The morning light was thin, blue, and cold. It was cozy under my blanket though as I sipped my coffee. I had an edifying book in my lap — who am I kidding — I was scrolling Facebook on my phone.
One kid was asleep, two were upstairs watching “educational” cartoons, and frankly, I was in no hurry to start my school day.
It was just too early.
It was just too cold.
I was just too complacent about it all.
Listen or read more of this post.
Late winter is hard for homeschoolers. I am sure the problem is a combination of many things — being deep in the school year and a bit tired of the grind, suffering from the lack of sunlight, being cooped up with stir-crazy kids — but I have discovered I am often my own worst enemy at this time of year. Without meaning to, without being conscious of it really, I often sabotage my homeschool.
See I desire homeschool days filled with peace and productivity. Days that include learning wonderful things, cheerful spirits, and joy. I want kids who are eager to learn and the extra time I need to get other things done.
But sometimes those kinds of homeschool days are elusive. And if I am honest, the fault often lies with me and not some external cause. Without even meaning to, here are three ways I sabotage my homeschool. Do you see yourself in any of these?
The homeschool perfectionism trap
This one will reach up and grab me every stinking time. It is especially bad at this time of year when I am tired of the ho-hum and seeking out new diversions (read: throwing money a new curriculum) to help spice things up a bit.
I often let my desire to have things absolutely perfect stop me from doing anything at all.
Can’t do that nature walk because …
The weather isn’t perfect.
We don’t have the right field guide.
I wanted to get those cool new watercolor pencils for our nature journal and haven’t had a chance to stop by the craft store.
Poetry tea time? The tablecloth isn’t ironed.
Morning time plans? We don’t have the first book on the list.
The entire school day? I haven’t filled out the checklist for this week yet.
Oh yeah. I’ve done all that.
So I do nothing. Well, nothing except beat myself up for being a homeschool failure. And then I realize perfectionism is a self-defeating thing. I am never going to live up to those standards I set for myself, so I might as well start living anyway.
And the experts agree with me. Last summer, I was reading Cindy Rollin’s Mere Motherhood when this jumped out at me:
So often mothers worry about what they are not doing. I hear these things all the time:
“I don’t read aloud to my children.” “I can’t seem to find time to have my devotions.” “We never take nature walks.” “Narration is too hard to add to our school day.”
To these moms, I say, “get up right now and do THAT thing.” Today, now, put down this book and have your child immediately write a narration or have your devotions or take a walk…
When it comes to all of these nagging things, we only have to do a small bit today and tomorrow and the next day to look up one day and find we have accomplished something unthinkably huge.
Doing nothing simply means nothing ever will get done.
Too busy for peace
I can be my own worst enemy. Going, doing, having to leave my house three or four times a day just ties me up in knots.
Now I know you extroverts won’t suffer as keenly from this problem, but it wreaks havoc on our homeschooling as well.
When I am rushed to fifty different activities in the afternoons, scheduling doctor’s appointments willy-nilly, and trying to fit errands, phone calls, or distracting tasks into our school day, I am only making myself and everyone else miserable.
Once again, I am not getting things done because I am busy, but I am busy avoiding getting things done. It’s an endless hamster wheel of running and getting nowhere with the things that matter most. But I have that busy excuse so it must be okay, right?
We haven’t finished a read-aloud all year.
We’re still on lesson three of the science book we started last July.
We attend our expensive co-op each week, but we never have time to complete our work at home.
What if instead of adding one more thing to the schedule, I took my pen and carved out a sacred space for school? A space I honored in my home as learning time no matter what style of learning we pursue.
A space free from appointments, errands, and known far and wide as a time when we are not to be interrupted — by anyone.
Could I use that space to buy back some of the peace I lack?
On squirrels! and cell phones
Lean close and let me tweak your nose out of joint. Don’t worry — you can do mine in return.
There is a good chance your cell phone is a major problem in your homeschool day.
Let’s tick off the excuses:
I have someone I must be available to (the husband, a relative, a college teen) at all times.
It’s a tool I use to do things in my homeschool.
I need it to connect with other moms because I am isolated all day long.
There is truth to all of these.
It is also the reason your school day didn’t start until after 11.
Or you lost the kids sometime after the math worksheet.
Or you cut the day short… again and just told everyone to go play.
No, I am not looking in your windows, but there was a time you could see this by looking in mine
Which makes me especially qualified to offer this advice. Find a way — do whatever you need to do — to leave the phone in another room.
For the longest time, I wore a Fitbit Alta that showed me the number when the phone rang so I could see who was calling and just enough of a text to know if it was important.
Now I have an Apple Watch and it is a godsend. I have only the most important notifications turned on and I know at a glance if the person on the other end must have my immediate attention. If not, then the phone stays in the other room.
Can’t afford or don’t want the additional technology?
Then rubber band an index card to the front of the phone screen. On it write a reminder to yourself about your homeschooling vocation. And then only unwrap it to check your phone at the top of every hour.
Set up special sound notifications for your highest priority contacts — the ones you simply must answer. Then remind them of your sacred homeschool hours (see above) and the definition of emergency.
And if it is too big of a temptation, use something else for Morning Time music and ebooks.
We are grown women. A pocket-size device cannot control our behavior without our explicit permission. It’s time we stop giving that permission and reclaim the homeschool days we desire.
This isn’t easy. This won’t be popular. But we can do it.
I’ll be back next week to talk more about why this could be the most important lesson you teach in your homeschool this year. Be sure to subscribe below to get notified by email when that post goes live.