Mindful Homeschooling

The following is a guest post written by Jimmie of Jimmie’s Collage.

Mindfulness is living in the moment, enjoying the present as opposed to dwelling on the past or the future. It is when the mind is at rest rather than racing a mile a minute. Research has shown that mindfulness helps us deal with stress and generally makes us more content.

I personally am trying to be more mindful – to gratefully savor each moment that comes my way instead of always rushing off to the next task on my to-do list. This effort has powerfully affected my homeschooling life as well.

Planning Versus Doing

I’m one of those moms who love planning. I love researching and organizing materials. I love making printables to match our curriculum, scouring catalogs for the best resources, and reading forums to keep up with the latest homeschooling trends. In fact, I could spend most of my time planning our homeschool instead of actually implementing anything.

What good is my planning if I never do it or if I plan so much that there is not enough time in the day to possibly accomplish it all?

In The Hurried Child, David Elkind, a child psychologist, says that the most critical factor in “beginning to read is the child’s attachment to an adult who spends time reading to or with the child. The motivation for reading, which is a difficult task, is social.”

So if this is true, and I believe it is–not just for reading but for all kinds of learning tasks, it is more important that I put down the homeschool planning page and just spend time with my daughter, poring over great books or playing a game, or sketching a tree, or doing an experiment.

Elkind cites a study of gifted students that found the primary commonality was a home environment with “a love of learning in one or both parents, often accompanied by a physical exuberance and a persistent drive toward goals.”

Again, this sounds a lot like doing versus planning. So how should I spend the next hour?

Maybe I shouldn’t spend all 60 minutes scouring the Internet for the perfect activity for tomorrow’s lesson. Instead, I should spend a few minutes to find any activity and then the rest of the time in mindfully doing the activity with my child.

The Urgent Versus the Important

We’ve all heard the truth of the urgent versus the important. Important things get pushed to the bottom of the pile by the urgent things that demand our attention. This happens in homeschooling as well. Think of what you would list if I asked you, “What is most important in your homeschool?”

Are you spending most of your homeschool day on those very important things? Or does the urgent take control?

For me, the fine arts would be high on my list of important elements. But in reality, sketching or painting often get forgotten amid the rush to cram in the 3Rs and get dinner on the table before seven o’clock. If fine arts are important to me, why do they frequently get neglected?

Mainly because I’m not mindful enough. I let my racing mind take control and push me from task to task without taking time to stop and savor the moment through the things that are most precious to me.

I am comforted by David Elkind’s words:

“Parents who love learning will create a stimulating environment for children, which is far more beneficial to them than specific instruction. Parents who fill the house with books, paintings and music, who have interesting friends and discussion, who are curious and ask questions provide young children with all the intellectual stimulation they need.

In such an environment, formal instruction would be like ordering a hamburger at a four-star restaurant.”

So sometimes I need to throw out the curriculum with its urgency and mindfully do those things that are important to me.

Wishing for the Future

Another way homeschool moms are not mindful is in wishing away the childhood of their sons and daughters.

I hear moms of toddlers longing for when the children are out of diapers. Moms of preschoolers wish for the day when their children can read on their own. Those with elementary children hope for high schoolers so they can be enrolled in online schools.

There is a tendency to think that our children are a burden on our own dreams and desires, and we just want that burden eased. So we wish away their precious childhood years, not really appreciating each stage they go through at the time.

What is the remedy? Stop longing for the future and be thankful for right now.

Deliberate Mindfulness

So sit down, breathe, and enjoy your children. Say no to that voice in your mind that wants to check off lists and plan the next field trip.

Make eye contact, laugh, and savor your children for who they are in this moment.


  1. I also LOVE to take a lot of time planning, while the doing never goes accordingly. This year I am resolved to go with the flow and not stress about staying on schedule. I think we are all happier this way, and I am also better able to respect and tune in to their academic needs this way.

    I also used to wish my children were in “that next phase”. However, when my youngest was born I promised myself I would treasure every moment, and not wish my children older. This point of view simply adds to my daily love and appreciation of all their virtues. I keep telling them “don’t grow up!”, but they do anyway, and it is wonderful to see.
    Paige’s latest post: Making Memories

  2. Great post! I also am a super planner and can be much happier remaining in my own thoughts/planning than DOING with people. It is a constant effort for me. I soooo agree about not wishing away our children’s various stages: my first born is now taller than me and starting highschool. I cannot believe that in a few years he’ll most likely be heading off on his own. So hard to believe. I don’t want to slow him down either- just really continue to enjoy each of my kids wherever they’re at.

    I did find that each of my homeschooling year has had its own season of focus – one year I might really want to send more time on art/music, say, yet another on writing skills… whatever it might be. I found this helpful when experiencing a sense of panic that I couldn’t fit everything in to one year that I wanted to offer my children. It was ok to let certain ‘subjects/interests’ rise to the top for a season and then ebb back for a time… if that makes sense.

  3. I love this post and use these sentiments to guide our homeschool journey. Thanks for sharing so eloquently.
    hillary’s latest post: Blogging Sabbatical- Intentionally Balancing Family- Work and Life

  4. Nice post. Thanks for that. As a homeschooling quasi-Buddhist, this was a wonderful reminder/moment of mindfulness. I have a family of people who are busting at the seams with creative projects that require fun inventiveness, but a ton of time too. It’s nice to remember to just sit sometimes, with them.

  5. Thank you for the beautiful reminder. I love this line … wishing away the childhood of their sons and daughters.

  6. I completely agree. This far into our homeschooling (four kids, oldest in 7th grade), we’ve all really learned how effortlessly learning happens in the right environment. I’m currently reading ZenSchooling and enjoying that, too.
    Alicia’s latest post: Last minute contest- Scholastic to give away 10 trips to NYC

  7. I heard David Elkind speak while I was in college and read his book, The Hurried Child. Much wisdom. Thank you for this post. It is so important to not get caught up in the urgent. Our children learn their values from watching us live. There is a quote that really stuck with me, I wish I knew who said it: “What you do you value and what you value you do.” So true!!
    I Live in an Antbed’s latest post: How Does He Do It

  8. This was a very timely post for me today, Jimmie. Thanks for the encouraging words.
    Deb’s latest post: Meh

  9. Home school mums must keep an eye on “that next phase” (what knowledge is needed for that?) while they keep their heart in this mindful moment.
    Now, that isn’t easy and I wish I more often had such a helpful reminder like Jimmie’s.
    I think David Elkind is so right when he stresses that education (apart from the 3 R’s etc. etc.) largely is about how parents show their love for learning and culture.
    I have noticed I do not have to teach Art, I just have to paint and draw and my daughter will follow. While we work together I tell about art. At this moment (yep, lets be mindful and be in the HERE and NOW) that is enough.
    Great post, Jimmie.

  10. I really enjoyed this post! I am now going to pray that I will be deliberately mindful!
    Nikki’s latest post: Weekly Wrap Up Sports- Sewing- and Music

  11. Thanks for this. I have a 4 month old, and it very easy to wish he were older so I could “do” things with him. Thanks for reminding me of mindfulness.

  12. Beautiful post Jimmie!
    I love being mindful … smelling my youngest daughter’s hair as she snuggles into my lap when we read together and wishing I could bottle the moment … Yes, she will eventually become a fluent reader, but it is such a privilege being with her in this phase. All too soon she will be on her own and these moments will just be a memory.
    I am challenged to leave my laptop and move into the freedom of being with my children in their innocent and creative lives.
    Thanks for reminding us about the important things in life!
    Nadene’s latest post: Fun with Maps

  13. Nice post!
    Being mindful can be so difficult for us planners. However, the big thing to remember is that it is hard to plan everything when dealing with kids. There are always distractions and little things that will intrude on a plan. Which is why you have to be mindful and flexible and go with the flow at times. That’s the beauty of homeschooling is that you have this freedom to shift your plan as things pop up.
    AprilS’s latest post: 8th Grade Math – Subtracting Polynomials

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