Remembering that “the days are long, but the years are short”, definitely applies to homeschooling. Before me sits a child who God gave me to nurture into a Godly man or woman. Childhood is the bridge between these points. Every day behind impresses the years ahead. Sometimes I stand in complete awe at the breadth of life already past in this journey of mothering. My homeschooling journey started young. My family lived in a remote mission field where education was only available with a tutor. My mother took up the challenge as she did not want to send us to boarding school.
As I mature, pursuit of a calm and a peaceful spirit transforms me.
Contemplating this season of life, I am struck at how often I work toward re-thinking my daily schedule. Not being a naturally calm person, my intentionality in being unruffled or composed requires prayer and practice. Working through the ideas below frequently permits me practice at calm adjustments. Patience and flexibility certainly don’t come easily for me. My natural bent is to make a plan and work that plan. However, life happens. So, the plan doesn’t work as intended.
This is a series of ideas that I have learned that help me on a regular homeschooling day. (Is there a “regular” homeschool day? Who are we kidding?) Here are a few thoughts that go through my mind as I strive to be obedient toward the direction of the Lord and do all things to the glory of God. Since He has given me the gift of an incredible family, I take my job of nurturing and training seriously. When it comes to schooling, creating and maintaining a healthy atmosphere demands purposeful reactions.
Here are a few of the ideas that calm my homeschooling days:
1. Be still.
While this seems like a silly thing to say when maneuvering through an important list of learning goals, being still is the first thing to do when everything starts spinning. Sometimes I just hide in my closet or outside the front door for a few minutes. I have heard about other moms that hide in the bathroom. Find your favorite location. Take deep breaths. Think grateful thoughts. Pray earnestly.
As the children have gotten older, I have tried to teach them how to calm down and regroup. Life is serious business. Learning to cope well and regain composure is important. For me being still often means to pray for wisdom. Then listen. If I am daily in God’s Word, he will remind me of wisdom that I have learned through His Word.
2. Do the first things first.
Another simple concept is to prioritize each day. Start each day with spiritual thoughts. Ask God to guide you through prioritizing your day. At our home, we want to study the Bible first, music and math are next. Following a protein snack, we buckle down on memory work, grammar, vocabulary and language goals. After a late lunch we settle into reading for science, history, debate and other interests.
3. Perspective on the end game.
If each day had to be evaluated alone, my point of view would be skewed. The truth is that every day an enormous task must be accomplished. Each day is a gift as the heart and education of a child is guided by me. Wow!! What a heavy thought! However, I know that God is the advisor of my decisions. Sometimes asking for forgiveness is next. Sometimes taking a break is the answer. Planning a day outside is often the perfect reset. Taking school outside when the weather is perfect is a great option. We often take our Enos outside for individual reading or memorizing time. Sometimes starting again later solves the dilemma.
4. Hard work
Let’s be honest. Homeschooling is just hard work. As a mom we are “on” all day. Think about the morning activities of encouraging everyone to be up on time, contributions, breakfast, dressing and starting in good time. Couple those energy busters with the need to maintain a Godly response to the day’s events. Sometime I start the day tired. This is a familiar posture for motherhood. The years of nursing a new baby and creating intentional time with all the older children needing school reminded me of my great need for a full night of sleep. Surely the daily grind of a mom does not usually ensure adequate sleep. Give yourself grace. Be flexible. Breathe.
5. Focus. Limit outside distractions.
Frankly, the idea of “Wherever you are, be all there,” encompasses profound truth. In order to “be all there” all media and outside calls must be turned off. Immerse yourself in the people that you are with in person. Give your husband your full attention. Focus deliberately on your children. Attentiveness to your “students” especially during school hours means not giving your thought to anyone else or anything else. Exceptions that I consider might include working the laundry or food prep in the kitchen in-between lessons.
6. Guard against comparing.
Practically, we all know that each of our homes offer a unique combination of students, learning styles, gifts, limitations and possibilities. Give yourself love when you do your best. Your best is all you can reasonably expect. Give your child praise when he works to his best too. Avoid sharing negative things about your student with others. Avoid sharing his struggles and limitations with others. Since we all have strengths, intentionally focus on those as you speak with your child in the privacy of your home as well as the conversations you have in public with others. Remember the “perfect” homeschooling mom or student is really “normal”. While transparency is an important quality, honoring your child and loving him by wise words publicly in crucial to success. So, don’t compare yourself or your child. It is never beneficial.
7. Slay expectations.
The trouble with expectations is usually that they are unrealistic. Give up on “Perfect” Embrace “real life.” Real life is a beautiful thing. I have been a photographer since I was a little girl. The charm and allure of capturing life through the lens of a camera never evaporates. Wear the lens of awareness each day as you homeschool. Pursue understanding over accomplishment.
Enjoy your children. Don’t try to fit into the expectations of their age. Intellectually, we know that each child learns at their own pace. Sometimes you have to put a subject away until tomorrow. One of my children struggled to tell time. After trying everything I knew to teach this skill, I decided to put away these materials for about six months. When I started again with this process in six months, the child learned it immediately. The timing was right this time. The child had matured enough to grasp the concepts. Celebrate the moment when learning comes quickly. Be flexible and patient when adjustment is needed.
It helps to be satisfied with progress, not perfection. Remember to treasure your child’s heart over their achievements.
8. Expect interruptions.
Every day is full of interruptions. Even if you commit to number five of limiting distractions, you will still be interrupted. Resist the urge to utter a loud exasperated explosion of air. Resist the urge to whine. Resist the urge to quit. This “interruption” might be something God has put in your way to redirect you or your child. Often my interruptions materialize because I am not just a tutor for my child, I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a mom to other children. Work toward order. However, if interrupted, respond wisely and then start back where you left off. Expecting that some interruptions will come helps me to have a more cheerful response. With kids in college and away from home, with a family member with cancer and a friend struggling to restart her life after divorce….. interruptions happen.
9. Move the end of the list forward.
When a subject takes longer than you anticipate, when the day gets away from you, when a child is sick, when it is time to leave for football, when a rabbit trail takes you to a glorious learning place, when it is time to start supper…. just stop where you are. Move the remainder of your list to the top of tomorrow. Remember your attitude is what your family will remember most. A schedule is just a routine, not a noose. Stay flexible.
10. Be good to yourself.
Taking care of myself with rest, nutrition and hygiene drastically improves my ability to nurture my family. So, never neglect to discipline yourself to get to bed at a reasonable time. Of course, moms with young ones or nursing babies may have difficulty with regular sleep. Plan for a nap in the afternoon. Older children can use this time for reading in their own room. Be sure to secure all devices to avoid distraction.
For many years Wednesday was the longest day of the week. Once all the children were in bed, I indulged in a bath!! It was glorious!! Look for ways to be good to yourself. Recognize when you will be tired. Anticipate that exhaustion and plan something restful.
Take time to read God’s Word or listen to loud worship music. Carry on a conversation with your God who loves you more than anyone in the world. If you have a personal relationship with Him, he is walking beside you throughout each day. Enjoy His company.
Whisper prayers for peace.
Whisper prayers for help.
Whisper prayers of gratitude.
Take time to cultivate the relationship with your husband. Date nights out and at home are imperative. When my children were very young, I read a devotional book that proposed the idea that a mom should prioritize the physical relationship with her husband. Think of it as more wonderful as a perfect cup of coffee and a piece of dark chocolate. Plan for regular fun. Often life is what we make it. Celebrate the gift of intimacy that God has given in marriage. It is one His best gifts! Don’t miss out.
Be purposeful as you approach your homeschooling days. Plan to be still, purposeful, visionary, hard-working, focused without comparison, false expectations. Expect interruptions and always take care of yourself.
Ask God to give you a calm spirit. One of my favorite authors, Augustine, wrote in Confessions, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, O Lord” Spiritual maturity necessitates an orderly pattern of study of the Bible, worship and prayer. One verse that motivates me to pursue God first every day is the inexpressible peace He promises. Phil 4:7… “And the peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Grasp the peaceful calm that God promises and transfer it to your homeschooling day.