What’s worse than a day when no one feels like doing school, but you have to do it anyway? I always felt it was much worse to be in the middle of a great school school day, with everyone engaged in lessons, then having the whole thing interrupted by a phone call that pulls you away and creates distraction for your children. When that happens, it’s likely that you never get back into the flow for that day. This doesn’t have to happen, though.
One of the best things I ever did for our homeschool and learning lifestyle was to create a telephone policy. By setting a few simple boundaries, I eliminated an enormous source of potential distraction and frustration, and noticeably increased our number of great school days. Now that the boys are grown, I still follow these guidelines during my writing and business time.
My rules were tailored for our life and preferences– yours may be different. Whatever boundaries you choose, I recommend setting at least a few. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can get done, and how much more fun it will be!
My Telephone Policy
- Answer no calls during school time–we have voice mail for a reason. An answering machine is not as good as voice mail because you can still hear the message and be distracted.
- Make all outgoing phone calls at one time after school.
- Encourage week-day social contact via e-mail rather than by phone (much quieter and more convenient).
- Let family and friends know that you don’t answer calls during school time. I did qualify this by giving them an alternate means of reaching me (text message to my cell phone) if there was a 911-worthy emergency, and I always answer calls from my husband and my grandmother.
- Any call to my personal number that is from an unknown source goes to voicemail (where it is usually discovered to be a telemarketer if anyone ever checks the messages).
In what may seem the most curmudgeonly rule of all, I advocate turning off your cell phone ringer when you’re on a field trip or special outing with your family. Few things are more rude than ignoring the people you’re with in order to talk on the phone, and I always wanted my boys to know they mattered to me. I also wanted to help us all to be present in the moment and learn from where we were and who we were with. Family time is family time; school time is school time; and social time is social time. It’s rarely beneficial to mix them, as something or someone will get shortchanged.
If you are a caregiver, you’ll have to be somewhat accessible, but other than that, try not to let yourself to be controlled by the phone. It’s a major time-waster, and can ruin a perfectly good school day in no time. If you’re firm, friends and family will grow accustomed to your eccentricity (and if they don’t, you’ll develop a remarkable tolerance for ringing). Calls can be returned or answered after school or in the evening, which is usually soon enough. Very few calls are urgent or time-sensitive, so an occasional phone check should be all you need.
Homeschooling means not only teaching the 3R’s, but also modeling good habits for your children. Learning to set boundaries and to create time and space for priorities is something that every adult needs to know. The phone is often the last life-disrupter to be banished, but when it is, I believe you’ll find yourself and your children much more creative and productive. I hope you’ll try it!