Imagine a lighthouse. Standing tall, shining bright, providing constant guidance to those who need it.
Now imagine that same lighthouse, but with years of neglect. Peeling paint. A dim, flickering light.
It’s the same lighthouse, standing in the same place, trying to do the same thing. But because it hasn’t been looked after, it can no longer guide those who depend on it.
You are a lighthouse. And to shine the brightest you can for those who depend on you most, you need to make sure you’re looking after yourself.
I think of this analogy often. Have done for years. Because it’s the most succinct, accurate illustration of parenting imaginable. And probably twice as accurate for someone home educating.
But let’s make it more real. You've heard me talk about a home educator being like a coach or mentor, right? Ok, well, let’s play that through in this context:
Imagine a football team about to compete in a championship match. Imagine the unity of the players, their focus, their energy, their shared goal. They've trained all season for this. You can feel the anticipation in the locker room. The excitement, the tension.
Then…in comes the coach. The leader, the mentor, the guiding force. But instead of being the confident and energised figure they usually are, they're visibly run-down. Their eyes have lost that sparkle. They look tired. Their words of encouragement and guidance, which usually spark fire in the players' hearts, feel flat and forced. They're physically present, but their spirit - the very essence that inspires the team - just isn't there.
What effect does that have? Well, the game they've been enthusiastically preparing for suddenly feels daunting. An exciting challenge now feels hard. Morale drops. The players, who rely so much on their coach's guidance and enthusiasm, are probably now questioning their own preparedness. Even their own ability.
This is the power that energy - negative or positive - has on a room.
Now, I don’t want you to read this and feel like you’re letting your ‘team’ down. But what I do want is for you to recognise this: self-care as a home educating parent is not a luxury. It’s not something you maybe squeeze in every now and then. It’s mission critical. And it's not enough to just understand that. You must BELIEVE it.
Just as a coach's energy has a huge impact on their team's performance, your well-being profoundly influences your children's journey through life. Your energy and enthusiasm serve as a guiding light, inspiring learning and growth. If you're not taking care of yourself, that guiding light will dim.
I understand this is easier said than done, by the way. Our lives are all different, and some of us have more support available to us than others. But I also believe most of us would have more opportunities to rest and recharge if we just reached out and asked for help. And that’s where the real problem kicks in - we don't, because we're afraid of judgment. Of appearing weak. Of admitting we need help.
We’re scared people will say: "Ha - you signed up for that homeschooling thing, and now you can't handle it. I knew it wasn’t a good idea."
Please hear me when I say that thoughts like that are just noise. Most people won’t actually respond that way. And even if they do…it’s just noise. Noise that’s distracting you from what truly matters: being the present, energetic, and nurturing coach your children need.
I want you to do something for me. Reach out to someone you trust. Right now. Ask them to help you schedule in some (ideally regular!) time on your own. Maybe they’ll hang with your kids for a couple of hours on a Wednesday afternoon, or take them to a movie or the park once a week. Maybe they’ll have them for a sleepover every few weekends. Whatever it is, reach out and lock something in. Right now.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, know that you're not alone on this journey. There's a community out there - be it friends, family, other home educating parents, or even just me sitting over here - who understand the challenges you face and are ready to lend a hand. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a testament to your strength, your commitment, and your love for your children.
So take care of yourself. Prioritise your wellbeing. Allow yourself to recharge, refuel, and restore your energy.
And then shine bright.