If I can draw a diagram of something, I find I understand it better. And so, yesterday when I was considering 'life-work balance' and the various wheel of life diagrams that exist, I was uncomfortable that something was really not right. In general, I think I have a very good life:work balance, and I have been invited to talk on the topic several times recently. Yet, when I filled in one of those wheels, it looked very skewed.
The reason for this error came to me clearly overnight, and I felt it important to correct this. You see, I had categorised 'children - including their education' separately to 'friendships', 'leisure time' etc. Yet what do I do when I am spending time with my children (including their education)? Quite often we are enjoying what could be considered by many as leisure - walking, dancing, singing, playing, baking, cooking, playing music, reading books, painting, going to the library or the museum, going on a day trip.... In fact, a large proportion of time is spent doing these things! And who do we do these with? Often with friends - last week we had a wonderful afternoon in a nearby park, and later this week we are going to an RSPB nature reserve with some of the same people.
The fact I made this error when considering my life (even though I was aware that something was wrong, I did not recognise it immediately) shows just how entrenched we can become in a selfish worldview. I have quite a few friends that I have grown distant from in recent years, and this makes me sad. There are many reasons for this - life events on both sides, but a big difference can be that many of my friends see children as people who need to be 'entertained' during the time that they are not at school (with television, snacks and treats, other indulgences - OK, maybe a little harsh, but a generalisation). During term time, they are very much dictated to by school hours, school runs, after school activities etc (not necessarily bad things, but they cause our lives to take a different shape) and during school holidays they seem so overwhelmed at the need to entertain their children that it is not possible to meet up. Instead, I develop friendships with people who see my children as people, who seek to get to know them as individuals, and who are happy to join in alongside the activities we are doing. And of course, I am meeting other home educating parents, and with the common bond of our children and much of our ideology, friendships blossom. But I can find myself neglecting what I have, the wonderful friendships I currently have, because I don't feel that I am spending enough time with the friends I would like to be with. I wonder if anybody else feels that jumble?
Similarly, leisure time. I am quite a reflective person, and would enjoy more reading, writing, listening to music, sewing and craft activities. Many of these things are not on my radar in this current season of life, since my life-work balance means that often evenings are spent on academic work. But there are many many things I never did before. I never spent so much time out of doors. I had lived in my city for 15 years and never visited any of the art galleries or museums. I had rarely been to the coast. I had not been to National Trust properties or castles since I was a young child. So here I am bemoaning my lack of 'free time' or 'leisure time' when in fact I have it in greater abundance than I have ever known.
This is an important reminder not to categorise ourselves too much! I am a member of quite a few Facebook home education groups, and people often seek to define themselves in terms of a method or an ideology. Others define themselves in other ways. But the fact is, you and your family are unique, and each week, even each day, brings unique opportunities and blessings. Embrace these! Look at all you have! Don't lament because you cannot be everywhere, doing everything at once. Rather focus on what can be done today, do not worry about tomorrow and in all things give thanks.
- I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure.