With the new school year just barely underway, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned; from my success and from my failures! There are things we can do that will actually sabotage our homeschooling. Let me share 6 of them with you.
#1 – Do not make time for yourself
Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. With a sprint you can give 110% for a very short period of time. You’ll get exhausted, but you will be done quickly and then can go on to other things. A marathon requires pacing, and understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and wisdom in when to give it your all and when to give it a rest.
Homeschooling is a marathon.
If we do not make time for ourselves EVERY DAY, we will not last past February! I’ve been homeschooling for going on 24 years schooling year round so I know what I’m talking about. I need to make sure that I take time EVERY DAY to:
- spend time with the Lord – to be refreshed, filled up (since I’m pouring out into others all day long) and energized, as well as guided and directed in discipling my children
- eat right – running on sugar and fast food will burn you out very quickly! Making MY eating a priority is kind of like putting the mask on me before I put it on my children in the airplane instructions…if I am not taking care of my health, I will not have anything left to take care of my children’s.
- exercise – now this is NOT a strength of mine, but I know in the years when I’ve made it a priority, I have had much greater strength and endurance — something we ALL need in homeschooling!
- have some quiet time – just time when I decompress, and let the quiet around me feed my soul; I know with 8 children, those times of solitude can be few and far between, so my afternoon for quiet time has been a non-negotiable for many years in our home and very relaxing for me
#2 – Do not ‘unplug’ from electronics
The phone, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter. These can all suck your time, your energy and your focus – the focus that is central to success in homeschooling. Oh we think, “I’m just going to check my email.” or “I’m only looking for a good recipe for chuck roast.” But before you know it, 2 hours and 15 minutes have gone by and math, science, language arts have fallen by the wayside. The children have gotten on video games or put a movie in. Getting them off and back on track for school ends up in a battle of wills and much frustration and irritation.
Set Office Hours for your online time.
You don’t have to have an office to set office hours. These are just the hours that you set during the day when you have scheduled time to be online. And they can be broken up throughout the day, rather than all at once.
- Do you rise early for your time with the Lord? Maybe you can schedule 30 minutes of Office Hours right after that?
- Do your children all have a video break in the afternoon? Maybe you can schedule another chunk of Office Hours then.
- Does your husband spend time with the children in the evenings? Maybe that can be another chunk of Office Hours.
I have time from 6-7, 2:30-3:30 and 8:30-10 set for my Office Hours. I work in my VA (virtual assistant) work, maintaining websites and social media for groups/ministries as well as my own personal blogging and just fun stuff.
#3 – Fly by the seat of your pants and do not plan
Now I am NOT a planner by nature. Gumby is my middle name: I’m flexible and spontaneous and can “always work it out.” But I have found over the years that there is a time and place for flexibility and a time and place for planning. School is a place for planning!
Of course, having completed 23 years and graduated 5 children, I have a good idea of what needs to be accomplished in a given day, but I still need to plan. WHY? Because if I don’t have a plan I end up accomplishing much less than I had originally intended and the children lose. Yes, we have our basic core curriculum, but as the children grow older, we also have electives that are added in and these are specific to the needs and ‘bent’ of each child; things that will help them in their lifelong pursuit. And these are the ones that get lost in my flexible shuffle if I’m not careful to plan my days and weeks.
Homeschooling is like juggling.
A juggler has many balls that he is using in his routine. Sometimes he will drop 1 or more balls as he does certain acts. The trick is to always know WHICH balls are dropped and to never leave them on the ground for long. The wise juggler will always drop something else while picking up a ball that has been on the floor for awhile. In homeschooling, this is very true. I may drop a curriculum ball for a couple of days while we work on a field trip or service ministry to someone in need. BUT I must always know which ball has been dropped and make an organizational choice to pick it back up while perhaps dropping something else.
This kind of thoughtful decision-making can only come when there has been thorough planning beforehand and during the school year.
#4 – Over commit your time
Many many years ago, as a baby Christian, a young woman was in charge of the discipleship of all the single women in my church. During the course of those years when I was taught and trained by her, I learned many rich nuggets that I have used in my own discipling/mentoring. This is one of them: “For the believer, the good is the enemy of the best.”
There are so many GOOD things we can be doing in our lives. Bible studies, prayer meetings, ministry opportunities. The list can go on and on. But if these are not the things – the BEST things – that God is specifically calling us to do NOW in our lives, they become an enemy to us. They distract us and deplete our time and energy from the BEST things He has for us to do.
I haven’t been involved in a bible study for the past 23 years.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t DO bible study or that I think there is something wrong with doing bible studies. It’s just that there is no space in my life for it right now. I’m getting closer, but not yet.
Is it hard for your to say No when people ask you to do things? After all, most people look at us homeschool moms and think that we don’t do anything – we are just home all day long playing games with our children (maybe watching TV and eating bonbons). But our lives are full, sometimes over full. We need to carefully guard our time outside of the home so that we have the strength and energy to minister exactly where God has called us.
Please know I am NOT saying we are to be slaves to our homes. I HAVE had outside ministry for years, it just was not ministry that took me outside of my home. I have mentored/discipled women on the phone and/or online for the past 27 years. I can do that when my children are napping or during my afternoon quiet periods. Online mentoring can happen anytime that the children are in bed. There are many ways for us to be an active vibrant part of the body of Christ without sacrificing our homeschooling!
#5 – Allowing/planning things during school time
Your school hours should be set in stone – even if you are Flexible Flyer like me. By this I mean that you don’t plan doctor visits or shopping trips or allow drop-in visitors during these hours. While we DO have a great deal of flexibility in our days, school must be our FIRST priority of activities during the day.
It’s always amazing to me the number of people who call to chat or come by to visit during school hours without calling first. “Well, I know you homeschool, so your time is free.” WHAT???
Most people are just clueless when it comes to understanding what a homeshool mom’s day is like.
Of course this is NOT the same as getting calls for our prayer chain (that I’m the head of) or urgent calls for ministry. We are flexible enough that we have actually fit those kinds of things INTO our homeschooling lives. But the things that could very well wait until after school is finished SHOULD wait. And it is important that we are not apologetic for putting them off! If you haven’t read The Tyranny of the Urgent, you SHOULD. It is a tiny little booklet that I read way back in 1977 when I was a young believer and it radically changed my view of my time and my life priorities.
#6 Lose your sense of humor and living in grace & mercy
When I was a young girl, I remember reading the piece in the Reader’s Digest called “Laughter, the Best Medicine”. I had no idea it was a saying but it has certainly become a central part of my life. Being able to laugh at ourselves and our circumstances can often keep us sane during difficult times. It reminds us that WE are not in the center of the universe, but that God is.
“…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Neh 8:10
When we take ourselves too seriously we place a heavy weight of expectation on our children. When laughter is a key component in our lives, it brings freedom; freedom to fail, freedom to succeed and freedom to be somewhere in between. With the joy of the Lord, grace and mercy go hand-in-hand. We want our homes and our homeschooling to be centered in the grace and mercy of God, poured out to our children in their lives. We want to raise our children with a deep understanding of who they are in Christ and the grace that is the core of our saving faith. Without that, we are teaching our children a legalistic lie that can cripple them in their walks with God.
So, these are only 6 of the pitfalls I encourage you to avoid in your homeschooling, unless your GOAL is to sabotage your year!? 😀 What ones have YOU found that you are seeking to avoid?
Linking to any number of these lovely blogs.
(images by stockimages and artur84 and Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net)
This was really helpful to me this morning. Thank you!
Praise the Lord, Laura! Thanks for stopping by today, glad you were blessed.
These are AWESOME! I agree with all of them and I love the title. You totally ROCK!!
Thanks, Debi! You are the BEST cheerleader I know!!
Oh thank you thank you for posting this! Simple, straight forward and exactly what I needed to hear today.
I am homeschooling my daughter. Well, right now we are very loosely doing pre-K and I am struggling with prioritizing school what with my husband’s work schedule, caring for his elderly grandma,some special allergy treatments (these will only last a few months) and keeping my 1 yr old in check along with housework meals and laundry etc. etc.
I have found that, when I’ve planned well ahead of time, we can sail happily through our “curriculum” in 1-1/2 hours 3 days a week. You’d think that would be no big deal. But some days…I can’t seem to fit it in at all. This simple list of instructions just nailed down for me what I’ve got to do if I want to keep school from slipping through my hands.
Thank you also for mentioning your ministry by email, phone and text. I’ve found that’s what God has brought to me as a ministry too. I’ve said no to pretty much any other ministry opportunity to keep my focus where it needs to be. Although I’ve recently felled strongly called and anointed to serve in women’s minisitries at my church. The way God has brought it to me I do believe he is calling me to this ministry along with my family and homeschooling. I’m just not sure how it’s all going to look yet. I’m excited and trepidatious and desperately seeking discernment on how to honor this calling and my family. I’m going to have to learn to manage my time better and I need a megadose of Holy Spirit power to do it! I can do all things through Christ!
Thank you for your kind and encouraging words here Kate. Your example is such a witness.
Tara, you sure have a lot on your plate and I’m so thrilled to see you making it work. The beauty of homeschooling is our flexibility. But it must be PRO-ACTIVE flexibility! We’ve done school in the car on the way to out of town doctor visits, we’ve done school after supper, we’ve done school on the week-ends with very little done during the week. Whatever works FOR US. And you will work out what works FOR YOUR FAMILY. And the thing that’s great is that it might change from year to year! But we need to be aware of our choices and not let time slip away from us with distractions.
I’m so excited about your ministry opportunity! I pray that the Lord will give clear guidance and direction as He leads and anoints you to this work and that He gives the grace to accomplish all He calls you to. As a friend of mine always used to say, “There is always time to do the will of God.”
Blessings to you, dear sister!!
I have been homeschooling my 11-year-old daughter forever, and while I agree about balance and priorities and setting up your homeschool according to those, not everyone’s priorities are going to be the same. For instance, one of the reasons I LOVE homeschooling is that if I decide to go to the store in the middle of the day, I can. My daughter can come with me and, voila, it’s a home economics lesson. Or she can stay home for some “down” time and I can have an hour to myself. Same goes for doctor’s appointments. I think that assuming you have to be “home” to school limits what school is. To me, school is learning, and exploring, and becoming literate about the world. You know where school hours are set in stone? At school. I’m not sending my daughter to school because I don’t think it’s the most efficient use of her time. And while it’s fine that some people choose to school that way, it’s a mistake to say that I’m “sabotaging” my kid’s education because that’s not the way I do it. Same with the planning thing – and I *am* a planner – and the “office hours” for internet since I work from home and have to have the computer available most of the time. We’re all different. It can still work.
Laura you are absolutely right…every one of us is different and every homeschool SHOULD look unique to meet the needs of the children and the focus of the family. In our home, LIFE is our school. We utilize every opportunity in life to teach our children.
Please know that I am not saying that a flexible school life is sabotaging our children’s education. But I AM saying that we need to be proactive in taking every opportunity to teach our children. Unfortunately, and I speak from experience, it is very easy to let academics slide by the wayside. For those of us who are not planners by nature, we can look back over a semester and realize we’ve only done 4 math lessons in 16 weeks!! YIKES!
Nothing about our family’s life is set in stone, and definitely not school hours! 😀 We’ve done school in the mornings, in the afternoons, in the evenings and at random times throughout the day (depending on my limitations of pregnancy sickness 😉 ) I just have to make sure that I don’t allow my flexibility to rule my life at the expense of my children’s education. As a planner, you are probably much better at guiding every situation into an educational opportunity than my Let’s Party attitude!! 😀 😀
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Laura. I love hearing the joyful differences of every family’s school life. Blessings to you!
This is an excellent post, Kate!! After homeschooling for more than 25+ years (lost track) all the things you mentioned are so so important.
Great post, Kate! I’m a long-time homeschooler and I agree with each of these points. Thanks for sharing! We all need these reminders.
Our school year begins in 2 days, so this was perfect timing for me! I definitely needed to hear this especially the part about saying no to other people and things that take up too much of my time.
And speaking of that, I think I’m going to “unplug” right now and work some office hours into my day.
Thank you so much for this!
Great timing in this post. I have found that I have to be careful when I am on social media – like the start of the school year. Otherwise I find myself doubting our decision. I can easily step back and look at my children’s academic success and know we are doing what is best for them but somehow that gets lost when I see all the “fun” things kids in public school are doing.
I find that I need periodic reminders to keep me on task and focused! Glad it was helpful for you, sweetie. We need to talk soon!!! Miss you.