Homeschooling

© Beverley Paine, Oct 1999

We don't exactly work from home - Robin has a part time job, but I write and sell my homeschooling books from home. I also spend a lot of time building home education networks and support mechanisms and promote homeschooling in the community and this takes a lot of time. Robin and our son are working on building a small business in computer repair and upgrade. We tend to be home based most days of the week.

In a way all of the homeschooling networking I have done is like working from home. When I reflect on how many hours I have dedicated to developing networks, promoting home education within the community and abroad, editing newsletters, authoring articles and books - well, it certainly looks like a part time business. Perhaps because it is voluntary or doesn't involve bookkeeping it doesn't count as a home business, but in terms of juggling homeschooling and networking efforts I think it fits in with this issue.

Many people have often asked how do people dedicated to promoting home education ever get time to educate their own children! This is where our unschooling background comes in really handy. I believe the children learn far more efficiently by absorption than by continual interference and force feeding. Sometimes I bemoan the lack of resources or stimulation we've provided for the children - but mostly this is because of my own past conditioning educational experiences. All too often school educated people feel that we must expose children to anything and everything in order for them to learn everything they need to learn before they 'grow up'. This process is particularly exhausting in a home learning environment, and I stopped doing it the early years, though tinges of guilt still rear their ugly heads and nag from time to time.

Instead of giving into this paranoia and constantly pandering to my children's educational needs, I let them choose from among the many rich and stimulating resources we have naturally provided for them, every so often adding something else into the mix as required. We worked hard to set up the learning environment to be like this in the early years. We moved to a large allotment, providing plenty of outside space to climb trees, build underground cubbies, rope swings, ride bikes, dig, garden, have animals. We built our own home, demonstrating many useful skills the children emulate in their games. We use alternative technology, encourage diversity, revegetate our property, offering our children many useful skills that spill over into their play and are reflected in their hobbies. We encourage them to be involved in house hold and property chores, sometimes requesting, sometimes demanding. We spend a part of each day working together on a project that will offer a product, something that we will feel satisfaction in, and we honour the processes involved in all work, including play. We try to minimalise the difference between play and work, calling it all 'learning'.

So when I work at building homeschooling networks and communities and promote home education I call it play. My play. What I need to do to feel fulfilled in life. I am really only just using it all to practise my writing, oral and organisation skills, to build self esteem, and to work on communication in relationships. It is my vehicle for growth. In a similar way I can see that my children use computers and LEGO as their vehicles for growth, developing skills that they will use in later life.

I have found that so long as we all keep a balance of activity everyday we cope very well with juggling our various commitments. This means some physical or outside activity, some individual time or rest, some attention to personal hygiene, good nutrition, and time for getting together. If we leave something out the harmony of the day is disrupted. We are very gentle on ourselves, allowing things like illness or stress to slow us down without punishing ourselves for not getting everything done. It is important to recognise limitations and not to push beyond them, unless the need comes directly from the self, not the need of others. All too often everything in our lives are done to please or satisfy others.

By developing a great trust and faith in the natural rhythms and processes in life, and by accepting that everything we do everyday is a learning experience, whether we structure learning or not, I can relax into life, enjoying it more. And I can get on with my various tasks knowing that I am not neglecting any other area. If I am writing now, I will attend to the housework later. If I am gardening now, I will play a card game later. If I relax about the whole process I can usually fit it all in. And if I can't, there is always tomorrow.

Children don't seem to have a problem with fitting into their day all the important things. Of course, as adults we see that they miss out many of the things we deem important for them - things like cleaning teeth, having a wash, polishing shoes, putting away clothes, tidying rooms, doing book work!

When considering the issue of not being able to juggle all of my commitments I like to think about why I have all these commitments, and what it really is that holds me back, slows me down, makes me procrastinate. Sometimes, when there is too much to do, it is because I have taken too much on, making strict deadlines in my head that aren't really necessary. On these occasions I find I am not prioritising very clearly, trying to get everything done now, straightaway. Realistic expectations fly out the window and I try to be superwoman!

Unrealistic expectations are at the bottom of every problem I have ever encountered in home educating my children. Unrealistic expectations of them, of myself, of home education itself. Why do I have such unrealistic expectations?

I believe the cause lies in self esteem. I tend to take on work and commitments, not because I want to, but because I perceive I have to. And often it is because of some underlying feeling that I have to please or satisfy others. My reward for doing many of the tasks in my life comes from the approval that I receive from others....

This sucks. I don't want my children to clean their teeth, make their beds, put their toys away, get washed, or learn a subject just to please or satisfy others. I want them to do it to honour their own selves, their own needs. I want them to grow up centred within themselves, secure in their own identity, strong, assertive, confident.

If I am honest with myself and do only those things I want to do in each moment of everyday all my problems with juggling commitments disappear. It is like watching magic unfold. Like allowing children to grow and learn naturally the process is one of faith and trust. And it truly works. Timetables and deadlines are reached, not because one has to do that, but because one wants to. And less important things are shelved until later, or delegated elsewhere, or not accepted at all. For some reason other members of the family become cooperative and helpful. Perhaps it is because I am not stressed or worried, and am a much nicer person to be around. Or perhaps it is because people are naturally helpful, and want to be involved in each others' lives.

I do know that if I worry about getting everything done I generally lose the plot and get very little done. If I single out and target the important things, and communicate those to the people around me, I can get on a do a very good job! Asking for help and accepting help, is a part of a very natural social process. It works. And if I honour myself, and my needs in that process I usually feel very fulfilled, very satisfied at the end of the day.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine


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