Monday, September 29, 2014

Being a Small Business Owner and Homeschooling Mom: Dream vs. Reality


The title sums up my life right now. It's idyllic. Well, that's what I thought some five years ago when I was dreaming of staying home with the kids, homeschooling, and owning my own photography business. Mission accomplished! We're here! Living the dream! 

Ha! Of course there is a caveat. Many of them. Clearly things cannot be perfect, this is life. I do not regret for a moment being here, but I am just now starting to get a glimpse of what I've gotten myself into, in a good way. 

You know how we often dream up the ideal scenario and then adjust our expectations when we actually get there? That's how parenting is after all. That's how business ownership is. That's how homeschooling is. I've got all three. Did I mention my husband is working three weeks away from home every month right now? Yep, I'm on my own, but somehow enjoying it. Here is our "Dream" and "Reality" scenario for a day of living and learning. 

DREAM
Morning: I work on editing photos while the kids sleep soundly.
They wake up mid-morning and we have a leisurely breakfast, maybe even their favorite - pancakes I make from scratch.  
We sit outside in the sun and read with my 5 year old while my toddler plays with toys and a ball. Baby E is not at all frustrated with learning to read. Then we read a slew of fun learning books we got from the library about castles, farming, world geography, and geometry. My almost 3 year old is into it too. We color some coloring books.


We go meet up with some local homeschoolers at a playground for a couple of hours. Have a light picnic.
We arrive home just in time to have lunch and put Baby T down for a nap. 
While I work, Baby E does some coloring, drawing, and crafts - unassisted and never calls my name. I've booked one more wedding for 2015 and I feel like I've accomplished a ton of work!
Baby T wakes up around 4 and I have dinner from scratch on the table in half an hour. This leaves us enough time for some biking outside.
My mom arrives and takes the kids to a park so I can go to a meeting with a potential client/couple. 
I come back home and the kids aren't back yet. I make, vaccuum pack, and freeze a few more meals for my husband's next trip. I clean the whole kitchen. 
Kids arrive, we have a pre-bed snack (yogurt or toasted sprouted bread with raw cheddar), say goodbye to grandma, brush teeth, and read five books without kids whining. Lights out. They fall asleep in 5 minutes. So do I. Daddy/hubby is coming back tomorrow!


REALITY
I'm too exhausted from the day before to wake up with my alarm to edit photos, I beat myself up over it when I wake up an hour before the kids do, instead of 3 hours. 
Ten minutes later Baby T wakes up, I try to shush him back to sleep. He falls asleep but Baby E is up and ready to learn. 
I set her up with her favorite math and phonics games on a computer next to mine in the office. 
I make a last dash attempt to at least answer any urgent bride emails (I photograph weddings!)
Baby E whines she is hungry, I bring her a dried pea snack. 
Baby T wakes up crying, wants to sleep but it's too late to do that. I distract him in their playroom/bedroom. 
I beg Baby E to play with her little brother while I finish typing an urgent email reply. 
For a quick breakfast I boil eggs, they whine but say they'll eat them with the organic ketchup. ;)
We're late for a homeschool meet-up at the park. Thankfully we're not the only ones. 
We have too much fun there and end up staying later than planned, which means Baby T is absolutely cranky and his diaper is dirty. I remember how terrible it is that he isn't potty trained yet and that I am (gasp!) using an Eco disposable for outings instead of cloth diapers. He refuses to nap and my whole mid-day work-time is out the window. 
He needs to chill, so I set them up with water-coloring while I heat up leftovers for a late lunch.
I leave them to paint for a quick 10 minutes while I check email. No new weddings booked today and I realize how darn competitive the Boston wedding photography market is, not to mention marketing here is expensive, so I'm stuck with the slow and steady growth of word-of-mouth.  
Come back to burnt left-overs and watercolors on the table. What was I thinking?!
We eat what's left of leftovers, they beg for dessert, I smother some butter on challah and call it "dessert".
I realize it's after 5 and we haven't read with Baby E today, we sit down to read in the kitchen because it's raining outside. After page two of her little reader book she says she is done. I make her read one more page. 
They ask to build an "airplane", so we do...


I turn on some audio books for the kids to listen to while I attempt to clean the kitchen and send a wedding photography quote to another couple.
I extinguish a sibling squabble, they hug and make up. I marvel at how lucky they are to have each other and remember that Baby T needs a younger sibling pronto - he is selfish (aren't we all?).
We play a math game, learn some notes on the piano, kids are hungry and have their pre-bed snack.
After much arguing I get them to brush their teeth. They fight over and rip a library book while I go shut down the computer in the office.
Mommy is angry. Mommy tells Baby E that her savings will go toward paying for that library book. Baby E cries profusely. Mommy feels terrible, but she did pull the book from her brother and she knows we don't do that. I read them one short story and turn off the lights because I can't take her sobbing anymore, we just all need to sleep. Tomorrow is a new day!

*   *   *

It's definitely a challenge and a huge responsibility to have this much FREEDOM in both work and education. 

The good news is that most days are somewhere between Dream and Reality. It's never really idyllic and it's never really a disaster. Which makes it actually quite enjoyable and something I feel I can survive! We don't have a typical day. We could be at the zoo. We could be visiting with a friend. We could be at the library for 2 hours because they can't get enough of all the incredible books there. I have weeks where I have several photo sessions and weeks where I have none. I have moments where I'm frazzled and moments of peace. I guess you could call it balance, though I'm scared of using that word as I've written before. 

I am just thankful to be here, in a place that works for our family. In a place where learning revolves around our life. I salute all those that have to daily deal with life revolving around strict school and work schedules. Staying positive helps get through any hardship no matter what your living/learning situation!

Homeschooling/Unschooling mamas, what's are your days like? Do you have a rhythm to your day or a strict schedule?



2 comments:

  1. Keep it positive is the way to go. Its quite challenging homeschooling and work, i know i wont be able to do it with all four. My dreams are on hold and i feel like im moving on. You are inspiration and i know its not easy to be where you are, although it might look that way =) Keep up the good work!
    We all have good, bad and in between days.

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    Replies
    1. Certainly life-learning with 4 would be more challenging than with two, but I believe it's possible. There are moms doing it with 5, 6, or more kids. :) The secret is not to attempt perfection, to let go of our idea of "school" and not even try to replicate it at home, and to give kids more autonomy so that they are in charge of their learning, so that the reward is learning itself - not stickers or grades. I might make it look easy, and it sometimes is, but it's hard in the sense that we are completely in charge of our days. For me personally, it's about learning to trust God, to follow my heart and to learn to read my children, otherwise I wouldn't be able to do it. I think it would be easier for someone to just tell me what to do, but I never liked the easy route, lol. To each their own, doing whatever works for your family at any given time.

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