Friday, October 01, 2010

Choosing Your Family's Pace

Yesterday and today I am pondering another aspect to family life and homeschooling, the pace of life.

I am on board with some elements of learning styles and understand that learners react to different presentations of material and may learn faster or easier using different methods or even settings for learning. I understand there are different personalities and the introvert/extrovert component.

However what a good number of people may not do is apply what they know about their own introvert/extrovert status to their pace of life. I'd bet a large number of Americans choose the go-go-go pace even though they would thrive by doing less. Yes I said some people can achieve more by doing less.

I have been making some decisions about how to approach homeschool high school. Besides the fact that we are attending some private high school open houses and I'm pondering traditional high school, I am considering other options. I have been weighing the tricky cons of attending local community college (around here the homeschool students are given last dibs on course offerings and some won't allow enrollment until one week prior to the class start date). Slim pickings on community college courses and also the state university system makes planning difficult and the student may lose out on their hopes to do a science with lab course, for example. So I am thinking about home studies with textbooks administered by me and online classes both live class with video talking and online classes that are not interactive.

In the middle of all this we are running around to this thing and that thing for homeschool academic classes plus each child is doing one sport and they have Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts (two sets of Scout events happening on different days).

I know I knew some of this about myself before but now I'm thinking that a change of pace is not just what makes me thrive but maybe my kids also. I mean to say that when I run around less I am a happier person in my attitude and outlook, I, am more organized and am able to fulfill my obligations (i.e. doing volunteer work or being organized well for the homeschool co-op classes I teach). I can listen to my voicemail messages and return calls and stay on top of emails and actually respond to them. The less stress makes me stay healthier and I have time to cook decent food and eat on a regular basis versus skipping meals, getting hypoglycemic episodes as a result, and eating poor nutrition take out meals (which are also costly).

I have one child who thrives when life is low key and we are home more with a relaxed pace. I have one child who doesn't like the stress of nonstop appointments but thrives in group settings where he is always "on".

So choosing how to homeschool is not just about curriculum choices anymore it's about choosing what is best for learning. Would that subject be taught best in a small class of homeschoolers with a professional teacher or is a homeschool co-op effective and good enough? Should we be at home more?

How can I meet the very different needs of both kids, since they are on opposite ends of the spectrum?

Most importantly, with me being too frazzled and not eating right and feeling stressed and getting sick and not being home enough to answer the phone, return calls, read emails, so on and so forth, I'm not taking care of my responsibilities. I'm also stressed out, emitting unhappy if not nasty vibes, feeling annoyed about homeschooling and its demands, hungry, feeling gross due to not eating well, my energy is "off" with highs and lows, dealing with some mood swings, and my sleep is affected.

When the activities we do start to change the person I am, for the WORSE, that is a red flag waving. If something is literally making me a crazy person then a change is in order. I think I've reached a point when who I am is being changed and I don't like the person I've turned into.

When I start to have bad dreams about activities we are involved with it is a really clear sign that something has to change. That's my subconscious talking. (That's what happened to me at five this morning.)

If the lifestyle pace we're living is not meeting all the children's needs, and especially if one or more is suffering, something should change. If the mother is so frazzled that basic living is a mess, something must change.

I understand that life is full of compromises. What is best for one child may not be best for another. We cannot be in two places at once when there is one mother and the kids are young and need to be driven to an activity or require the parent be present, thus both kids are forced to be at the same place at the same time. There has to be some moderation involved, each child probably will not have ultimate and near perfect experiences all the time, there is compromise that must be had.

However, homeschooling mothers have a lot of responsibility and it is important that their head is screwed on straight. An over-stressed, anxious homeschooling mother is not always an effective or good mother or homeschool-teacher. If looking at the life of the mother just about her own life shows a mess then something should change. What I mean is, if the mother is feeling anxious, nervous, stressed out, not able to do simple tasks like keep the family in clean laundry and return important phone calls, and if she's so tired she's downing extra caffeine beverages for a quick energy boost to get her through the day, and if she's eating poorly with varying energy levels and is out of shape and overweight and so tired there are black circles under her eyes, well, it should be pretty simple to say that a lifestyle change is in order.

Even though those experiences are good or even great experiences for some families doesn't mean they are good or great for my family. We can't do everything all at once. The question is which thing should get dropped and when, and that involves yet another visit to our family's educational goals and a look at the priorities then seeing which goals are fulfilled by which outside activity, how much time we want at home and how to get it all done.

(Now you know why I am still tempted to just enroll my son into high school, it would be a heck of a lot easier on me. Parochial high school would cost just a little more than what I'm spending on homeschool materials, classes and community sports fees.)

As to families who use school some of these same issues apply. Yes, their schedule is dominated by the school calendar, but most other things in their lives are flexible. They may commit the same mistakes as me, by over-scheduling as they don’t want to miss out on great things. Just a portion of the crazy schedule is actually necessary the rest is optional but intentionally chosen for participation by the parents. Around here there is a super fast pace to life and even little kids with a fully booked or overbooked schedule is the norm. This doesn’t mean it’s healthy or good. If your family’s pace of life seems out of alignment consider changing it even if it means you do less than your neighbor.


christinethecurious said...

Sounds like you are making the most of your nightmares - may as well not waste them.

-Christine in Mass

nebby3 said...

Thanks for this article. I can relate. I think my kids and I are both happier when we have a good amount of down time. But it always seems we are rushing from one thing to another. It is hard to say not to all those classes and field trips. They all sound great, and many are greta experiences. But if we d everything we ar not happy.