10 ways to adjust your attitude when you’re homeschooling for the long haul

Written by Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

I keep counting on my fingers, so I must be right: we are beginning our 13th year of homeschooling. Thirteen years! And I have to be honest—I’m not always exuberant about starting back.

It isn’t that I want to send my kids to school or anything like that; I just like having lazy summer days. I am reluctant for all our activities to resume, and I really just want to go to the pool, hang out by the river, or travel across the country.

I recently co-facilitated a session for brand new homeschoolers. They were so eager! They shared ideas, suggested websites, exchanged email addresses, arranged play dates, asked about clubs, brainstormed field trips, and, of course, talked curriculum.

My kids are in middle, high school, and college now. I miss those days of anticipation, of bright construction paper and M&M math. I miss sticky crafts, our giant box of inventing supplies (e.g., toilet paper tubes, shoeboxes, and popsicle sticks), and reading by the sandbox while the kids played.

Some years I have missed being excited about starting our new year. With that comes the mommy guilt of lacking enthusiasm.

After all, shouldn’t we be eagerly anticipating another year of instilling a love of learning in and molding the minds of our children?


When you reach year four or five, you might have one of those years when you just aren’t thrilled about teaching. I am here to tell you that lots of us—probably most of us— understand, and also to suggest a few ways to get a little excited.

Here’s why:

Your kids’ excitement for learning is directly influenced by your excitement for teaching them.

It’s not rocket science, I know. But I think sometimes we forget how much our attitude affects our kids. We wonder why they are reluctant to start the day or why they grumble about doing math.

Photo by Laura Dye

I wish I could offer a magic potion that would instantly turn us all into Super Homeschooler; not only would I be rich, but I’d be really popular! Instead I will offer a few tips for an attitude adjustment, whether you are starting a new year or somewhere in the middle.

  1. Clean your house. Decluttering and cleaning does wonders for everyone in the household. Throw out old papers, clean the windows (yes, really!), and dust every surface. Think spring-cleaning clean. You will be amazed at what this does for your sanity!
  2. Buy yourself something new. We all get the kids new markers and crayons, right? But what do you get for yourself? Buy yourself a new pair of shoes, a sharper pair of scissors, or an amazing pencil sharpener. Little things can make a big difference!
  3. Fix up your school space. Whether you have a whole room or a corner in the dining room, do something to transition to the new year or season. Add a small nature table with leaves and a bird’s nest, buy a globe, hang a new map on the wall. You don’t have to go Pinterest crazy; just make a few changes that add a little sparkle to your space.
  4. Get dressed. If you are a pajama or sweat pants schooler, try getting dressed now and then. Put on some shoes (maybe even those new ones) and a cute outfit. You might be amazed at how differently you feel about yourself when you aren’t in your jammies at 3 p.m.!
  5. Get outside. Take a 15-minute walk or pull a few weeds in your flowerbed. Better yet, take a whole day off to go hiking or explore a new park. Vitamin D does wonders for the psyche!
  6. Make a schedule. If you are a come-what-may homeschooler, try switching things up by making an actual schedule. Ironically, sometimes a lack of structure can be stressful. On the other hand…
  7. Ditch the schedule. If you feel confined by a schedule, rip it up. Give yourself permission to spend a day or a month or longer without having every minute scheduled. Breathe in, breathe out, and stop crossing things off the list.
  8. Refuse to play the comparison game. Just don’t do it—don’t compare yourself to other parents, your family to other families, your kids to other kids. You are exactly who they need.
  9. Surprise your kids. Take them out for ice cream or to a movie. Declare a day a “game day” or go for a day trip. Stepping outside your normal routine is exciting!
  10. Remind yourself of why you are doing this. Why are you homeschooling? My guess is that, among 50 other reasons, you want the best for your kids and you believe that you can offer that. Repeat that to yourself—and believe it.

I am excited actually about starting this new year; and I mention this because it is important to understand—and to be reassured— that homeschooling for the long haul is a roller coaster ride.

Some years you are way, way up; some years you are at the bottom; and some years you are just moving ahead at a steady pace. Whatever season you find yourself in this year, remember: attitude adjustments aren’t just for kids.

Do you ever find yourself lacking excitement about homeschooling? What are your pick-me-up techniques?

About SarahS

Sarah has graduated one child from homeschooling and is happy to have miles left on the journey with her 11 and 15 year old children. With a master’s degree in English/creative writing, Sarah enjoys teaching writing and literature classes at her co-op and blogs about learning at SmallWorld at Home.

Comments

  1. Sarah – thanks so much for encouragement! We started school at the beginning of August and today was *one of THOSE days* and I needed this! Funny – I’m big into “simplicity” in all areas of life – but when it comes to homeschooling I have projects, ideas and experiments bursting out of our school room! Slow and steady wins the race, teaches the children, and saves mommy’s mind…! Blessings! ~kelsi
    Kelsi’s latest post: How Do You Know When You Are “Natural” Enough?

  2. Such great help. Mine is 41/2 and we don’t start until next year officially. I am pretty excited, but I know myself and I know once the newness wears off it will be less exciting. It’s helpful to think about it ahead of time and hear from those who have been at it much longer!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: What We Should All Be Teaching This Year

  3. “Your kids’ excitement for learning is directly influenced by your excitement for teaching them.”

    Sarah, that’s an exciting thought–and also a terrifying one! I love this list and have found it to be so true in our 2 short years of homeschooling. I’m not a neatnik but I can’t be excited about learning when the house is a wreck, and nobody can learn anything on days we don’t head outside.

    I love how you have #6 and #7 back-to-back, because I swing between these two. It’s very validating to see both here in print. Thanks for that!
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: Summer Reading Fail {A Video Blog}

  4. As someone who plans to homeschool for the long haul but hasn’t even started yet this is a good reminder to think long term.
    Steph’s latest post: The Third Option

  5. THANK YOU So much for this! <3 what an amazing read this morning! we start our second year in less than two weeks :) I am THRILLED and my 4 year old couldnt be more excited… he says other kids go to "big school" and he gets to have his momma as a teacher too! Makes me melt <3 I have even had friends kids see his school room LOL and ask if I can be their teacher too LOL Makes me smile and be kinda sad for them too in the same way … well i just wanted to say THANKS!

  6. So. so. true. Another important aspect for me is to make sure I am building in some “quiet” for myself…whether it is for reading, planning, and most especially creating. If my emotional well runs dry from pouring into my children and I don’t replenish it with creativity, then I tend towards feeling drained, unproductive, and so on.
    Aimee’s latest post: Back to School

  7. “The mommy guilt of lacking enthusiasm!” SPOT ON! This is exactly me this year and the guilt is killing me. This is our seventh year, and I am so not excited to start and it isn’t that I don’t love my kids, or want to send them to school. If one more well meaning Facebook mom posts their first day of school pictures with shiny new outfits, and says, “it’s such a joy to homeschool my eleventy-seven children every day!” I’m going to delete my account and get myself an attitude adjustment! Or maybe a new pair of shoes. Or take a walk. In my new shoes. :)
    melyssa’s latest post: Give Away YAY Winner

  8. Thanks for this post. I really like the idea of bying myself something nice. Not from a selfish place but there is so much focus and attention on the children something small for me would be great. #4 rings true for me. Getting dressed in a decent outfit changes my perspective. Though I love lounging in my pj’s getting dressed is wonderful for me the teacher.

  9. I think you’re right – how can we expect our littles to have great attitudes about homeschooling if we’re not looking forward to it ourselves? We’re just starting homeschooling this year (hopefully with many more to come!), so I’m trying to start it off on the right foot: I’ll tell the kids, “Are you ready to play school now?” They think it’s great fun. :) Thanks for the encouragement.
    Jeni’s latest post: How to Encourage More Comments on Your Blog

  10. We just started year 14 of homeschooling and I have used every single one of your 10 ways to homeschool for the long haul. Great advice.
    Blessings, Dawn

  11. I love these tips! One that we do the opposite of is ‘ditch the schedule’- I have a very tight schedule so that I have times for my part-time work and the kids activities AND we have guaranteed free time. It makes us more efficient with the ‘school’ time

    moms everywhere- lower your cleaning standards and delegate LOTS of housekeeping chores!
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)’s latest post: Uncensored Quick Takes: Summer & Cute Animals

  12. Thanks for confirming nothing (serious) is wrong with me. I was feeling less than excited to start. I find that the “fake it until you make it” mantra helps get me going. Just doing it and definitely changing things up a lot has helped so much. Now, I need to go buy myself something. ;)

  13. Last year was one of those ‘ugh’ years for me. This year I’m feeling more excited than I have in a long time, but also nervous because its my first year homeschooling high school. I love the idea of buying myself something – I do not do that often enough. Last year I tried to dress on *most days as though I were going to work. That helped tremendously. We are just in week two and today I thought, “What the heck did we do today?” I wrote it all down and felt really great about our day! So I am making a very detailed schedule for the younger ones and letting my HS daughter make up her own schedule. Thanks for all the ideas!
    Kara’s latest post: Guiltless

  14. Thanks for the encouragement!!! A lot of great useful tips here. I’ve written a few down to add to my daily journal as a reminder for those so good days. So, thanks again and for sharing!!!
    Jennifer @ Homeschool Mamma’s latest post: Ocean Unit Study – Day 2

  15. We’ll be going back to a real schedule after two years of being too unscheduled (moved and had a baby who is turning two in September). I can’t wait to have a routine again.

    I also love the tip to dress nicely. My mornings start earlier and easier when I’ve taken the time to put on a real outfit.

  16. Nodding so much my head almost fell off. Couldn’t homeschool in that condition. Great post!
    nancypantsgirl’s latest post: Walk with me

  17. every success is started with our own self. if we want the kids to be better then we have to be better first. we, the homeschooler, teach the kids. teaching is not only transfering idea or giving instruction but teaching is more, giving sample attitude. this is good to remind all homeschoolers

  18. Love the list. That clean the house one is SO true for me too! Thanks for sharing. :)
    CharityHawkins@TheHomeschoolExperiment.com‘s latest post: Chapter Book Challenge!

  19. Those are all great reminders. We’ve been at it for 24 years now (with a good 16 years yet to go). I miss those days of reading by the sandbox, too, but think I’ll take your advice and “surprise” my younger kids by schooling at the park a few times this fall, like I used to do with the older ones when they were little. Blessings on your school year!
    Jennifer Flanders’s latest post: Feeling Overwhelmed?

  20. I loved this list and wanted to share what keeps me going. It’s a saying I got from an unschooling conference I went to but I believe it applies to all homeschooling parents:

    Today, I will connect with my children,
    bring joy into their lives,
    Nurture & Encourage what they Love to Do,
    And Celebrate them for Being
    Exactly Who They Are!

    Good luck to all you wonderfully dedicated educators!

  21. I loved these! Okay, except the “Get Dressed” one. That’s just not realistic. ;-) But a great refocusing post. Perfectly timed.

  22. Hmmmm. Talk about something to think about.

    When I read your line about wanting the best for our children, and believing that we can give it, I realized that I had gone from that place to firmly in the “wanting better for my kids than I had to suffer at school, and knowing that while I’m going to mess up a lot of the time, that my own mistakes are ones I think I can handle and fix, as opposed to the destructive and damaging things I’ve had to try to work through for pretty much all of my adult life”.

    Hmmmm. From wanting the best to just wanting them to have to endure mistakes and problems of a smaller magnitude. I think I’m feeling chronically overwhelmed, and I’ve dialed my expectations back so many times in order to survive that I’ve ended up somewhere totally different than I wanted. Food for thought . . . definitely.

  23. I too miss the days when my daughter was young and we did all the fun hands-on stuff. This is our first year for homeschooling high school. We have changed our routine this year just a bit, so that actually put a little excitement in back to school for us.

    I noticed several folks mentioned homeschooling high school this year. I found a new group on FB called Let’s Homeschool High School. They have a site though: http://letshomeschoolhighschool.com/
    So far, I’ve been impressed with them.

    Best wishes to everyone in their homeschool journey this year!

    Joyfully,
    Jackie
    My Attempt at Blogging
    Quaint Scribbles and 3 D Learners
    Jackie’s latest post: Free Creative Writing Prompts and a Braille Card

  24. Randa @ Homeschool Roundup says:

    Amen about our enthusiasm for teaching. Love for learning is infectious! I still remember going into a college literature class that I was rather uninterested in, and the professor just loved the subject and the books so much and it showed! I totally loved that class and so much of that has to do with the professor’s own enthusiasm for the subject.
    Randa @ Homeschool Roundup’s latest post: Blends, Digraphs and Diphthongs Printables Roundup

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