Why Self-Care Matters

Why does self-care matter? Well, I honestly feel that taking care of yourself is crucial if you’re going to be the best parent and homeschool teacher you can be!

Today I want to share with you all a chapter on self-care and inner work from the First Grade Curriculum (excerpted below)....

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Self Care and Inner Work

Your top job as your child’s teacher is not to present the curriculum as written but to observe your child and what is helping her learn and grow in a healthy way. Reading the curriculum, planning and preparing for lessons, holding the space for play and rhythm in your family life, teaching lessons, taking care of the children, managing the family’s schedule and the housework, and feeding everyone is a lot of work. Staying present with your children day after day and having the presence of mind to observe and adjust as you go requires that you also have some time and space to yourself.

Waldorf-inspired homeschooling should be about a healthy family life. If one member of the family is working herself into a frazzled state that doesn’t set the tone for relaxed and enjoyable learning! Your child learns from observing you - your state of mind, actions, words, habits, moods - as much as from any homeschooling lessons that you prepare and teach.

There are different life seasons even during the homeschooling years. For some of you, your first grader is your youngest, your children play independently for long stretches, and your husband handles bedtime while you get a break. For others of you, you have children under five, a nursing baby, and your oldest is the first grader. You’re up often in the night, nobody naps at the same time, and just feeding everyone and cleaning up takes a large part of your day. It’s all you all the time and there isn’t a lot of wiggle room. Whatever the picture is for you in this life season, homeschooling is a lot of work. When you create your daily rhythms and plan your lessons, keep your expectations about what first grade will look like this year in line with the reality of all your other responsibilities.

But no matter what, please schedule in some time for yourself. Every teacher, in order to be effective, needs some sort of self-care practice. People who work with children extend their own life forces to meet the child. In order to do this day in and day out, you need time and space for renewal.

Homeschool moms often don’t get enough sleep, not just because they have a baby waking them up or a child who wakes very early, but because they stay up at night to get some much-needed time to themselves! I find that for me, getting enough sleep is crucial. When I’m sleep deprived my mood and energy tank, I’m not playful with my kids, I’m less patient and creative in my parenting, and I can’t think or work as well. It’s a pretty big deal, so I do my best to go to bed early and schedule in time for myself at other points during the day and week. As a parent, you can’t always control how much sleep you get and it won’t always be enough, but you can prioritize it.

Everyone also needs a break every afternoon. I’m a big fan of rest time well beyond when your child stops napping. First graders need a chance to rest after a full morning and so do you! It’s really good for children to learn how to spend time quietly by themselves and not always have to be entertained or social. Time alone is good for daydreaming, coming up with creative ideas, looking at books, finger knitting, playing quiet imaginative games, and making up stories. It’s also important for homeschooled siblings to get a break from each other. A solid hour of alone time every afternoon can really save a family from constant bickering because after rest time the kids are so happy to play together!

Rest time is as much for you as for the kids and you will find you can be much more present when you know you will have that time to yourself each day. Depending on the rest of your schedule, you might use your rest time to take a nap with the baby, do something for yourself, or do some homeschool reading and planning. Whatever you do, please don’t spend it on housework! You can do that another time when everyone’s up and about, and your first grader should be helping anyway.

So be sure you have time for renewal scheduled in every week. Your renewal practice might involve:

• Time alone to read, write, or think
• Walking or running
• A bath after the kids are in bed
• A yoga or dance class
• Mama’s night out or a knitting group
• Your own time for handwork or making art
• Heading out to a coffee shop with a good book
• Meeting up with a friend
• A date with your spouse

I also recommend that you put activities you enjoy into your days with your children at home. Find things to do that fill you up and help you be more present with your children rather than activities that just provide a distraction. Gardening, handwork, form drawing, making art together, putting on music and dancing around, going for a walk, family yoga time, or getting together with another homeschooling family can all work well.

Many moms spend a lot of time online these days. It’s so great that we can find like-minded community on facebook and in blogs but checking facebook can also turn into a compulsive activity that drains energy rather than renewing it. I recommend setting boundaries for yourself around how much time you’ll spend online and when you’ll do it. I wish that every homeschooling mama had ample real-life community to connect with - if you do, take advantage of it! Either way, do connect with your peers for support online but just don’t let it take over your day.

When you need an energy lift or a break during the day try moving your body or going outside instead of going online. If everyone is tired and cranky, snuggling up to read aloud on the couch can really turn things around. And if you are at the end of your rope, put on an audio book and get some peace and quiet (we love Sparkle Stories)! Take a little nap, take a shower, call a friend, or pour yourself a cup of tea and read a book. Take a real break so your children can see you with a smile on your face.

I also strongly suggest that in order to be an effective homeschool parent (and prevent those end-of-your-rope moments) you include the following in your daily routine:

• A balanced diet including a real breakfast and lots of color (not just picking leftovers off your child’s plate)
• Drink plenty of water
• Move your body (at least a walk or some yoga or put on some music and
• Time outside every day
• Go to bed early and prioritize sleep
• An inner work practice

Your inner work practice can be whatever works best for you. The goal is to give yourself a chance on a daily basis to build your own internal resources. Great parenting and teaching starts from the inside out by walking your own path of spiritual and personal growth. This is the work that you do to build your own intuition, powers of observation, and levels of awareness and presence in your life. Even if you only take five minutes a day for inner work it will make a big difference in your life. Here are some of the ways that homeschool parents might develop an inner work practice:

• Meditation
• Following Steiner’s spiritual practice exercises
• Yoga practice
• Journaling
• Prayer
• Keeping a gratitude journal

When you take the time for inner-work and self-care you will be a better teacher. These practices will increase your patience and presence of mind, your playfulness and your energy. They will help you role model healthy habits for your children. They will help you keep the joy in your daily life and greet your children with a smile!

Read the rest of the self-care series:

Your Social Support Journal

Your Movement Journal

Your Sleep Journal

Thriving Mamaskelly ehrman