Written by contributor Renee Tougas of FIMBY.
The beginning of this New Year dawned bright. We had taken a break for moving and Christmas and now it was back to business.
By mid February, like every other homeschool family I know, we were getting kind an antsy.
We were tired of our routine and so we took a much needed week-long break. We used this time to rest our brains (mine especially!), watch online documentaries and get ready for my son’s birthday. Gastroenteritis paid an unwelcome visit and our one week break become two weeks.
March arrived, we were feeling healthy again and we got back to work.
But I didn’t feel the same rah-rah enthusiasm I did in January.
Where we live March is still very much winter. There are hints of spring, longer and warmer days, but snow still covers the ground. And not just a skiff, we’re talking feet and feet of snow. Then there’s the fact that we live in a 750 sq foot cabin. March cabin fever is literally cabin fever.
Like Jamie, I was tempted the beginning of this month to throw in the towel. Not the whole towel of course. Public school is not an option for us but I could just let the kids watch a bunch of documentaries and craft all day. Right?
Oh wait. I do that. Those are what I call our barebones school days. However, at this stage in our homeschool journey there are only so many barebones days I feel comfortable having during non-break sessions.
Let me explain.
We homeschool our children because we want them to learn in joy and freedom. To discover who they are, what they love, what they are good at, what their mission is and to build an education around that.
When our children were in their early elementary years it was common for me to take large chunks of time off from our (quite scant to begin with) morning school routine of math, writing, and reading. Well, the reading we didn’t take breaks from but anything else that required a lot of my brain power was always open for negotiation.
I wanted to go places and do things. I wanted to explore, learn and discover with my children. Sit down workbook type stuff was not my gig. Nor was I interested in building clever unit studies and lap books. We largely did what inspired me and we had fun doing it. I had fun doing it.
This was important to me. If I wanted to be in this for the long term I needed to enjoy my job.
Weekly farm and library visits. Regular community art and culture events. Museums, concerts, nature walks and hands-on art teaching from local artisans and craftspeople.
Lots of reading together on the couch.
This was the elementary education I wanted to give my children – to grow their natural love of learning and fascination with life.
This was much more important to me than keeping pace with arbitrary curriculum standards and measures. And “staying on task”.
Then my kids grew. (My littlest is still in her early elementary years so her learning is still very play-based.)
And as they’ve grown their intellectual needs have grown also. Certain gaps in their early years education are more apparent and I need to spend a few years – the middle years – reinforcing those areas before they go deeper with their studies as young adults.
I anticipated this would happen. I also knew someday I’d have to step up my game. That once the foundation was set I’d have to get more serious with my time management and (gulp) personal discipline – to model the kind of learning I wanted my young adult children to embrace. Self-directed, interest-driven, and mission minded.
This is where I’m at.
I’m in a new place of personal discipline and consistency with our school routine because this is what I need to model for my growing children.
We like the resources we use. Sure there is continual tweaking that goes on, each week actually, but by and large we like our “curriculum”.
- So when I feel uninspired, it’s not because of the resources.
We like the general groove and routine of our day. The mornings are directed by me, filling in those gaps I mentioned earlier and building other skills. Afternoons are largely free for our children’s personal interests. And for our nearly thirteen year old daughter this includes a fair amount of self-directed education. Projects that apply what she’s learning and grow her skills and knowledge.
- So when I feel unmotivated, it’s not because our schedule is too much.
We like spending our days together. Helping each other reach our goals. My husband works at home and shares in the parenting and schooling workload. Yes, I need occasional breaks and daily quiet time where I don’t hear anyone’s voice but I really do like being with my kids.
- So when I feel frustrated, it’s not because this is more than I can handle.
What it comes down to is personal growth and discipline. Once again, I’m reminded it’s about me, not them.
I have a job to do.
A job I am committed to. A job that I’m actually very passionate about. A job that, at this point, requires intellectual growth (mine) and discipline (mine also).
And that’s not easy.
The answer for me is not to switch curriculums. We like what we use. It’s not to take more breaks. We’ve rested and now there’s work to do. It’s not to say “I’m outta here” mentally and emotionally. I have good support.
The answer is self-discipline. The answer for me is to stay the course.
Have you reached a point in your homeschool journey where you have to stay the course? What does that look like for you?
I believe lack of self-discipline is the source of much parental failure. We take it easy on ourselves and then our kids learn that model instead of learning to exert themselves. When I feel like “I don’t want to….”, I try to remind myself that soon I will be looking back on these years and wish I had. It helps me to keep going when, like you, I feel the blahs but don’t really need a change or deserve a rest. March is like miles 15-22 of a marathon–your first enthusiasm has passed, and you aren’t stoked for the finish line. You just keep powering on through.
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Sarah in GA
thank you for the truthful words. my kids are still in the elementary school stage, so we are still doing a lot of what you initially described. but i have already been thinking about what our schooling will look like as the kids grow and more time and discipline is required. one thing that really helps our family is that my husband is a public school teacher and i set up our calendar to match his. this helps keep us motivated – do school while papa is at work so that we can take the days off when he is off!
I don’t homeschool yet but I find this post is applicable to parenting in general. It’s good to take breaks, it’s good to make sure your routine works for you, but sometimes it takes pure self-discipline to push through when you don’t feel like it. Thanks for the reminder.
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My kids are young (6, 3, 3 months) so I am very much in the laid-back play based stage of homeschooling. Sometimes I worry that I will not have the self-discipline to get down to business when my kids need it. It’s reassuring to see that you – a homeschooler that I look to for inspiration- have been there too! And that you’re still working on the discipline part. Thanks for sharing so honestly.
Oh so yes! It starts with us, doesn’t it? And doesn’t homeschooling provide an amazing platform for OUR growth on so many levels? Fab post!
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I do feel like I’m in a “stay the course” season of life – but never in the sense of considering plunking my girls into public school. My earlier years of homeschooling were so disciplined, with very little fexibility on my part, and I feel like I’m at the opposite spectrum now. I could use more discipline but there is NO desire in me to be boxed into a rigid schedule at this point. I have been exploring the nuances between rhythm and schedule to figure out what our days and weeks could look like without any of us going insane 🙂
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Yes! Knew when I started homeschooling that much of it would depend on me growing and changing. It’s sobering when we look at our lives and realize we can’t defer responsibility to our schedules, curriculum, or children, but that we just have to dig deeper, pray more, and get busy.
Bernice @ The Stressed Mom
My kids are all grown and moved out now, but we did homeschool for 8 years and I loved those years. I remember hearing a statement somewhere that “God had work to do in me as a mother, so He called me to homeschool.” I learned a great deal while homeschooling. And not just the history and literature I didn’t get in my public school education. I learned a lot about self-discipline, and being resourceful, and creative, and PATIENT. I’m STILL working on that last one! And I learned a lot about grace, and loving my children for who they are, not what I wanted them to be.
Great post! Hang in there, spring is coming!
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shelli : mamaofletters
Renee, I really enjoyed this post because it gives me a view into what the future may look like and helps me mentally prepare for that. Think I’ll tuck it away somewhere. Thank you!
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I have been struggling so much with thinking about putting my daughter in public school lately. I really needed this encouragement… so much. I just started homeschooling this year with my DD (5yrs). I really lack self discipline, so I often feel badly about not being consistent enough, but in reality she is doing well and I just need to work on me and not give up. I believe that homeschooling is best for her, and you have really encouraged me to get back on track and put in the hard work of working on myself. Thanks for this, as it is invaluable to me in this moment.
Paula @Motherhood Outloud
I love these thoughts! I definitely agree that there are times we need to re-evaluate and figure out what things aren’t working- our schedule, our resources, etc. But sometimes, even when we have everything “right”, this is going to be hard! Some days we are going to be tired, some days our kids are going to whine, some days we would rather be a million other places than right where we are. But that’s pretty much true in all of life. Even if you’re not homeschooling, sometimes being a parent is hard. We should use those times to re-evaluate ourselves and the freedom we have to do this and the blessing it really is. Thanks : )
I think that for me, that was an inspiration. When I realized it was not a lack of books etc. It was a lack of me being disciplined to do it.
I have met many moms though that give up or never start homeschooling as they simply say they lack discipline. I found that homeschooling has been a life changing experience in teaching me how to develop discipline.
However, there are days where I just would love to take a week off and letting someone else take over my job for awhile sounds so appealing! I know though that teachers feel this way too…so on those days sometimes learning looks differently, but I make sure this is not an everyday thing….it is a once in a while, when I am tempted to give up type of thing.
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Your post has been so encouraging to me today as I’ve mulled it over and let it sink in. A couple thoughts: First, when we take extended breaks or get out of our routine, we are always off in our attitudes and behavior-mine as much as my children’s! When we just stick with it we stay in a better mood collectively and can help an individual who is struggling that day. That has been the biggest lesson in homeschooling this year for me. Consistency is a key for me. Even if it’s not intense, we need to focus and discipline ourselves daily.
Second, we have been feeling blah, too. I counted out our school days left, made a fantastically enticing countdown chain and then a chart listing the subjects we are studying. We have to do four each day in order for it to “count” as a school day. If we do then we get to tear a link off. When the chain is gone, summer vacation begins! My daughter is SO excited to check of her work and make the chain shorter. I’m excited for a visual indication for when school will be done! (At least the part we have to record and report on) This has brought a lot of enthusiasm back into our schoolwork.
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Great post Renee! Thanks for your transparency. I’m challenged and encouraged.