It’s not an easy thing to hear, but sometimes we parents are the source of our homeschool struggles. Even with our good intentions and ambitious ideas, we derail our homeschool days and bring defeat, frustration, and burnout on ourselves and our children.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. You can course-correct right now and have a smoother homeschool day.
Here are four things you can do right now to get a handle on your homeschool struggles and have a better day.
1. Know Your Homeschool Priorities
Homeschooling will be difficult if you haven’t defined what should take priority in your daily routine. There’s no way around it. Without understanding what’s non-negotiable in your homeschool, it’s hard to stay on task or find motivation to execute homeschool plans.
What’s more, without defining priorities for your homeschool, it’s unlikely you will be able to maintain a clear vision of your educational goals and how they fit into your homeschool plans. We all need vision in our homeschools; understanding our priorities helps us keep that vision front and center in our day-to-day comings and goings.
We pave the way for smoother homeschool days by focusing on our priority subjects first each day and then doing our best with all the others. For our homeschool, the daily priorities are math and language arts. We’re faithful to do math and language arts each day because we quickly become stressed when playing catch-up in these areas.
Subjects like science and history happen each week, but not every day. Because of that, I can shift them to other spots on my homeschool plans without adding much to our load. Also, these are our negotiable subjects because they never leave us feeling overwhelmed if we need to make them up elsewhere.
When we make everything happen, we celebrate. When we have assignments left undone, we don’t have to worry because we covered the subjects that matter the most to us. Determining these top priorities for our homeschool makes all the difference on the days when life gets busy or distractions arise.
If you haven’t thought about homeschool priorities before, take some time to consider what’s most important to you and the why behind your choice. Remember, you get to decide what takes top priority in your homeschool and why. No one can determine that for you and you may even find that your priorities change from season to season.
Like most things in life, homeschooling is a smoother process when you take time to prepare in advance. A time of preparation sets the tone for a relaxed, efficient, and anticipated day. The idea of a relaxed, yet efficient and anticipated day may sound odd, but it results in little or no guesswork involved and allows you to lead your children well and give your best to them.
When you’re unprepared to face your homeschool day, the opposite is likely to happen. Regardless of why you come to the homeschool table unprepared, — whether because of distractions, procrastination, or sheer neglect — it’s not right to expect more from our children than we model for them. Their motivation, confidence, and stress levels are all affected when we show up unprepared.
Despite my Type A personality, I’ve had my share of unprepared homeschool days. Failing to read ahead, prepare needed supplies, and wake up on time have all happened more than I would like to admit in my years of homeschooling.
None of those things are terrible on their own, but they make homeschool harder than it has to be because my kids follow my lead just like yours follow you. When I’m not prepared for homeschooling, my kids find something to do while I prepare. That leads to a later start for all of us, less free time for them, and extra work on other days.
When I’m not faithful to prepare for my homeschool, we all suffer the consequences. The same is likely true in your homeschool. There will be days when all of this is unavoidable, but that’s why it’s important to keep things on track whenever possible. That all starts with planning and preparing in advance.
3. Control Your Distractions
I’ve heard author and blogger Colleen Kessler say before that homeschooling is parenting on steroids. Along those lines, you could also say homeschooling is homemaking on steroids. Think about it, at any given time we could have laundry buzzing in the dryer, a math lesson to review, vegetables to prep for dinner, a sibling squabble to referee, and an art project drying on the table.
With all of these completely normal and expected plates spinning, there’s no room to pick up our phones and respond to every buzz, chime, or ding we hear. We simply cannot have a smooth homeschool day without controlling the distractions in our lives that can actually be controlled.
Also, there’s a double standard present when we ask our children to focus on homeschooling while we scroll our newsfeeds. Put simply, they’re watching and we can’t expect them to shut out distractions if we’re unwilling to do so while we’re with them.
It’s a matter of controlling or being controlled. There’s nothing wrong with checking your phone, responding to texts or notifications in the middle of a school day, but let it be the exception and not the rule. After all, there are plenty of things that take our attention away from homeschooling. We can’t control all of them, but that’s all the more reason to control the ones we can.
4. Trust the System
We live in a culture where distrust is the norm. While it’s good to evaluate, research, and ask questions, we can do those things so much that we lose trust in the plans we’ve chosen for our homeshool. When we allow unwarranted distrust to join us at the homeschool table, we allow comparison to creep into our daily moments.
The worst part is that distrust and comparison eventually invite discontent into the mix. None of those help us keep our minds on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable. For sure, there’s no place for distrust, comparison, or discontent in a Philippians 4-inspired homeschool. With that said, trusting the homeschool system can mean two things, one of these involves implementing a teaching method or educational philosophy and giving it time to do what it aims to do before embracing another method.
Along with your educational philosophy and teaching methods, it’s important to trust the curricula you’ve chosen. There will be times when the curriculum isn’t working, no doubt, but there’s a difference in making needed changes and making changes because you’re not confident in your choices.
This has happened in our homeschool plenty of time and each time it threw us off kilter for days and sometimes weeks and months. Have you been there? It looks like this: buying a new curriculum and enjoying it for a while, but changing to something else because it doesn’t look like it measures up when compared to what everyone else seems to be doing.
Each time this happened, I disrupted our homeschool routine by making unneeded mid-year curriculum changes. Those changes pointed me away from curriculum that was really a great fit for us. The worst part is that all of this stemmed from glimpsing into another lane — or another homeschool — and not trusting what was already working for us.
Trusting the system also comes into the picture when determining if you’re doing “enough” in your day-to-day homeschool life. A customized education, which is exactly what homeschooling provides, can’t look the same across the board. We all have unique children with different needs, gifts, and goals. That’s why my definition of “enough” for my children will probably differ from your definition of “enough” for yours.
Remember, you get to define “enough” and you have the freedom to change your definition as needed. Furthermore, if you don’t think you’re doing enough, you probably are. People who aren’t doing enough don’t usually care about doing enough. In fact, the fact that you care enough to ask is a good indicator that the trust is the root of the problem rather than your
children or your homeschool.
All this to say, reasonable expectations and embracing your unique family both go a long way in trusting your chosen system. They also go a long way in cultivating a smoother, more peaceful homeschool on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
In closing, know that bad homeschool days will happen, but they don’t last forever. Stay faithful to this work God has called you to and steward your time well. In time, you’ll establish a positive, comfortable, and productive learning atmosphere. The fruits of these labors will always be worth the effort and attention needed to bring them to fruition.