Guard Your Time: 7 Tips for Homeschoolers

It’s a teacher-in-service day and your friend, whose kids go to the neighborhood public school, asks you, “Can you watch Susie, Johnny, and Frankie today?”

Your neighbor, who has two preschool-aged children, has taken a new job and now has to make childcare arrangements.  She asks you if you’ll watch them, because “You’re home anyway.”

Your aunt has recently retired, and she wants to spend more time with you and your kids.  That’s great. The problem? She wants to do it right in the middle of the day and doesn’t seem to understand that just because you’re home, doesn’t mean you’re not busy.

Thank you to Becky of The Self-Directed Homeschooler for this guest post as part of the Ready, set, homeschool! blog party.

Your church needs more volunteers in the nursery.  Or the women’s ministry needs someone to head up the fall luncheon.  And they ask you.

Your kids’ co-op needs a secretary for its board, or a committee head for the spelling bee, or a teacher for geography.  And they ask you.

Your kids’ sports team needs a committee head for fundraising or someone to coordinate transportation.  And they ask you.

Constitutional Literacy by Michael Farris

Someone in your homeschool group just had a baby, and they need someone to be in charge of the meal train.  They ask you.

Your kids recently got bitten by the acting bug, and the community theater just announced a fall homeschool class that meets three days a week right up to the week before the production (at which point, plan on living there).  And your kids ask you if they can do it….

If you’re like I am, the problem isn’t not enough opportunities to socialize and serve.  The problem is too many! And with the new school year about to kick off, if you haven’t been bombarded with requests yet, you will be soon.

They all sound like the sorts of things a good mom would do for her kids.  Or one good friend would do for another. Or a good Christian would do for her church.  Or just something fun.

You feel too guilty to say no.  Plus, they all sound like such great ideas and worthy causes, right?

Until they don’t.

Until you’re overwhelmed and overscheduled, and you can’t see any graceful way out.

Then what?

You can avoid that uncomfortable “then what?” with these seven tips.

1. Have firm priorities.

You need to know, ahead of time, what your priorities are.  That way, you can weigh every request against those priorities to determine whether or not each request is something you both can and should do.  Remember, just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

If you’d like some focused help figuring out what your priorities are and how to make sure whatever you spend your time, energy, or resources on aligns well with your values and your vision of success as a homeschooler, please check out my brand-new ebook, Successful Homeschooling: It Starts With You.

For me, since I am taking a new part-time job this year, my time with my family will be at a premium now.  I know right now that I will be saying “no” to nearly every request that will take me away from my family even more than I already will be away.

2. Remember, every time you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else (that might be better for you).

For me this year, saying “yes” to most requests I can envision being made of me means that by default, I am saying “no” to spending that time with my kids or relaxing at home. Maybe the decision to say “yes” or “no” isn’t quite so significant to you. Regardless, there is always an opportunity cost for any decision you make about how to spend your time and energy.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”‘Remember, every time you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else (that might be better for you).’ – Becky of @SelfDirectedHS #readysethomeschool #allthehomeschoolthings #homeschooling” quote=”Remember, every time you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else (that might be better for you).”]

3. Realize that you are not Superwoman.

You cannot do it all, all at the same time, and do it all well.  As much as you might like to be able to do so, you can’t homeschool, keep a house, spend time with your family and friends, work, volunteer at church every weekend, and head up committees for each of your kids’ activities or teams, take care of yourself along the way, and do it all well.

Sorry, sister.  It’s reality. There are certain things you can do to make the most of your time, to be more organized and productive.  But the truth is we only get so much time each day, and that’s it.

4. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into committing right then and there.

Very, very rarely will any request from someone else be an actual, immediate need.  If you’re prone to saying “yes” when you’d really rather not, give yourself some space. Tell the person asking that you need to check your calendar, or you and your husband have agreed that neither one of you will commit to any more activities without first discussing it with the other.

5. Say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but unfortunately I can’t fit that into my schedule right now.”

I can’t remember where I first heard this, but it was a game-changer for me.  It’s polite, friendly, and it rolls right off the tongue. It expresses gratitude for being considered, and at the same time, it’s also a clear, concise “no.”

When an invitation to join a health and nutrition class landed in my Messenger inbox, I swiftly and promptly replied with, “I’m sorry.  I won’t be able to make it, but thanks for thinking of me.”

6. Don’t be overly apologetic or over explain.

I didn’t give the person inviting me any explanation for declining the invitation to join her health and nutrition class.  I could have explained that attending the class would require me to go straight there from work, and I really prefer just to go home.  I could have said I’ve committed to not spending any extra money I don’t have to right now. I chose not to, though.

If your answer is “no,” then let “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do (insert request) at this time” suffice for an explanation.  If you hem and haw or make excuses, people will think if they can overcome your objections, you’ll do what they’re hoping you’ll do.

7. Change your perspective.

If you always volunteer, you’re depriving someone else of the opportunity to volunteer. A few years ago, a good friend of mine, whose two girls were in elementary school, was complaining to me about being asked yet again to lead some activity.  The people asking were applying significant pressure to get her to do it, and she was feeling it. She was also just burned out because she was coming off leading two major, back-to-back events at the school.

I told her that it was time for other people to step up and help, and if she caved to the pressure, she’d be depriving someone else of the opportunity to give generously of themselves.  She loved that! It allowed her to release some of the pressure she’d been applying to herself to be a PTA rockstar and do it all.

It’s unlikely anyone reading this post is out to be a PTA rockstar, but in a lot of ways, homeschooling demands more of us parents than would be asked of us if our kids were in school.

I just recently received three separate invitations to attend committee meetings for field trips, the co-op, and service projects for our homeschool group.  I easily declined one because I wasn’t interested at all.

The other two?  I had to weigh those against my priorities.  When I did that, it became obvious to me that I needed to decline one and I might be able accept the other if I could be sure the meeting would not be a waste of time.

Guarding our time and being selective about what we choose to allocate our time, energy, and resources to won’t be an “over and done” thing for any of us.  As long as we’re living in community with family and friends, other homeschoolers, neighbors, fellow team members and church congregants, someone will be asking us to do something.

Hopefully, with my seven tips, you’ll be more comfortable going forward, declining requests and invitations that aren’t in alignment with your values and priorities right now.

As a veteran unschooling mom of three, Becky Ogden provides support and resources on her blog, The Self-Directed Homeschooler, to new and struggling homeschoolers, and has a special place in her heart for those interested in unschooling.  She started homeschooling in 2003 and fully embraced unschooling in 2008 after she got tired of fighting with her two oldest children over their schoolwork and had a difficult baby who demanded a much more flexible, forgiving schedule than traditional homeschooling allowed. Connect with Becky on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other posts in this series!