Now I will not kid you about it. Homeschooling will require a certain measure of discipline on your part. Your kids are not going to learn by osmosis (though they will pick up a lot just by doing life together). As moms, we are most likely the one doing much of the teaching. I've been guilty of pouring myself into lesson planning, grading assignments, orchestrating schedules, keeping appointments, and making sure chores are being done that I wear myself down to nothing. Many homeschooling moms (myself included) are so wrapped up in their kids that we fail to carve out time to discipline our own lives or we forget the bigger picture. Here are a few disciplines that I have had to proactively incorporate into my own life so that our home and school function more smoothly: 1. Spend dedicated, concentrated daily time with the Lord in the Word and in prayer.
Every morning, I sit down with the Lord for about an hour. If we have very young children, this is not realistic or maybe even possible. However, the issue is that even though the children have grown up, we have gotten into the habit of skipping our quiet times with the Lord!
A Christian homeschool must, by definition, by centered on Christ. It also needs to be fueled, directed, and upheld by Him. We need to take time to be with God ourselves, not just by listening to someone else's insights into the Word or hearing someone else pray. If your children are still very young, set a small but realistic goal. Five minutes is enough to read a verse from the Word repeatedly and prayerfully. Let it seep into your heart. As your children grow, add another 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Even if you need to relinquish other things, keep this one.
2. Cultivate your relationship with your husband.
After your relationship with God, your relationship with your husband comes a close second. I will admit that I have not been as good with this one. Life gets busy (for both of us), and it is easy to just lose touch with each other. This has been especially challenging the first year of life (or this first year of adoption) as we adjust to the dynamics of adding another person into our family circle. Our goal has been to set aside one evening a week for one another. It's not much, and I wish we could do more, but if we waited until it was perfect, we would have no time together. From past experience, we know that a little on a regular basis is better than a lot on rare occasions (though we need both!). Research has suggested that strong nuclear families help children do better in school. So even if it doesn't seem to be a direct correlation, a strong marriage helps anchor children, freeing them to focus on what they are meant to do: learn.
3. Establish a daily family routine.
While this is a topic in itself, I think it is worth mentioning. Consider your values as a family, as well as your long-term and short-term goals, and then craft a daily sequence of events that help you to hit those goals while maximizing your time. I chose the word "craft" because this takes time and energy, trial and error. I usually start out with what I notice has works well. For instance, I notice that we all do better in the mornings with the more traditional school subjects: reading, writing, math, etc. so I put those in first. Another thing I desire for my children is time alone, time just with me, and time together as a family. Those blocks of time also get put in to our daily routine. Sometimes I see how things can overlap, like training my children to work with Anah (combines schooltime for her with sibling time together).
A routine differs from a schedule (in my opinion) in that it is more of a sequence of events rather than a time-oriented schedule. Frankly, we are usually not "on time." A routine helps us to get things done in a predictable order. Sometimes I cut things out if we are way behind, or doing a little less (such as reading one story instead of two). Having a routine also helps when you have extracurricular activities one day in the week. Instead of throwing everything out the door, a routine can be modified on those days, allowing us the flexibility we need. Where to start? Take note of those "good days." What made them good? Was there a sequence that really seemed to work well and make sense? Try incorporating that into your routine on a regular basis. Remember: good routines usually grow out of trial and error. Keep at it till you hit on something that works.
4. Find support.
When I first started homeschooling, I proudly thought that I could do this myself. Wrong answer.
I think I thought that way because I didn't want to become the stereotypical homeschooling mom. It was a pride issue. In my resolution to not be like "them" I withdrew myself from community altogether. As a result, I often floundered and had to figure things out on my own.
It takes time and energy for me, who tends to be very introverted, to make time for people. For others of you, this is not an issue and you can skip this discipline. Over the past couple of years, the Lord has led our family to a wonderful group of local families to grow with. Truthfully, I think these moms are ones that I am the most honest and real with. I don't have to defend our educational choice. I don't have to explain what I'm thinking. We are very different, and yet we have been able to join together, grow together, cry together, and learn together. We meet once every other week and keep in touch over email or phone otherwise. It has been great for our kids too as they realize that homeschooled kids aren't "weird."
5. Keep learning.
The other group of people I spend time with are mentors. I'll start out by saying that I personally don't have any mentors, so you don't have to think that you need to find one. What I do is carve out time to learn from other seasoned homeschooling veterans, either by books or by reading blogs or by listening to convention lectures. I have found my morning workout time a great time to listen to mp3 audio sessions that I have downloaded onto my player. Not only does my body get a workout, my heart and mind are challenged as well. We always have something new to learn.
I will add a caveat: if you do this online, don't use it as an excuse to while away hours on the computer. I like a little every day. It gives me a shot in the arm and helps refresh me. I like the audio option because it allows me to keep working (cooking dinner or cleaning the house, for example) while learning at the same time.
6. Know your limits.
Sometimes it takes discipline not to do something. Those who think that homeschoolers just stay at home all the time have got it wrong. Sometimes in our desire to overcompensate for what we think our children are "missing" in traditional school, we do too much. Or sometimes we think we have more time and end up finding ourselves in over our heads with activities, field trips and playdates.
For me, I know I've taken on too much when I hear that "edge" in my voice. Do you know what I mean? The background stress that is simmering in me begins to show itself in my thoughts, words, and actions. When I hear that, I have to discipline myself to stop and regroup. At this point, I need to go back to that mission statement and evaluate. What are activities, commitments or curricula that I need to let go of? What restorative activities do I need to add?
This ended up being longer than I expected, so thank you for reading if you got this far! Each of these topics can be expanded even more, but I hope this will give you some thoughts to incorporate into your home. They've helped me personally, relationally and spiritually to keep running the race over the long haul. I hope they help you too.