Advice to Homeschooling Mothers – Take Care of Yourself
I’m sure I am not the first homeschooling mother to put her own needs aside for the benefit of the kids and family. You always wonder where you are going to fit another thing into your schedule – where are you going to get the time? Well, in case you haven’t already learned yourself – this will quickly lead you to a place where your own health and perhaps even your sanity will pay the price. Has anyone else experience this – or did you just start out already knowing the rules to homeschooling success? In the end – if we fail to take care of ourselves and lose our good health – we may even have to quit homeschooling our children (which was so important we were willing to sacrifice our own health for it).
Well, I am here to tell you that in order for you to successfully homeschool – you absolutely – positively need to take care of your own needs. This means sleep – this means physical health – and it also means your own spiritual health. If you are not healthy in mind – body and in iman – your homeschooling will suffer, your family will suffer and definitely you will suffer. I don’t mean to sound so dreary – but it is the definite truth.
My first year of homeschooling was difficult, masha’Allah. My child and I worked so hard and somehow we were still behind at the end of the year. We were grateful when school let out for the summer. The next year got slowly better – but I always felt like I was chasing after everything with little time left for myself. The next year I had two to homeschool. This pace kept on for the next year until I finally became ill. Alhumdulilah, sometimes you can really find a blessing in those difficult moments. Alhumdulilah, sometimes you can finally realize what things are important.
In order to get well – I needed to exercise and eat healthier (no more running for fast food on the way out the door to an appointment). Now – it wasn’t always easy – but I have slowly learned that keeping yourself healthy is the only way you can continue to contribute to your family. Without good health, it is very difficult.
In order to teach your children how to take care of themselves – you also have to show them. You have to make them realize at this young age how important it is to take care of your health (not only exercise, but eating healthier as well). You are the one that needs to be a good example to them (for all the words that you speak – it is nothing compared to how you live as an example to your children). You also need to show them that even though you may be busy – even though you can’t imagine having another minute to squeeze something in – YOU MUST TAKE TIME TO GROW ISLAMICALLY. This doesn’t mean to only pray five times a day (though that definitely helps a lot, masha’Allah) – but you must also take the time to read Qur’an – to learn more about the religion – and to share that knowledge with your children. You cannot do a good job raising your children Islamically – if you are not taking time for your own iman.
I know what you are going to say – how can I possibly fit anything else into my day? The dishes are piling up and the kids are messing the house, etc., etc. I know it is hard – and I also know that your time is limited – however, when you take the time to take care of yourself it seems to make things easier for you, masha’Allah. How is that possible – you ask? Well – I have found that when the kids and I actually take a break – go for a walk or I go to the gym – I return (and so do they) refreshed and more energetic than I was before. So, even though I took time for myself – it gave me something back – double the energy when I returned to my tasks at hand. Besides – if you think it through – if you are healthier – then you have more energy and stamina – and you can only be healthier by taking care of yourself – right? If you are not sleeping well – if you are not eating well – if you are not taking time for your own priorities – you can’t possibly give all your energy to your day – you have no energy left. The other nice thing about getting out – taking a walk or going to the gym – you have time to rest your mind – you have time to let your mind just wander aimlessly. I know that sounds strange – but when you are surrounded by little ones all day – mommy – mommy – mommy – it can wear you thin. It really is nice when you can just stare off into the distance and think any random thought that comes to your mind without any interruption. Try it sometime!
Now – before I go on I do want to add – (1) I do not have anyone to babysit the kids so I am with them all the time aside from when they sleep (2) I do not have anyone come to clean my house (3) I do not have anyone else to cook for my family. Why did I mention that? I just didn’t want you to think that perhaps I am having it easy over here so it is easy for me to say “hey, take a break!” Been there – done that – and I have survived (so far) to tell about it. Everyone’s home situation is different – some people are fortunate to have a husband that can help them out (Masha’Allah) – some husband are willing to look the other way when the house is a little less than perfect (they realize all the hard work you do – masha’Allah) and still others may even be an only parent. However – it is my own personal opinion that it truly is important for all of us to take care of our health and well-being as much as we possibly can to successfully homeschool.
If you have to – make a list of all those things that you so enjoyed before homeschooling. Did you love photography – did you love writing or crafting? Whatever it may be that you used to enjoy – make a list. Then, try to reward yourself at least once a week – if you can (if not, then at least every other week) by doing that one thing you enjoy. This way (1) you have something to look forward to when you are really having a tough day and (2) you are still giving yourself priority even though it may be on a more limited basis. I don’t know about you, but I think you might enjoy doing your hobby more – by knowing that this was a special time that you rewarded yourself for taking care of everyone else. Why don’t you just give it a try and see?
I used to worry a lot when homeschooling the girls – you can just ask about anyone who knew me. I worried a lot about everything. Now – I don’t worry even half as much, alhumdulilah. I guess experience makes it a bit easier for you. What you have to realize is that the world is not going to come to a crashing halt if you don’t – whatever it may be. For example, when one kiddo was in second grade – they had to learn skip counting. I worried and worried because it was much too hard for this child. We tried everything and I stressed about it. I also worried because the next lessons we had to do were about counting money – and I though, if we can’t even skip count, then how can we count money? Somehow we got through the lessons and no – the earth did not come to a crashing halt at any time during our struggles. A few weeks later this child just woke up one morning and announced “I can skip count” and proceeded to count by 2’s, by 3’s, by 5’s, by 10’s – just like that, masha’Allah. The information had sunken in – but connections were only finally made weeks later. Masha’Allah!
If your child struggles with something – don’t fret so much. It will happen – they will “get it” at some point, insha’Allah. Now, if they don’t “get it” you might not want to just give up like that – but do what I do – try to learn other methods of teaching the subject – try a video instead of the lesson or read a book about it. You never know what could finally help make the connection for them. The main point I am trying to make is – DON’T SWEAT IT! Don’t stress yourself out – don’t worry – and don’t keep pushing harder while puting a square peg in a round hole. Smooth it out – make the square peg round and then try again – it doesn’t fit? – then shave away a little bit more – but don’t keep pushing and don’t stress yourself. Really.
Have a problem with some lesson? Just walk it off – put your child’s shoes on and go for a walk. Can’t go walking – then play a game with them. Can’t play a game – then have a tickle fest. Go outside and sit in the shade of a tree – go watch the movement of the clouds in the sky – listen to the birds chirping – just do something other than keep trying to do the same lesson! I know it seems like you can’t do anything else until you achieve your goal – but guess what – what could possibly happen if you just didn’t? Really – think about it – what could possibly happen? Just walk away and let the steam blow off and you will see how both you and your child perform better when you return. Stress is just not good in a homeschooling environment – and all of us (I would think) sometimes have to work on that one. Truthfully, I feel more success – not when my kids “get it” but when I find myself tried by something difficult and I learned to accept it – not let it stress me out – and I get through it. To me, that is success in homeschooling.
Now – some people are fortunate to have a little help around the house – masha’Allah. However, even with a little help – a woman’s job always keeps her busy (doesn’t it?) – especially if she is homeschooling. For those of you – like me – who do not have help – insha’Allah at some point you will realize (if you haven’t already) that there are no awards out there given to the perfect homemaker (at least, I don’t think so). I was very picky before having children – and even before homeschooling – however I have learned to finally let go. Now, don’t let that sound like the dishes are always piled high and toys are strewn around the house – I still have my standards. The main thing is that I realized that it’s okay to not be perfect – really, it is. Strive to do your best – and if you just can’t get the dishes done before going to bed – I give you permission to rest – you deserve it. Tomorrow will be another day and the world will definitely not come to a crashing halt if you don’t do them RIGHT NOW. What was that – did you feel something shake the ground beneath your feet? Nope – and it won’t, insha’Allah. My dh had a hard time learning that lesson as well – any other sisters out there who have a husband who is used to having things a certain way? It is not easy – but over time they will see “the light”. At some point they realize how hard you work and realize how important your job is – and, even they will realize that it’s okay for the dishes to wait until later. If you doubt that day will ever come – I highly recommend making dua.
That reminds me of another point – while I may seem like I “have it all together” – it would be nice, but it just isn’t true. I still have hard days – really! I even still have days when I wonder what in the world I was thinking when I decided to homeschool (can’t help but giggle a little about that one – it’s true – but when I think of all the blessings that have come about by homeschooling – the thought seems so funny to me). Just don’t tell me that when I’m having a bad day. There is one thing that can really help in making your homeschooling successful – ask Allah to grant you and your family success. Really – dua is so important, masha’Allah. If you are having trouble with your spouse because they feel you aren’t doing enough around the house – make dua – ask Allah to help your spouse see how hard you work – how much you contribute – ask Allah to help your spouse be more understanding. If you are having trouble with stress and worries about homeschooling – make dua – ask Allah to help you be successful and ask Allah to help you feel more at ease with all that you have to do. Have any problem? Just make dua. Trust me, it does make a big difference – not always overnight – but the answers and prayers always come through, masha’Allah.
This brings me to the last (but definitely not least) tool for successful homeschooling – and that is setting aside time to help yourself grow as a Muslim. Yes – we actually do need to grow – we don’t just stop one day and say “Aha, I’ve finally made it!” If you are homeschooling to provide your child with a good environment to raise them as a good Muslim – you must know – you must live it – and you must show your child that as a Muslim it is always important to continue to grow in knowledge and in faith. This is not only important for your child – but it is ever so much more important for you. Take out the Qur’an and set aside time to read it – even if it is only for 15 minutes a day. You will never regret it. On days that you take the time to do extra acts of worship – whether studying about Islam, reading the Qur’an or even listening to a lecture – you will realize how much more blessed your time will be. It seems as though – even though you took time out from your day – how much smoother and easier your day goes. When you set aside time for the sake of Allah – the rest of your time is so much more blessed, masha’Allah. The added benefit is – the more you learn about Islam – the more you have to share with your children. Everyone wins, masha’Allah.
Like I said – although you cannot imagine how you could possibly find a way to add one other thing to your already busy schedule – you will realize that when you make time for yourself – you get rewarded in several ways:
- You feel more energized to take on the tasks of the day.
- You feel more relaxed and less stress.
- Your time is more blessed, insha’Allah.
You don’t have to take my word for it – but I thought I’d share anyway – in the hopes of even helping just one other person have an easier time at homeschooling. No – it isn’t easy – but it is so rewarding, masha’Allah. May we all learn to take better care of ourselves – because in the end, it will truly be a wonderful journey for both us and our family.
Sumayyah Umm SAA