Imagine you’re watching a street performer – amidst the crowd – in a bustling city. Cue the juggler wearing bright clothes, throwing a ponytail-clad mom in yoga pants high into the air – while simultaneously catching a teacher with glasses on the bridge of her nose.

This juggling act is what all homeschool parents feel when trying to strike that “just right” balance between teaching our kids and parenting them. 

  • Do we have enough to give as a parent when we’re done teaching? 
  • How do we mix the challenge and guidance a teacher provides without forgoing the direction and attention that a loving parent gives?
  • When do we get to take off our teacher hat?

I’ve wrestled with these too. And I have an answer to all of them.

Want to know what it is?

I’m not perfect.

That is the answer. Once I embraced that I cannot be all things all the time, I was able to let go of some of the unrealistic, exacting standards I set for myself. Of course, I still strive to make progress in balancing my roles as an educator and as a parent, all the while aware that neither job description will ever reach its peak.

But the tension is still a temptation. How do I maintain that balance?

I have a secret.

It’s not schedules or chore lists or even read-aloud time (though these do help).

My secret is margin.

Now, before you throw something at me, hear me out; margin isn’t as elusive as it sounds. 

I started adding in margin by letting someone else – someone I trust – take on school planning.

When my son started taking math with Learnwell Homeschool Cooperative, I found that I had an extra 2-3 hours each week. (I wasn’t trying to figure out why his answers weren’t quite right, how to teach the lessons in a way that made sense to him, or when to give him partial credit versus full credit.)

So this year, we took the plunge and enrolled both of our kids in Learnwell. Letting someone else plan the bulk of what my kids learn has freed me not just in time margin but also in emotional margin.

I’m not spending time wondering if I am enough, if I’m planning too much, or if my kids will ever recover from bar models.

Margin has saved me during a year when I really needed it. And now, I’m not sure I ever want to go back to having less.