We've discussed balance for homeschool moms who also work, but we haven't dug deep into the topic of balance. Even if you don't work in addition to homeschooling, balance is a challenge. I know it is for me. We'll talk about it in a minute, but first I'd like to invite you to pick up a copy of my free Funny Winter Writing prompts if you haven't. There is a prompt for Valentine's Day that I love. These are printable sheets for young writers or you can have older kids type their responses.
Teaching Tip of the Week
is the Echo smartpen from Livescribe. I purchased a 2GB version for around $100 so I could write longhand in a special Moleskin journal and convert it to text. I don't like spending all my time at the computer. Using it I discovered what an amazing tool it is for homeschool high school students. If your high schooler attends a co-op class or is dual enrolled in a college course, the pen allows them to record lectures while taking notes. When students are studying their notes for an exam, they can tap the pen to the notes and hear the lecture at the time they wrote a particular note. Of course, they can also save their notes digitally and can convert their handwriting to text if they choose with the purchase of the MyScript app. The reviews of the pen suggest that it is perfect for students with dyslexia or auditory learners. Of course, it would be a great tool to send along with your college student as well.
Finding Balance as a Homeschool Mom
Now for today's topic: How to Find Balance as a homeschool mom. For many years I have been confused about what balance is. I once thought it meant giving equal time to all areas. I know people who try to achieve this kind of balance when purchasing Christmas gifts for kids. They try to get as close to the same dollar amount as possible. That would drive me nuts and so would trying to give equal time to every area of my life.
A second notion I've had about balance is that it means being awesome in every area. And there were a lot of areas! I had homeschooling, parenting, homemaking, my marriage, my faith, church commitments, friendships, writing speaking, hobbies, and personal care. If I wasn't excelling in homemaking while I homeschooled, I felt I was out of balance. So I would focus on organizing and making better meals and you know what happened. I started struggling in another area. Maybe it wasn't homeschooling, but my personal needs would suffer. If being awesome in every area was the definition of balance, I knew I would never achieve it.
So what have I decided balance is? For me, balance involves keeping two parts of our lives that are like balls in the air: a ball that can be dropped repeatedly without significant long-term damage and a ball that can't. I did a Periscope that will give you a good visual of this.
Which areas are included in the ball that can be dropped repeatedly? That will vary for each of us, but as a general rule anything that isn't the most important people in your life, including you, will be a ball you can drop if need be. Writing and speaking and hobbies can be dropped for me. That doesn't mean they aren't important, but I can drop them repeatedly and return to them without my loved ones' world (or even my own) world falling apart.
The ball that will shatter if dropped repeatedly without special, temporary permission is made up of my husband's needs, my children's needs (which includes an education), my extended family's needs, my close friend's needs, and my personal needs for rest and renewal. In order to determine what aspects of your life are a part of that precious ball, imagine that you have a short time left to live. The things you most want to do with your time are the things that you want to prioritize.
But I want to clarify that the fragile ball isn't just made up of time sitting and talking with the people you love. Paying bills, giving haircuts, and going shopping with a friend can all be a part of the fragile ball because of who you're serving. I recently took a look at all my tasks and asked myself who was being served by that to-do. It helped me to see that when I am writing books to sell, I am also serving my husband. He is supportive of me spending a portion of my time in that way. And when I play tennis I am not just meeting my own need for recreation, but I am building relationships with women who don't all know the Lord.
We are balanced when we are not repeatedly dropping the fragile ball. We'll know that's what we're doing when our loved ones complain about how we're spending our time or when we are falling apart physically and emotionally. In that case, it's time to let the other ball drop and keep the fragile ball in the air.
This is all very philosophical I know.
But I do have some practical tips for you in achieving balance.
1) Stay in prayer and the Word. God can easily convict you when you've gone astray when you speak with Him regularly. God is so good that you can even be in Leviticus and He'll find a way to give you the message. If it's been ages since you've had dedicated time with God, may I suggest that you're dropping the wrong ball? Please refer to the personal devotions challenge for more on how to make time with the Lord a habit.
2) Let your husband or another family member hold you accountable. I've always let my husband decide on speaking engagements and other big commitments because its his and the kids' time I am giving away. He has also been so helpful in the little things. “Why,” he's asked me, “are you making a meal for a new mom when you just had a baby a few weeks ago?” If not for him, I would be out of balance a lot more frequently.
3) Use a Calendar. When we don't use a basic schedule for our time, we can hide the imbalance that exists in our lives. Record how you use your time for a week honestly and try to determine which ball was in the air most of the time. Determine the changes you need to make and then block off time in your schedule for the fragile and vitally important areas of your life like family, homeschooling, and self-care. Don't forget sleep! Include plenty of margin so you can be relaxed and available to do whet God calls you to do spontaneously.
I did a Periscope broadcast recently in which I shared that if we are doing the most important things, we won't get everything done. Remember that there will always be more to do, but if we are keeping the fragile ball in the air most of the time, we are leading balanced lives.
Decide which areas of your life are like the ball that can be dropped repeatedly without being damaged and which are more delicate. Pray for wisdom. Ask God to show you how you're dropping the wrong ball. Also ask Him for grace and to show you where you are doing well. Ask a family member to hold you accountable. Consider having regular discussions of how you're using your time. Finally, use a calendar to make it more likely that the most important parts of your life get done. Read about how your calendar is your most important organizing tool.
Want to chat about balance more? Join the conversation at Homeschool Sanity on Facebook.
Have a happy homeschool week!