One of the biggest challenges of homeschooling for me personally is what I like to call the Salad Bowl Life. When you make a delicious salad in a big bowl you have the basics like lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. You can also add in whatever you like to make the salad more fun and appetizing. Cubed ham, shredded cheese, and crispy onions; or chicken, feta cheese, and dried cranberries make your salad healthy and tasty. You feel good about eating it and best of all it’s in a big bowl and there are hardly any dishes to clean. Homeschooling is very similar. You have the basics of your life that you value and that you have found to be healthy for your family taking place in your home.

When I started homeschooling I had a kindergartener, a three-year old, and a new baby. We didn’t have to rush to get my daughter out the door for school and our days were fairly relaxed as we bonded with our infant. The flip side to our peaceful life was that I was constantly juggling feeding the baby, keeping the three-year old busy, and laying the foundation for our five-year old’s education. Add in all the other household duties like laundry, cleaning, and cooking. Before I knew it, that relaxed feeling was out the window. Fast forward a few years and add in music practicing, art projects, the kids cooking in Mommy’s kitchen, playdates, entertaining guests, science experiments, potty-training, parenting, holiday preparations, personal fitness, phone calls, maintaining friendships and all of this taking place in the huge salad bowl called Home. Life is happening while you are educating your children. You are doing all of the things that are healthy and good for your kids and that keep life interesting and fun. Yet everything is all mixed up together and it can be overwhelming and leave you wondering if this is what you really signed up for.

How can we enjoy this Salad Bowl Life? How can we maintain a more balanced mindset as we educate our children and do life simultaneously from within the four walls of our homes? I think the key to sorting out the homeschool lifestyle is to figure out and then focus on what is important. Take a minute and think about that. What are the top five things you value as a homeschool teacher, as a parent, as an individual? First determine what is important and then evaluate where you stand. You very well might be doing exactly what you set out to in your homeschooling but life’s busyness has layered over your clarity. Sometimes we need to just stop and sort things out. Look at your list. Are there some things you can let go of to make sure you are doing what is important? What will help keep your life more manageable and less mixed up? For me one thing I needed to come to terms with as my kids got a little bit older was actually staying at home more in order to get our school work done. I needed to block off our mornings and not try to fit in trips to the library or Target before lunch. It was important to me to get the work done by a certain time each day, each week, and eventually by the end of the school year. Our school time needed to stay on track. Music lessons, sports activities, and visiting the library are important but those things are now scheduled for afternoons and evenings. By the end of the week my kids feel happy with the work they accomplished. Guess what? So do I. Can we do everything all the time that is important to us? Probably not. However, taking inventory once in a while when that fatigue starts to seep in might be just the thing to help you to savor your life a little more.

Sarah Brutovski is a homeschool mom of three children. She grew up just down the street from where she and her husband are raising their family now in rural Upstate New York. When she is not teaching her kids, grocery shopping, or drinking coffee you might find her training for a half marathon, escaping for a morning at the beach, or chatting on the phone with one of her four siblings. Sarah loves writing on her blog and currently teaches creative writing at her kids’ weekly co-op.