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Lately I have been asked how I balance being both mom and teacher to my children. Mom as teacher trips a lot of people up. There are no clearly defined roles. When are you mom? When are you teacher? How can you be both at the same time?
The first time I was asked how I navigate my job of mom as teacher I didn’t quit understand the question. They feel like the same thing to me. I’m always teaching and I’m always parenting. Both roles are equally awesome and exhausting.
After I asked a few more questions, I realized that this question likely comes from one of two places:
Moms are concerned that their children might be missing out on some necessary experience by having mom as teacher. Will they know to raise their hand to ask questions? Do they think it is normal to do schoolwork in whatever order they want while wearing pajamas and hanging off the couch?
Moms are also exhausted, because, well, taking care of children and homeschooling is exhausting! There is so much to do and it feels like there isn’t enough time to do it. Being tired always makes problems seem worse than they really are in the grand scheme.
We are wrapping up our 8th year of homeschool and I feel like I have finally achieved balance as both mom and teacher. I can flow seamlessly from one role to the other and back again.
Balancing Mom as Teacher
Many homeschool moms feel like they are not being respected by their kids. Now, don’t get me wrong. I definitely don’t think anyone should tolerate being disrespected. However, I’m not sure kids realize they are acting disrespectfully.
I think it is important to identify what specific behaviors seem disrespectful. Children walking around during lessons, interrupting family read alouds, and whining about school work can all feel disrespectful to homeschool moms because our kids wouldn’t do that in a public classroom. The thing is, I don’t think our kids mean these behaviors as a sign of disrespect.
Many homeschool children have never attended public school. They don’t know that getting out of your seat or talking when the teacher is talking are considered unacceptable. I once explained to my son, who has always been homeschooled, that kids in classrooms need permission and a ‘bathroom pass’ to go to the bathroom during class. He thought that seemed very weird. In our homeschool, it would be very weird. Homeschool is his frame of reference for all things ‘school’.
How do public school kids know to stay quietly in their seats – even if they don’t feel like it? Peer pressure. If the 30 other students are acting one way, you probably will too.
Now all of this isn’t to say that you need to allow these behaviors to continue if they bother you. You are mom and teacher so you are ultimately in control.
Decide what behaviors are disrespectful to you and then explain and set clear boundaries for the kids. Parent it the way you would any other misbehavior.
It can be so frustrating to be interrupted when you are in your teaching groove! Stopping a lesson to get someone a snack can make it hard to stay on track. More kids = more interruptions. Before you know it, it is time to make dinner, you have been interrupted 24 times, and you are feeling like you will never get a math lesson finished all in one sitting. Mom as teacher has a lot to do!
There are several ways to deal with interruptions:
- Set visual cues
- Plan ahead
- Stay consistent
Set visual cues
Visual cues are a great way for kids to see that mom is busy and shouldn’t be interrupted except in case of emergency. Some people choose to wear a certain hat, an apron, or even light up a tap light. It will still take a few reminders that you are busy, but visual cues go a long way to stopping the constant interruptions.
Just make sure to not wear the hat or leave the light on too long. Part of the balance of being mom and teacher is slipping in and out of those roles throughout the day. Kids do need an opportunity to talk to you without getting in trouble for interrupting. In my house, my kids are not allowed in the room while I am teaching math to their sibling. At the end of that lesson they are able to talk to me about any problems or needs before we move on to the next task.
Think about the common reasons your kids interrupt your teaching and try to brainstorm solutions. This will vary wildly by age and temperament. When my kids were little this meant:
- having certain quiet toys available only when I was teaching a sibling
- healthy snack trays in the fridge, ready to eat at anytime
- exterior doors locked (one child was forever trying to let the dog out)
- a water cup in easy reach
This sets kids up for success to solve their own problems without interrupting you.
None of the above will make any difference if you still stop teaching to handle small issues that could wait. Patiently remind your little ones that you are teaching right now and that they will need to wait. Eventually they will either solve the problem themselves or realize that they need to wait their turn for your attention.
I always told my kids they could only interrupt me in the case of fire, blood, or puke. Gross, but it helped them realize what I meant by emergency.
Being both mom and teacher can be hard sometimes, but I’m so thankful for this opportunity to see their eyes as they grasp a new concept.
How do you transition from mom to teacher?
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