How to avoid unrealistic expectations and feeling overwhelmed as homeschoolers

Sometimes when we're active on homeschool groups like this or regularly read books or magazines and articles we can build up an unrealistic expectation of what home education should look like or be. It's too easy to think, wow, we could be doing that, or I wish we lived closer so we could do that... or, if only we had more money, or more time, or better health, etc. And there are a gazillion brilliant ideas and wonderful activities jumping off the internet pages every day, tempting us, taunting us... do more, do more they whisper at us!

Relax. You are doing enough. Perhaps you should even think about doing less... Take a break. Whenever you feel a little overwhelmed, before you become totally overwhelmed, take a few minutes to touch base, ground yourself by focusing on your senses. Work your way through each of your senses, acknowledging and appreciating what you see, hear, feel, touch, smell and taste. Take several deep breaths, stretch tall, touch your toes, wave your arms high and low and around your body. Wriggle. Take a deep breath in and let it out slowly.

It's hard to remember to do this. We're too busy with too many things we must do. We forget that being grounded gives us the energy to do what we need to do. It helps us work efficiently and in a balanced way. When we're grounded in our bodies we remember who we are, not who we think we should be or who others think we should be. We remember what it is we need to do, not what we think we should be doing or what others think we should be doing. It's a simple thing to do - often the simplest things are the hardest to remember to do!

As home educating parents we make time for our children to to be themselves and we work to remove unnecessary pressure from others to live up to expectations and standards that don't serve their immediate developmental and learning needs. It's time to do the same for us! Getting ideas and sharing information is the cornerstone of any support group, but if we're not grounded in who we are as individuals and what our personal and children's needs are, then we run the risk of falling prey to expectations that undermine our sense of purpose and balance. For years I felt insecure as a home educator because, without realising it, I was comparing myself to everyone else, often feeling reassured but more often than not feeling inadequate and pressured to be doing more.

This is why I encourage parents to write a statement of philosophy: what education is and means to them and what they hope to achieve by home educating their children. And why I encourage parents to get to know their children's learning styles and preferences. And to work from that base and that knowledge. Become grounded in who you are and what you need and remind yourself frequently. I would read my philosophy statement frequently, especially when I would start feeling frantic (usually the days when I found myself threatening to send the children to school!)

All that other stuff out there is brilliant, excellent, and it is great that we have such a vast array of resources, approaches and methods we can use to help our children learn. But ultimately it's the cream on the cake. Family, home and community are the cake: we can build a fantastic education based on simply living and actively being and appreciating fully family, home and community. By removing hours of meaningless busy work and crowd management tasks from our children's lives we gift them the one thing they need to learn everything they need to learn: the time in which to learn it. So relish the time you have together. Don't fill it up with stuff that doesn't meet your or your children's needs.

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