Balancing Homeschooling and Marriage: Is It An Impossible Dream?

Homeschooling is a wonderful thing. There have been so many benefits for our kids and for our family as a result of our years of homeschooling. We love it and wouldn’t change it for the world- unless God leads us down an alternate path. Although we love it and recognize how great it is, I will readily admit that it isn’t easy. Some days it really isn’t easy.

One of the most difficult things I’ve found about homeschooling in my thirteen years of doing so is achieving balance in any other area of life while homeschooling. I can homeschool or I can have a clean house. I can homeschool or I can cook a good meal. I can homeschool or I can run errands. It’s very hard to homeschool well and accomplish much else some days. Unfortunately one area of life that too often gets pushed aside in my homeschooling busyness is my marriage.

Balancing marriage and homeschooling

How does this imbalance work? Here’s a little view into a night in our home. It’s been a long and busy day of homeschooling. I’ve had a struggle with one child over math and a struggle with another over a literature assignment. In between that, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time working with another on science reading comprehension. Two kids have had extracurricular activities in the afternoon, so I’ve spent time running people back and forth in the car. I’ve rushed home at five o’clock and thrown supper on the stove. While it cooked, I’ve gotten about half of the housework done that I needed to get done today.

At five thirty, Jason walks in the door. As he heads toward the kitchen- to see if I’ve cooked and if it’s edible- I begin to roll off my litany of things that have gone wrong today. I finish supper, get it on the table, and we sit down to supper. After supper I have to finish the other half of the must-do-tonight-or-we’ll-be-out-of-clothes-tomorrow housework. Then I check over lesson plans, meet with a child about an assignment for tomorrow, and head everyone off to get ready for bed.

After I get ready for bed myself, I’m still working in bed, trying to finish up computer-related tasks that didn’t get done today. By the time Jason comes in, I’m too tired or too busy to talk or spend any time together. He’s pretty easy going about it, but the day ends without ten words ever being said between us- except for my rant to him about a child’s bad attitude earlier in the day.

Ongoing days and nights of this do not make for a good marriage. (I can speak from twenty-one years of experience-as of the writing of this post.) When we have no time left over for communication and for nurturing our relationship with each other, our marriage suffers. And, ultimately, if our marriage suffers, the whole family is affected

Why do we need balance? Why is a strong marriage so important?

Everything else about our parenting and our family is built on the foundation of our marriage relationship. When our marriage is strong, we can be focused and united parents. When our kids see that we are on the same team and that we have a strong relationship, they are more secure and have fewer attitude and behavior problems in day to day life and in homeschooling. Our marriage is the foundation, and when we don’t make it a priority, every other part of family life suffers.

How can we possibly balance it all?

Put first things first.

It’s a catch phrase, but it’s a good one. Marriage is foundational, and it should be the top priority. This means not only saying it’s the top priority but acting like it. If we haven’t had time to talk to our spouse all day, it’s time to put away the lesson plans and focus on what’s more important. If those tests from today don’t get graded until later, it’s okay. It’s time to spend time as a couple. Really put marriage first by choosing to spend time nurturing it.

Make our husbands feel important.

For a long time I didn’t realize this. But, during a conversation with Jason (aka an argument), he brought up the fact that when I stayed constantly busy bustling about things to do with the kids and spent all my time focused on that, that he sometimes felt unimportant. When I thought about it that way, I could see his point. What kind of message do I send when I hug him and tell him I love him but then tell him I’m going to be up late tonight researching next year’s curriculum? Yes, curriculum is important, but it isn’t as important as my marriage. I want to show my husband he’s important by putting down what I’m doing and focusing on him.

Teach kids that our marriage is important.

Teaching our kids that our marriage is important is something they need to know now- so that they can understand why we protect our time and make it a priority- and later- so that they can have strong marriages as well. We make some rules about when kids can be in and out of our room. We let them know that when mom and dad are talking, they can wait. We have dates together so that the kids know we enjoy just hanging out together. We try to communicate with words and actions that our marriage is important.

Value our husband’s advice.

I know every homeschooling family may be different, but in our family, Jason lets me be the expert on homeschooling. I research and learn about curriculum and laws affecting homeschooling, and teaching methods, and how to maintain records so that we’re homeschooling legally. He knows that I know more about those things because I’ve studied and learned. Every once in a while, though, he can see something in a more objective way. When I’ve been struggling with a particular child in a particular subject all day, I might be feeling as if I’m beating my head against a wall. But he can come in with fresh eyes and fresh insight and have a really good idea. I can nurture my marriage and make him feel like his input in important when I listen and consider his advice. Sometimes it’s tempting to fire back-“You weren’t here all day. What do you know?” But when I stop and think, he’s often had a really good idea. And I’ve contributed to a healthy, happy marriage when I show him that I value his advice.

Jason and I both understand that there are times when I can’t drop everything and pay attention to him. There are times when homeschooling issues or parenting issues have an urgency that can’t be put off. When that happens, we can both think reasonably and understand that it’s okay to be a little unbalanced every now and then. But that should be the exception, not the rule. And when I’ve been careful to balance homeschooling and marriage and I’ve been deliberate about nurturing my marriage, those times of unbalance don’t seem like such a big deal. But if I’ve neglected my marriage for awhile, and I haven’t been setting my priorities, those times of unbalance can cause tension and frustration.

What do you think is the hardest thing about balancing homeschool and marriage? If you haven’t joined the Sharing the Homeschool Journey Facebook group yet, I’d love to have you join, and I’d love to discuss this topic there this week. Come join us!

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