So, how do you balance homeschool, parenting, and marriage? What a great question. It's part of our 100+ questions on homeschooling. I'll tell you, this is not as difficult as it sounds. The problem is when we don't understand two simple things. One is balance and the other is hierarchy. Okay, so balance. Balance is the right amount of the right thing.
My name is Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand and my wife, Jody and I mentor families in how to raise independent thinkers, independent homeschoolers. Well, there's nothing more valuable in all of this than a mom and dad getting their mind and trying to produce an outcome how this stuff balances, homeschool, parenting, and marriage.
So first, balance. What is balance? A lot of times we tend to think balance is 50/50. We do this for a certain amount of time. We should balance it with something else. You've read this long, you should go outside and play this long, you might say. That's not exactly the nature of balance. Balance is the right amount of the right thing. So, soup, you don't want it to be 50% salt, but some salt or flavor in the soup really helps dramatically rather than if you have unsalted V-8 Juice or something like that. So, it's the right amount. So, the right amount of attention to homeschool, the right amount of attention to parenting, the right amount of attention to marriage, that would be the nature of the game.
Now, circumstances can affect us. When people are deployed, for example, overseas, it's hard to spend that much time on the marriage, as it were. But that notwithstanding, in the normal day to day nature of things, what we want to understand is first, it's balance, the right amount of the right thing. You get to sort of figure that out, how much attention to homeschool, how much attention to parenting, how much attention to marriage, how those things overlap. But the second is hierarchy, and that is what you value first, second, third, and how you put that together is going to affect everything. If you have a family system where the homeschool is ahead of the marriage, it's going to take a certain look. If you have a homeschool in which a parenting, whatever you understand that to be, is the dominant thing over the marriage and homeschool, it's going to have a certain look.
I'm going to argue with you that from a leveraging viewpoint, the small-but-powerful thing is that the marriage is the priority. I know this comes as difficult information, because I know marriages have struggles. Jody and I coach couples and have done that for decades: and we have worked through our own challenges in marriage as well. No one's saying it's easy. And I know in particular the readers I'm talking to right now, are predominantly women. You moms are the ones who predominantly homeschool. That's just a fact. You may not know this, but in the divorce world 70% of the divorces statistically are initiated by the women. So, that kind of tells me something is amiss or strugglesome (and the women are often the more stressed) This may or may not be the case your marriage. The question is how do you get your marriage to be as good as it can be? When the marriage works, the parenting starts to work too; and that gives you room for the homeschooling to work. That would be the sequence.
You have a (1) good marriage and (2) good parenting, so you're a (3) great fit for homeschooling. If you're using homeschooling to make up for the parenting and the marriage, you're going to have struggles.
So, the reason it works this way, as you can imagine when you were a kid, if your mom and dad actually were secure in their love and creating an environment which you didn't ever think, “Are they going to get divorced?”--- that world gave you a context for growth as a child. I know both Jody and I had those struggles growing up, worries when our parents were conflicting. My parents did finally divorce though Jody's didn't. But those kinds of insecurities on the child will drive some acting out, some struggles, or some distractions and stress of various kinds. So that kind of marriage, just from a safety viewpoint, creates a context of something awesome in the family.
The challenge here, I think, is that when we come around to parenting and homeschooling, we tend to think 50/50. So, dads should be 50% involved. Moms should be 50% involved or something like that. It's never going to work that way. Somebody is going to be better at certain things than the other. Somebody is going to be available for more of the full-time context. It's not uncommon for the dads to work and the moms to have that great gift of nurture. So, I would say that's probably very traditional in homeschools, but not unique. In our context, I did a lot with homeschool but Jody certainly did that greater portion, especially in the early years. She was home with them and focused on growing the kids; that was OUR game plan.
So, how about you and your marriage and your homeschool and your parenting? I'd argue it needs to work as follows. Work on the marriage. You do that largely by what you model and focus upon. Is the marriage the priority? How do you show that to the kids? Do you two ever go out without the kids or spend any time alone without the kids? Is it a family room and a family bed and a family everything? If you do that, you're making no distinction to marriage. And in my experience, you're not modeling to the kids to go out and to be independent, to find themselves a spouse, to build their family. That's really what you want to do. Of course, I realize you might be a single parent homeschooling, but doesn’t the principle hold? If your ex is in the kid’s lives, then the better that relationship, the better for the kids. Aim for peace and cooperation always, even if you can’t have it.
Jody and I would model it this way: Our bedroom is not for the kids. That was our place. Our focus was to let that be our place, and they can wonder what went on or not; and hopefully, we came out happy from being in there. It was a refuge. It was our place. At the kitchen table, we didn't sit across from each other because that's oppositional. We sat beside each other. In church, we would sit by each other and put the kids around us on either side, not corralling the kids between us. It was just our understanding. But in doing that, we were saying to the kids, our marriage is central to this thing. And so, figuring out how to make sure we spend time together, to learn how to resolve things together, to learn how to be like-minded about homeschooling and parenting together. That's the key. It's the centerpiece of the marriage. And if you don't have kids aren’t you still have a family? Marriage is family and kids are added for a time. That's the game.
So, what I would challenge you to understand is that whatever you need to do, you began by making the marriage the priority. And then inside of that, you're like-minded about how you approach parenting, what are you modeling to the kids, what are your standards of what you're trying to do. And then, inside of that, the homeschool game can begin to make sense. I hope that helps.
Fred Ray Lybrand
P.S. This topic of parenting and marriage is fully covered in our book, The Absolute Quickest Way to Help Your Child Change.