An Argument for Finding the Bare Minimum in Your Homeschool

I’m a big fan of Brandy Vencel and her blog Afterthoughts. She writes from right here beside us in real life, but encourages us to do our best, to keep pressing onward and upward. As a dear friend says, her posts sometimes have a sting, but it’s a friendly sting. 

An Argument for Finding the Bare Minimum in Your Homeschool

The other day, she wrote a post called The Schedule Only Works if I Do, Too. She reminded us of the importance of making the best use of our homeschool days and not dropping back to the “bare minimum” when it isn’t necessary.

Here’s the quote that caught my attention:

We have to fight the lazy mom inside. We have to resist shirking our duties.

We think this is some sort of unique circumstance, but it’s really not. The people who go to work each day have to fight the same battles we do. They are tempted to get on Facebook instead of spending their time on the clock with wisdom. The difference is that, when they use their time selfishly, they are squandering the company’s money.

When we do that, we’re squandering our children’s education.

Ouch.

The bare minimum homeschool

Most of us started homeschooling because we wanted to give our children an excellent education. Nobody wants to think of themselves as shooting for the “bare minimum”.

But if you have an overactive homeschool imagination like me, you might end every day convinced that you were lazy. You’ll think over all the great things you didn’t do with your children and worry that you are squandering their education.

In order to face each school day with energy and enthusiasm, you and I actually need to identify the bare minimum we can accomplish in our homeschools. That might sound like heading in the wrong direction, but hear me out.

Mom is the glue

You, mom, are the thing that keeps all the pieces of the homeschool together. And if you come “unglued,” well, that isn’t beneficial to anyone.

Knowing what really must get done on a daily basis allows you to rest in the knowledge that you’ve done that. You can see the consistency (even if it is in very little steps). And you can be thankful for any extras that were squeezed in, without being taunted by the millions that weren’t!

Being confident about what qualifies as a homeschool day, even if it’s just the basics, keeps mom sane. And that’s definitely an essential ingredient in not squandering your children’s education!

Variety is the spice of homeschooling

If you homeschool more than one kid, you already know that they are all different. Even twins have diverse interests and learn at different paces.

How do you make space for independent learning and individualized pursuits? You can’t if you feel like “not squandering” means that every moment is optimized for mom-led instruction and learning.

Instead, start with a clear understanding of the “musts” for everyone. And then you have the freedom to use other time for the various skills, hobbies, and interests of each different learner in your homeschool.

An Argument for Finding the Bare Minimum in Your Homeschooling Fun

Some days are like that

Identifying the “bare minimum” in your homeschool can help you to zero in on where to begin – and where to end – on those truly tough days. Brandy talks about that, too.

There are seasons when a cold is working it’s way through a family. There are the seasons of a new pregnancy or a new baby. There are seasons when Dad is working long hours and so mom is, too.

There are days where, not only can you not do all of it, you can’t do most of it. Knowing your “bare minimum” gives you a shortcut to deciding what stays and what goes when energy is at a premium.

Defining lazy

I have a confession: when I read this article, I was nearly in tears. It’s not Brandy’s fault. It’s the way I’m wired (and probably the postpartum hormones).

I’m constantly worried that I’m being lazy, that I’m not doing enough. And who wants to think they might be squandering their children’s education!

But I’ve discovered that a big part of my problem is that I mentally misinterpret the word “lazy.”

An Argument for Finding the Bare Minimum in Your Homeschooling Sleep

Lazy is not lack of action

Sometimes we equate lazy with sitting. Or, we think of lazy as moving slowly rather than rushing around accomplishing things. We might say “We’re just having a lazy Saturday.”

But lazy isn’t a lack of action. Lazy is a lack of determination to do what you should be doing with what you have.

Resting when you need refreshment isn’t lazy. Taking time to be with people you love and enjoy them rather than accomplish tasks isn’t lazy. Taking an afternoon nap because you are up during night nursing a baby isn’t lazy.

Scarcity increases value

Sometimes when we aren’t feeling well, we say that we are giving ourselves permission to be lazy. But if energy is at a premium, then it’s even more important not to squander it.

On those hard days, not being lazy might mean doing what we can to see that nap time happens. Or it might mean making sure we don’t soothe the disappointment of low energy by trolling Facebook aimlessly while the kids unravel.

If a household of germs means that you YouTube School for a day or two, don’t call that lazy. That’s making wise use of limited resources!

An Argument for Finding the Bare Minimum in Your Homeschooling Baby

Busy people can still be lazy

And, by the way, this piece is still relevant, even for the mom who really is busy all day. Lazy doesn’t have to mean watching soap operas and drinking soda on the couch.

Lazy can mean busily checking email or busily organizing a closet, because it’s too hard to do what I really need to be doing. Checking math? Patiently mediating a sibling dispute? Going to bed early so that I’ll be a nice, calm mama tomorrow?

Seasons ebb and flow. Circumstances change. Not squandering our children’s education means modeling for them the wisdom and discipline to do on each day what that day requires.

One way to make sure you don’t squander the time and energy you have is to avoid draining yourself with unhelpful homeschool ideas. I’d love for you to read about “5 Myths that are Killing Your Multi-Age Homeschool”. You can grab your copy of this mini-eBook here!

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  • Julie C says:

    This is so true. I am easily distracted by the new ideas I have for education, and at the same time frustrated that I am not accomplishing each and every one of them. I feel lazy when I don’t incorporate every single thing that I envision, and I miss the main thing! Thank you for this.

    • Yes! Our problem (in this case) isn’t that we are squandering the time we have, but rather that we have overactive homeschool imaginations! 😉

  • Elaine says:

    I appreciate this perspective! Beating myself up for being lazy when my children wake me up all night doesn’t help anyone! Figuring out what we need to do for school to make progress and managing the exhaustion is better for everyone.

    • Yes. A woman who gets up during the night to take care of the needs of her children is not a lazy mom!

  • Lauren Axton Brereton says:

    Love this! My goal is to do things calmly, patiently, and well. And that means I have to be incredibly aware of my own wellbeing. Love your point that we need to use our resources wisely.

  • Jennifer Drury says:

    Thank you for this! I had emergency surgery a week ago after being rushed to the ER, so not only was I out of commission, I had nothing prepared. I pulled up Pam’s list of recommended podcasts, added them to our current list, and had the kids do nothing but read and listen to podcasts for a week. I was very thankful that we had spent most of the hot and rainy summer doing school so that we were well ahead of schedule (funny how those disappointments often turn out to be blessings), and I figured the laundry and dishes they were doing were part of their “life skills training”. Yet I still felt so lazy, though on doctor-mandated bed rest. Thank you for defining laziness well. Taking time to sit on the porch and blow bubbles with my kids or go to the beach for the day might not be an investment in their education, but it is an investment in our relationship, so it is not laziness. And in the crises of life, not only does self-care not equal laziness, but neither does the time spent on our relationships. If my surgery had not been successful, I would much rather have known that I spent days blowing bubbles than finishing more math pages.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Jennifer! Of course taking it easy after surgery isn’t being lazy. Isn’t it amazing how we beat ourselves up for things when we would *never* think a friend lazy were she in our situation. We do what we can each day with what we have! And I agree – relationship building is never wasted time.

  • Lauri says:

    Yes discernment is needed in mothering. I also feel that a paradigm shift is needed on what a home education is. Home is not a school. So home learning looks very different than school learning. Mom teaching kids looks very different than paid teacher teaching kids in a quiet or non home environment. Sometimes choosing to do less is a big win for the family. Love the clarification u made on lazy. It seems we can make education so much simpler and effective than we do.

  • Yes, yes, yes. I recently burned out from the burden of feeling like I had to do everything for everyone at every moment. For me I hit a point where I had to release the grip on many of these matters of control and realize that I can only do so much and then my Abba has to fill the gaps. I cannot change my child’s heart if they have a wall up when it comes to learning from me. That’s His job. I can love them. I can nurture them. I can offer discipline and training, but the change of the heart is an inside job.

    I, too, suffer from the pressure of doing things “perfectly” which leaves no room for grace or self-mercy. And with seven kids, it is critical for me to practice self-love and self-care, too, rather than ONLY serve serve serve without bringing in balance as needed. This kind of self-treatment is basically self-abuse. It would not be acceptable to push someone else in that way, yet we do it to ourselves oh so often.

    Great piece. I am thankful you wrote this. Many of us moms who struggle with doing TOO much need to hear and be reminded of grace and mercy, too.

    • Yep. I completely agree with every word. Could have written this myself! Favorite quote: “the change of the heart in an inside job”. So true!

  • Jen says:

    Thanks Lynna. Your babes is ADORABLE.

  • “Lazy is a lack of determination to do what you should be doing with what you have.” — have you heard of the #5SecondRule by Mel Robbins? She says knowing what & why isn’t enough — you’ve got to move toward your “should be doing”! I think both of you are onto something… 🙂

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