One of my biggest frustrations, at the beginning and toward the end of any school year, is the way people don’t respect our school hours. It’s a bit of a problem all school year, but especially bad at the start and end.
Now, before I go further, let me be clear that we don’t have super strict school hours to begin with. We get out of bed anywhere between 6:30 and 8 in the morning, and so we start school somewhere between 9 and 10, depending on what time we got up, how tired we all are, and what exactly is on the schedule for the day. We’re done when we’re done, usually between 12 and 1, sometimes as late as 2. So it’s not like we’re doing school for hours upon hours every day.
But as things wind down, or when we’re still trying to find our groove after a long, lazy summer, we get invitations to movies, park days, water parks, pool parties, and more – all during our school hours. When I decline, I hear things like, “Well, but can’t you just skip school? I mean, is it that big a deal when you’re almost done/just starting?” Or I have people asking if I can babysit their kids, give them a ride, or wait for the pest control guy. Sometimes it’s not even that they want to physically get together or want a favor from me. It can be Facebook messages, or texts, or phone calls. They expect me to simply be available, regardless of the hour or what I might be doing.
This, as I’m sure you are aware, can be incredibly frustrating. It can be frustrating to try to keep working even when someone is repeatedly calling or making demands. It can be frustrating to say no to the same thing over and over, even when you’ve made it clear that answer won’t change. It can be frustrating to feel like people aren’t respecting your time, your effort, and your very simple requests that they not bother you or try to schedule things with you during your school hours.
So, what can you do to try to put a stop to this?
I’ve found a few things that have helped me:
- Set boundaries. The first thing to do is set the boundaries, and make them known. When we start our school year in September, I always send out a quick email and make a post on Facebook reminding people that we are starting our school year and that means that between the hours of 9-2, I won’t be answering phone calls, texts, or Facebook messages. I tell everyone that they are welcome to do these things, but my phone will be on silent, and I won’t be responding to anything during those hours. I will admit, during breaks in our day, I may go ahead and check them, but I typically don’t respond.
- Take steps. Put your phone on silent/vibrate, write a sign that says “school in session” and tape it to your front door, close Facebook on your computer, and do whatever else you need to do to avoid being bothered. This may not guarantee that someone won’t still knock on your door or call you six times in an hour, but at least it’ll cut down on how much it disturbs you.
- Stick to your guns. I know…when you first start the school year, or you’re nearing the finish line, you are so tempted to give in. You’re tempted to go on playdates, to movies, to say, “Screw it, we’ll make up tomorrow what we don’t get done today.” But then you end up six months into your school year, doing work from day two or week three, or starting the next school year trying to finish work from the last one. You need to find your rhythm, get back in your groove when you’re gearing up again, and when you’re trying to finish up, you need to stay focused.
- Be flexible when you can. I know, it seems like I’m going to contradict myself, but I promise you, I’m not. Look for ways to say no without actually saying no. You’re invited to a park day during school hours? Instead of saying no, try, “We can do it at 3 on that day, instead.” A friend wants to get together, but didn’t specify an activity? Invite them to join you on your field trip to the natural history museum – kill two birds with one stone. You’re still doing school, but accommodating them.
- Don’t explain yourself over and over. Initially, we all want to explain. We explain that we are homeschooling and this is why we can’t (fill in the blank with whatever you’ve had to turn down). It’s fine to do that. But don’t feel like you have to continue to do that. Explain yourself once (and even that should only be if you want to), and after that, just say no. You don’t have to make excuses or offer explanations. No, really, you don’t!
- Remember that you will never please everyone. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you just will never, ever be able to make everyone happy. So you have to decide who is most important when it comes to making people happy. If you’re thinking, “Well, my kids aren’t happy to do school instead of a park day, so if I do this and decide they’re most important, I should be doing park days!”, then change what you have to decide. Instead of deciding who is most important to make happy, ask instead what your priorities are. Chances are, your top priority (since you’re a homeschooling parent) is your child’s education. Keep that in mind when people are pressuring you to do what they want, and if what they want doesn’t match up with your priorities, say no without guilt. Remember, you can’t make everyone happy, and this time, it’s their turn to be unhappy with you.
- Take pride in being a “mean mommy.” No, I’m not advocating that you abuse your kids or be mean to them. What I am advocating, however, is that you not let people make you feel bad about doing what’s best for your kids. Whether they call you a mean mommy, a bitch, a bad friend, whatever words they use – take them and own them. Take the power away from the person trying to guilt you and turn it back on them. Admit that you are whatever they claim, and remind them that you are raising and educating your children and this comes first, and if that means that you’re a mean mommy/bitch/bad friend, then so be it. Refuse to be guilted, and refuse to let them make you doubt yourself and your decisions. Whatever decisions you make, they are the right ones for you and your family at this time, and no one has the right to try to make you feel bad about that.
What tips have you found for making people respect your school hours?