Connie Chua, co-founder of ParentED International and veteran homeschooling mum of four children (now grown up), reminds us how important it is to protect our marriage when homeschooling.
From the Editor:
This article takes the gaze away from the children as well as matters of education, and focuses on marriage.
There has been much research done on the importance of the family structure and stability to a child’s well-being. Anchoring these would be a healthy marriage. Parents, guardians, or even the state may step up to provide for the children, similar mechanisms that children of stable family structures benefit from such as higher income, secure housing, health provisions, as well as better educational opportunities. However, the effect of healthy marriages on children appears to be due to the sum of these parts. As David Ribar shows in his article,
“the advantages of marriage for children’s wellbeing are likely to be hard to replicate through policy interventions other than those that bolster marriage itself.“1
The homeschooling life is one arena where marriage can be greatly tested. As my children chip into my personal time with protracted bedtime routines, I liken it to the state of having “no bell-rings”! Spatial boundaries tend to be blurred. Time frontiers, even more fluid. These are increasingly the reality for most families, living under social restrictions due to Covid-19. How do we protect our marriage in this midst?
Helping us shed some light on the matter is Connie Chua, a homeschool veteran and one of the go-to Mamas within our community for advice on marriage, parenting and family-life. We are always rejuvenated by her insights during the regular coffee-chats on this topic that she runs for our group. She is one of the founders of ParentED, an education and wellness circle for parents.1https://www.jstor.org/stable/43581970
Protecting Our Marriage When Homeschooling
By Connie Chua
What happens to our marriage when we are busy home educating our children? Is there enough time left for our spouse after handling the daily chores? What can we do so that our marriage would not suffer? Looking back upon my 11+ years of homeschooling, now that my youngest has turned 16, I believe there are three main reasons that my marriage and homeschooling have worked well.
My husband was initially hesitant towards homeschooling as it was not a common thing to do. He eventually concurred upon knowing that there was a close-knitted community that I could draw support from, and seeing how determined I was to homeschool in order to spend more time with our children.
Although I was the one to decide how to homeschool our children, my husband was kept informed about how I was executing it. The children were engaged in reading and writing, and spent loads of time joining co-ops and field trips! My husband could see that they were engaged in different activities and was filled in with the details of how their evenings were spent.
My husband took on an active role in building up the children physically and emotionally. He was their first swimming coach as well as soccer coach. The children also learnt how to cycle and play badminton. Bowling as a family has become our favourite pastime!
With my husband’s active involvement, I reciprocated by attending to his needs. I planned his favourite meals and massaged him on days when he came home exhausted, which happened often! Giving him “goodbye” and “welcome home” kisses was a norm. We also made it a point to connect emotionally on a regular basis. Even during incredibly busy seasons, we made sure that we carved out pockets of time to go on dates or just to chill on the couch without the children.
Recently with the constant changes in his work routine, I try my best to prepare lunches that he likes and avoid spinning up new dishes to “surprise” him. Working from home is now a new norm and we take time to retreat in the evening together by watching cooking shows which our children enjoy watching as well. Taking walks or going for a slow jog in the mornings has become one of our favourite activities now.
We discussed our children’s education journeys frequently. Living in a fast-paced world, we believe that it is important to review “what works” and “what has to go,” on a regular basis. There had been moments when I felt unequipped to provide the educational needs of our children. Being open with each other about our fears and concerns had spurred us to look for solutions together. We became more creative and resourceful, and somehow managed to connect with the right people at the right time and secure courses beyond the regular institutions for our children. Knowing we would always have each other’s support was a huge confidence booster!
Since we have a few close-knitted communities, both of us share our thoughts and opinions with each other regularly. There were times when we did not agree on some issues. Some were trivial which we resolved quite quickly, others needed more time to talk through and even had our mentors in to help us see possible root causes of the conflicts. We know it is important to seek help and there is no shame in doing so.
Because of these experiences, I think that it would be better if you do not embark on homeschooling without the support of one’s spouses. Homeschooling takes a lot of commitment and time. While the bulk of the responsibility of guiding and teaching our children typically rests upon one parent, it is imperative that the other parent also owns the homeschooling decisions and offers timely reinforcement when needed.
In addition, you are likely to feel lonely if your spouse is non-committal and emotionally-absent in the homeschooling journey. This could put a significant degree of stress upon your marriage. Nonetheless, should you decide to pursue homeschooling anyway, know that you can approach consultants from ParentEd or The Social Factor to help you think through what could work best for your children.
I believe that not only can we protect our marriages when homeschooling, marriages can even thrive in the light of homeschooling. Consider the 3 C’s that I have shared above: consensus from your spouse; taking time to connect with each other and having open communication with one another.