Hi. Don't know if this is the best place to post, but figure it's where I'd find the most homeschoolers... mods, wondering if you may think it's better off in a more 'personal growth' forum.
Anyway, I love home educating (here in the UK we tend to call it home ed rather than home school, as it's not necessarily about replicating a school environment), we've had some roadbumps lately related to DS's (5 year old) behaviour and to my really low energy levels, but these issues have been improving and i feel re-dedicated to home educating. We've been doing it since last September, and my son is definitely much happier than when he was at nursery school. Anyway, the issue is more about me - how to cope as a Highly Sensitive Person. Elaine N. Aron's book, 'The Highly Sensitive Person' is something I read a while ago and really identified with. Basically, it's about people whose nervous systems are just more sensitive than most of the population - it's about 2 % of people. This means that we reach an upper threshold of stimulation much quicker than others. So, we could be in a shopping mall and after an hour of crowds, noise and lots of stimulation have had enough and start feeling increasingly stressed and overwhelmed (in whatever ways this manifests for you), whereas someone who's not an HSP could last 5 hours.
I find home education dramatically increases my stimulation levels. First of all, as an HSP i need copious amounts of alone time to keep balanced and not get irritable. If i don't, I feel overwhelmed and just can't take in what's happening from about 4 in the afternoon. Being with my son constantly is that exact situation - not only being with someone constantly, but with someone who is constantly asking me questions, talking to me, showing me stuff, and needing stimulation from me. He is also, I think, a highly sensitive and is prone to getting upset about many issues throughout the day, all of which are highly stimulating to me and result in feeling drained by the evening as it requires so much emotional containment from me. Also, being in home ed groups or playdates (which we do two or three of a week) with other children, tantrums, noise, chaos, lots of things going on at once, is a highly stimulating situation for me, and typically after a few hours of that I feel I need to lie down in a dark room - but I can't, I have to carry on being with my son. Lately I do sometimes put on an educational game or program for him and go lie down when I feel I absolutely have to. But mostly I struggle on and it feels hard.
I'd love to hear from other home educating parents who feel they are HSP's too and how they cope with this. It is the number one reason that I feel burned out at times and feel I might have to give up H.E. even though I so believe in it, see the benefits to my son, and want to do it, and enjoy many aspects of it. Just to add that I am not a martyr and I do get breaks - my son goes to a childminder once a week while I work (my work also involves often being with people - teaching adults, pretty high stimulation, so afterwards I need downtime but don't get it as am back with my son again, who is usually tantrum-y due to the transition), and he goes to his dad one night a week and every second weekend (I am working most of those times too). We also follow an unstructured approach, loosely unschooling, although we do do some workbooks and online reading programmes that he is willing to do, though I never push anything ( I mainly do this stuff because I have tremendous pressure and opposition from his dad and his dad's family who threaten to take me to court for home ed'ing *although it's legal here*, so I feel I do need DS to have some evidence of learning in case it comes to that).
I'm interested in what responses you get. Our whole family seems to fall within this 2%, with oldest DS being sensory seeking while I look to avoid. I'm also a teacher, so going out to work doesn't really give me a chance to recharge either. We unschool, something that came about because I realised early on that DS really resents direction. This doesn't mean that he doesn't learn and I am sure as you have more time to get used to your home-ed life, you'll observe a lot of progress. I routinely check in with what is at the core of our local curriculum and then keep my antennae tuned to examples of my kids doing just that. Sometimes they are ahead or behind, but it helps me feel more relaxed knowing what would be expected of them were they in school and then to identify moments when they are naturally demonstrating these skills.
I love alone time and prefer it at home, so it is difficult to come by. My oldest is 6 now and sometimes I now can actually explain that I need 10 minutes quiet to take some deep breaths, relax and get my head together so I can focus more on what they are asking from me. I think talking aloud has about how I'm feeling and how I might approach it has helped.
I enforce a daily quiet hour in my house. This is the way the kids have always known it to be so they do not complain' it is pretty much part of their routine. The youngest still naps but when the oldest dropped his nap, I helped him transition to doing something quietly, like listening to an audio book, looking at books or drawing in the bedroom. In fact, as soon as his sister goes down, he gets his ipod and a snack and just goes to do his own thing. I barely have to remind him. I generally get the living room to myself.
During the quiet hour, I do nothing unless it is something that makes me feel like I am recharging. I generally read or if I am tired, take a short nap. Either way, that hour is mine. It is not an hour to do something that is on my to do list. It is mine to spend as I wish. I give myself that without guilt.
In addition, the kids watch something for about an hour every evening. This is done in their room with the door shut. We do not have TV, they watch their shows on a net-book with low volume. This leaves the rest of the house quiet. I need these two daily hours of silence in my home and I have made my life in such a way that on most days, they happen. I have very, very little tolerance for noise.
This trait is actually found in 15-20% of the population. Things that help my family deal with the excess stimulation of home education and just having three kids in my home all day are, a loose schedule or daily rhythm, taking a walk or just getting outside for a bit everyday, and allowing anyone who is overwhelmed to take a quiet break away from the group in a calm place (this place is different for each of us). It might help to take another look at the website connected to the books. http://www.hsperson.com/
Interesting replies, thank you. I will respond more at length when I have a bit more time! Look forward to hearing more. Oh and ambersrose, sorry I got the percentage wrong - had 2 % in my head for some reason!
Although it's not exactly the same, the HSP concept has a lot of overlap with the hypersensitive style of Sensory Processing Disorders (or just "sensory issues") and introversion, so looking those up might lead to some helpful ideas. Introversion, at least, is more talked about.
Agree with Cyllya: although I understand there are some differences, I tend to characterize my kids' and my own personalities as a combination of being highly introverted and "easily getting sensory overload." Introversion seems to be much more readily discussed than the HSP label.
For myself, it helps that my children are also introverted: we can generally create our own quiet oases in close proximity to each other. Which is lucky because there are six of us in a small house with long cold winters to contend with. This got much easier once they got beyond the age of 5 or so and were more self-sufficient with activities of daily living. We never had child care but whenever possible, often before the kids and their dad are up, or in the evening when they're chilling a bit and their dad is home, or after they're asleep, I found it most productive for me to take quiet time out of the house for hiking, trail-running or some other solitary physical pursuit. In the winter this often meant going out along long after dark or before sunrise -- but the dark is therapeutic too. Otherwise if I stayed home I'd tend to get caught up in housework, email, volunteer-work and other things that certainly did not recharge me.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
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