Homeschooling is Both a Sprint and a Marathon

If you have goals you plan to bring into focus in the upcoming weeks and months, don’t forget homeschooling. The very nature of it makes it difficult to have goals, but don’t let that dissuade you.

When making goals remember that homeschooling is both – a spring and a marathon. 

That will make it much easier to plan for.

Planning For a Sprint

Homeschooling is a sprint because each day requires new muscles – stronger ones and quick, decisive action. On any given day, a thousand little decisions come into play.

The success or failure of your day hinges on whether you can make these decisions, do these tasks, quickly and win.

Much like in a sprint, the end goal of every homeschool day is in sight, but needs to be reached for and worked toward. And the sense of accomplishment when it is achieved is palpable. But there is a rhythm to it – a speed, a motion – and it is a quick one. Lose the speed and lose the race.

Knowing this, plan for every homeschool day with speed and efficiency as your focus. Use a checklist. Write down in precise terms what needs to be accomplished for it to be labeled a win.

Planning For a Marathon

While every day is a sprint, the years of homeschooling are a marathon. And much like in a marathon, it’s a mental game as well as a physical one.

Pace yourself – isn’t that what they repeat constantly? You can’t go all out on mile 1 because there are 25.2 more. When it comes to homeschooling, don’t start too early.

Just as in a marathon, the mental battle is most of the work.

You can do this, but you might need to convince yourself more than once. Include a steady stream of inspiration, but don’t get overwhelmed.

Above all, include regular time to dream, plan and simply to think.

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How to Win if You Worry

Worry is ubiquitous. It is also entirely normal and can sometimes be helpful.

It’s okay to worry.

The Worriers and the Warriors

According to writers Bronson and Merriman, the world is divided into two types of people.

There are worriers and then there are warriors.

Some of us enjoy competition, like taking risks and perform better when challenged. These are the warriors.

People who worry, on the other hand, tend to perform worse when circumstances require them to compete against each other or even themselves.

They don’t like challenges and prefer to remain in the safe, solid areas of existence.

By now, you already know which category you fall into. So in the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I tend to be a worrier.

How the Worriers Can Beat the Warriors

Now that the bad news is out of the way, here’s the good news: because worriers tend to be focused on small details and anything that can go wrong, they have an advantage warriors miss.

But this advantage only comes to play when the challenge is repeated more than once.

This means that if you tend to be more of a worrier than a warrior, you are likely to hang back a little and watch. While watching, you notice the things that could be hazards. You try, you fail. You try again, you fail again.

Here’s the thing: each time you try and fail, you literally fail better. 

What Does This Have to do with Homeschooling?

Quite a bit, actually. If you are a worrier, now you know what to do. You can do something enough times in order to succeed.

If your child is a warrior, give him some competition and watch him blossom. If he’s a worrier, give him measured challenges and make them repetitive.

Worriers and warriors can both win, just in vastly different ways.

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If You Think You’re Not Doing Enough, Write It Down

Pssst… hey you! Yes, you homeschooling mom! I’m looking at you. Want to know a secret?

You’re doing enough.

You’re doing more than you think you are.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a challenge. For the next entire week, write down everything you think your child is learning. If you read to him, write it down. Did you cook or do laundry together? Note it.

Maybe he figured out a map of your neighborhood and told you where to turn the car. If you read a book together or just listened to an audiobook, remember to include it.

Great conversations or any teachable moment you have spent, even the difficult ones – write them down.

Oh, and of course don’t forget the overt sit down work you do with your child. All the written work, all the hear-tearing math, everything that required pens and paper and the ubiquitous worksheet.

And then, only then – add it up.

See, you’re teaching enough – you’re doing far more than you think.

Schools rest on the idea that information can be institutionalized and they have it all. And to get it, we have to be enrolled in a formal course.

But of course, today we know this is not true. Teaching isn’t something you switch on or off. You don’t go from being a mother to a teacher back to being a mother. And that’s precisely the point.

Your work is specialized in the best way possible – it’s unique to you and your child.

It doesn’t matter if you’re still learning patience. Or organization, or frugality, or whatever virtue you think you need to do this successfully. It doesn’t matter that inside you feel like you’re not doing enough.

It doesn’t matter that you’re not teaching like a school would.

The fact that you cannot teach like a school – far from being a weakness – is a strength of unfathomable depth.

You are already teaching. You are always teaching. Homeschooling is just another word for it.

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Homeschool New Year’s Resolutions I Will NOT be Making (or Keeping)

Homeschool New Year's Resolutions I Will Not Be Making (or Keeping)
Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

If you’re making some new year’s resolutions for 2018, chances are you have some homeschool ones. Last year, I posted five books to boost motivation. The books were mainly about making and keeping new habits and working with the personality you have.

And while I love the fresh start January offers every year, there are some homeschool resolutions I will certainly not be making.

This is especially for our homeschool, but applies in a general way to other areas as well. Here are three of my biggest ones.

I will not be reading books that don’t matter

I have already written about our read aloud rules, but I’m going to extend that to all books in 2018. I will not be reading books in our homeschool that bore us or ones we have to plod to get through.

I believe firmly that we have to learn to quit – to stop doing things that don’t work and teach our children to do the same.

So I will no longer read books that don’t matter or guilt myself into reading something just because I “should.”

I will not use a curriculum/style/workbook beginning to end

Anyone who has read my books The Classical Unschooler and Create Your Own Homeschooling Curriculum knows that I tend to be fairly eclectic, pulling things from various places.

This year, I intend to use conversation as a main driving tool for our homeschool and rely more on rabbit trails, online searches and possibly even current affairs, bad history and yes, even “fake news” to steer our homeschool journey.

I will absolutely not depend on a specific workbook, curriculum or feel bad for not doing something the “right way.” If it gets us learning, searching and talking about it, it’s done its job.

I will not fit in

For all the FOMO that the social media age seems to have supposedly brought on, I have realized that it has also given us incredible freedom. Not everyone is driven by the need to be where things are happening, because, let’s face it, things aren’t all happening in one place.

Even as we broadcast our perfect moments on Facebook and Twitter, we admit that this is what matters to us as of now. This group, this family, this party, this hike, these friends, this um, well, questionable choice in food photography.

So I will make no attempt to fit in this year. I will not make my children fit in to anything. I will not worry that they are not in lock step with their grade levels or their peers. I will not let peer pressure drive me.

These then are some resolutions I refuse to make in 2018. Are there any resolutions you particularly shun? Let’s hear them!

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This Year, I Will Make More Mistakes

My daughter and I tend to have this in common: she does not like to make mistakes.

I can recall countless times sitting down at the table with her, doing math.

“Come on, what do you think is the answer?”

A pained expression on her face. “I don’t know.”

“Okay, I know you don’t know. Just try.”

“I don’t know.”

She sits there frozen in time, unwilling to answer, unwilling to do something because her best guess could be the wrong answer.

And I realize I tend to be a lot like her. I realize she gets this aversion to making mistakes from me.

Earlier this year, we moved to an apartment to be able to sell our house. Thinking that an empty house is easier to be shown and seems more inviting to buyers, we downsized for a few months into an apartment half the size.

It was a mistake.

Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t earth shattering and it definitely wasn’t something we couldn’t recover from, but it was a mistake. (We could have just as easily chosen to remain in the house and show it.) And that mistake did cost us some money.

Why Make Mistakes

They tend to do that, however.

Mistakes end up costing you something, otherwise you wouldn’t recognize them as such. The problem comes when you decide you want to stop making them.

While not wanting to make too many mistakes is a good idea, the desire to completely stop making mistakes can cause you to become immobile.

As I tell my daughter, you can either get no points for leaving the answer blank or give yourself the possibility of getting the right answer.

Not choosing is also a choice.

Attempt it. At least try something. The biggest danger in making mistakes is the fear of making another.

Overcoming the Fear of Making Mistakes

Every time I am afraid of making a mistake, I have learned to engage in an exercise. It’s a mental exercise of sorts, but I can also use paper.

I quickly write down some of my biggest life decisions – the ones that matter, the ones that I see all around me.

I conclude that of those decisions, some have been mistakes, sure, but most of them – by God’s grace – have worked out just fine. And if those have worked out fine, my track record for making decisions is not that bad.

It might seem a little goofy to do things this way, but it works.

It works because it removes the dread of the unknown.

Where otherwise there was only overwhelming fear and an aversion of getting it wrong, I now have some assurance of the possibility of perhaps getting it right. Or making it right.

So this year, not only will I be making more mistakes, I will be teaching my children to make more mistakes.

It is the only way to remove the sting of fear from them.

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How to Wait Well

I don’t know about you but I hate waiting. And fortunately for me I’ve been doing a lot of it.

Yes, you read that right.

Waiting Well

The life of a homeschooling parent involves much waiting.

First you wait for the child to be old enough to be able to homeschool him. Then you wait for him to “get it” as you’re teaching something or develop an interest in something.

And then of course there are those long days (and short years!) when you’re waiting to get to the next stage, the next step, the next homeschooling year.

But here’s the thing: pretty soon, it’s over. No matter how long homeschooling days seem, they will end. There will be a time when the children move out. It’s important to remember that.

The happiest, most content people I know are those who know this; they know how to wait well.

Some Practical Ideas

I have written an earlier post about how most moms don’t manage time well because of boredom. And it was suggested to me that I write another post with some suggestions of how we might do better, so we’re not bored.

First, I’d suggest reading this post about why homeschooling moms are happier followed by this one about ten things to do when homeschooling gets lonely.

Second, I will share what I do. I play. While this can mean video games, I’m using the word “play” in a much bigger sense of the word. I turn much of what I do into a game in my head.

The easiest game in the world is a checklist – write things down and see how many you can cross out in an hour. Attach a reward to it. I create endless games like that. Frugality is a big one for me – something I have written about elsewhere.

Learning to wait well is a skill – one that we need as desperately as our children. Watching you wait teaches them far more than you think.

One of my dreams is since I wrote The Classical Unschooler is to create a curriculum for the entire family. This is would include books for the parents to read that are related to what the children are learning. I think such a curriculum would eliminate boredom and deepen learning.

But you don’t need to wait for my curriculum. You can start on your own. Just pick out a book written for grown ups related to something your child is studying. Read it. Discuss it. Go deeper into the topic if it interests you. Join a book club. See if it sparks a passion. Find ways to feed that passion and share it. Start a blog.

Just try it. It might just be the ticket.

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The Heart of the Matter

Photo by Mike Mitchell on Unsplash

The other day, a broken blind brought me to tears.

Sometimes, what is bothering us is not obvious. This is true in all aspects of our life.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we have recently sold our house and are living in an apartment half its size. We do plan on buying a house again, but this place is home for now.

And then I cry over the ugliness of blinds and complain that I want curtains. Go figure.

What is the heart of the matter?

If you’ve been homeschooling, even for a few months, you know that there are days that are not perfect. In fact, real life rarely is and homeschooling is real life.

Is there something currently that seems not right? Perhaps in the curriculum or your schedule? Something that might be bothering you and leaving you irritable and feeling like it could be better or that there’s something missing. Or just making you feel annoyed?

Don’t ignore it. But don’t be eager to give it a superficial name either.

In my case, I attributed it to change. After all, moving is one of the most stressful things one can do – especially with children. I blamed the apartment for not being as perfect as our house had been.

But then I realized it hadn’t bothered me in the first or the second month. All those little things had been embraced in the past as part of the adventure.

The heart of the matter was something else – it was not the blinds. It wasn’t even “ugliness.” It was a loss of enthusiasm.

Protect What Matters

Remember what matters.

Enthusiasm is not the same as motivation.

I’m not standing in front of the mirror every morning and talking up our day. But I am enthusiastic about homeschooling because it means sharing our lives with our children.

Somewhere along the way in this move, my focus shifted and I became more concerned with “staying on track.” It became less about sharing our lives and more about making the kids “do school.”

Ugh. The heart of the matter was that I forgot the heart of the matter.

This is a good time of year to remember what’s most important. When your homeschool falls off track, when there are “emergency” baking sessions, when all you want to do is put your feet up and watch movies or relatives arrive, remember this.

Remember the heart of the matter.

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First Year Homeschoolers: Practice Being Uncomfortable

It’s almost time. No, I’m not talking about Christmas – or even the new year. I’m talking about January. It’s coming, you know!

All that pressure to start anew, make amends, create resolutions.

What will you plan on doing this year? Spend time wisely? Lose weight? Be organized? Even be happier? Or thrifty?

While these are all worthy goals – and worth pursuing – beware of jumping into them too easily. Especially if you’re a new homeschooler.

Life Changes are Hard

We recently moved into a tiny – and I do mean tiny – apartment from a small house. Our house is on the market and we intend to move into a different house pretty soon. So as you can tell, there have been many changes.

My daughter hasn’t responded well to them. One night, after being grumpy and difficult, she burst into tears with the words, “Everything is different!”

Homeschooling can be like that. It is a big change – it’s a change in lifestyle, after all. It demands a change in your schedule, your attitude. And precisely because of that it demands a change in your thinking. 

And that is hard.

The Problem

But the problem isn’t that homeschooling or any other life changes are hard. The concern – as my daughter found out – was that we strain against them and make them harder.

Instead of accepting that this is how it’s going to be and it’s not going to feel normal for a while (because it’s not) we beat our heads against it. We try to ripen buds, to make it new things feel normal.

And when they don’t, we assume something must be wrong and try to change them.

If this is your first year homeschooling, avoid that trap. Resist setting resolutions for yourself that are not realistic. Instead, work toward this idea – practice being comfortable with the discomfort.

Practice saying to yourself what I told my daughter, what I’m repeating to myself like a mantra: This is how it’s going to feel for a while – and that’s okay. 

Because nothing is really wrong. It’s just different.

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I’m Only Happy When I’m ____________

Here’s a fill in the blank for my favorite homeschooling moms.

When I posted this article about why moms don’t manage time well, a reader wrote to me. She wanted to know if I had any suggestions for things she could so that would eliminate boredom.

Here’s my idea: fill in the blank in the title.

What makes you happy? What is it that you do that makes you happy?

There are only two criteria here:

  1. It has to be something you do, not someone else; and
  2. It has to make you come alive.

It must make you excited, like a child on Christmas morning.

You should have a visceral and noticeable reaction when you think of that thing that you would like to do.

For me, that one thing is learning. It doesn’t matter what it is that I’m learning, I feel the need for ideas swimming in my head at all times. If I don’t have that, I get bored.

For others, it might be reading or crafting or sewing. Or blogging.

Maybe for others, it’s organizing. Entertaining. Keeping a home running smoothly can also be a passion.

I have spent enough time on Pinterest to see that people are interested in different things, even ones that are not common.

You don’t have to worry about others, or even if what makes you happy is “productive.” Just find a way to indulge yourself in it every single day.

You might be amazed how at some point these discrete, various interests can come together. As an example, my love of learning and words comes together in my blogging and also helps me in our actual homeschooling.

If you’re great at organizing, you might find that it will help you organize your space and time better with your children.

If nothing else, it will help rid you of boredom, perhaps give you a side profession and improve your daily quality of life.

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The Five Joys of Winter

If you’re anything like me, you get a little thrill every time you hear the phrase Winter is coming. In fact, one of my summer loving friends (Thanks, Tes!) said it to me as I was bemoaning the heat. It lifted my spirits.

I thought I’d pay it forward.

So as we head into December, I thought I’d write a little blog post to raise the spirits of my summer-loving friends. There are joys in winter if you look hard enough.

The lighting is always great for pictures.

As a somewhat so-called amateur photographer (hey, isn’t everyone that nowadays?) I love taking pictures of my children. This is especially true in the winter because with the overcast weather, the lighting is always perfect. There is no harsh sunshine messing up the contrast. And, let’s face it, it’s a great time to get dressed up.

A good book is all the rage.

I don’t know why summer is considered the time to read. Oh wait, I know. It’s because schools are closed. But seriously – there isn’t a worse time to read than the summer. All that talk about lazy days of summer is just that. Talk. Summers are busy and long. And loud. And bright. Winter is the time to curl up with a book. A good cup of coffee (or tea) and a good book – that’s what winter is for. The neighborhood is quiet because people are in their homes, the days are shorter and life is just more peaceful in general.

Options are limited.

Oh, we love our choices. But at some point while choosing between five brands of toothpaste we realize too many choices exhaust us. Now don’t get me wrong. I love capitalism and the creativity it inspires – I have a deep respect for entrepreneurship and the market. However, I have limited time for any given task. So I appreciate the winter for automatically limiting my choices – there are only so many things that we can do when it’s cold outside and gets dark early.

It’s a good time to get back on track with homeschooling.

Apart from Christmas, there are few distractions in the winter. And once that’s over, we have that long, blessed month of January with no celebrations. I love it. It’s also a time of year most people are thinking about starting anew with their resolutions – lose weight, get on a good schedule, eat right, save money – you know what I mean. This atmosphere makes it a wonderful time to get back on track with your homeschool – especially if you’ve been winging it a bit during the holidays. January is like a fresh new week, except it’s a whole month! I look forward to it every year.

All that snuggling!

My kids tend to be all bustle and run in the summer. Even the older ones. Something about all that sunshine drives them a little crazy, I think. And people are – in general, in my anecdotal experience – more pugnacious in the summer. But in the winter, the usual prickliness vanishes and my children are the sweetest things ever. Also, ever since I’ve read this post, I’ve begun to think more about the last times and cherish them as much as the firsts.

So you see? All’s not bleak. There are joys in the winter you can look forward to. What would you add to this list?

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