The following is a guest post written by Rozanne Dioso-Lopez of Tomfoolery & Shenanigans.
Prep lesson work for three children. Draw a topographical map of North America on the chalkboard. Plan a felting craft for a 4-year-old. Bake a loaf of bread. Gather materials for a project on government and democracy. Research the answer to my 6-year-old’s burning question: “How do jellyfish eat?”
… and it’s not even 6 a.m. yet.
I began my homeschooling journey with my five children three years ago. I was consumed with choosing a curriculum, planning their year and participating in a homeschooling group for support that would preserve my sanity.
As we entered into this new chapter in our lives, I was psychologically ready to educate my kids at home.
However, I sorely underestimated the physical demands of homeschooling. I was on my feet doing lessons, cooking, clearing tables, resolving conflict and engaging in constant activity.
I found myself hitting the proverbial wall by 2 p.m. and instituted mandatory “quiet time” because one more question about the internal anatomy of a jellyfish would send me over the edge.
It was a Catch-22.
I had to find the time to take care of myself in order to increase my energy so I would be able to present a feast of wonder to my children. Time and energy are precious commodities — finding any extra amount is akin to finding the holy grail.
Close to burnout, I began wistfully believing in a genie in a magic lamp that could grant me more energy or a magic elixir from a fountain of youth. Then my husband, sensing my desperation as I was looking to fairy tales for a solution, asked a simple question: “When was the last time you exercised?”
The puzzle pieces started to fall into place — why I hurt after nature hikes, why I couldn’t wake up in the morning before the kids anymore, and why I lost patience with my 4-year-old son who I had sent upstairs to get some socks, only to find him 10 minutes later naked without an explanation of how that came about.
How would I find the time?
I approached this plan just as I approached planning my homeschooling lessons. I thought about what would work for me and how to start simply. I made goals and remembered to be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.
Are you looking to start your own at-home fitness regimen?
Step 1: Define what works for you
First I wrote down definitive criteria for a fitness regimen that I knew had to exist otherwise I would not be able to sustain it. I needed to be able to exercise at home only 3 times a week, and each session couldn’t exceed 15 minutes.
Step 2: Decide on a simple fitness regimen with short-term, attainable fitness goals
Because I was going to exercise at home, more specifically in a 6’ x 8’ living room space, I needed a routine that required minimal equipment.
My first goal was to do a full push-up, with my nose touching the ground. Very simple and easily measurable. It took me about four weeks to reach the goal. I did four exercises — bodyweight squats, lunges, side planks and, of course, push-ups.
I trained on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and did the following circuit:
I set my timer for 15-minutes and I performed this circuit as many times as I could within that time frame sticking to my “rules:”
1. always making sure that I felt “fresh”
2. NEVER going to failure.
For the push-ups, in the first week I started with my hands on the fifth step on our staircase. As the weeks went by, I felt the push-ups getting easier so I would lower my hands to the next step down. I was doing “nose to the floor” push-ups by the 12th workout.
Step 3: Include your children into part of your regimen
It was nearly impossible to keep the little ones out of the living room. We warmed up together with yoga poses and crawling. I would have an obstacle course ready for them to do in another part of the house and they would go through it while I did the “meat” of my exercise session.
As we kept up the routine, I found that they adapted to this new rhythm and let me exercise alone for longer periods of time.
Step 4: Don’t forget to document your progress
Remember to write down exactly how you are feeling at various times of day.
After a month of welcoming exercise back into my life, I noticed that I was already able to wake up a half hour earlier and my patience now extended to 3 p.m.
Photo by Brian Telzerow
Here are some tips to help you keep going:
Incorporate exercise into your family lifestyle
Use any spare family time to something physical. Go running up hills and then roll down them. Race each other down the street. Go for family bike rides and try to bike further each time.
Have a clear purpose for keeping a fitness regimen as a priority
I practice physical skills to develop strength. I wanted to wake up at 5 a.m. to have “me time” before the kids woke up. I wanted to carry my youngest on our hikes when he couldn’t keep up. I wanted to deliver all the things I had planned for the day without burning out by lunch. I wanted to model strength for my daughters as a purpose for exercise instead of appearance.
Have a signal for yourself and the kids that it’s time to take care of yourself through exercise
For me, the signal is wearing my exercise clothes. It took a while and a lot of communication on my part but now they understand that it’s important to me and for our whole family that I take care of myself in this way.
Accept that there will be set-backs, derailments and forced breaks in your regimen
Life happens. Illness happens. If you have itty bitty ones, it’s a given that you can’t get in a full 15 minutes.
Be kind to yourself and know that this isn’t a race but a part of your life and sometimes you will need to accept that tomorrow will be better than today.
After a recent break in my routine, I was a little short with my kids and more on edge. When I came downstairs one morning, I saw a collective look of disappointment on their faces. The second-oldest bravely spoke up and said, “Oh. It’s just that you’re not wearing your exercise clothes again.”
Ah, the wisdom of children. I marched back up the stairs to not only change, but to marvel that our homeschooling journey reminds me that the lessons we teach don’t always go according to plan, but surface where you least expect them.
Have you found a way to make exercise part of your homeschool day?