Monday, December 31, 2007

Blogging, breaks and mother guilt

I've been on vacation from a lot of things, including blogging.

Christmas break is like that.

There's been a lot going on: the kids had a great time at the birthday party of a friend and had an equally great time at a church youth group party, which included going to see National Treasure 2. They went sledding with Atticus and built gingerbread houses with me.

And I've fit in a fair amount of reading (and will be back later with some notes on what I've read.)

But for now, I want to quickly address a little issue we homeschooling mothers sometimes struggle with:

Benign neglect.

Faith, at Dumb Ox Academy, got me thinking about this. Perhaps, a better phrase would be "masterly inactivity" (sounds a little nicer and more deliberate, doesn't it?)

We homeschooling moms are with our kids quite a bit. A lot. And that's a great thing. It's what allows us to pursue our vision of education, to grow closer to our kids, to share ideas and interests and fun.

But, it also sets us up, at times, for guilt. Because, when you're used to being with your kids all the time, you can start to feel a bit guilty if you're not with them, or if you're in the same house, but not fully "present" to them.

I maintain that a bit of masterly inactivity and benign neglect are a good thing.

As I said in a comment to Faith:
As homeschooling moms, we are with our children nearly *all* the time. It’s okay to take periods (like Christmas break) to be “selfish” because it isn’t really selfishness. It’s recharge time. And we need it.

As your kids have shown you, they’ll be fine!

I tend to shoo my kids away fairly frequently during Christmas vacation, with a “Not now … I’m reading.”

Mothers need breaks, too. And, learning to entertain yourself without a plan, a schedule, or structure is a necessary life skill.

If you want, record it in your best education-ese on your list of homeschooling accomplishments for 2007:

"Children learned the value of independently chosen and executed pursuits."

Then lose the guilt.

It's Christmas break.

Now, go away.

I'm reading.


  1. Timely post for me Karen. Guilt is setting in at the moment, so thank you!

  2. Gostei muito desse post e seu blog é muito interessante, vou passar por aqui sempre =) Depois dá uma passada lá no meu site, que é sobre o CresceNet, espero que goste. O endereço dele é . Um abraço.

  3. Oh, Karen, you are just the best. My children are currently engaging themselves in independently chosen pursuits as we speak (well, write/read; whatever) and, happily, no one is crying, whining, or begging for my attention.

    (You have no idea what a treat this is. I hope I didn't just "jinx" it by mentioning it!!!)

    I'm thinking after Christmas we'll be ready to buckle down to a more "formal" schedule than we've been using so far this school year.

    But for now, I'm checking out my favorite blogs.

    And life is good.

  4. Hear, hear! I second that emotion (or I guess technically, I am the 4th to agree!)! I definitely enjoy the 'indulgence' during this time(

    ... and maybe ~just maybe~ the children need a break from me too!

  5. Some of the best educational experiences of my children's lives happened during benign neglect. Abby and her cousin remember fondly days of benign neglect not only by their parents, but their grandparents as well. Supplies were made available and then they were shooed off to entertain themselves. Operation dolls were their own invention during one of those benign neglect periods. Just think of all the reading your kids can do by themselves and what they are learning while they do it. Of course, if your kids are simply vegging in front of the TV or playing video games for hours on end, or surfing questionable sites on the internet the neglect is no longer benign. However, I'm sure that's not a problem with you guys.

  6. Excellent, I've been shooing too, but for knitting projects, I'm hooked :) Reading will come too!! Blessings to you all and Happy New Year!

  7. From someone (who me?) who entertains considerable guilt when she's not entertaining her children, thank you.

    This is not to say, however, that I'm letting you off the hook for staying away so long! ;)

  8. This is a lovely post, even for mothers who DON'T homeschool. I often feel when my kids are on holidays that I should be entertaining them 24 hours a day and of course that's a bit silly. It's nice to just have some relaxed time to enjoy each other.

  9. Oh so glad to read this!

    I was starting to feel guilty for not getting done what I said I would do with my girls. NOT that I did that much for myself, but time has flown by and my house needed some cath-up care.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  10. Can I just give a big "Thank you" for posting this? I have been suffering horribly from major mommy guilt..not just now, but all the time, if I'm not doing something "constructive" with my kids all the time. I feel bad if I tell them to shoo because I want to read, or have my coffee in silence (silence..what's that?). Ah, I will enjoy the next two days with my husband home and have some major recharge time. And, not feel guilty about it! :-)

  11. "learning to entertain yourself without a plan, a schedule, or structure is a necessary life skill."

    Karen, this is so true. I'll just offer my experience with children who spent time in orphanages - they don't know how to function outside a strict schedule.

    Children who have been raised in ordinary family life have been given a great gift that they can have and pursue their own interests. It is an important life skill which not everyone possesses.

    Happy New Year!

  12. Wow Karen, the issue of guilt and 'masterly inactivity' (it does sound so much better!) really struck a chord, didn't it? Thanks for your wise post!

    Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!



  13. Thank you, Karen. I completely agree. Just this morning I was thinking that this break is the closest thing I've had to a vacation since, well, I can't remember.

  14. Thanks, Karen.

    Although I'm not homeschooling yet, I've definitely struggled with this guilt in the first year and a half of my daughter's life. I often feel guilty when I ignore her while I read a book or write a blog post. And then on the other hand I see how comfortable she is playing on her own, how independent and self-reliant, especially compared with some of her cousins who seem to need to be entertained at all times.

    For me it's a tough balancing act. Yes, I do need time to recharge my batteries and she needs to learn to amuse herself. But if I'm honest I also can tend to move beyond charging my batteries and into selfishly considering all my time my own and resenting her intrusions and legitimate needs.

  15. Well said! I was going to say "would that my children knew how to play independently" and then I read Helen's comment. I need to explore her comment a bit more. Hmm..thanks for posting this if only because it might lead me to a few more answers.