I’ve been around the homeschooling block. I often think back to my first few years and the things that I worried over incessantly. The nights that I stayed up lesson planning and scrutinizing my every decision. I still worry a bit I suppose, but after many years we are into a rhythm that works for us. Homeschooling has just become so much a part of our home that I wouldn’t even know who I am without it. It certainly doesn’t cost me any more sleepless nights.
That got me thinking – what has changed? Is it just that I’m more relaxed? Am I just better at it now? Truthfully, I am better at it. I’ve developed habits that have made us happier homeschoolers and that have made me a better mama.
So . . . ta da! I present to you, my Ten Habits of Happy Homeschoolers.
Ten Habits of Happy Homeschoolers
#1 Taking Time For Myself
I take time for myself. I set aside an hour or so a day, even if it means I have to wake up early or stay up late, if that’s the only time available that day. I need the time to pray, to read, to blog, and to just think about things. In the summertime I weed my garden, and if any kids come around, I offer them a rake and they run the other way. Because I need quiet time. I crave it. Every day I take it. Nobody will give it to you. You have to take it.
#2 Keeping A Clean Enough Home
Like quiet, I crave cleanliness. I feel peaceful when things are in their place. When you believe in exploration learning with hands-on projects, cleanliness can be elusive. When the kids never leave because, well, you decided to homeschool, cleanliness can be elusive. When you have a big family, cleanliness can be elusive. I’ve come to accept that my house won’t be perfect, but we continually work together and keep tidying as we go. You can read more about my cleaning system right here.
#3 Just Saying No
I say no. I say no when people ask me to tend their kids because I’m a stay-at-home mom. I say no to answering my phone when I’m in the middle of teaching a math lesson or reading a fairy tale, or any number of other important things I do every day. I say no when someone wants us to join more clubs, sports, or groups than we have time or energy for. I say no to wonderful things because they are not AS wonderful as our peace, sanity, learning, and family time. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty I say yes to. But I also reserve the right to say no.
#4 Lifelong Learning
I don’t just teach. I learn. This does three things for me: First, it shows my kids I live what I preach. They watch me far more than they listen to me, so I try to be a great example of a learner. Second, it allows me freedom from lesson planning. Instead of preparing the math lesson the night before, my kids know that I read the math lesson with them, work the example problems with them, and then check the answers to make sure we’re all doing it right. I don’t pretend to be an expert on everything. I take the role of student right alongside my kids. Third, it pushes and stimulates me. When I go to the library to get my kids a book on gravity, I also check one out for myself, on my level. Learning on my level pushes me to new heights of understanding. And that feels good. I often say my real education began after my university days were over – when I became a homeschool mom.
#5 Keeping A Routine, Not A Schedule
We have a great routine, but not an exact schedule. For years I had a schedule. It had little time blocks on it with subjects listed by them. But we could never keep things in the appropriate time blocks, and that stressed me out. Now we have terrific routines instead. Whether it’s 7:00 A.M. or 9:00 A.M., if they hear “morning checklist” they know what to do – clean their rooms, get dressed, brush teeth, comb hair, and be ready for breakfast and school. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if my kids hear the words “written work” they know what to do – that’s what we call our math, reading, and writing, and those assignments are all in their planners. If they hear “Layers of Learning” they jump right on it and get their learning notebooks and writing utensils and come with mom, because it’s time for learning as a family from our unit. If they hear “chore time” they immediately get their chores done and check off their chart. And if they hear “bedtime” they know to get their pj’s on, brush their teeth, and come join in for family scripture study and bedtime stories.
#6 Holding Weekly Family Night
This may seem silly when homeschoolers get more family time than just about anyone else, but I swear by this one. Our family night is the BEST night of the week. We don’t let anything else get in the way of it. We take turns teaching little lessons that help us be the kind of great people we want to be. Honesty, integrity, cooperation, compassion, service – any moral lessons that build us as individuals and as a family. Then we do an activity together – a family bike ride, hide and go seek, trampoline tricks, a board game, charades, a nature walk – anything goes as long as everyone participates. Finally, we have a yummy treat. Num num.
#7 Enjoying Dinnertime Chats
We talk over dinner. Our favorite conversation tradition is going around the table and each getting to tell: (1.) The best part about my day, (2.) The worst part about my day, and (3.) Something I learned. My kids love that they get the floor without being interrupted, and it’s just an awesome way to sum up our day.
#8 Having Family School Time
I felt ragged when I tried to plan individual lessons for every kid in every subject and keep up with them all. Exhaustion was taking over. Starting to do family school where we all learned the same subject at the same time was the BEST THING EVER for me. At some point I realized that the lesson I was teaching my second grader about Asian geography was more than I knew about the subject when I graduated with honors from a university. The idea dawned on me, we can all learn this stuff together. Now we do. We all learn history, geography, science, and art together. Of course, my first grader might end the lesson with a sentence or two narration about what she learned while my seventh grader will have to write several paragraphs or pages, but the material is the same. We read great books, have discussions, do cool projects, and get involved in what we’re learning as a family.
#9 Correcting School Work
I correct my kids’ schoolwork, but even beyond that, THEY correct it. If they’ve made a mistake on their work, they need to fix it. I mark what needs to be fixed, and then they fix the mistakes. In theory, they shouldn’t leave an assignment until they’ve gotten 100 percent on it. Now, not everything we do is graded. In fact, a good deal of it isn’t, but if something is graded and marked, they are expected to fix their errors. I was a public-schooler, and I remember shoving my corrected papers deep on my backpack, never to be looked at again. One of the perks homeschoolers get is a better student-teacher ratio. Finishing the lesson is 100% is doable and teaches us not only the lesson, but also character traits like perseverance and hard work.
#10 Prayers for Patience
I pray for patience. Sometimes more than once a day. Sometimes more than once an hour. It’s a routine I simply couldn’t live without.
These ten habits didn’t happen overnight. I’ve spent the last decade tweaking things in our lives and in our family to make things run without running me ragged. And, like everyone, we are still a work in progress. There’s no doubt though, that these habits have made homeschooling happier.
Do you have any habits you can’t do without?
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