Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom
I woke with dreary eyes. The thought of the day ahead seemed pretty bleak.
At breakfast time I pulled out our latest read-aloud (an activity I usually love), thinking I’d rather go to the dentist than proceed.
But I plodded ahead through gritted teeth–I have a job to do after all, my inner drill sergeant announced–the result not at all inspiring for any of us.
We would have been better off that morning with a Sparkle Story to listen to over breakfast, a cup of warm tea for the mama, and a few extra minutes to regroup and plan peace for the day ahead.
Ever have a day like this?
Homeschooling can be hard enough, but I sometimes find I make it even harder on myself by falling into negative patterns or mindsets.
Here are a few ways you may be doing the same.
1. Refusing to put down the book.
That life-changing title that’s on all the popular reading lists? The one you absolutely hate the sight of, but continue to diligently read page after page so the kids will be properly “educated?”
Return it to the shelf, por favor. Your kids can read it on their own if they want, but in the meantime choose another you actually look forward to. It won’t take long to get the kids excited about it, too.
2. Ignoring the forecast.
It’s been a long winter, folks. Okay, maybe not the Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-we-may-not-physically-survive-kind, but challenging just the same.
Preserve your sanity at all costs! If the morning forecast predicts sunny and over 50 degrees, do not by any means continue with the normal indoor routine.
Take school outside for the day, or cancel it entirely so you can enjoy the fresh air with your babes.
3. Doing too much yourself.
Are your kids old enough to help out more? If you’re trying to do all the homeschooling as well as all the cleaning and cooking, burnout will be your faithful companion.
I regularly ask myself when working on a task: “Is this something the kids could do?” For many years the answer was no, but now (at ages 8, 9, and 10) there’s so much they are capable of. I just have to remember that it’s my job to teach them.
4. Pushing them too hard.
If the atmosphere around your home feels heavy and oppressive when it comes to the words school or learning, stop and reevaluate.
I loved Kari’s post last week about pushing. When I’m tempted to do the same I ask myself: “Do the children really need to know this right now? Is it relevant to their lives in this moment?”
A recent example for us was memorizing the Lord’s Prayer. The church we attend often recites it as part of the service, but the kids didn’t know it. I began to help them memorize it and within a week or so all of them could say it confidently. They wanted to learn it because it was clearly relevant to their lives.
5. Homeschooling from a place of fear or worry.
I can tell it every time, in myself or others: the tightness of the forehead, the exhaustion, the burden. I can take a single moment where something goes wrong and mentally project it into the future–the results are never pretty.
What we need to deal with in our home today is, well, what we need to deal with in our home today.
Let’s not make our lives harder by imagining all of the “what-if’s” that may or may not happen later. How does that even begin to serve us or those we love?
6. Forgetting yourself, your passions, and your own education.
Your self-sacrifice taken too far does not benefit anyone living under your roof. A sleep-deprived homeschooling parent will not be at his best, nor will one who has given up everything she once loved so she can teach her kids instead.
We teach our kids through what we love. We teach through who we are. We teach through what we learn and get excited about. Anything else can’t possibly convey the lifestyle of learning we’re hoping to model.
7. Hanging on to too much stuff.
Did you see the recent article stating that most Americans have over 300,000 possessions? Three hundred thousand?! Yikes – I don’t want that for our home.
We simply can’t create an atmosphere of inspiration when we hang on to and have to clean and care for that number of things.
Cancel school for the day if your kids are old enough to help sort through their stuff. If they aren’t, declare a “movie week” – each day show a movie to your young ones while you tackle the area of your home that would give the most return on investment if it were decluttered.
8. Refusing to step outside the grade level box.
“John is in 2nd grade, so this year he needs to master this, this, and this.”
Embrace the freedom that homeschooling offers you, and the ability to let go of all those boxes, compartments, and categories. Your child is a once in a lifetime individual – shouldn’t he have a once-in-a-lifetime unique education?
If there are things you must cover, then cover them. But make sure you can ask and answer the question “why” in a way that makes sense. Then snuggle on the couch with John and find out what he would love to learn about — enjoy the fact that you have the time to spend doing so.
9. Comparing, comparing, comparing.
Imagine how much more peaceful our days would be if we could toss out the beast of comparison once and for all. Instead it seems so natural to compare our families with other families, or to compare one sibling with another sibling.
When we do that, everyone loses. When we stop, we’re free.
Instead of holding each student up to the same blanket standards, ask “Is this child making progress?”
It might be only a little, but if you can focus on what they can do instead of what they can’t it will encourage instead of intimidate.
10. Forgetting what’s most important.
It’s the classic Mary/Martha story–the tendency to focus on the details of our lives to the detriment of the depth in our lives.
When we step back and slow down, we can rediscover the wonder and joy of our homeschooling lifestyle.
Are you putting attention on your core priorities most days? Are you nurturing a love for books, words, numbers, and most of all–each other?
Deep breaths, mamas and papas. Let’s lighten up, not take ourselves or our kids quite so seriously.
Maybe, just maybe, doing so will make our lives a little bit easier. And we’ll stumble upon joy in the process.
“The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson
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