As a complement to my last post I thought I’d write about one of the best things about being a homeschooler – the thing that most people think about least, IME, but which I think makes the hugest difference between us and “the rest of society”.
My friends whose kids go to school (most of them are just starting Kindy this year) are finding themselves joining the rat race. They get up early, whether they want to or not, whether they had a good night’s sleep or whether a little one kept them up in the wee dark hours of the morning. They are on a schedule and absolutely MUST be out the door by a certain time – a concept which is completely lost on most of the five-and-under crowd. They rush, they cajole, they fret…and then they’re off! They commute through traffic getting kids to school and/or daycare (and since we age-segregate they are likely in different places) and then either go to work themselves or try to fit whatever errands they need done into the next couple of hours.
Then they rush to pick up their kids, since you can’t be late for that. If you are one of the working crowd your kid probably goes to some “after school care” program. If your kids aren’t in an after school care program you are now probably driving them to various activities (you know, the stuff they *really* want to do). If you’re lucky, you all get home around 5 pm and then somehow you have to magically conjure up a healthy, home-cooked meal. By the time you eat, clean up the kitchen, prepare for the next day (packing lunches, making sure clean clothes are to be had for all, etc) it is probably time to get the kids to bed.
I know people whose 9 year olds have over an hour of homework a night. I know people whose kids participate in at least 3 or more after-school “extracurricular” activities a week. I honestly do NOT know how any of these people do this and still manage to spend some meaningful time with their children. I do know that many of these people are constantly under a state of mild stress from Monday to Friday. Even if you feel content with your lot, it is stressful to be on a strict timeline all day. I do know that these folks’ weekends are usually chock full of activities while they try to spend some quality time with their kids, not to mention run all their errands and houseclean.
Well me and my family….we don’t live in that world. We get up whenever we feel like it – early if we’ve had a good rest, and we sleep in if we haven’t. I almost always cook breakfast: homemade pancakes, homemade waffles, french toast (usually with homemade bread), or on a lazy day I make soft-boiled or fried eggs. The kids sometimes watch cartoons in the morning, or get started with a game while I do a few things around the house (like painting a wall, or vaccuuming, or whichever of my many projects I’m currently working on). Then we get ready to head out for our day, the planning of which happens on the fly and generally revolves around the weather. Yesterday, for example, despite a grim forecast we awoke to a gorgeous fall day with not a cloud in the sky. So we headed out for a walk in the forest. As usual, there was plenty of parking and we had the place virtually to ourselves.
We are usually home by 3 o’clock, before the gaggle of school kids pour out of their institutions and begin the part of the day that really interests them – off to clubs and sports practices and rec centre classes. Meanwhile I’m getting started on a slow sauce for dinner, or prepping veggies, or perhaps reading a book with the kids or playing a game. While others are trying to fit “everything else” into the precious 2 hours between school and dinner, our day has ended and we are relaxing. DH comes home and plays with the kids while I finish up dinner and serve it, then he cleans up while I play with the kids. Then he and I can generally sneak in about 30 to 60 minutes of computer time (or reading or knitting or whatever) while the kids wind down before bed. Usually by 9:30 they are asleep and he and I are getting ready for bed ourselves.
We don’t usually do anything on the weekends. We avoid the crowds and the rush. I do my shopping and errands during the week. We have long, slow lazy mornings playing video games and doing household projects (or out in the yard when the weather is nice).
I love this lifestyle, and I truly feel sorry for all the people who are caught up in the rat race. Life is short, and to spend 5 out of every 7 days running around trying to meet deadlines and pickup times, fighting traffic, and if you are lucky you might get to spend a half hour or even a full hour with your kids just playing and hanging out….well it is just tragic, really. I think most people don’t question that this is just the way it is. But then you meet homelearning families like myself, like all the families before me who inspired me, and you realize that we all make choices in our lives. And those people complaining about having no time with their kids have made that choice, too.