The Happy Homeschoolers

Real. Well Centered. Intentional. Passionate. Fearless.

When we start homeschooling, most of us are presented with the Pinterest perfect images of beautiful children sitting across the table absolutely thrilled to learn about the solar system, the smiling 3rd grader anxiously waiting for the next lesson on long division, perfect daily schedules complete with color coded meal plans for the week (and a bonus shopping list for those following the Whole 30 diet!), and neat homeschool spaces that leave you questioning whether you searched for “places where kids do not live” by accident.

Meanwhile, *your* lovely children are stomping through your home like a herd of wild buffalo. Not to mention, the three-year old is covered in Nutella and hanging off the chandelier in his Spiderman underwear.

While those Pinterest images are wonderful and full of rainbows and sunshine, there is a dark side of homeschooling that no one wants to talk about for reasons that I will never know.

Let’s talk about how lonely homeschooling can feel on the hard days. Let’s talk about how frustrated, tired, lonely, and outnumbered you feel in your home barely keeping your head above water.

These hard days are THE WORST. And, we ALL have them. I don’t care how long you’ve been homeschooling your children, whether one hour or fifteen years, we all have days like these.

Homeschooling is a team sport, and when you need help, ask for it!

Rest easy that you are not the only player in the game. You do not have to be the pitcher, catcher, short stop, 1st baseman, and center fielder. Homeschooling is a team sport with plenty of teammates, and sometimes, you need to call in a relief pitcher!

I would imagine you did not make the decision to homeschool without the support of your spouse. Keep in mind, your spouse brings something unique to the table. They, too, can facilitate your child’s learning and teach your child/ren a new skill. Do not be afraid to pull your spouse off the bench in the dugout and encourage him/her to teach your son how to read, explain a long division problem to your daughter, work through geometry problems with your high school freshman, or even teach your children how to change the brakes on the truck. Your spouse is a valuable part of the team.

For many years, I hid my struggles and hard days from my “fans.” I felt the need to teach everything to my children all the time with zero outsourcing. It was beyond exhausting trying to take on every single position with the added pressure of trying to do them all well (spoiler alert: no one can do everything well). I was embarrassed and afraid to admit that after throwing 75 pitches in a row, I needed a relief pitcher to come out of the bullpen.

Do not be afraid to call your relief pitcher. Your relief pitcher may be your high school best friend or another homeschool mom, but do not be afraid to ask for help. Do not be afraid to ask for a break, take a minute or two to chat on the phone, or hire a babysitter to give yourself a chance to rest. There is a reason why you have a relief pitcher. Recognize those reasons and don’t be embarrassed to get some extra help.

This also means, there is zero shame in outsourcing unfamiliar subjects. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and it is important recognize where we may need some extra help. I barely passed Geometry while I was in high school. There is definitely a better candidate to teach my daughter Geometry. That candidate is not me, and I am more than okay with this. Take advantage of online classes and programs, co-ops, and other outside-the-home resources available to you that can help you properly educate your children while also staying emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy.

It is okay to have hard days, friend. We all have them. It’s normal.

You don’t have to feel like you are the only player on the field. You have plenty of teammates that can step on the field and take your place when you need to ice your shoulder and sit in the dugout for a while.

When you need help, ask for it. It’s okay. Your team wants to help you.

“When we create a goal, we aim for something better. We want to look better. We want to feel better. We want to be better. But then better turns into best. We don’t want small growth. We want massive, overnight success.” –Jon Acuff, Finish: Give Yourself The Gift of Done

Summary: You have no issues starting a new goal or project. Whether it is trying to lose 30 pounds, setting a goal to read 50 books in one year, running a marathon, or starting a new business, you jump right in moving 150 miles an hour only to give up after the first, or maybe, second day. Starting that “something” is not a problem. You fail to finish. This book is an excellent, fast, conversational-style book infused with humor that will make you giggle while also giving you real hands-on strategies, or Actions, to help you address not only starting goals but most importantly, finishing them.

My thoughts: This is the first self-help book I have read in a long time. I tend to dislike the majority of them because I feel like I am being lectured by a disappointed parent. When I started this one, I immediately found myself giggling and felt like I was sitting in a coffee shop enjoying a conversation with a close and wise friend. Jon Acuff relates to the reader using humor and fun, and most important, he relates to the audience through his own struggles with finishing. Simply put, he “gets it.” He addresses how perfectionism deflates and destroys our goals, helps readers determine their hiding places (we all have them without knowing them!), and how “secret rules” we have set for ourselves stand in our way of finishing. I also loved the 23 ways he shares to help you measure your goals without letting perfectionism stand in your way. I appreciate how much he addresses “the why” behind failing to finish and then, provides realistic, helpful actionable items to help you start and finish what you have started.

What have you been reading lately? Please leave a comment.

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While you may not want to turn your home into a military service academy, you also do not want to feel like you are living in a circus with your 7 year old self-proclaimed ringleader.

Establishing healthy and balanced routines will help you and your children create positive habit patterns and minimize unnecessary stress.

Here are 5 Ways To Establish a Schedule Without Driving Your Family Nuts!

1. List 3-5 things that are important to your family that need to happen in the morning. Try and be as specific as you can. Got them? Good. Write those down. Make sure they are done every morning to establish consistency and strong habit patterns.

2. List the academic subjects that are important to you, have a plan to teach these subjects, and also establish a boundaries. There is no need to complete 149 tasks one day. Remember busy does not equal effective. There is a big difference between keeping your children busy and effective teaching and learning.

If you are new to homeschooling, focus on the core subjects first for short durations at a time depending on the attention spans and energy levels of your children. Be realistic and know when it is time to stop. In other words, your first grader does not need to learn an entire year of math in one setting. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

If you are a veteran homeschooler, you will probably agree that every family does things differently. My rule of thumb is to do our best to guard our mornings against distractions, and use this time to focus on the academic portion of our day. We start at 9 am and end our day at 1:30 pm. If things do not happen by 1:30 pm, tomorrow is another day. Close the books, relax, and move on to other things!

3. Limit outside extracurricular activities. There is no need to sign your child up for every activity your area has to offer. If your child has never expressed in an interest in learning how to play the banjo, do not be in a big rush to sign him up. Focus on one, maybe two, activities at a time that are of interest to your child.

4. Give yourself a day for free choice/fun day, or a day to stay at home. The best part about homeschooling is freedom, right? Take your children to the Children’s Museum with a group of friends. Have a day at the park for a picnic. Visit the zoo. The other option is to spend one day at home. Think of this day as a “Reset” button every week. It is a day to catch up on housework, give your and your children a small break, and allow your children to engage in more self-directed learning through art, community service projects, outdoor activities, and more reading.

5. List 3-5 things that are important to your family that need to happen in the evening. Again, be specific and write them down. For my family, it is important that our children take baths before bed, tidy their rooms, read for at least 30 minutes, and turn lights off by 8:30 pm (9:30 pm for our high schooler). What is important to your family? Write them down, keep things simple, and do them consistently every night.

If I have learned anything over the last decade plus of homeschooling, I have learned simplicity and consistency are on your team. Value them, embrace them, appreciate them, and have fun!

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“The robot wanted to be strong for her son and her friends; she wanted to ease their worried minds and tell them everything would be fine.” –The Wild Robot, Peter Brown

Summary: Roz, a robot, finds herself alone on a remote island. She does not know how she arrived on the island or why she is there, but she does understand that she must do anything she can to survive through the island’s harsh conditions. Faced with a few challenging situations that test her courage, she realizes the importance of learning to adapt to her situation and the value of forming friendships with the animals on the island.

My thoughts: This is such a great story about family, the importance of community, and taking care of one another. My sons absolutely loved this read aloud! The chapters are short and manageable for both young children to listen and to keep the upper elementary/middle school children engaged. This book was so creatively written and such a heartwarming story, and we fell in love with Roz. We all could use a “Roz” in our life and think we can many lessons from her.

Please leave a comment and share what you have been reading to your children.

I do not know one person who can tell anyone with 100% certainty what is going to happen next.

But, what I do think is everything is going to be okay.

Maybe, you are legally homeschooling.

Or, maybe, you are home with your public/private school children and teaching math concepts and writing lessons that are nothing like the way you remember them.

There is homeschooling, and then, there is facilitating your child’s public/private school education at home. There are BIG differences between these two situations, and I think it is important to acknowledge and support both of these positions. You either chose to legally homeschool, or you are now facilitating your child’s education from home with very little resources and preparation and may also have found yourself working in your position via phone/email/Zoom still trying to earn a paycheck from your kitchen table.

Maybe, your young children are like mine and are eating through your pantry like termites, and your house has quickly turned into Lord of Flies. Noise just multiplied to banshee level, and you cannot be help but be both irritated and impressed with your preschooler’s graffiti skills on your foyer wall. Seriously, where did he learn to draw like this? Your high schooler misses her friends because high school homeschoolers are also social distancing like the rest of the world , and no offense, Mama, your presence is not the same. High schoolers need other high schoolers. It’s been this way since the beginning of time. Life’s just tough right now.

If you can relate to any and all of this, I see you.

Reader, you are doing everything you can to keep things as fun and positive as possible. Art, board games, crafts, reading, drawing pictures and writing a story, nature journals, cooking, playing hide and seek, scavenger hunts, virtual field trips, soccer in the front yard, chalk drawings on the driveways, planting and gardening … you are coming up with any and everything you know to help keep your family moving forward.

Keep doing this.

If you have young children, homeschooling is exactly this: creating a natural learning environment filled with rich hands-on experiences where children are able to make choices, play, explore, and learn about themselves, others, and the world around them without having to be within the four walls of the classroom. You are already doing things right! Reader, everything will be okay. Your children are still learning. Never underestimate the power of play and what play teaches a child that a curriculum cannot.

If you are homeschooling mom to a middle schooler and/or high schooler, I see you, too.

I have a middle schooler and high schooler; thus, life does look a little different to us than it did when my kids were in their early elementary years. Now, they do have routines, commitments, paid jobs outside of the home, and are working towards specific goals that unfortunately, do not give us the luxury of having a 1.5 hour school day. Some of their commitments that they have worked so hard to earn have been put on hold. It is understandable that they would be upset.

Everything will be okay because middle schoolers and high schoolers are still in a routine and are still learning. They are also learning wonderful lessons in history, current events, human behavior, decision-making, compassion, kindness, resourcefulness, resource management, and how to handle adversity. I cannot think of a single curriculum over the last almost 11 years that has encompassed any of these lessons as well as living through a historical event.

They are also learning new art skills, playing music, learning how to paint, quilting, using FaceTime to speak with their elderly grandparents, laughing through cheesy 1980s movies, and spending time with their little siblings. Most important, they, too, are learning the value of rest.

If you were forced into this school-at-home situation and are a public/private school parent facilitating your child’s education, I see you, too, friend. I see you deciphering through lesson plans and wondering why your child has to use 8 steps and draw 14 different illustrations to answer a basic multiplication problem. I see you chasing after your little one through the house, while your other children are crying and wondering when you are going to help them with their work or project.

To the parents of public/private school children at home, my heart goes out to you. Everything will be okay for you and your children, too. Your children have made an incredible transition from what they knew to home. They are operating in a new world that is not at all close to familiar to them in what they know as normal. They miss school, their friends, their baseball teammates, their Student Council and Beta Club meetings, their favorite teachers, and their life at school. Give yourself and your children grace, kindness, and compassion.

Reader, I see you. Everything will be okay because we are all in this together.

There is no doubt that we are living in difficult and uncertain times right now. As the days move forward, I cannot help but wonder how these times will change our world on every level.

My middle son asked, “Mom, are you scared? Are you scared to get sick?”

I hesitated for a moment to process his question and prepare a careful and honest response.

“Thank you for checking on me and asking such a great question. Honestly, I am a little scared, and it is okay to feel scared sometimes. Sometimes, there are things we can’t control, but we need to continue doing what we are doing here at home and just stay as calm as we can. How do you feel?”

He looked at me, nodded, and replied, “I am a little scared, too, but you and Dad will take care of us. You always do. I miss art class, my book club, Lego Club and my friends, and wish that we could go see Mr. Chris (his guitar teacher), but we’ll be okay, Mom.”

I honestly had to leave the room because I did not want my son to see the tears in my eyes.

If you are reading this, and you, too, are a parent…

Yes, your children are watching you.

They are watching how you respond to stressful situations, disruptions, and change.

Living the life we have lived over the last 16 years, we have been through many stressful situations with our closest family members 500+ miles away. We may not have moved as often as other families, but disruptions happen often enough without much time, information, and very few, if any choices, that force us to adjust accordingly. Similar (NOT the same) to this situation, we are used to dealing with the unknown and having our plans on hold until more information and resources become available. We are used to waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more. It is beyond challenging mentally, emotionally, and physically. We are not anywhere close to perfect, but learning how to wait, risk management, and engaging in quick preparation are skills my family have learned to refine (not perfect!) over the years.

We are drawing from what we know, our past experiences, to help us through this experience. In the past, we have acted with courage, strength, resilience, and togetherness as a family and within the community we have worked in for years. We are using these same values in this situation to check in and help our own family, our friends, and our community in the best ways we can right now.

Just when I started to get frustrated over something so ridiculously small a few months ago and thought my children were not paying attention to all those other times, my son reminded me that they are. They most definitely are paying attention to our responses to stress and changes.

They are watching your coping mechanisms and what you choose to do during these times of stress.

While everyone has different circumstances they are facing during these times, and some are facing much harsher circumstances that I am not even going to pretend to know anything about right now, your children are also watching your coping mechanisms and the choices you are making right now.

We are making the choice to be positive for our children. This also means being honest with them, and most importantly, allowing them to be honest with us about how they are feeling as well.

We are staying home and choosing to engage in positive coping mechanisms to deal with stress. We are painting, drawing, playing board games, playing outside, (learning how to) quilt, reading, and exercising to model how to make healthy choices.

While still protecting their childhood, we are responding to any questions they may have and allowing them to share their feelings with us. Anxiety and depression are very real in children, especially when they are social distancing from their friends and their activities. We are making conscious efforts to allow them to text and FaceTime with their friends and relatives to ensure they stay socially connected to others. We are practicing “Mental Health Check-Ins” with our kids daily and allowing them to freely express themselves.

We are using this as an opportunity to become stronger for each other, our kids, and the community we live in.

“My problem held an opportunity! It was an opportunity to learn and to grow. To be brave. To do something. ——–What Do You Do With A Problem? Kobi Yamada & Mae Beson

Summary: What Do You Do With A Problem? is a wonderful story about a little boy, who is being pestered by an insistent problem, and this problem simply will not go away. The little boy has several choices in how he can handle the problem: Does he ignore the problem, fear the problem, or face the problem? The little boy makes a tough decision to stand his ground and face the problem, and what he learns about himself results in an encouraging and inspirational story.

My thoughts: This book could not be a more fitting book to read to your children during these uncertain and challenging times. As we are all facing incredible amounts of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety, our problems are far beyond what any of us could have imagined. Our problems on a personal and global scale are following us and pestering us right now, and it may seem like these problems will never go away, especially anytime soon.

While we continue to practice social distancing, we have taken the opportunity to find gratitude in the removal of the distractions that often take us away from our time to connect as a family. We have looked for opportunities to practice hobbies that we usually do not have time to do with a busy and full calendar. We have taken this opportunity to research and learn new skills that we have wanted to learn but other priorities were more important. We have slowed our pace down from 100 miles per hour to 15 miles per hour a day. While isolation and social distancing is very difficult and unnatural, and our life certainly does not look the same as homeschoolers, we are choosing to find the silver linings in the dark clouds and facing our problems with gratitude and positive attitudes.