I used to be a frenzied and scattered homeschooler. While trying to do all the things, I wasn’t doing any of them well.
While my children are listening to an audio book, I wash the dishes. When they do art, I’m prepping dinner. Working on textbook questions? I’m folding laundry.
In all of this, I never considered that perhaps my engagement and interest in other things might send my children the message that their schoolwork was secondary to my chores.
I want my children to know that their education is important to me, but above all, I want them to know that they are important to me.
As I thought about this I realized that I had to make some dramatic changes. The first of those changes began with the heart.
IT’S A HEART THING
I know I’ve shared before how the key to successful homeschooling is relationship. Yet I still spend the day ticking off the boxes from today’s to-do list. Often, by the end of the day I feel like I haven’t truly connected with my children other than telling them what to work on next, or to demonstrate the difference between declarative, exclamatory, interrogative, and imperative sentences.
These thoughts burdened me.
Then I read Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie.
This small, yet powerful book convicted me.
I’ve been teaching from a state of frenzy, rather than rest.
As I thought about our homeschool, I began to dream about what I wanted it to be. As I dreamed, I realized that our homeschool could be anything I wanted it to be.
I don’t need to do all of the assessments and all of the tests. Those were for my own self-gratification and did nothing to enhance my children’s education.
I don’t need all of the worksheets to be done. Knowledge can be demonstrated in a presentation, a discussion, or in a drawing.
As my thoughts continued, I chose to make one principle the centre of our homeschool.
CREATING A PEACEFUL HOMESCHOOL
As I write this, I can’t say that we’ve arrived fully at our peaceful destination, but a lot has changed in our homeschool. Here are some of the shifts I’ve made.
Of all things, Morning Time is the most cherished part of our homeschool routine. We snuggle up on the couch and read beautiful books, recite scripture, explore poetry, listen to classical music, and study famous paintings. This time is precious and I’m protective of it.
I used to think of Morning Time as the primer for the “real” textbook learning of math, language arts, and science. However, I’ve come to realize that Morning Time is the heart of our homeschool. It’s where the true and deep learning takes place. It’s where discussion is encouraged, opinions are heard, facts are debated, and the flames of knowledge are fanned.
Peace came to me when I relaxed my grip of the almighty schedule and allowed Morning Time to unfold without time constraints.
My memories of school are tile ceilings, hard floors, and uncomfortable desks. There was no comfort or coziness in the classroom. I want my homeschool not just to be home, but to be the cozy school environment I could never have when I was a little girl.
It’s amazing how the atmosphere can be transformed by a couch full of pillows and soft blankets. Poetry and classical music are elevated when enjoyed by candlelight. Snacks are tastier when served on a picnic blanket on the living room floor. The walls become teachers when beautiful posters and artwork adorn them. Science comes within an arm’s reach when there’s a vase of flowers on the table or a crystal hanging in a sun-filled window.
TACKLING THE SCHEDULE
It’s hard to feel peaceful when there are multiple extra-curricular activities, a schedule jammed with textbooks, weekly field trips, and numerous homeschool gatherings.
I couldn’t marvel at the intricacies of rocks when my children needed to get to their swim lessons within half an hour. Then I rushed through activities because the math or the language arts lesson for the day was “more important”. I used the words “hurry” and “get back to work” far too often.
In order to find peace in our homeschool, I had to let go of all the extras. I stripped our schedule down to the basics and then cut back even more. I built a schedule with margins.
With the extra buffer time built into our schedule, I felt comfortable lingering in the garden a little longer. I could let our praise and worship time go beyond 2-3 songs. Our mid-morning smoothie breaks transformed into times of discussion rather than a quick pause for nourishment. My youngest daughter’s need to move and take frequent breaks suddenly was doable because there was room for all of us to breathe.
A schedule can make or break the peace in a homeschool. Sometimes extra events slip in or special occasions disrupt the rhythm, but I’ll revisit the schedule often to make sure that the margins are still there.
LESSEN THE PRESSURE
In case you didn’t recognize it yet, I’m a Type-A person. I have a need for lists, schedules, and I do everything I can to excel at everything I do.
The pressure I put on myself is not only unreasonable, but it’s unhealthy. My need to excel is a Petri dish of disappointment and discontentment. I discovered that our homeschool could never be peaceful if I’m pushing myself or my children too hard.
Yet, my Type-A personality needs structure, a schedule, and a way to document completion of activities.
The best way to lighten this pressure was to convert our daily homeschool plans into a loop schedule (you can find out more about loop scheduling in this webinar). While we do Bible, Language Arts, and Math every day, I chose to loop the remainder of our subjects.
This new structure lessens the pressure, yet still fills that need to “schedule” and document progress. I also love that looping isn’t based upon a day of a week, but rather whenever the subject comes up in the loop. This type of schedule freed me from feeling like we were falling behind. A more relaxed mom = a more peaceful homeschool.
COMMITMENT TO PEACE
Peace in the homeschool requires ongoing commitment. Life has many unexpected moments and circumstances can curb a homeschool parent’s quest for peace. Rather than feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by struggles, a simple reflection on how to bring the peace back into my days helps me get back on track.
My commitment to a peaceful homeschool builds with each smile I see on my children’s faces. It’s reaffirmed when I feel energized by our homeschool day. My commitment to peace is renewed when go to bed at night and can recall the deep connections I made with my children throughout the day.
I feel the peace and I cling to it, because it makes me a better teacher and a happier mom.
Jennifer Bly is the creator of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram for homeschooling updates and inspiration.