Juggling roles at home: parent or teacher?

How do you divide time between supporting your child with homeschooling and when can you be a parent again? Is it possible at all to separate these two roles? Let’s hear it from a mom who’s homeschooling five children. Yes, her own.

I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
(J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring)

A new reality

Do you have thoughts like Frodo at this time in history? I think all of us do. Nonetheless, we have to look at the reality of the scenario we have in front of us. Most of us have one or more children at home. We had to take on new responsibilities of helping them with their schoolwork, while also juggling new realities. We’re trying to facilitate conference calls, writing projects, zoom meetings – all in the same space. Our home.

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Do you find this to be a larger challenge as the days go on? Are you more appreciative of what your child’s teacher does normally for them under the ‘old normal’ circumstances at school? Have you felt anxiety and perhaps even grief at the ‘not knowing’ how long this scenario will go on?

I definitely have. I can answer yes to all of those questions and sometimes find myself as a parent, caregiver, wife, teacher, employee, mentor, coach… Wanting to either shout out loud or whisper in fear: “How the heck is this going to work?”

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Teacher or parent?

For now, let’s just look at the roles of teacher and parent. When I first started homeschooling my two girls seven years ago, I had five kids seven and under. I felt the need to make a strict separation between my role as a teacher and my role as a parent. Thus came the idea of ordering us all matching school uniforms that we would wear during the school hours. And change out of when we are finished with our class time.

We even picked a name for our school: The Lighthouse. Looking back now, it perhaps also was a desire that our house would be light and full of joy. In reality, that first year of homeschooling was anything but simple joy and lightness. However, I think it did help to have that separation for me mentally and for my children at those ages – in that season. 

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How to separate ‘school’ from ‘home’

What could that look like in your home today? Most likely you don’t need to find a uniform company to make an order of purple polo shirts like we did. But perhaps it means setting a certain amount of time each day that you focus more fully on your kids academic needs and less fully on what you need to get done in your other roles of work, etc. If your kids are in online classes currently, they are ‘taken care of’ in a sense by the teachers during those periods. However, outside of that time they may have specific questions for you. Expect that. Prepare for those ‘interruptions’.

For me, that season early on of homeschooling did not last too long. That was partly due to the realisation that I couldn’t handle it. I was not a super mom. I couldn’t juggle twin two-year-olds and still give my attention to the other three in an adequate way. Fast forward seven years to the second season of homeschooling for me, and you will see that we no longer wear uniforms. I still have five kids. They all are in different grades, have different learning styles and unique interests. And I’m still the same very human being mom. 

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But this time around, I am more relaxed. I enjoy the flexibility and beneficial outcomes of time spent with my children. I don’t always give them my undivided attention when I probably should. But we create good memories. We have shared read-aloud times on the couch. We have days where we put the text books away and head outside for a family hike or a memory making ‘field trip’.  

It’s ok not to be a super person

So when you, as the not-so-super-but-still-juggling-so-many-roles super parent, get to the end of your rope, then the best step is to listen- to your own body and heart as well as your childs’.  Recognize and differentiate between physical needs like fatigue or hunger and emotional needs (loneliness, grief, fear, anger). It’s easy to fall into patterns of telling our kids “Hey, just don’t do that… You don’t have to be afraid of that! Suck it up and get used to this.” Instead, let’s all refrain from belittling fears and instead affirm and be patient. 

When you can empathize, others will be more willing to listen to you. Help guide yourself and your kids to see what things are in our control and what things aren’t. Don’t expect yourself to be superperson.  We can’t rush in and fix this problem. But we can be present.  

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