I am a military spouse of 17 years. I often find myself homeschooling alone during deployments, training, and many other separation instances. While it is ideal for fathers to be involved in the homeschool process, it isn’t always possible for varying reasons. Perhaps you’re a single mom, your husband travels often for work, you’re a military spouse like me, or your hubby just isn’t supportive or able for whatever reason. This post is for you.
You are strong, independent, capable, and going it alone. You’ve got it all under control but… it’s still difficult because you’re trying to meet a lot of needs all by yourself. Let me share with you a few homeschooling philosophies I’ve learned in my over 12 years of homeschooling which keep me sane when going it alone–a survival guide of sorts. I hope they help you as well.
When You’re Homeschooling on Your Own…
Don’t worry about what other people think. This is your decision. You want what’s best for your children and know their needs better than anyone. Trust in yourself and be confident. Remember that the grass isn’t always greener and no situation is perfect. No education or curriculum is perfect either.
Find a good support system and stay inspired. By being supportive I mean they encourage you to homeschool and support your decision. Seek out friends and family that are helpful to you, that you can trust and count on. Don’t let yourself get too lonely. If those types of people aren’t available, then fill yourself with other good inspiration. There are many good books and other resources that can encourage you.
Keep your homeschooling simple. Focus on the basics. The 3 R’s are the most important. You probably already do this because your time is valuable. But if you can cut out the unnecessary and haven’t already, then do so. You can always add extras in later.
Remember to take care of and pamper yourself a little. Exercise, eat right, and get plenty of sleep. I know we all struggle with this. And if you’re struggling then you’re probably doing pretty well in this area and at least trying. It’s just so important because you won’t be much good to your kids if you’re not good to yourself. Be sure to take a break when needed and schedule in time for yourself. It can be anything that relaxes you and is fun for you. Spa days, quiet “you time,” or whatever. The power of this is immeasurable but just keep it balanced.
Tap into all resources available to you. When you need help, get it. I learned this during my husband’s year-long deployment. Little things like programs at the library or free community center activities and good childcare or youth centers are also helpful. You are only one person so you just can’t do everything and be everything for your kids all the time. Have older children read to younger children and bear some of the burden with chores. Whenever possible take short cuts like using disposables such as paper plates. Though I care about the environment, why do things the hard way when there are other options? Hire a maid if you can afford it or have your grocery list delivered.
Fill your spirit. If you are religious, remember to care for your spirit. If Christian, go to God for strength. I know that for me personally it’s God’s grace that really sustains me. But if you’re not religious at least find some way to center yourself or nurture your spirit. Because we are spiritual beings it will help you to gain focus and charge your battery.
Be flexible when possible. It’s so much harder to homeschool emotionally when my husband is not home. I don’t realize how much he helps me till he’s gone. Sure enough the minute he leaves we either get sick or some other difficulty emerges and what I knew I could handle alone becomes a difficult situation with extra challenges. But there is hope and you CAN find joy in homeschooling on good or bad days. Changing things up and being flexible will help you cope, so be able to adapt.
Gear your curriculum to work for you, don’t work for it! This was something I learned too late, mostly because of my teaching style. But when you are homeschooling alone you need to teach your kids to work independently (age appropriate of course). Some homeschooling curriculums are not good for moms who work, and often the planners are written toward mom and not the student. Try to find a curriculum that suits your child’s needs and is geared for your child to work through independently. Think of yourself as a facilitator giving direction as your child goes along. Focus on grading or feedback and keeping your child on track. Be ready to instruct when needed.
Limit the need for and demands of planning and record keeping. If you’re doing everything without the support of a spouse, you probably don’t have a lot of time to plan and keep records. You have to cook, clean, maybe work or go to school yourself, maintain a vehicle, schedule appointments, and the list goes on. You get the picture. Again, I recommend a curriculum already planned that your child can work through and that keeps a record for you. If you have to keep your own records, simply have a file that you add samples of finished work to that you seal at the end of each year.
Make a back up plan. This is really important in case something happens to you. I know it’s not fun to think about but it is a good idea. When my husband deploys I try to have a plan of action that my child can follow in case something happens to me. I have phone numbers posted on the fridge of who to call and in what order for different types of situations. A will and a designated caregiver for your child whom you’ve chosen is also important.
I want to encourage you to remain steadfast to your commitment to homeschooling because you’re probably get plenty of people trying to talk you out of homeschooling. Most likely they have good intentions and just see that you have a lot on your plate, but ultimately this decision is still yours. You have chosen a challenging path or perhaps are called to it. Many people homeschool through difficulties and you can too. And though it may not be optimum or what we feel is ideal, it’s still possible, and even more important, still good and productive.