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Valentine's Day Special: Staying in Love Even While Homeschooling
Bonnie Gonzalez is a homeschooling mother of three, the teacher for one of our AP Psychology online classes, and an experienced longterm family and marriage counselor. You'll be hearing from her soon about the research projects her online AP students have completed as part of their course work, and where to find helpful resources for psychology study.
It’s 6:30 in the morning. The alarm goes off. Your feet hit the floor and ever so briefly you look back at your husband who is still curled up under the covers. You think to yourself, ‘wouldn’t it be nice just to spend a few minutes of cuddling time with him?’
But, alas, you have a full day ahead of you. The kids are already up eating breakfast, your lesson plans for the day are still waiting for their final touches, or rather they haven’t been done at all, and you haven’t graded the math papers from yesterday. So, off you go to a day of English, math, social studies, history and science. And, as if that wasn’t a full meal, you sprinkle it with volleyball practice, a dentist appointment – or two – and your weekly co-op. Perhaps you will have time for your husband later, after dinner. It might happen, but it’s not likely.
Does this sound like you? The harried homeschooler always thinking of the kids, rarely thinking of your marriage. Well, you're not alone. As a marriage and family counselor and a homeschooling mom of 14 years, I can definitely tell you – you are not alone.
Far too often, I see the fall-out from well meaning homeschoolers whose marriages have taken a back seat to unit studies, co-ops and Mom’s Night Out. What about couple's night out? Does your marriage really have to suffer if you homeschool, or are there some tools that you can use to “grow” your relationship as well as growing your children?
Before you scoff at the idea of using these tools and see them as just one more thing to add to your busy schedule think about this fact: one in every two marriages ends in divorce, and that goes for homeschoolers as well. So, let’s explore some quick but meaningful things you can do to change your relationship.
First, recognize that it is not my responsibility to change or exchange my spouse. (All right! Now we are talking, something I don’t have to change or teach! ) Instead if something is wrong, it is up to me to change my response and my mind set. Your marital happiness and capacity to change the flavor of your marriage rests solely in your hands. You can’t change others, you can only change yourself.
Second, learn to balance your load. Identify the five most important parts of your life. You can do this by answering the question: I am a ____________. Come up with your 5 top responses. Now look at them. Recognize that your life will not be full until you focus some of your time on all of them. If we focus most of our energy and effort on just one or two of these areas, and something goes wrong, it will leave us feeling extremely low. The next time you have “one of those days” with the kids and feel like quitting, think about how much energy you are putting into the other 4 areas. Focusing time and energy into your marriage will allow you to survive the bumps in the road of the noble profession you have chosen. Life is about working on all five areas!
Third, work on communication. When I say this, what I really mean is work on the quality of your communication. Communication occurs on five levels. Marital communication should occur at level four and five frequently. The fourth level is when we say what we are feeling. It may be scary to open up this way, but it is only when we do that we can reach the deeper levels of loving and being loved that all of us desire. One of the healthiest questions you can ask your mate is “What are you feeling right now?”
Level five communication is where we reveal our needs. To risk at this level of verbal intimacy we must feel secure. Asking for help or a hug after a long day, or before we even start our tasks builds communication intimacy into a relationship.
Fourth, work through conflicts together. Most of us dislike and try to avoid conflict, especially with our spouses, but working through conflicts properly is the key to staying in love and staying married. Conflicts happen because there are power and control problems in the home. Although I could give you a list of “fighting rules” that would aid in conflict resolution, I would rather give you the master key to resolving conflicts – keep your anger levels low by resolving conflicts daily. “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.” Address the issue as quickly as you can and do so by clarifying and attacking the problem not the person.
Finally, practice keeping a “positive” balance in your relationship. Find those things that energize your spouse and give them. Identify things that energize you and share them with your spouse. Make a list of behaviors, and words that drain the relationship and try to avoid them.
Keep in mind that homeschooling is a season in your life. Soon the kids will be grown and you will be facing a relationship that you have either cultivated or neglected. Using some small but meaningful tools can help you insure that your marriage will remain secure through all of the seasons of your lives - even if you decide to help homeschool your grandchildren.
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