Shifting gears: home education and “having it all”

I’ve been doing a lot of multi-tasking recently. Anyone who knows me well, knows that this just means there’s even more background noise than usual. On paper it looks like I’m attempting to have it all. I’m continuing to build my freelance writing business, increasing my voluntary work, sharing in home educating our children, attempting to cooperate in keeping the house reasonable and the people in it fed and, somehow, getting ready to perform a collection of my poetry at Penzance Literary Festival in a couple of months. And that’s just the stuff on the surface, the things I’m able to talk about in this space.

It sounds like a lot. It is a lot. But I think, when it’s all laid out, everyone is doing a lot. Whatever it is, all home educators are spending a considerable amount of our days shifting gears between things by virtue of our children being with us at least most of the time. We’re being pulled out of a book with a seven year old by having to rescue a bottle of ketchup from a two year old intent on smearing it all over the kitchen floor. We’re prodded out of making plans for next week via email by the messy present around us. We may be struggling to shift gears from being with our families to spending restorative time alone to returning to these noisy people we love.

I’m drinking in a lot of Julie Bogart’s wisdom at the moment via her Brave Writer podcast and in the episode about adulting she refers to “the squirrel brain”, forever working on the other thing in the background and offers ideas on how to calm it, from better scheduling to carving out screen free time for ourselves in the day.

I do feel that need to be less connected to what’s out there and more connected to what’s right in front of me. The reality is that some of the other things I want to do involve being out there so I need to find time for that to happen in ways that don’t constantly interrupt my day-to-day life – like turning off notifications on my phone.

But what I’m finding a tough pill to swallow as a person who, I guess, really does want it all, is that with every new thing I bring in, something else needs to be set aside. I understand this rule for avoiding cluttering the house. I don’t always follow it but I do understand it. However, it’s taken me ages to understand that bringing new things into my life, into our lives, requires giving up or reducing other things.

Changing our work patterns as Laurence has gone part time on his design job to start Soul Farm has meant that we have to be more careful with our time and money. We have to not only say no to some of the kids’ activities but to give notice on others. There is less time so we need to prioritise more time at home and better plan those windows so we are making the most of them and doing the things everyone wants to do, even if that “thing” is having nothing planned at all.

This is all in process. I haven’t arrived at the ideal solutions, the perfect schedule complete with the spartan self discipline I am yet to possess. But I continue to discover and accept that while it’s brilliant to have lots of ideas, we can’t necessarily develop them all with the attention they each selfishly insist we give them. Our weeks will inevitably look different to what I imagine, partly because I’ve been throwing myself into each thing without much consideration for how it all fits together. I just need to keep taking that step back to look at the bigger picture.

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