I am 9 years into a journey that I had never imagined in my wildest dreams I would have ever embarked on….homeschooling. To be honest, before we needed to start exploring other educational options for our oldest son, I didn’t even really know that homeschooling still existed. Yet, here we are.
My first few years of homeschooling were a rough journey. It was a whole new world that I didn’t know how to navigate. And looking back, there was a lot I would have done differently. I know that I can’t go back and change those things now, so instead, I want to help and encourage you from what I’ve learned along the way.
My focus this year has really been on the heart of homeschooling. What is it that makes up the core of our homeschooling? How do we define it? Do we even know? Isn’t it always changing?
Finding the Heart of Your Homeschool
For each of us, we walk a different path. Our feet are propelled by our life circumstances, our beliefs, and our personalities. But at the core of what we do, as homeschooling families, there is a bond that unites us. There is a reason that we have chosen to homeschool – and this is the heart of your homeschool.
Not everyone’s reason will be the same. The choice may not even be the same for each of your kids. I started homeschooling my oldest when his struggles in school became too much for him to bear and life circumstances dictated a need for change (you can read more about the first day that was also the last day of public education for our family in my blog post How to homeschool and where to start). We have chosen to continue homeschooling our other 3 boys because of our personal beliefs around what quality education and for the relationships, it provides us with our kids.
So take a moment. Perhaps the answer has already come flooding to you. Maybe you need to dig a bit deeper. But write down whatever it is.
My heart for homeschooling is this: I want my children to be lifelong learners. I want them to look back on their childhood and feel like they had one. I want them to look back and remember that they were loved, they were cherished, we had fun, and we learned together. I want to raise young men who respect adults, know how to be gentlemen, are hard-workers, and love the Lord with all their hearts.
The Perfect Homeschooling Day
Remember oh so long ago when we were just kids. Did anyone ever ask you about a perfect day? What would be your perfect date? How about the perfect birthday? The perfect summer vacation? We love to seek perfection and ideals, and that’s okay, with a large dose of reality mixed in.
I think perfect days are awesome! I also think they are usually gifts given sparingly. Don’t get me wrong, I love homeschooling and being with my kids, but those things alone don’t form a perfect day. We are a regular family. We have good days and rough days. Sometimes I wake up ready for an awesome day and someone else wakes up grumpy. That’s just life.
So how do we cope on those not so great days?
Have you ever tried to turn a bad day around? It’s totally possible. And it’s all about attitude.
What does your perfect homeschool day actually look like? I want you to take a minute and just jot it down. What ideas really pop out to you? What activities do you picture? Who is there?
When I think about my perfect homeschooling day it’s always in the late spring or early summer because I love warm (but not hot) days where we can spend time outside together. I love reading to my children and especially outside on my grandmother’s old quilt. I imagine conversations about whatever thoughts they are pondering. I share with them knowledge passed down through time about the world that we live in.
Yeah, I know. I kind of live in a fairy tale world, but that’s okay. Because when those tough days come I have something to look back on. I can take even just a snippet of my perfect day and insert it into the current day.
Someone has woken up grumpy and tired. The morning is slow to get going. Breakfast seems to be taking forever, no one is dressed and I’m still trying to get everyone’s diapers changed. I’m sure you know the morning that I’m talking about. You can tell right from those early moments that it’s shaping up to be one of “those” days
I’ve been really inspired lately by the words of Sarah MacKenzie, a fellow homeschool mom, who blogs at Amongst Lovely Things, wrote the book Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace. She reminded me that one of the most important things in my homeschooling day is my relationship with my children. This relationship that we have is so precious, it’s not worth damaging for anything else.
And she isn’t the only person to share this message. Another wise homeschooling mom, Bonnie Landry, from Practicing Mammal, shared a story during one of her talks about the importance of slowing down and really treasuring that relationship.
The example she shared was one that any of us could have been through. We rush around, trying to do everything, and in the midst of self-created chaos, we may yell at our kids or become angry with them over something that isn’t really that important. Her example was yelling when our child can’t find their socks and we’re late getting out the door to a doctor’s appointment.
We’ve all been there. Her advice? STOP. Stop what you are doing and take the time to meet your child where they are at. Why can’t they find the sock? Do they need direction? Maybe this is a great time to teach them about diligence in putting their things away. It’s important to be on time and they can learn that through apologizing for being late and sharing about being respectful of other people’s time.
Stop doing whatever it is that feels like it has to be done right now. Take a second to regroup and reprioritize. What really does need to be done right now? How can you turn your children around when the day is starting to spiral?
I have always found there are a few sure fire ways.
Food. Affection. Story time.
In my house, if we need to slow down and regroup, these things help and usually in this order. Hunger can make any of us emotional and prone to melt downs. Make sure the kids are fed (and not something sugary that’s likely to contribute to a sugar high and then low). If you’re making food but it can’t come fast enough, put out a snack, have some fruit or juice, something fast that will tide them over just until the meal is on the table.
Hugs help all my children. I know that not every kid is a cuddler, but affection of some sort helps to show that you can see they are having a hard time. Talk to them. Ask them what’s going on for them. Let them know you’re going to slow down or pause everything else that needs to be done so everyone can get back on track.
It’s best not to make this about any one person who is having a hard time because you’re a team. You struggle as a team and you win as a team! Every member needs to support the others.
Make it special.
Maybe it’s just fruit and muffins, or eggs and veggies, but that doesn’t matter. Set the table nicely, have a floor picnic, escape outside to a patio or under a tree and eat together. Talk, eat, and relax. Then as everyone’s emotion begin to settle and the stress dissipates, add in a special activity.
For my children, they LOVE story time. So we have a book basket that we read from daily. This is the perfect calming time. Maybe for your family, it will be something different. We want everyone to slow down, calm down and reconnect.
Talk to the kids about what is going on. Go over what needs to be done still for the day. Let go of whatever doesn’t need to be done that day. Pray with your children. There is nothing better than setting this example for them and for sharing in this blessing with them.
One of the reasons we homeschool is so that our kids can have a quality education and that can’t happen when everyone is stressed out or rushed.
Once that relationship has been reset and everyone is back to square one, we can start again.
This might have to happen often in the beginning of your homeschooling journey, or maybe even frequently along the way, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important or that it’s not effective.
We’ve made some big changes to our days at home to help maintain this sense of peace. You can read more about what we’re doing in my post Why I burned my daily homeschool schedule!!
Take the time, slow down, eat, drink, pray and be with your children. Look back and remember what the heart of your homeschool really is.
I’ve got a printable here for you to record the heart of your homeschool so that as you plan your years, or hit hard times, you can look back and remember why you do what you do.
Download the Heart of Homeschool Worksheet
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Nadine is a busy homeschooling mama to four boys. She is also the author and creator of the blog Making Her Mama where she writes about homemaking, homesteading and homeschooling. She and her husband live on Vancouver Island in Canada where they try to raise their kids naturally while living by faith.