Balancing Act

25 Sep 2013

How important is balance in your life? On a scale of one to ten, I’d have to give it a high ten! We all have a need for balance—we even expect balance in our lives, and why not? We serve a God of balance. There are simple lessons to be learned just by observing His wonderful and complex universe. God knew we needed balance just to live and exist on earth. The separation of day from night, the careful balance of twelve hours of daylight for work, play or both, and the twelve hours of the night during which we sleep and take our rest. If we look for the relevance of that lesson in our lives, specifically in our homeschool, we recognize the same need for balance in our school day.

Balanced Teaching

Remembering to allow our children enough time to work, be productive and play is essential for effective and successful homeschooling. I remember my early days as a new home teacher. We started school very early in the morning, and most days by 3:30 in the afternoon we were still going strong. By supper, the children may have been worn out, but I was committed to seizing every teachable moment I could find. By late evening, I still had more ideas to explore, insights to share, and instructions to give. After about two or three weeks of this nonstop education process, my husband took me aside and said, “You can’t have the kids in school all of the time.” Was I ever shocked. My comment of “I can’t?!” was met with such a resounding “No!” I think I can still hear it. I had to learn how to balance my school day.

Balanced Learning

The Lord made us in His image, yet He also gave us many freedoms to enjoy, the greatest of which is our free will—a free will to make decisions independently of Him, or to make decisions that reflect our dependence on Him.

What does that teach us about training our children to become independent learners? They must be given freedom to learn independently—introduced and provided with the necessary tools for independent learning. With each year of homeschool, there is an increase in their responsibility and accountability. Have a goal in mind that takes them away from totally teacher-directed class time and projects. Here’s where the balance comes in. Too much independence in learning may result in a child’s deficiency in all the subject areas they don’t particularly care about or have had difficulty in mastering. To maintain the appropriate level of balance, pay close attention to the amount of time spent in learning independently. Be sure your child is ready for a decrease in your teaching time. Older children may resent too much time away from the teacher.

A dear friend shared what happened in her school when she tried to start the independent learning too early, suddenly, and too much, at once. The older children were sent off to their rooms or study areas to do lessons, while she remained in another part of the house, working with the younger ones. Throughout the entire “independent learning time,” the older students, not quite in middle school, continued to come out of their rooms with minor questions, requests and complaints.

Over time, it occurred to her that the questions or information they were seeking was really not the reason for their continual interruptions. She realized that they were lonely and missed being a part of the “school” and having the teacher’s attention. My friend realized they were simply too young for that kind of learning environment. Although her ultimate goal is to teach them to learn on their own, she has backed off from too much independence and has gradually moved them towards working in separate areas, and, ultimately, working alone. It is important to evaluate maturity, plus the student’s desire to study apart from the younger children in determining when your children are ready for total independent study.

Balanced Resting

My kids are evenly split when it comes to sleeping in or rising early. It’s the same way with my husband and me. My preference is to wake at 10:00 a.m.; his is 4:00 a.m. So we compromise—I’m up at 5:00 a.m. Scheduling adequate time for rest throughout the day and night is important for the entire family; cranky kids plus cranky teacher equals an unproductive, cranky household; sometimes even cranky pets are thrown into the mix. A well-rested student is easier and much more rewarding to teach. My being well rested keeps the joy of adventure in homeschooling and all else in balance!

Balanced playing

Recreation and play are as much a part of balancing your homeschool as academics. I found it helpful, when we had all elementary students, to break up the school day with jaunts around the block or just the backyard. We’re blessed to have a lake at the back of our house, and often we would just go out and sit on the pier and play nature games. We also enjoyed sitting under the shade of a big tree in our front yard to have class or reading time. Who says a change of scenery can’t influence a school day for the better? Also, each week on Fridays, we’d head off to our community center for indoor games and basketball. This trip was something we all looked forward to, after a long week of studies. And now, even with older students, they still enjoy this traditional break.

Balance in everything is absolutely necessary for a productive homeschool. God is not the “author of confusion;” He does all things “decently and in order.” And so should we.

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Jennifer Allen's picture

Thank you for this archived article. I am often guilty of taking all the fun out of learning in my quest to check off all the subject boxes each day. I also struggle with finding the balance between school, rest, and recreation. I appreciate the encouragment.