I have been a fitness enthusiast my entire adult life. I ran track in high school but became enamored with weight training because of a required class in college. I saw a young woman in class who had incredible muscle definition that she had acquired through weight training. I was inspired!
I believe that fitness is foundational to physical and mental health. Because it is, I believe we have to make it a priority in our home schools. In this article, I will tell you how we have done it and how you can, too.
First, I have to confess my secret for staying committed to fitness all these years. It is that my husband is a huge proponent of fitness. He was a high school wrestler and martial artist and continued his martial arts training in jujitsu until he had earned a third-degree black belt. He has also been a weight-training enthusiast since his college days. He would tell you that his being nicknamed “the twig” as a kid is what motivated him to gain muscle. He followed the Arnold Schwarzenegger approach that involved eating a lot of protein and lifting a lot of weights.
The appearance benefit of exercise
Today my husband is usually taken for someone at least 10 years younger than he is. Most of my husband’s family is also committed to fitness and looks years younger than their biological age. Most of them have also enjoyed excellent physical and mental health as a result.
Other benefits of exercise
I have also enjoyed increased energy as a result of exercising. But looking good and having more energy are just two small benefits of exercise. I watched a video on YouTube years ago about the benefits of physical fitness and was stunned. The number of physical and mental illnesses that can be prevented or treated with exercise is astounding. It’s worth showing the video to your children to motivate them for a life of fitness.
How to make fitness a priority in your homeschool
So, if you are a busy homeschooling mom, and of course you are, how can you make fitness a priority or just a part of your homeschool? I have several ideas for you.
First is family walks, hikes, bike rides, and swims. Strollers, backpacks, bike seats, and flotation devices make it possible for babies to participate, too. We also had fun using our little ones as weights while exercising!
Participating in sports is another way to include exercise that’s fun for everyone. My family enjoys playing tennis, pickle ball, badminton, volleyball, and basketball together. There are so many great sports to participate in as a family. Anything that gets you off the couch can count. Even bowling is better than sitting.
We can also engage in dedicated fitness activities as a family. My husband has done martial arts training with the kids. He set up obstacle courses for them and timed them–something they loved. We included DVD workouts as part of our homeschool routine. My husband would join us if he was working at home. And we regularly go to the gym together still. Making fitness a family habit has encouraged my kids to value fitness as much as we do. Kids who have gone to college or are on their own still have a fitness routine.
Kid sports or fitness classes
Another idea for including fitness in your homeschool is requiring your kids to participate in a sport or fitness class. It truly is just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic, and it’s fun. My kids participated in a homeschool PE class for many years that they loved. Getting them to engage in fitness with friends is easier than asking them to work out on their own.
Yet another way of making fitness a part of your homeschool is to include active games. I have included some active games in Grammar Galaxy because kids who hate sitting still love it. We can turn just about any subject into a physical activity. Have kids do math facts as squats, for example. Or include a just-because active game into your homeschool week. There are wonderful resources for group games and fitness activities.
When my kids were getting restless during the school day I would have them give me push-ups, situps, or squats to complete. There’s also an app called Move that can remind all of you to do a one minute exercise at the interval of your choice.
Finally, you can incorporate fitness in your homeschool with challenges. My husband loved getting the whole family on board with fitness challenges. His favorite was a 100 push-ups-a-day challenge. My daughter and I have completed two fitness challenges together. Although he’s now a college grad, our son and my husband love doing mountain bike challenges together. As I write, they are in Colorado doing challenging hikes. Our kids love having a shared goal and time with us.
Fitness for Mom
You’ve probably determined that I am encouraging you to incorporate fitness into your life as well. If your children are getting enough fitness but you are not, consider working out on your own. For many years I did exercise videos at home or went to the gym before my children were up. I also worked out by myself in the afternoons or evenings when my husband watched the children.
When I was exercising at my church’s gym, people who knew me would say that was so nice of my husband to watch the kids so that I could work out. I told them to look for the boot print on my back. Remember, fitness is very important to my husband. But if if it’s not to yours, I encourage you to make use of child care at a fitness center or by hiring a mother’s helper so you can get your exercise in. I also had a fantastic opportunity when my kids were young by having them take gymnastics and swim lessons while I worked out at the Y. Where there’s a will there’s a Y. Sorry about that pun. But if fitness is a priority for you, you’ll find a way to incorporate it into your homeschool.
I hope you will do that because it’s key to happier, healthier homeschooling.
The first step is to create a summer bucket list. No, it’s not too late. Print this form from The Organized Homeschool Life Planner. What will you put on this bucket list? You will add your most important summer activities to engage in, people to see, and goals to accomplish.
To complete your bucket list, you’ll need to have a family discussion. Let’s start with activities. What things do you want to still do to make it a satisfying summer? Activities that have been high on my various family member’s lists over the years are: camping, fishing, swimming, playing tennis, catching fireflies, watching a movie outside, going to a baseball game, having big parties, kayaking, going to a theme park, lighting fireworks. I could go on, but I hope that’s enough to get you thinking.
Next, consider the people you want to spend time with this summer. Our list includes family, neighbors, and friends we don’t see often during the school year. We always invite the neighbors over for a barbecue. We attend or host my sister-in-law’s ministry gathering. Friends from out of state typically visit. This year in particular, you may have a long list of people you’d like to spend time with.
Finally, consider your goals for your bucket list. What are you really hoping to accomplish this summer? You might want to get all your curriculum planned and your school space organized. You may want to declutter a storage space or get a month’s worth of meals in the freezer. These are some summer goals I’ve had over the years. If you don’t have any summer goals, you might consider the challenges in The Organized Homeschool Life that will help you get organized one week at a time.
Once you have your bucket list of activities, people, and goals completed, consider ways to combine them. Ask important people to engage in the activities you love with you. We used to have a jet ski and loved taking it out every summer. We frequently invited people to join us, so we could spend time with them. If you have a goal of planning, decluttering, or freezer cooking, ask a friend or family member to join you! The accountability and fun will make your goal that much easier to accomplish.
Establish a Routine
The second step to making the most of summer is establishing or tweaking a routine. You can and should put some of your activities and social events on your calendar. But we can all benefit from more structure. We tend to let routines slide in the summer. I know I’m not the only one who does this. We may have different bedtimes. We may not be insisting on chores being completed. We may be a lot more spontaneous with our days. None of these things is a bad thing. However, if we want to be making the most of our time, we need a loose routine that allows us to accomplish that goal.
If you are going to stay up later than you do during the school year, create a late morning routine. Make sure that you are not doing all of the housework. Discuss a new chore routine for summer with your family. This is a good time to discuss screen time as well. What expectations do you have of your children before they can have screen time? How much structure you impose is up to you, and it can certainly be less in the summer, but don’t abandon it altogether.
Specifically, decide how your routine can support you in engaging in the activities, social events, and goal-oriented tasks you added to your bucket list. One strategy is to establish a summer weekly routine. For example, Fridays may be a day you decide to plan fun, out-of-the-house activities. If you don’t include people in those activities, you might plan Saturday as your socializing day. You could choose another day of the week as your work day. That is when you will work on your freezer cooking or lesson planning. Yet another day could be devoted to decluttering.
An alternate approach would be to allot a little bit of time to each of these areas every day. So you could have an hour for doing work tasks, an hour to work on curriculum planning, and an hour to work on decluttering, leaving the afternoon and evening for activities and socializing. The Organized Homeschool Life book can help you develop workable routines for the school year, too.
Ask God to Direct Your Summer
A final, critical way to make the most of your summer is to ask God to guide and direct the coming weeks. The summer I was in the unusual position of having no plans or goals, I asked my Bible study group to pray for clarity and wisdom. That night I awoke and knew I was to write my first book, So You’re Not Wonder Woman. Despite a number of previous attempts to write, I completed the book that summer and it felt relatively effortless.
God knows where we need to direct our time. We can have peace and contentment as we trust that any disruptions to our plans are from Him. I shared before about how a flooded basement led to our praying over our plumber who was to begin chemotherapy for cancer that week. God doesn’t show us the purpose of interruptions every time, but He does so enough to lead us to trust and obey.
Each day, ask God to give you his diligence and his joy as you go through your day. Trust that each interruption is from him and will be used for your good and his glory.
One last thing. If I could do my homeschool summers over, especially those in the beginning, I would relax a lot more. I remember one summer I was so stressed about getting all my kids’ lessons entered into a new digital lesson planner. I begged my husband to take the kids out of the house. I was shocked by how long it took. The kids were home in a flash and I still had what seemed like weeks of work to do. What was even worse was my experience of using the planner. My kids were confused and needed me to verify every single assignment on the system. Of course, we didn’t get things done as planned, which required me to update the lessons for each student.
I ended up using a super simple customized student planner. But I look back on that day and realize that I could have had my husband take the kids out while I read a novel in my lounge chair! I truly believe that the Lord wants to bless us with relaxed days like this, but we do so many unnecessary tasks.
Looking back, I do not derive any joy from thinking about my lesson plans, my organized homeschool space, or my full freezer. But I do delight in memories of kids splashing in the pool, playing badminton in the front yard, and catching fireflies. These are the things your children will remember. These are the things that God wants you to accomplish in your summer. Take your list and present it to him and really listen to what he has to say. Add the things he tells you to add and cross off the things he says you don’t need to do.
I hope you’re enjoying your summer. If you want to make the most of the rest of it, I hope you will make a list of the activities, the people, and the goals that matter to you. Then I hope you will adjust or create a routine to make them happen. And finally, I hope you will present the list to God, listening for His reponse. I hope in His kindness, He surprises you by telling you to take a day off to kick your feet up and read a great book, or whatever it is that brings you joy.
Get Your pretty On has not only changed the way I dress, but it has changed the way I think about myself and my life. That’s what this episode is all about. I’m going to help you make your homeschool a heck-yes. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out the summer capsule wardrobe list that is available now. Check it out by going to Psychowith6.com/GYPO. If a seasonal wardrobe is not what you’re looking for, I highly recommend the Closet Staples list that you will find at the same link.
If it’s not a heck-yes, it’s a no.
One of Alison’s foundational principles in choosing clothing is if it’s not a heck-yes, it’s a no. It’s taken me nearly three years, but I finally determined warning signs that a piece of clothing is not a heck-yes for me. These are the seven signs.
It only looks good when I stand or sit a certain way.
It doesn’t look good in a selfie.
I keep messing with it.
I wish it was different in some way and keep looking for an alternative.
I keep wondering if it’s the wrong size, length, color, or style for me.
I don’t want to wear it right away.
I’m uncomfortable in it or relieved to take it off.
At this point you may be wondering what this has to do with homeschooling? It wasn’t long after I made my list of signs that an item wasn’t a heck-yes that I realized the concept applied to homeschooling and life.
How to make your curriculum a heck-yes.
Let’s start with curriculum, as I know many of you are on the hunt right now. The appearance aspects of heck-yes probably don’t apply, but I’m looking at sign #4. It applies to curriculum in a big way.
If you wish a curriculum was different in some way and you keep looking for an alternative, it’s not a heck-yes for you. It may be a heck-yes for all of your friends, but not for you. Don’t worry. I’m going to help ease the pain of admitting you made the wrong choice in a bit.
What about the style of your curriculum? Do you keep wondering if it’s the right one? Are you worried that it will be too dull or too time-intensive? Perhaps you plan to unschool without traditional curriculum and you’re worried about that. If you keep having these thoughts, the curriculum or homeschool style may not be a heck-yes for you.
Let’s move to the next sign it’s not a heck-yes: You aren’t excited to get started. Other things you have, you look forward to using. But not this one. It may not be a heck-yes.
Sign #7 for my clothing choices is that I’m uncomfortable in it or relieved to take it off. With curriculum, you need to try it out to be sure. Do a sample lesson if you haven’t purchased yet or get started if you have. Try a week of unschooling. Are you happy to be done with it? Does it feel uncomfortable? If so, it may not be a heck-yes.
I don’t mean to suggest that the right curriculum will be rainbows and unicorns every day. It won’t. I get tired of even the best pieces of clothing. But something my mom said to me years ago when I was dating Mr. Wrong in grad school came to mind with respect to clothing. I kept telling my mom we were working on the relationship. She said, “You shouldn’t have to work on the relationship from the beginning.”
My clothing choices shouldn’t be work to look and feel good from the get-go, and neither should your curriculum. It should feel smooth and comfortable. But what if you’re trying a whole new approach to homeschooling, you may ask. I can relate to that with clothing, too. It felt odd to wear mules and tops that required a strapless bra at first. That’s fine. But I shouldn’t be wishing these pieces were different and relieved to take them off. A new approach to teaching may be a heck-yes for you, but not if you can’t wait to finish using it.
How to cope with curriculum that isn’t a heck-yes
When I started using these rules with clothing, I felt awful at first. I had spent loads of time and money on things I couldn’t return. It was embarrassing honestly. But here’s how I felt better about it and how you can, too.
Second, I can donate things that aren’t heck-yeses. I love to thrift shop and get a thrill when I find something beautiful for a bargain. Giving my clothes away potentially gives another woman that experience. The same list gives you options for donating curriculum as well. What isn’t a heck-yes for you may well be for someone else.
Third, I recognize what I’ve learned. I don’t buy shirts with crew necks anymore, for example. You’ll know that certain types of curriculum just aren’t for you going forward–even if your friends love it. It will save you trememndous time, money, and regret.
By the way, not finding a heck-yes language arts curriculum is what drove me to create Grammar Galaxy. I wish I would have had it for all my kids, but I needed to learn before I could write it. You’re becoming an expert in what works for your family, too. The 7th-grade volume of Grammar Galaxy called Nova is now available. It is a review and expansion of the concepts taught in the first three volumes. It includes optional advanced writing projects with each unit. Find a complete sample to try at FunToLearnBooks.com/samples. I hope it is a heck-yes for you!
How to apply the heck-yes philosophy to the rest of your life.
We can have similar rules for determining when a relationship, schedule, or activity isn’t a heck-yes. I once had a friend who made me feel bad about myself every time I was with her. It was not a heck-yes friendship. If I never want to follow my schedule, it’s not a heck-yes and needs to be changed. And if an activity doesn’t make me happy after I’ve completed it, it’s not a heck-yes.
I even applied this heck-yes philosophy to my habits. Here are some that are not heck-yeses for me:
Checking email and social media in the morning.
Eating chocolate after meals.
Going to bed after 11 p.m.
I hope I have you thinking about what is and is not a heck-yes in your wardrobe, your curriculum, and your life. Even though it can be painful to recognize that you’ve invested time or money into something that doesn’t work, the lessons you learn can be invaluable. Have a happy homeschool week!
Before I tell you the lessons my mentor taught me, I have to tell you how we met. I was in the valley. It was 2019. My husband had had a stroke, dear friends and family members had been diagnosed with cancer, my kids had made some choices that made me feel like a failure, and the day before, my new puppy had died. I was at a volleyball match out of town and had just learned that the only mom I chatted with wasn’t going to be there.
I walked into the gym and the woman called me up to sit next to her and her husband. I knew that they had homeschooled their 11 children and that their youngest was on my daughter’s volleyball team. I noticed that she was always stylishly dressed, but that’s all I knew.
I don’t remember any of the small talk we made before she taught me my first lesson. It was this:
#1 God loves you.
Yep, it was the Sunday school mantra, the billboard cliche all the way. But she kept repeating it. “He loves you soooo much,” she said.
“Yeah, I know,” I thought. “I’m a Christian. I know He loves me. He sent His Son Jesus to die for me so I can live with Him eternally. Why is she telling me this?” That day I didn’t have an answer to that.
But months later I knew why she was saying it. With everything I’d experienced in the previous year, I doubted that God loved me. Sure, He loved me in an esoteric, this is what’s best for you, I’m the boss kind of way. But He couldn’t possibly love me like a daddy. Not the way things had been going.
He knew that’s what I was thinking. He knew I thought He didn’t care. And so He sent Sandy to say He loved me. And to keep saying it until I really heard it.
Since then I’ve realized that we homeschool moms are vulnerable to the lie that God doesn’t really love us. Subconsciously we so often think, “If you really loved me, you’d…” fill in the blank. But He does really love us and has already given us everything to prove it. He is working all things together for our good. Now I thank Him for having me in such a low place that I could really see the lie I was believing. I thank Him for arranging the circumstances that allowed me to meet a woman who would be a powerful and much-needed mentor.
Lesson #1 is God loves you.
Lesson #2 is your children are dirty, rotten sinners.
That seems a little harsh, doesn’t it? But that’s what Sandy said. And strangely enough, it’s what I needed to hear. I needed to know that despite all the Bible teaching, church going, and fervent prayer, that my kids were still sinners who would make mistakes. It pointed out another lie I was believing deep, deep down. I thought that if I did my job right that my children would do right. But that’s not necessarily the case, and we know it isn’t. I think we cling to this lie that homeschooling is a guarantee because it means we’re in control. Sad to say, we are not.
The way Sandy and her husband talked about their kids’ mistakes surprised me. They laughed , like they weren’t to blame at all. I was used to the veteran homeschoolers who believed that other people’s prodigals were always the parents’ responsibility. It was a sign of homeschooling gone wrong, of a failure in faith. I had bought into that thinking, despite the story of the prodigal son. There is no evidence that either the prodigal or the older, prideful son went wrong because of something the father did. And if we acknowledge that the father represents God in the story, how can we feel responsible for these dirty, rotten sinners? And that’s what they are. That was lesson #2.
Lesson #3 was like it. I’m a dirty, rotten sinner, too.
Sandy told me how her husband introduced her to Christ in college. Looking at her and her beautiful family, I assumed that she had done everything right after that day. But I was wrong. She told me about her selfishness and unhappiness in her marriage early on that had her wanting to leave. I was so surprised!
Even though I’m a psychologist who has heard people’s darkest secrets, I still assume that most people are better than I am. That means I have to hide and cover up my sin. It wouldn’t do for people to know how bad I really am. But Sandy knew without me telling her a thing because she knows how bad she is without Jesus. And it doesn’t make her want to quit. Not anymore. She knows that Jesus came for her while she was still a sinner. I know that, too, and want to stop hiding. Lesson #3 is I’m a dirty, rotten sinner too.
Lesson #4 is you need the Word of God.
When I met Sandy, I watched her flip through index cards of Scripture and meditate on them. At a volleyball match. That was after she and her husband told me that he read the Bible aloud to his family every morning and evening to the point that he had read the entire Bible dozens of times. I was in awe.
The two of them were so steeped in Scripture that as I spent more time with them, I found myself wanting their opinion on just about everything. I knew that there was no human teaching that could compare to knowing the Word of God that well.
I spoke with Sandy recently and we chatted about a loved one’s battle with anorexia. I explained that I saw this woman have a tiny sample bite of ice cream and then feel compelled to go for a long walk to burn off the calories. Later our conversation turned to my spiritual life. I said, “I always read the Bible, but lately I haven’t read as much.”
She said, “So you’re having small bites of the Scriptures and you’re trying to run a marathon on that.”
I said, “You’re saying I have biblical anorexia.”
She said, “No, you said that” and laughed.
Whoever said it, it’s true. Why, when I know that the Word of God provides so much peace and wisdom wouldn’t I be spending much time reading it? I made a change after our conversation and am seeking to read after each meal. It’s my spiritual food! And I feel refreshed after it. It isn’t legalistic but purely selfish. Lesson #4 is I need the Word of God.
Lesson #5 is to do my husband good all the days of my life.
I had only gotten to know Sandy and her husband for a couple of months when he had to cancel attending a volleyball tournament due to illness. We were shocked when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died two weeks later. Truthfully, I’m still shocked.
I have watched Sandy take on the role of widow in the Lord’s strength. I have listened to stories of how her husband loved her over the years, and I have been impressed with them both. But I was convicted when she said that she had prayed Proverbs 31:12, to be able to do her husband good all the days of his life. I had never prayed that prayer. I never even thought to pray that prayer. And here I am with the blessing of a husband who is still with me. How might my marriage change if I prayed this prayer? How might yours? Lesson #5 is to do my husband good all the days of my life.
Lesson #6 is there is still hope.
I saw Sandy have hope for her husband’s healing until his last breath. But I knew she would have that attitude. Here’s why.
Sandy has witnessed a mother’s worst fears realized. That’s why she could encourage me when I feared for my own and my friend’s children. She reminded me that God can use our children’s mistakes for His purposes–for their salvation and the salvation of others.
On that first day we met when she had no idea that I was fretting about my kids’ choices and their faith walk, she told me there is still hope for our children–no matter how old they are or how far off they are. Sandy didn’t profess a hope in homeschooling or good parenting but in God. When she is in doubt of what to say, she shares God’s Word with them. That’s what I will do here. Hebrews 10:23 assures us, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
If Sandy could sit with you, she would tell you that God loves you soooo much, despite the truth that you and your children are dirty, rotten sinners. She would tell you that you need more time in the Word to finish this race. She would encourage you to pray that you would do your husband good all the days of your life. And no matter what you and your children are facing, she would tell you there is still hope.
I’ve been thinking a lot about mistakes in homeschooling. One reason I have is because I’ve been talking with homeschooling moms at the Great Homeschool Conventions. They’ve been asking me about their mistakes.
Another reason I’ve been thinking about mistakes this because I see the end of my homeschooling years on the horizon. My youngest is a freshman this year, and it’s hard to believe we have just a little over three years remaining. I’ve been thinking about what if anything I would do differently in my homeschooling if I had the chance.
The third reason I’ve been thinking about mistakes is because I talk to many parents of perfectionistic kids – kids who take all day to get things just right.
So I thought I would address the whole topics of mistakes in homeschooling. Before I dive in, I want to mention the elementary language arts curriculum I’ve authored — Grammar Galaxy. It’s story-based, explaining what happens to literature, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and writing when the Gremlin tries to destroy the English language. Kids don’t complete boring workbooks. Instead, they complete missions as guardians of the galaxy, and put things back in order.
Grammar Galaxy is used by thousands of students across the country and even around the world. But I’m going to tell you a secret about it. It has mistakes in it. I call them Gremlins. It seems as quickly as I correct them, the Gremlin produces more to take their place. I can be a perfectionist and I found it very difficult to publish a curriculum, knowing it wasn’t perfect. But if I had waited for perfection, I wouldn’t have written a curriculum kids and parents alike enjoy. And I wouldn’t have been living my dream of writing these past five years.
With that context, I want to frame today’s topic of managing mistakes in terms of do’s and don’ts. First, three don’ts.
Overreacting is definitely something I have done in my homeschooling. I have put way too much emphasis on getting it right. When my kids have made mistakes, I have honestly freaked out at times. In fact, when I was crying about my college boys’ choices, one of them wisely said, “I really think this is the best time of your life to make mistakes.” I’m so glad my parents didn’t overreact to my bad choices. I think that’s because my parents’ generation didn’t think that their parenting or their kids’ choices were going to set the future in stone. That’s what the experts tell us today and it’s made homeschooling very challenging.
When my first child took the standard achievement test in sixth grade, I was concerned by his low math scores. My temptation was to think that I had failed him in teaching math and that there was little hope he would recover. I was tempted to overreact. Now I laugh at that because he went on to do honors math courses in high school, getting AP credit for advanced calculus. Even though I had serious concerns about his mistakes on the math portion of the SAT, I did not freak out. I did not get him a math tutor. I did not search for a whole new math curriculum. In fact, we kept using what we had. We don’t want to overreact to our kids’ mistakes because they do not determine the future.
The second don’t with mistakes is don’t blame yourself.
This don’t I have been guilty of for most of my years as a mom. Not only am I homeschooling mom who is supposed to be training her kids spiritually and educationally but I am a psychologist. I feel the pressure to produce good results. I know many people are watching. I am blessed that I do not have homeschool haters in my personal life to make that pressure even greater. Even so, I feel responsible for my kids’ academic and life performance. But I should not.
In fact, as I take responsibility for my kids’ mistakes, I teach them that they are not responsible. I encourage them to lay the blame at my feet. If I keep taking responsibility and my college son doesn’t study for his algebra test in college and gets a failing grade, I encourage him to complain about the algebra curriculum we used in our homeschool.
I have said this before and I’m going to keep saying it as a reminder for myself and for you: God does not hold us accountable for results. If our kids make mistakes willingly and in spite of our training and our rules, we are not responsible. Our kids (even at younger ages) have free will and will make mistakes. In fact, the more we try to keep our kids from making mistakes the more likely our strong-willed kids will make heaps of them. We are only responsible for training, coaching, and praying. The second don’t is don’t take responsibility for your kids’ mistakes.
The third don’t with mistakes is don’t give up.
Just because our child keeps making the same foolish mistakes with siblings or keeps getting long division problems wrong or keeps failing to capitalize the first letter of a sentence, we do not give up. Our kids are in a chrysalis in our home. Each day we fail to see them stretch their wings, we wonder if they would be better off if we cracked open that chrysalis and put them in school. We wonder if they need a different teacher. We wonder if we have a child who will just never get it.
Recently, a friend of mine asked me about a family member who was ready to give up on something big. She asked me for advice and I remembered the story of Florence Chadwick, who in 1952, decided to take on the challenge of swimming 26 miles between the California coastline and Catalina Island. After 15 hours of swimming, a thick fog settled in. Her team, including her mother, encouraged her to keep going even though she was exhausted. But after an hour, she called it quits. They pulled her into the boat. Later she learned she was just one mile away from Catalina Island. Had she known how close she was, she would have dug deep for the energy she needed to finish her race.
You and I can feel like the fog has settled over our homeschools. We don’t see the finish line. We don’t even see any progress. But we must keep swimming. Before we know it, we will have landed at the end and we will be grateful we persevered.
Now that we’ve covered the don’ts, let’s end with the do’s of addressing mistakes in your homeschool.
The first do is do see mistakes as progress.
It sounds cliché, but we really do learn more from our mistakes than we do when we get it right. In fact, learning isn’t getting lucky and doing it correctly the first time. Learning is pushing ourselves to the point where we make mistakes. That’s when new neural connections form in our brains. That’s when we have a new understanding of the process. And that’s when we realize we can’t do it in our own strength. We must turn to God in dependence on Him.
Thomas Edison allegedly said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Making mistakes gets us closer to the right answer, the right choice, the right path. Michael Jordan said, “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
One of the best lessons we can teach our kids about mistakes is that they are forward progress.
The second do with respect to homeschool mistakes is to talk to your kids about your mistakes.
I’m not suggesting that you reveal all the bad judgment you had as a young person. That can come back to bite you. But I am suggesting that we talk about our mistakes and what we’ve learned from them.
I’ve never forgotten the story about one of my mother’s mistakes. She worked for a photographer as a teen. She was sorting professional portraits when my mother picked up a photo and asked her coworker if she had ever seen an uglier boy. Her coworker said, “That’s my brother.”
My mother could have said, “Don’t say unkind things” and the impact would have been minimal. But I remember the photo story.
We can talk about our struggles with particular school subjects and how we persevered. My kids know I had a hard time with long division, geometry, and personal finance–practically speaking. I think these struggles have made me a better, more empathic teacher.
We can use our mistakes as a powerful teaching tool with our kids.
The final do with respect to homeschooling mistakes is to teach kids how to correct their mistakes.
It’s a trap we all fall into of saying no and don’t without teaching the correct alternative. “Don’t talk to your brother that way” without saying, “Tell your brother what’s bothering you with the assertiveness formula.” We correct the worksheet without making sure our kids know why their answer is wrong. And we don’t give kids a chance to retest or rewrite. It’s in this process of practicing the right things that the most learning takes place.
One discipline strategy I used when my kids were younger was making them repeat the right behavior several times. So, they left items on the stairs as they went up? I would have them come back and take them up three times.
Use mistakes as an opportunity to teach kids the right way to do things.
I want to review the do’s and end with the don’ts. Do teach kids that mistakes are progress. Do discuss your own mistakes with them. Do teach kids the right behavior in response to mistakes. And don’t overreact or blame yourself for your kids’ mistakes. And most importantly, don’t give up–not because of mistakes anyway. Florence Chadwick would tell us to just keep swimming.
I’ve shared before that homeschooling wasn’t my original dream. I planned to work part-time as a psychologist and be home with my 2.5 children the rest of time, giving me plenty of time to write and speak. I knew God had called me to be a writer and speaker and it’s the main reason I wanted to finish my Ph.D. People have asked me if I miss counseling and I really don’t. As an extrovert, doing individual counseling wasn’t a good fit for me.
I was surprised when I felt God calling me to homeschool. I understood not practicing as a psychologist, but how could I have the time to write and speak if I was teaching my children full-time? I wrestled with the idea and ultimately decided that if God was calling me to all three paths, it was His responsibility to make it work.
Now, of course, I laugh about that as I speak and write ABOUT homeschooling. But I want to back up to my first experiences with homeschooling.
My first experience homeschooling.
When I read a book on homeschooling, I was impressed by the evidence that homeschooling provided a better education. Of course, I wanted my kids to have the best education possible, as every loving parent does.
I was also very impressed by the evidence that homeschooling gave kids better self-esteem. As someone who bore the scars of bullying, I loved the idea that my kids could feel good about themselves throughout their childhood.
Finally, I was impressed by stories of homeschooling resulting in better character. Homeschoolers were more likely to be mature, to be biblically minded, and have a work ethic that would lead to advancement in the activities of their choice.
I chose to obey the call of God and try homeschooling. I certainly wanted what was better for my kids. If you’ve followed me for any time, you know that my initial forays into teaching my preschooler were not successful. I had a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby, but I didn’t think teaching preschool could be that hard. I had a Ph.D. after all. I found a cute preschool curriculum to use and was excited about the fun we would have.
But day after day, I found that I hadn’t done any homeschooling at all. And it wasn’t because I was cleaning or freelance writing or doing volunteer work. My kids were clean and fed, but otherwise I had no idea what I’d done. Laundry would frequently have to be rewashed after getting musty in the washer after days left untouched. I stayed in my pajamas most days. And when my husband asked what was for dinner, I had no idea. He was not happy, but neither was I.
But discovering FLYLady and the power of routines changed everything. I finally understood how other homeschool moms could teach, clean, and cook while having little ones. My self-esteem improved dramatically. I wasn’t the lazy slob I mistook myself to be.
I was actually teaching my kids and enjoying it. The materials created by homeschool publishers made it so pleasant. I became active in a homeschool support group and began spending time with other homeschoolers. It was fun! I was living the homeschool dream. I knew life was better than it would have been if we’d sent the kids to school. But that’s when the terrors creeped in.
I didn’t understand why some of my Christian friends weren’t homeschooling. Why were they sending their kids to an expensive private school or worse yet, in my estimation, sending them to public school? Didn’t they want better for their kids? I preached about our superior education when I could, but I didn’t stay on my pedestal for long.
I learned that there were homeschoolers doing better than I was.
They read more books than we did. They kept records that were also scrapbooks and journals. They finished the entire book before the end of the school year. Their children could play musical instruments in kindergarten.
These homeschooling moms baked bread from grain they ground into flour. They gardened and farmed and cooked what they harvested. They sewed their children’s clothing. They built practical things with their kids. They painted. Some of them even had their kids programming computers!
They took their kids to swim lessons and chess club and bowling. They didn’t let their children play video games or watch television. They had their children memorize whole books of the Bible.
They were leaders in their support group and in church ministry. They wrote newsletters and later blogs. Some had successful businesses.
And it became obvious to me that I wasn’t as better as I thought.
I needed to do more to live the homeschool dream.
I redirected my frustration with non-homeschooling Christian parents to my kids. They weren’t motivated enough. They didn’t always obey the first time with a cheerful attitude. And sometimes they even complained about doing school! I discovered that one child was dumping clean laundry into the hamper just so he wouldn’t have to put it away. Another child wasn’t doing their math homework for weeks.
As angry as I thought I was at my kids, the real anger was directed inward. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I discipline my kids and myself better? Why couldn’t I get more done? Why weren’t my kids wowing people? Why wasn’t I?
I felt even worse after volunteering at an 8th-grade homeschool graduation. It seemed every graduate spoke multiple languages, played numerous instruments, had won statewide competitions, and already had their own business. My soon-to-be eighth grader had none of these accomplishments to speak of. Little did I know that the last bit of pride I had was about to go.
My oldest rebelled in the way he knew would hurt me most–in front of my homeschooling friends. He questioned everything I’d taught him. Most hurtful of all, he suggested that he would be moving away after school and wouldn’t see us much.
That’s when I realized that my homeschool dream was dead.
I wasn’t better. I wasn’t even okay. I was devastated and confused.
Now I am so thankful for the death of that dream. I have said that my oldest saved our homeschool. My homeschool dream was about being better when that is the antithesis of the gospel. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” And Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The irony of someone who had to be reluctantly called to homeschool believing that they were better than others who either didn’t homeschool or didn’t homeschool the way she did. The Lord not only humbled me but gave me compassion for parents who struggle with their educational choice, with their parenting, and with homeschooling in general.
You may have read about what I learned by sending my oldest son to public school. And as some of my children have become adults and made choices I didn’t like, I have learned more about my role as a Christian, homeschooling mom. My calling is to train my children in the way they should go, not to force them that way. After all, God doesn’t force us to obey. Instead He gives us wisdom, encouragement, and love that motivate us. I now understand that I am not accountable for my adult children’s choices or even my teens’ choices. I have freedom in that. That isn’t to say that I don’t give them feedback.
My dream was to be better and that died.
So what is my homeschool dream now?
To follow Jesus. I followed Him into this homeschooling lifestyle and then went my own way. Now I know that He has plans for me and my family that are good plans. These plans may not look like anyone else’s. We may not be using the same curriculum, attending the same classes, or participating in the same activities. We may not discipline the way an expert says to do it. But there is joy as we keep walking. When we stumble in going our own way, we ask forgivness, and get back on the path.
I am living the homeschool dream. It doesn’t make for a very good Instagram account because I’m not on a farm, reading dozens of books a week, or rehabbing a house. But my kids do things that amaze me. Every day is an adventure, just as it should be.
What about your dream? Is it to be better? Is it to keep up with someone else’s dream? Or is it following Jesus? One way to tell is with Matthew 11: 28-30. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” A misguided homeschool dream tends to become very, very hard.
Of course, living the dream requires diligence. We want to teach our kids well, discipline as needed, and maintain order. But when we are striving in our own strength for the wrong goal, we will be exhausted.
If anything I’ve shared has you thinking about getting organized or your anger in parenting, I encourage you to check out two classes available on my website FunToLearnBooks.com. And I want you to know that I’m praying for you. God will not leave you to live the homeschooling dream on your own.