Daily Consistency Is A Myth

Daily Consistency is a Myth
Photo by Jackman Chiu on Unsplash

Consistency gurus always get me down. That is when they’re not making me feel like an automaton.

“Wake up early every day.” “Work out / meditate / read / write first thing in the morning.” Continue for forty years.

If that is the measure of success, I’m afraid I’ll never reach it.

Life isn’t Consistent

I realized the idea of daily consistency was insane when I came to the conclusion that as a family we tend to eat way more on the weekends. We also tend to be out of the home visiting friends or doing things on the weekends as well. And no one (least of all, me!) wants to cook.

So I designated a day late in the week as a a big cooking day. We do no school on that day. We pretty much do nothing else except cooking and laundry.

This one day makes our week look ridiculously lopsided. But it’s the only way our life works smoothly.

Scheduling: Still a Good Idea, If It Works

I write much about scheduling and using a template to organize your homeschool and overall it is a good idea to have a vision. But trying to stick to daily consistency is a recipe to make yourself feel guilty and burnt out in no time.

Nothing, but nothing in nature is that consistent. (Okay, yes, the sunrise. But I’m not the sun.) Or we’d all still be mowing our lawns in the winter. So why do we insist on it from our schedules?

Instead, find out if you’re one of those people who thrives on a routine and how best to work with your personality. Take the time to find out your children’s personalities. And then craft the ideal homeschool.

Unless you want to buy into that waking up at five a.m. to work out for forty years advice. In that case, rinse and repeat.

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Don’t “Pace Yourself”

Don't Pace Yourself
Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

Sometimes even the most well meaning people can give us the worst advice. A few months ago, I wrote about one that drives me nuts. You can read about how I don’t “trust the process” right here. Today, I want to talk about another piece of bad advice: pacing yourself.

As I mentioned in my previous post, doing something consistently does not mean that you need to do it everyday. It’s the same with pacing yourself.

Picture, for instance, beginning something new, realizing you’re quite excited about it and then having someone else tell you, “No, just do a chapter today. Pace yourself.”

Bad advice!

The problem with bad advice is that it always sounds so careful and wise.

Well, yeah… I could get bored with this, you think. Perhaps I had better just read 50 pages a day. No sense in immersing myself in it today and getting bored tomorrow and abandoning it completely.

But have you noticed the disinclination self directed learning has to pacing itself?

Self directed learning – whether done by you or your children – follows its own rhythm. It is exciting, obsessive and not interested in external schedules. In fact, trying to get it to “pace itself” can hinder it more than help it.

Think about the last time you had a burning question – an online argument, for example. Or a conviction you couldn’t shake. Or a book you couldn’t put down. How much faster did you learn and how much did you retain from it?

I can almost guarantee you learned more in a day from your obsession than you would have had you done a little a day every day.

Here’s What To Do Instead

Work as much as possible with your natural inclinations and let the children do so as well.

Craft a curriculum that works with their individual personalities.

Let them be bored.

Realize that interest is cyclical and goes through waxing and waning cycles. If they’re obsessed with something and then lose interest, it might come back soon.

Don’t push for mastery too soon. To develop what we call grit, children need to try out a few different things and play at them before they’re ready to settle in and work hard at it.

Instead of forcing a top down philosophy of learning and education, try to trust your own organic sense of self direction and see if you can work with it. Don’t pace yourself. Go all out. Exhaust yourself. Then recover, refresh and come back.

That’s how the best learning occurs.

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Consistency Doesn’t Always Look Consistent

Consistency Doesn't Look Consistent
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Open any book on habits and sooner or later (sooner, in most cases) you will come across the admonition to “be consistent.”

Then will follow reminders to wake up earlier and “eat that frog” earlier in the day. And perhaps a reminder or two to join an accountability group to stay on track.

There’s only one problem with this advice: it may not work with your personality. But that’s only a problem if you let it be one.

Consistent doesn’t mean daily

When scheduling our homeschooling, I make sure to leave time for goofing off. I do this because I know I need it as much as the children do. And even with that we find ourselves dumping the schedule and running off to play on some days.

When I check out books from the library, I include some that look interesting, but I do not put restrictions on myself to read them all. I know I will quit some after the first fifty pages because they don’t hold my interest.

At any given time, I have about five or six obsessions running through my head. My current ones are writing, frugality, reading history, brushing up on the two foreign languages I know and working on Latin.

But I don’t practice these daily. In fact, the moment I try to establish some sort of a schedule to be able to “be more consistent” with these interests, they become a little tiring.

What I’m Not Saying

I’m not saying everything in your homeschool has to be the result of passion. And I’m certainly not mouthing platitudes such as “follow your bliss.”

But I am making the point that it’s okay to relax a little when it comes to scheduling your children in their endeavors. Consider longer timelines – weeks, months, years. Not days. As long as something gets done over a month, don’t worry about the day to day work.

Most interests tend to be cyclical. Your desire for consistency does not need to take on the mantle of a dictatorship to be fruitful.

My daughter will eventually come back to cartooning and writing, even if she takes a break from it for a few days. I’m certainly not going to ask her to do it everyday. Yes, she loves it, but if I force her to pursue that interest in a top-down way, she might just grow to hate it. I know I would.

While scheduling for passions and interests, be sure to leave room and time, not appointments and programs.

Consistency doesn’t always look consistent. And it certainly doesn’t have to be daily to be effective.

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Using Momentum for Scheduling Your Homeschool

Using Momentum for Scheduling Your Homeschool
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If you’ve been following my previous blog posts, you know I write a lot about scheduling. I like my checklists, for one. I like the sense of control having a good chart gives me.

But as I mentioned in my second book, I also am keenly aware that different personality types benefit from doing different things.

One size does not fit all. Or why homeschool at all?

Enter Momentum

I recently came across this article about how resolutions should take a back seat to momentum. It resonated with me.

I already tackle to my to-do list with this in mind. I make a list of everything I want to do in a set period of time. Then, instead of “eating the frog,” I attempt what seems easiest and the most fun first and begin there.

Pretty soon, I’ve gathered enough momentum and everything is checked off.

Why not apply that to our homeschool schedule, I thought. I decided to try it. If you’re considering the same, give it a try with me.

Here’s How

Make a list of all that needs to get done that week. With the exception of outside classes, everything can be done with momentum.

Don’t try to schedule anything yet. Just make a list of everything. Write down the total number of pages, chapters, goals, and so forth. Then, instead of separating out the days and scheduling each day, just leave it up.

Watch what happens. You might be surprised!

I suspect that if your children are anything like mine, they might just jump on the first thing that grabs their interest and begin it. They might tear through it and decide on the next best thing. Pretty soon, they’ve gathered momentum. It might keep them going.

Be warned, however: this could mean some uneven days. It could even mean that “school work” gets done before half the week is over.

Why not let it?

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How Unschooling Changed My Philosophy of Reading

How Unschooling Changed my Philosophy of Reading
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People don’t know what to do with me when I tell them I’m a classical unschooler. The world, it seems, constantly wants to peg us down as either belonging to the classical philosophy or radical unschooling.

We are something else entirely: we memorize, but not too much. We value play and self direction. And because we see the value in rabbit trails and strewing, most of what we learn tends to happen through great conversations.

Taking My Own (Unschooling) Advice

Sometimes, we tend to lose focus, too, though.

I have also been fooled into buying curricula at various times. “Perhaps there really is some secret to this – some system – to learning I haven’t figured out!” I’ve thought. There is some deep understanding that others have that I don’t!

But soon I realize it’s not true. And I tire of knowledge that seems to hang there, disconnected from each other, details of grammar that can’t be applied and put into practice immediately.

So I recently decided to take my own advice when it came to self directed learning. Why not, I thought, use the unschooling advice of simply introducing something of interest instead of trying to remember all the details of how it happened?

Enter Reading with Purpose

The philosophy of unschooling says that it is enough to simply offer readers and learners a “taste” of something. You are not looking for mastery, you are looking for interest. If there is some desire, the learner will pursue it himself.

The classical method says that there are three stages of learning – the grammar stage in which you are just acquiring the basic information, the logic (or dialectic) stage when you put those discrete pieces of information together and then the rhetoric stage when you formulate your own opinion on the matter.

Putting these two together in my classical unschooling philosophy has been the focus of our learning and reading this year. And it made a big difference to how I personally read.

This philosophy leaves me (and my kids) free to explore. It doesn’t matter that we don’t quite “get” it all. We don’t go deep, we go wide. We expose our minds to information we’re interested in and then, when it matters, we go deeper into the rabbit trails.

The best thing about it? It removes fear. Because you read widely, and you read for interest, there will always be something that captures you and chances are good that something somewhere connects to something else.

That’s how the best kind of learning (and reading) takes place.

To see what I’m reading, follow my Goodreads page.

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Homeschooling Isn’t For the Kids

Homeschooling Isn't For the Kids
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There is a going joke in our family that homeschooling isn’t for the kids.

“I didn’t choose homeschooling for you!” I will quip. They will laugh because they know what’s coming.

I mean, of course we all know how I feel about homeschooling and how much I believe it’s the best way to educate a child. But here’s what I believe just as strongly: we chose homeschooling for us as much as for them.

Homeschooling is for the Adults

There’s an adage in the business world that the best thing in life when you’re working hard to make money is not what you get, it’s what you become. This is true of homeschooling as well.

While you are teaching, spending time, researching and learning together, you become something you could never have had you simply carted the children off to school.

If parenting is a second chance at childhood, homeschooling is your second chance at getting a real education.

As your children are learning, you will catch a spark and should you choose to pursue it, you will learn more than you ever did in your years at school. I would know – I have spent 22 years in classrooms. It’s one of the reasons I hate them so much.

Enthusiasm Restored

I wrote a little while ago about how I realized we were not on the right track when I couldn’t muster up any enthusiasm over “school.”

In a desperate desire to “stay on track,” I had let our education become limited to completing worksheets. I had forgotten the rabbit trails, searching the internet to answer random questions. I had forgotten the power of conversation.

Remembering my own enthusiasm changed everything.

It wasn’t that I removed my children from the equation; it was that I allowed them to learn as they learn best – from little pieces of knowledge gleaned from here and there woven together through conversation as I went about my day.

I let them learn as they asked questions, developed curiosity, interest and desire. Basic worksheets took less and less time in our day.

This happened because I reminded myself of a basic truth: homeschooling isn’t for the kids; it’s for the adults.

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How to Get Your Kids Interested in Anything

One of the “rules” of our classical unschooling method is that we expect passion. We assume that each of our three children will be passionately interested in something that is meaningful.

But here’s the caveat: it has to be personally meaningful. It has to mean something for them.

As a result, we don’t enroll our children in sports or music lessons unless we see interest.

How to Teach Interest

As it turns out, it’s impossible to teach interest. You can only share it and see if they will take to it.

My husband is an amateur guitar player. He plays only what he likes and is completely self-taught. From the looks of it, he truly enjoys practicing. So he finds a song that is about his level, learns how to play it online and stays with it until he has mastered it. He claims he has no talent. (I would disagree.)

My daughter expressed some desire to learn guitar, so we enrolled her in a class. But she had no interest in it, so we did not push it.

She does however watch me write this blog. And we read a lot together. So what does she develop an interest in but writing fantasy stories!

An intuitive speller and strong reader, she has taken up writing stories as her interest.

It Takes Time

Unfortunately, this is one of those things that can’t be pushed. My almost eight year old son, for instance, has almost no interests that we can discern yet. Okay, he loves playing video games and seems technically inclined. He has strong math skills.

We might introduce him to coding the same way we introduced my daughter to guitar. After all, we do want to help our children find their interests and it helps to introduce them to a wide range of them. I don’t think any parent would disagree with that.

Where we part ways with most is in pushing them to learn something they have no desire in.

The Best Way to Get Kids Interested…

…is to have something in your own life you’re passionately interested in and introduce them to a variety of such things. See what sticks.

It really is as simple (and as difficult) as that.

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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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