Sunday, February 24, 2008

Are Homeschool Moms Out of Balance?

Six months ago I was with a homeschooling mom friend of mine. She said something that really got me thinking and I have been thinking of this on and off since then.

She said that in spring 2007 she went to a homeschool support group meeting and met a mother who had just pulled her child out of school to homeschool the child. The mom was looking for homeschool support and to find a network of new friends in the homeschooling community. Later my friend ran into this person again somewhere else.

(For the record I have never met this person.)

Anyhow my friend bumped into her again in the late summer, and the mom said she was putting her child back into school in the fall. The reason she said was that she had met a bunch of homeschool moms and felt she did not want to be like them. She felt all the moms were overly involved in their children’s lives to a point of obsession, that it was unhealthy. She felt the moms were very unbalanced (out of balance with their own selves) and were self-sacrificing in a bad way and that she felt it was unhealthy. She wanted no part of that kind of life for herself. She felt the family lifestyles of the families she met were suffering and were negative in some ways due to this imbalance. I am not speaking of overly busy families, the criticism was made about individual women, the homeschooling mothers and their own lives and personas.

My friend and I spoke about our own lives and if we felt we were unbalanced. I shared that at times I have felt over-scheduled and overly busy and that I didn’t like that kind of pace of life. However I feel that I am not obsessed with my children. I also have many areas of interest and so not all of my energy goes to homeschooling. I have friends and extended family on both sides who we see regularly and who compete for our family’s time and energy.

I thought for a moment and we talked about how we pay for lessons and activities for our kids which are way above and beyond what we ourselves experienced in our childhood. Back at that time I was considering martial arts lessons for my younger son as he was asking for them. That friend of mine also wanted them for one of her son’s and the boy expressed that he wanted to be in a class with a friend. So we were looking for a karate class they could take together.

Later on after investigation local options I realized the place with a schedule that worked for me was $210 per month (2 group classes per week and a choice to take a third optional group class). The one she liked was $240 per month which covered 2 group classes per week and a Saturday private lesson. I decided for our family that it was too much money compared to our budget. I also compared it to the fact that I wanted to join a health club but was not due to the expense yet the cost of my own gym membership was a fraction of that martial arts cost for ONE child. Yet how many parents would pay for the martial arts class while they are themselves overweight and not in shape and their own bodies needed some physical exercise? So there is an example of how I do not put my child’s desires above my own sometimes. Instead the family budget was an issue and the family budget won. When the budget is increased the first thing that is happening is I am buying myself a gym membership.

I wonder if what the mother was trying to adjust to was the “homeschooling lifestyle” being so different than what she had experienced as the mother of a schooled child. I have no idea.

I still think about this idea from time to time and have been wondering what other people think of the life of the homeschooling mother and if it is unbalanced ? Is it common to obsess over the children in the family to the expense of the mother’s health and/or happiness? Do people take what I consider to be a family-centered lifestyle as abnormal, unnatural or unhealthy, is that the issue?

I think sometimes I’m using this as a self-check of sorts when I am thinking about balance in life and making plans and schedules. I ask myself if I am putting the child above the family as a whole. I ask myself if I can commit to one more thing when I’m already feeling stressed about something else not getting done. I figure out if I need to do something for my own self instead of adding on one more task or long-term commitment for one of the children.

Note: To clear up confusion, I edited the title to 'out of balance' instead of 'unbalanced'. I am sorry that some think that unbalanced is a synonym for insanity or mental illness, that was never my intention.

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Kim said...

When I read "unbalanced" in the title I thought you meant "crazy." I was thinking, "Oh yeah, I know of some crazy homeschooling moms."

Back to your actual meaning. I'm always amazed that homeschoolers are less able to have play dates due to schedule conflicts than schooled kids whose parents work full time.

Mika said...

I've been mulling the ideas in your post over yesterday and today. Like Kim, when I first saw the headline, I thought it was unbalanced = crazy. *grin*

It would be interesting to know exactly what that mother meant by her comment.

I am sure that there are plenty of homeschooling (and public school and private school) parents who allow the activities of their child/ren largely dictate the practices of their family life. Some of the people who I have met who lean this way seem to either a) feel that their child is _entitled_ to the best of everything (to me, that is different than wishing for the best of everything for your children and knowing that achieving that isn't realistic) or b) they are seeking to relive some personal moment of glory through their children.

Is my life unbalanced? Sure. In this season, life is tipped pretty heavily toward the homeschooling and household survival side. But I don't think our family is centered around serving our children -- rather we work together to accomplish family goals.

I'll be chewing on these ideas some more. Thanks for the brain food.

kat said...

I thought it very interesting and odd that when a poll was taken at my Catholic homeschool BB about how much time we spend alone (without any kids).

I was the only mom who spent more than 5 hours a week alone. I have a babysitter that comes every day for an hour so I can go running. I have 5 little kids, but I need that time to stay fit and stay sane. I was amazed at the number of moms who equated being right there every minute with love and giving.

Ahermitt said...

interesting... people more often suggest that I am unbalanced than out of balance.

Alasandra said...

I think there are unbalanced Moms with kids in public school and private schools, it's not a condition restricted to homeschooling Moms.

I think most homeschooling Moms are able to achieve balance in their lives. Maybe the Mom that was new to homeschooling just didn't know enough homeschooling Moms to find the ones that had balance in their lives.

Isaiah5513 said...

I wonder if there can be a kind of "group think" flavor that different hs groups have. Maybe that particular group does have some imbalance going on?
On a personal note, I think that I struggle with homeschooling being my identity.
Interesting to think over.

Kenj said...

I think it's always a good idea to assess and re-assess our own lives and family commitments. Sometimes I do find we're leaning too heavily in one area and are out of balance.

But I also have seen that often what non-homeschoolers label as "out of balance", "weird", or "unhealthy" are things that really are the opposite. It's just that we're so accustomed to the status quo that anything different strikes us as odd, unless/until we examine it outside the parameters of what we consider normal.

When did our society get to a place where we don't consider sending a five-year-old to stand on a cold street corner waiting for a stranger to pick them up on a bus and drive them away from home to be taught to color, cut, and paste (oh yes, and be social) for several hours a day an odd and abnormal practice? Really, how well does anyone KNOW the kindergarten teachers before handing their precious child over? And yet, if we decide it isn't a good idea, we are the weird ones.

On the opposite end, how did our society get to a place where a game in which a ball is run from one end of a field to another takes priority over knowledge and understanding? Our local school district just cut several million dollars from the budget and while art and music classes will be cut, football remains intact. How is that "balanced" and "normal"?

christinemm said...

Thank you to everyone leaving comments. I really love hearing your thoughts.

I can't tell you how many times since August I've asked myself if that mystery mom would think my life is unbalanced or if I myself am 'off kilter' in an unhealthy way.

One other example of an imbalance is the known research about developing brains of young children and their fine motor skills and differing developmental stages yet the schools and legislators are working toward universal preschool at this very moment. Kindergarten has already morphed from games and art making and learning the letters to a full day in many places, where so much is expected to be known before entry to Kindergarten and where the curriculum is pushed down to teaching reading in Kindergarten.

A Kindergarten teacher I knew was irate that what she learned in college about the skills of children was being ignored by the government and superintendents who pushed formal academics lower and lower. She felt it was ludicrous. I agree.

HopewellMomSchool said...

Having been in both "groups"--homeschool and public school parents I can say it happens in both places. You have parents who micro-manage every breath the kid takes in both places. I did find in my area that the homeschoolers were worse in that they had to put forth their religion to justify doing everything. I KNOW this is not ALL homeschoolers! I also know that I live deep, deep into the Bible Belt. But I, a Christian, found this to be a major turn-off. I found it pathetic that a kid who WANTED to learn martial arts couldn't because the one "Christian" martial arts studio had a waiting list. Ditto the Christian dance studio. Ugh! Don't even get me started on Character Education!! In public school I find it is "desperate housewives" who drive me nuts. The Mommy sitting with her huge gas guzzling SUV running so she can natter away on her cell phone and not get hot as she waits for tennis practice to end. The perfect Mommy who LIVES in my daughters classroom volunteering every second--ick! The Planner Mommies who control classroom parties and mandate a budget suitable for Queen Elizabeth's next bash. The one-upmanship in BOTH groups is extreme! So, take heart, it isn't just homeschoolers!

christinemm said...

"I found it pathetic that a kid who WANTED to learn martial arts couldn't because the one "Christian" martial arts studio had a waiting list. Ditto the Christian dance studio. Ugh! Don't even get me started on Character Education!! "

I have never heard of anything like this. Connecticut, to my knowledge, does not have Christian martial arts or Christian dance studios.

It is such a hodge podge in this state. There are people of all religions and athiests too. Most people keep their religion private and I have so many acquaintences who I have no clue what their belief system is. Up here the mindset is more "Live and let live" and "practice what you believe". Most people respect whatever other people do or some just "don't care" as it is not their business.

I am not familiar with how other parts of the country are since I've lived in CT all my life.

Regarding moms of schooled kids, my friends feel they are doing their part by helping in the class and being on the PTA. They feel it is what a contributing parent does, to help their child's education.

For me personally I want more of a part in my child's education than baking things for a classroom party or organizing collecting money to buy the teacher a gift. I want more than fundraising to buy a nicer playground set for the elementary school. That is just me.