Updated: May 28, 2018
In our modern society, whenever education is the subject, we always want to talk about the kids. We care about them, and we know their education is important, but we also find that it's easier to talk about their education than to improve our own. In reality, you are unlikely to pass on to your children a better education than you have earned yourself.
Oliver DeMille, A Thomas Jefferson Education
When parents prioritize their own lifelong educations, the benefits to both themselves and their children are evident. But how can we parents pursue our own educations amidst our already-busy lives?
Make It a Priority
A good first step is to make the conscious decision that our own educations are a top priority. It may seem counter intuitive to focus more on our own educations and less on the kids' educations, but in the long run, we will be more effective at inspiring our kids to put in the hard work of becoming educated if we are doing it ourselves. And our own sense of fulfillment in life skyrockets when we pursue our own passions and interests.
Once you've made the decision that your own education is important, take a close look at how your time is being spent. Look at all of your time commitments and time wasters (Facebook, anyone?) and see if there is anything that can be eliminated or reduced. We can all easily fill up our time such that we don't feel like we have time to really focus on our own educations.
The reality is that we cannot do it all, and to make our own educations a top priority we will probably have to let go of some other things. Nonetheless, our own educations need to be given priority even if it means our children may need to take one less class or we need to spend less time using social media or making homemade mayonnaise.
Timing is Key
In finding and making time to pursue our own educations, the timing is key. If we try to pursue our own studies at times when the kids are apt to repeatedly need our attention, we'll be easily frustrated and feel like our efforts are futile. Instead, if we look and plan for little pockets of time when the kids are unlikely to need as much attention, incorporating our own educations into our daily lives can work really well.
Some times to consider for self-study include early in the morning, after kids have gone to bed, while nursing an infant, or time that would often be spent in fruitless activities such as checking our phones or email.
For me, the best times for me to be able to have semi-regular study time have been the early mornings before my kids awake, during our daily afternoon Quiet Time, and while my kids attend choir or gymnastics class. I can also carve out some self-study time by taking the kids to the park to play and bringing along my own books to read or study, or by being willing to drop whatever else I'm doing to study when my kids get involved in a lengthy outdoor play scenario. If I am trying to study at a time when my kids are around, it works best if I request to not be interrupted unless there is something very important.
We can't expect ourselves to immediately jump into self-education, devoting many hours every week to our educations. That approach would likely lead to stress and burnout. Starting small is a better strategy for long-term success.
For parents who don't read much on their own, a good first step could be just to find a small amount of time to read 3-5 days per week. Parents who already read regularly could try adding in a non-fiction-based book such as a biography or historical fiction. Parents who feel like they absolutely don't have any time to sit down and read could try listening to audio books while doing housework or exercising. Make sure that whatever you read is engaging for you, so that your reading time will be a time to look forward to.
Find What You're Passionate About
Part of what makes education an enjoyable lifelong pursuit is that we can, and should, follow our own passions. Following our own interests is the way to develop (or reinforce) our own love of learning, and our own enthusiasm will help pave the way for our children to excitedly pursue their own interests, too. Whether you are interested in animals or permaculture or the Civil War or homeopathy or anything else under the sun, follow your interests to spark genuine enthusiasm in your own education.
The Six Month "No"
The process of making time for our educations needs to be repeated over time. In Leadership Education, Oliver and Rachel DeMille call this "The Six Month 'No'".
'It is important each six months to look inside and compare your real values with how you are spending your time. Every six months, make a thorough list of all you do, and then stop doing about half of it. Just say "no!"
'The three biggest enemies of most mothers who mentor are chauffering, cooking, and cleaning... Some moms spend two hours a day or more in their minivans or SUVs. That could be time spent studying, learning, teaching and building relationships...
We know that some of it simply cannot be helped. You have real responsibilities that require your time. We also know that even if you figured out the perfect way to fix this, a force as strong as gravity would just fill your time back up again in the next six months...
You can say no, and when you do, things change.... It will not last forever, and you will have to fight the same battle again. But you will win the war. You will cut things that you would otherwise just keep doing... Learning occurs. Not in years, but in hours...'
By repeatedly making the commitment to make time for our own educations, we can really make a difference in how our time is spent and lead out by demonstrating to our kids that education truly is a worthy lifelong pursuit.
Have you made a commitment to self-education? In the final post of this series, I will share resources that are helpful for busy parents in pursuing their own educations.
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