When my kids were younger, we loved to watch Jay Jay the Jet Plane. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but it’s a sweet little program a bit like “Cars” but with planes. Jay Jay and his friends learn life lessons about friendship, responsibility, respect, humility, and even about protecting the environment.
For this magazine issue about working from home while homeschooling, there is a very relevant episode called “Jay Jay Meets Captain Hightower.”
Jay Jay’s airport is getting snarled in flight traffic because it’s so busy. To fight the chaos, they first start to take turns, but this makes everything slow down till it’s not productive anymore.
This is when Captain Hightower comes in. He teaches them that, like carrying a bunch of apples, there are only so much you can hold in your hands at once, but by juggling them, you can transport more of them at the same time.
I think we’d all agree that this is a picture of multi-tasking, and we’re probably all really good at it. By the very nature of being homeschooling parents who work, we’re juggling our lives by definition: the child care, the household management, the income generation, and the education of our kids. Some of you may also be caring for ageing parents, assisting your spouse’s employment, contributing to church or civic life, or even cultivating a hobby or two.
There is a danger, however, in juggling – by touching each item only briefly, it may take a very long time to actually feel you’ve achieved something. How many half-finished projects are sitting on your desk or your inbox right now?
(Oh, dear – I just counted mine … twelve, and that includes sorting out my budget for this month!)
So I’m coming to the conclusion that the picture of juggling is not actually very helpful for a working homeschooler’s work-life balance. Perhaps instead we should follow the advice from Christy Wright’s new book “Business Boutique” (published in April 2017). She advocates breaking up our days in blocks of time, and being intentional and focused on the project of the moment.
Focus on the moment. That’s a new concept for me. I’ve always been more of your Luke Skywalker-type. You know, the one about whom Yoda said:
“All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph!”
I recognize that habit all too well. Not being in the present and the moment, which comes over most painfully when I’m with my kids and thinking about all the work I have to do for my Dreaming Spires Home Learning courses. Yes, I have to respond to that inquiry. Yes, I need to check who still has outstanding balances. Yes, I have to give advice to the American Lit student about her research paper.
But, doggonnit, I’m here on the couch with my four kids who are wanting to discuss the leadership qualities of Lincoln, or to listen to the lyrical writing of Texas historian John Graves, or to sit, rapt, while watching the DVD about desert places in the Holy Land and how they pertain to the Bible. Maybe they just want to share with me their daydreams of being a police officer or an author, or their successes with a project: “I just made the front page of Steam Workshop with my ported model of the Joker”. (Ummm … oh … that’s nice … ????)
I think the trick is to make sure that we’re not trying to juggle apples at all. We should carry them, in appropriate boxes, and only as many as we can cope with.
There’s a fine line between a good a copious harvest, and basically over-burdening ourselves. Remember I Love Lucy and the chocolate factory fiasco where too many chocolates zoomed along the conveyor belt so she just started to eat them?
Wake up, Guys and Gals! We are homeschooling in order to escape the industrialization of education, so let’s not give our children the freedom from it on the one hand while modelling for them a life of toil, stress, and exhaustion on the other.
Balance, by definition, means equilibrium, so if you’re feeling pulled in all directions and effective in none of them, it’s time to review what you’re doing.
Now for my final reference to the screen, and this comes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The scene with the woman accused of witchcraft finishes by setting her in a gigantic pair of scales, weighing her against a duck to see if she’s a witch. Once they remove the boards from under the platforms, the scales settle to show that, indeed, she and the duck are of equal weight, to which she says, “It’s a fair cop,” which in the UK means that she’s guilty as charged.
(At this point, you may be wondering where I’m going with this … trust me. I’m nearly there)
In our work-life scales, some things might seem weightier than others: like a duck should weigh more than a woman, we might be considering some aspects of our lives (like our work) outweighing everything else.
Yes, we’re working homeschooling parents, but do we sometimes get the order of that phrase the wrong way around?
This summer, it’s time to think about this.
Kat has degrees in English from both the US and the UK, and taught in UK secondary schools. Fun fact: secondary school teachers have to teach classes of ALL the grades each year, so instead of having 4 or 5 sets of 6th graders, they have one set in each of the 7 years. More evidence of British inefficiency!!! Kat now uses this vast experience and expertise to teach online courses in English for high school homeschoolers all over the world. You can read more of her work on her family blog at boyschooling.blogspot.com.