Written by Jamie C. Martin of Simple Homeschool
Several months ago I asked Simple Homeschool readers to tell me their main homeschooling concern. I received hundreds of replies, but was stunned to find that over 75% of them were more or less the same:
- “I just wish I knew I was doing enough.”
- “I feel like I’m not doing enough.”
- “How do I know if I’m doing enough?”
All of us have different families and different children, but the same insecurities. I know, because they sometimes keep me up at night, too.
And so I thought that at the beginning of a new homeschool year, we should take a peek at this word, how it haunts us, and what we can do to break free.
Here are a few things for us to keep in mind:
Enough has a set point.
Think about the other area in which we use this word: MONEY. Most people never feel as though they have quite enough of this commodity. Whatever our income, we tend to hope for just a bit more.
But studies have found that increased money only leads to increased happiness up to a threshold of around $75,000 (basic needs/desires met). Beyond that, MORE cash does not equal MORE joy. What does this teach us?
Enough has a set point. If you’re below it, you feel the lack. However, if you just continue to add more (whether money or, in our case, tasks/assignments) it doesn’t do much for you. It’s this magical set point we’re after for our homeschool.
An external solution can never fix an internal problem.
Remember this the next time you have planners or spreadsheets open on your desk. The perfect schedule will never be enough if you don’t believe that you already are.
No magic checklist will ever make us feel more worthy. Our homeschool plans and achievements don’t define us or determine our value.
The system has the same issues.
A dear friend of mine teaches in our local public schools. One day I asked her, “Do you ever feel like you’re not doing enough?”
“All the time, yes!” she replied. She went on to say that if there’s a child who is struggling in some way, she does her best but always wonders if she could have done more. Teachers who care, whether at home or school, wrestle with this. I find that a comfort.
Also remember that the system isn’t some efficient machine that runs nonstop from 9am-3pm each day. I was recently reminded of this when my niece came home from her first day of 11th grade. Looking through her paperwork, I came to her AP Psychology syllabus. It explained what they’d be learning, and on the back? Was a list of over a dozen movies they’d be watching, in class, as part of their curriculum.
You guys? This is High School AP Psychology! A dozen movies, in one semester, including Groundhog Day and What About Bob! And here you were berating yourself for watching that history documentary this week.
My point isn’t to heckle, but to point out that we often hold ourselves to a crazy ideal of productivity that doesn’t exist anywhere.
ENOUGH on a practical level.
Instead of trying to duplicate a struggling system, let’s capitalize on the huge advantage we have that schools never can: HOME.
Don’t turn yours into an institution! Just set “enough” based on what your unique kids need in this unique moment–whatever their age. If you feel fairly confident that you’ll be homeschooling long-term or for several years, release those artificially-made grade levels and live outside the box. You’re free! Embrace whatever methods suit you and yours.
If there’s a chance you might need to put your kids back into school, however, then use slow and steady, incremental progress to ease your “enough” fears.
To do so, just incorporate a tiny bit of the 3R’s (reading instruction, writing, & arithmetic) into your homeschool days.
Here’s one way this could look in the early years: Order a Brain Quest workbook (afflink) for your child’s current level. Have them do one language arts page, one handwriting page, and one math page each homeschool day. These workbooks have around 300 pages, which means that in 100 days you’ll have finished. So do two a day, MWF, or skip bad days!
If your child can read and write already, ask them when they want to do their pages. Independently upon waking? With you at the table? My kids like it when I rip pages out of a workbook—that way they are not seeing ALL the empty ones still to come. They see a few and think: “Oh, I can do this.”
After everyone’s pages are done for the day, celebrate with hot chocolate, a cookie, the bean jar, a video everyone likes, etc. Do not turn this into a dreaded chore (if it becomes one, make a change). And do not worry about this “reward” spoiling them.
I used to give my kids a cookie each time they used the toilet, but guess what? They never ask for one now! All you’re doing is setting a positive habit, and quelling those fears/voices that scream at you, asking if you’re doing enough.
I’m not saying to do the above and ignore your kids for the rest of the day. I’m suggesting you do a bare minimum, then fill the rest of your day with the power of home:
Read-alouds and discussions, cozy blankets, baking and cooking, dealing with squabbles (this is real life, after all), chores, Lego villages, documentaries and educational videos, board games, copywork, snap circuits, ice cream and audiobooks, passion-driven classes and co-ops, online learning and fun apps–whatever helps you and yours love learning and each other.
Welcome to enough. Welcome to life. WELCOME HOME.
Do your best to enjoy yours! And let your kids enjoy theirs, too.
What have you learned about “enough” during your years of homeschooling?