When you’ve made the decision to homeschool, one of the next important steps to take is to define and defend time boundaries in your homeschooling life. In this episode I will share what time boundaries are, how to protect them, and which time boundaries you should consider.
Before I do that, however, I want to share resources I’ve created that are powerful in establishing and defending time boundaries. They are The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner and A Year of Living Productively. As a beginning homeschooler, I just had no firm time boundaries. As a result, nothing got done. I wasn’t teaching preschool to my oldest. I wasn’t doing laundry. And I had no idea what was for dinner. I was overwhelmed and sure I could not in good conscience keep homeschooling. I was also sure I could not have any more children than the three boys I already had.
That’s when someone told me about a woman who calls herself FLYLady. Her emails helped me understand that I needed routine in my life. Routines and 15 minute missions changed everything for me. I had time boundaries for myself and my children.
But as the years went on, I realized I needed something more. I wanted to have boundaries around the other areas of my life that needed organization as a homeschooling mom. For example, I wanted someone to tell me when it was time to get my used curriculum ready to sell. I wanted to know that I needed to get fall activities on my calendar. And I wanted to take time to get good meals in the freezer. I couldn’t find a resource like that, so I created one. I divided all of the areas of my life that needed organization and into 52 areas, one for each week. Then I broke those areas down into four 15-minute missions that could be done each weekday or an hour on the weekends.
Many homeschool moms found that they were able to establish time boundaries using just The Organized Homeschool Life book. But some moms told me they didn’t know how to fit even 15 minutes into their busy days. That’s when I created The Organized Homeschool Life planner. It’s a life planner that guides you into establishing time boundaries for your month, your week, and your day. Everything that’s important to you is included in your daily planning form.
Some homeschool moms are working or running a business as well as homeschooling. They wonder about advanced time boundaries and how to create them. I wondered about them, too. I started experimenting with a different productivity approach every week. My results with them are now in book form. The book makes your process of experimenting much faster. You can quickly find your own productivity formula in the book A Year of Living Productively.
Defending Time Boundaries
Now let’s talk more in depth about time boundaries. To understand what a time boundary is, imagine that your country tells a foreign power not to cross its boundaries by land, air, or sea. The boundaries your country establishes are much like the time boundaries we devote to specific activities. Defending time boundaries is like what a country does when a foreign power violates its borders. If there is no response, the country’s defense is weak or nonexistent. The results will likely be that the foreign power invades. Your country is now at the mercy of the foreign power and its goals will not be achieved.
In the same way, if we do not respond to violations of our time boundaries, our goals for homeschooling in our lives not be achieved or at least will not be achieved quickly.
Before I share with you what I think appropriate time boundaries are for you and your family, I want to talk about defending them. There’s no point in a country creating a long list of rules for foreign powers to abide by if they aren’t going to defend them.
Let me give you an example. A homeschooling mom I know had upper elementary children who were constantly interrupting her business calls. She decided she could no longer homeschool because of her kids’ behavior. If we allow our children or anyone else for that matter to violate our time boundaries like this without consequence, we will likely quit homeschooling.
There have to be consequences for violators. Only you can determine what the consequences will be, but they must be something that the violator cares enough to avoid.
Here are some defensive moves I have used to defend my time boundaries. I have posted signs that I am recording a podcast or doing an interview and cannot be disturbed. I have moved out of my home temporarily to work when I have been disturbed. I have put off doing a task, even for my sweet husband, when I have been knowingly interrupted in my work. I have had my children do my work around the home to make up for the time they have taken from me. The more logical the consequences, the more effective they are. I will state here that anger, yelling, and even tears are is ineffective in defending your time boundaries as a country using emotion to defend its borders.
Some of us have children, spouses, or outsiders in our lives who repeatedly violate our time boundaries. The tendency is to wonder why these people are being so rude and selfish as to not respect the boundaries we put in place. But the better question is why are we allowing it? Why aren’t we defending our time boundaries? Because people as sinners will always get away with what they can. No amount of moralizing on our part will change that. If your family knows that you will drop everything the second a child calls for you, you are about to be invaded.
We like to focus on others who violate our time boundaries, but our greatest threat is the violator within. We create beautiful homeschooling plans, some of us more detailed than others. We know what our routine is going to be. We know which activities we are going to participate in. We know what lessons we are going to cover. And we’re excited! And then our internal boundary breaker appears. She says things like I’m too tired. I need a break. I’ll feel better if I get on Facebook for a bit. I’ll start my walking program next month, when I’m not so busy. I’m a homeschooler; I can do whatever I want to do. Unfortunately, “whatever I want to do” often has negative results. We end up very unhappy with our house a mess, low energy from lack of exercise, and stress from being behind but ever busy.
I have had parents I’ve counseled about disciplining teenagers ask me if there is another way to get what they want from their child apart from saying no. And the simple answer to that question is no. If you are determined to defend your time boundaries, and you should be, you will have to say no to yourself and others over and over again. But the lie that makes that prospect seem so daunting is that we will be miserable if we say no. In fact, you’ll be happier as you get better and better at saying no.
It can take time to create time boundaries that are reasonable and allow for rest and recreation. But once you do, enforce them against violators, even if that violator is you. Do what your reasoned self determined to do, unless you absolutely can’t. If you do that, you will be happier; your kids will be smarter; and you may be healthier than ever.
Creating Time Boundaries
Once you have determined that you need defended time boundaries in your life, you can work on creating them for yourself and your children. The first consideration in establishing time boundaries is to separate time for your work and time for kids. The biggest mistakes we make as homeschooling moms is thinking that we can multitask our work , whether that’s housework, charity work, or business, with teaching and parenting. Certainly there are opportunities to multitask. You can use cooking to teach, chores to teach, or even your outside work to teach your children. But most of the time you will want a singular focus. You need time set aside for your work while your children are occupied. Depending on the age and temperaments of your children, your children may be occupied with schoolwork, playing with siblings, or using screens because you cannot be interrupted during that timeframe. Of course you can also have someone else helping you with your children to allow for focused work time.
But when we are teaching or spending time in parenting, we need a singular focus. We don’t scroll Facebook while we are watching a documentary with the kids. We don’t take phone calls while we are reading aloud. We aren’t writing something on the computer while our child reads to us. Trying to do two things at once typically leaves us unsatisfied with our progress with both of them. Create a routine or schedule that allows focused time with your children for teaching and parenting.
It is true that we do not have to actively teach for seven hours a day. We can use a mixture of audiobooks, teaching that is available on video or computer, and self-directed books. Just make sure that you aren’t expecting a child to be independent for long periods as of even adults struggle with this.
While our work, teaching, and parenting are pivotal, our times of rest and renewal are just as important. If you aren’t getting adequate sleep, exercise, and recreational time, you will struggle to be the mother and teacher you long to be. If you wonder if this focus on rest, renewal and hobbies is wrong, listen to these podcasts:
Once you have established your own time boundaries and you know when you will be teaching, tutoring, and spending quality time with your children, you will have a better idea of time boundaries for your kids. Like us, children need times of focused work and time for others. They also need rest time. Children need short times of focused work followed by more pleasant or active activities. They also need sleep time and time to just zone out. Whatever that looks like for your family is fine.
Again, because children are sinners, they will beg you to skip school. This does not mean you’re doing anything wrong. They will be thrilled if you announce school is not in session. But the more you violate your time boundaries, the more restless your children will become. We all respond to time boundaries. What truly makes us happy isn’t time off that seems never ending. Instead, it is the satisfaction of accomplishment. There are ways to make nearly every subject interesting and motivating. But some things just have to be done. Your children will benefit from being trained in this. I like to alternate more challenging subjects with lighter ones, and I like to give kids more free time when they finish their work early.
This episode on scheduling could be helpful to you as you plan your time boundaries.
When you create time boundaries for yourself and your family and you defend them, you can be confident in having a successful homeschool year. Yes things will happen to get in our way. But with your time boundaries you will get so much more done than if you had none at all.
Join me next time when I discuss how to develop relationships in your homeschool.
Have a happy homeschool week!