I’ve homeschooled for more than 20 years. I feel better about sharing homeschooling advice on The Homeschool Sanity Show with other homeschoolers today than when I was less experienced. When you’re looking for advice starting out as a homeschooling mom or heading into a new phase of homeschooling, you would be wise to seek out a veteran homeschool mom. Here are six reasons homeschoolers need to look to veteran moms for counsel.
#1 A newer homeschooler may burn out on her present path.
It’s tempting to try to copy what an ambitious new homeschooler is doing with multiple curricula, lots of unit studies, or numerous extracurricular activities, especially because her homeschool looks so appealing on Instagram. However, you have no idea if the homeschooler you so admire can keep up the pace or if it’s even wise to do so. Of course, it’s also possible that while she may be able to “do it all,” you won’t be able to. You’ll think you’re just not cut out for homeschooling when it’s this do-it-all style that doesn’t fit. It took me years to discover that I was trying to do too much and that’s why I was so tired.
#2 A newer homeschooler hasn’t faced many personal challenges in her homeschooling.
The less time you’ve homeschooled, the less experience you have homeschooling while pregnant, while battling a serious illness in yourself or a family member, or while dealing with relationship conflict. Most people can homeschool when life goes according to plan. But life will NOT always go according to plan. You need the counsel of a godly homeschool mom who’s walked through the valley. I’ve homeschooled in all three situations and learned that homeschooling is an ideal lifestyle for these times. But I needed reminders from veteran homeschool moms to accept that it was okay to take a break from school at these times.
#3 A newer homeschooler may not have an established identity.
She may still long to impress family through her children’s accomplishments. She may still want to be accepted by others who have impossibly high standards. She may still battle self-esteem issues that stem from childhood. A veteran homeschool mom has had years to discover that her real identity is in Christ. She knows it has nothing to do with her kids’ trophies or scholarships. She will remind you that you are wonderful just as you are.
#4 A newer homeschooler, especially one with young children, has not had to manage rebellion.
Yes, there are some mothers whose children do not rebel, but you may not be one of the lucky few. A child who suddenly resists your authority, your values, and your faith is one of the most discouraging experiences to a homeschool mom. A newer homeschooler giving advice may immediately assume you’ve done something wrong to bring about the rebellion. A veteran homeschool mom will tell you that it’s normal, that they’ll pray for you, and above all that it will be okay. I thank God for veteran homeschool moms who told me that God loved my child even in rebellion and who didn’t blame me for what I was going through.
#5 A newer homeschooler may have little experience with diverse educational options.
Newer homeschool moms may not have experience with in-home co-ops, learning centers, or sending a child to school. Veteran moms likely have experience with all of these or knows someone who does who can advise you. I’m thankful for veteran homeschool moms who could guide me through having a child go to school. I’m thankful, too, for veteran homeschool moms who know the pros and cons of multiple teaching environments and don’t judge me for making the decision I believe is best for my children.
#6 A newer homeschooler may have little to no experience with sending a child to college or into the work force.
Today marks the last article in the Trust Project series: How to trust God with the little things. I am in awe of how He led me to start the series and what He has taught me through it all. I continue to marvel that I had no idea what to talk about for last month’s article on trusting God with the world. Then the coronavirus hit. God wants us to know that while we don’t know what’s coming, He does.
What are the benefits of trusting God with the little things?
For me the benefits are less stress, better sleep, and better health overall. The Lord has taught me that the little things are often a big reason I don’t trust God. I want to stop worrying and start living. How about you?
Let’s use the acronym TRUST.
The T in trust is for truth.
Our Scripture to meditate on is Philippians 4:6. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
God is telling us that we shouldn’t be anxious about the big things, so certainly we shouldn’t be anxious about the small matters. Instead, when we feel the anxiety coming, we need to give the situation to Him. I love the language here: present your requests. Give them to Him like a gift that you wouldn’t take back. As strange as it sounds, when we give Him our troubles, we are giving God the gift of faith and He loves it.
Our biblical account is from Luke 10 verses 38-42. “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
As I read this passage again in preparation for this episode I noticed something new that is huge. So many times this passage is used to make women feel guilty for doing anything but praying and reading Scripture. Terrible Martha for focusing on getting the meal ready and wanting some help in the kitchen! I’m amazed that I’ve missed this key detail so many times. It’s in verse 39. “Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” Listening to what he said. Jesus, the Son of God, who only speaks the words of God is in your house and not just in your house but is speaking. Why wouldn’t you take the time to listen?
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the details, the little things that we don’t stop to listen to what God is saying to us. There is a time for meal prep, but when God is speaking, we would do well to listen. What is God saying to you now? Do you have extra time to listen to him in Word and quiet?
The R in trust is for remembering.
How has God shown Himself trustworthy in the past with the little things in your life? I wrote an article about praying little prayers. God has shown Himself faithful in providing a dress, giving me a great parking spot when I needed it, and even keeping my hair dry before a speaking engagement.
But I don’t have to strain to recall a time when God was faithful in the little things. In January, we discovered that my son had bedbugs. A little research told us why. Our suitcases had been stored under his bed. It’s easy to pick up bedbugs when you stay in hotels of any sort. They hitch a ride on your suitcase and make your bed their new home when you unpack in your room or, in our case, store the luggage under the bed. We attempted to treat the bedbugs ourselves. Every time we thought we had done the job, my son would sleep in his bed and would find uninvited guests. He took pictures of them to prove it to us!
Then the unthinkable happened: I found bites on my shoulder and then bugs in my bed. I was doing okay with the trusting God thing until then. My anxiety was so bad that I couldn’t sleep. I insisted that we call in an exterminator. The bugs are gone, thank God! These are some tips for avoiding bed bugs in your travel, but that’s not the most important thing here. The most important thing I learned is how quickly my trust in God evaporated in the face of little bed bugs. So much stress and for what? I wish I could have those sleepless nights back.
Little things can make it hard to believe in a big God. But He is faithful! How has He been faithful in the little things for you?
The U in trust is for understanding.
God does give us wisdom for the little things. We learn of a good tech guy or gal to call for our messed-up computer. We Google and find a solution as I did to my vertigo. We get advice from a friend. I didn’t just pray for my bed bugs and vertigo to go away. I used the wisdom God gave me and you should, too. What steps should you take in lieu of worrying about the little things?
The S in trust is for supplication.
This is when we pray specifically for what we need. I prayed for an exterminator. When he came, he told me exactly what I needed to hear for peace of mind. I didn’t even pray for that, but God delivered. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Lord, thy will be done, but if you could help me find what I need at the first store, that would be a blessing.” God isn’t your over-busy friend. He will not be annoyed by your small requests.
The T in trust is for thanksgiving.
We can and should thank God for all the ways He has been faithful in answering our little prayers until now. But we can also thank Him in advance for giving us what is best, even if the first round of extermination doesn’t do the trick as it did for us. We thank Him that He is with us and for us. What a confidence builder this is, even as we face some really big challenges to our faith right now.
I want to thank Him right now for inspiring me to do this series. It has changed my life. The past fifteen months have been some of the most challenging I have experienced — cancer diagnoses, loss of dear friends and a beloved pet, my husband’s stroke, and more. But the faith I’ve learned in the process has made it possible for me to be strong enough to help people through the enormous crisis the world is facing now. I pray you find yourself better prepared because of your faith in Him.
Of course, our journey hasn’t ended. Go back through previous months of the Trust Project as you need to. Be prepared to answer Satan’s question over and over…Did God really say? Yes, He did. He really did say that He loves us and is everything we need. He really did say that He was for us and not against us. He really did say that He would work all things together for our good.
God bless you, my friend, as you seek to trust in our awesome God more and more.
I have been at home with my kids full-time for 23 years. It wasn’t what I wanted at first and I’ve had my share of challenges, but now I’m so grateful for the time I’ve had. If you’re a homeschooler whose kids are now home from outside classes and activities because of sheltering in or you’re new to having your kids home from school, this episode is for you. I want to share simple tips that will have you not just surviving but thriving with your kids home full-time.
I didn’t want to stay home with my kids full-time originally. I planned on working as a clinical psychologist part-time. But my first baby kept getting ear infections while in daycare, and I kept having to cancel my appointments. I moved to having sessions two evenings a week and then quit my practice entirely when I had my second child. When I had three children, I felt called to homeschool. I gave it a try with my preschooler.
I had struggles both with staying home with my kids and with homeschooling them that you can avoid with the tips I’m going to share with you today.
The first tip is to adjust your expectations.
I thought I would be able to get things done while home with my young children. I had freelance writing deadlines and conferences I was keynoting at the time. I counted on nap times to get my work done. Whenever I counted on nap time, I could be sure that my child wouldn’t sleep or something else would happen to interrupt me.
If you are currently working from home while trying to manage your children’s education, God bless you. What you are doing is not easy. There is no trick you are missing. Other people are not doing it well while you struggle. The truth is you are unlikely to get as much work done as you did before your children were home full-time. If you accept that, your days will be smoother.
I thought that staying home with a toddler would be a delight. I took my little guy to the mall to walk with a friend in the mornings. My expectations set me up for a lot of disappointment. My strong-willed child hated to be buckled into his car seat. The Herculean effort required to buckle him did not start the morning off well. Then he would deftly extricate himself from his stroller and would stand up in it as I pushed, looking like Kate Winslet on the bow of the Titanic. Even after I got him a stroller with a 5-point restraint, I let him out and he ran into Victoria Secret and flung the neatly folded lingerie out of the drawers as quickly as he could.
Homeschooling him went no better. I expected to have a darling little cherub of a student who would rise up and call me blessed. I didn’t get that. My son had not signed off on my educational plan. He wanted to avoid anything that required him to sit down and pay attention to me when there were so many other fun things to explore.
And I am not an outlier. I don’t know anyone whose high expectations of their children and homeschooling have been fulfilled. And that was in a time when the entire world wasn’t reeling from the impact of a pandemic. Our children are just as disoriented by all the changes as we are. Instead of believing that you’ll be able to get all your work done and your children will cheerfully, independently do their school assignments and chores and will seek out plenty of educational enrichment activities, adopt this motto: what can go wrong will go wrong. Then when you experience the unexpected gift of accomplishment, you’ll rejoice.
With low expectations, you can create a routine or schedule that has the best chance of success. Trying to accomplish two objectives at once is destined to fail. If you’re going to try to work and parent or work and teach, you’ll do neither well. Arrange a routine in which you first spend time with your kids to get them going on activities. Really attend to them. Go over the chore, the worksheet, or the activity. Have them repeat in their own words what they are to do. Explain that when the activity is complete, they will get to have a break to do something pleasant: play outside, play a board game, or have screen time.
That is when you are going to have time devoted to work. Explain to your children that interruptions of your work time for non-emergencies will result in shortened free time. The younger your children, the shorter your work periods will have to be. Consider alternating child supervision with a spouse or older children. And remember to expect the worst.
My second tip for staying sane with kids home full-time is to reserve time to recharge.
When I began staying home full-time with my child, the loneliness for this extrovert was a killer. I became depressed because I didn’t have work colleagues to talk to. I wasn’t allowing myself time for hobbies, either. Later, homeschooling limited my social contacts as friends put their kids in school and spent more time with other school parents.
I was able to recharge by first starting a stay-at-home-mom Bible study for women at my church. The Bible study, social, and scrapbooking time made a huge difference in my mood and in my ability to be a patient, loving parent. As a homeschooler, I created a home-based co-op so I could do the same with homeschooling friends. My kids loved spending time with other children and my visits with moms helped me stay sane and manage my expectations with a veteran homeschooler’s counsel.
I wrote How to Be Happy and Homeschool Too in which I argue that we need time to recharge doing something other than homeschooling. I think that’s just as important as we shelter in place. Unfortunately, socializing has become a lot more difficult. But it’s not impossible. We can use apps like Houseparty to get together with friends and have that book club, Bible study, or craft time. Aside from socializing, we can make sure we have time alone for devotions, reading, or exercising by communicating our need for it with our family. Take turns with a spouse or reserve screen time so you can have the quiet you need to be recharged. If you’re not sure about self-care, read my recent article on Is Self-Care a Snare. I urge you not to skimp on sleep now to meet other needs. I’ve made the decision to stop staying up late during this time and the difference in my mood is dramatic. The other thing I do to recharge is get dressed every day and share in the Get Your Pretty On group on Facebook. I love having the outfit and the interaction to look forward to each day. Find free outfit formulas to use with the clothes you own.
My third tip for staying sane with kids home full-time is to focus on what your kids need most.
When I started homeschooling, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to teach my kids because I’m not a trained teacher. I didn’t know any of the tricks I was sure teachers had learned for teaching my kids to read or do math. I was also worried that my pregnancies in which I was so fatigued and the constant interruptions in education caused by my toddlers and preschoolers were doing my kids irreparable harm.
Soon I will have four graduates, all of whom have earned A’s in college courses. More importantly, they are well adjusted adults who love God and are close to their families. I have to give all the credit for that to Jesus. Even though I am a psychologist, I am naturally lazy, disorganized, and prone to anger. That leads me to share what I think kids need most. It happens to coincide with the greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Our kids need to see us loving God, loving our spouse, and loving them. Our current situation is like a final exam with that. If you can keep loving in the midst of fear and uncertainty and disruption, what an amazing lesson that is for your kids. We provide them then not just with love but security.
Take the time to pray and read the Bible together each day. You can use a prepared devotional, but you don’t have to. We still pray prayers of thanksgiving, repentance, and supplication for ourselves and others in need and it has been time well spent. I always come away from our family devotional time with more peace.
Also give your children individual time. Our kids need time with us to connect and share. Spending time with each child doing what he or she enjoys most will pay dividends in better behavior and less sibling squabbling. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time and each child doesn’t have to have that time daily. With six kids, I gave each child a day of the week. That was their day to have the choice seat, make decisions, and have time with me. In your individual time, ask your child about their adjustment to sheltering in. To draw them out, ask about their least favorite things about it and the things they enjoy about it. Ask what if anything you can do to help them adjust.
The next best thing your children need now is reading. The worst thing that happens educationally for children is what teachers call the summer slide–a break during which kids quit reading. Don’t allow sheltering in to be a time your children put the books down. If your school district doesn’t provide online instruction or at-home curriculum, have your children read, read aloud to them, or listen to audiobooks. Public libraries have digital books to check out. Numerous classic books are available for free online. And consider Grammar Galaxy, a short, fun curriculum you can read aloud or listen to as a family. Reading in any format improves vocabulary which is the best predictor of academic and life success.
Finally, what your children need now is memories. None of us will forget this time of being home together. But how will we remember it? Let’s make the memories sweet. I think we can do that by shared activities, celebrations, and games.
Our college boys are home for the year. One of our sons loves going on challenging bike rides. My husband has been going with him, even though our son pushes him to his limit. They both love it and the relationship that is being strengthened in this. The first Sunday we stayed home from church, my family planned a huge breakfast. Several of the kids helped prepare the food for it. I don’t think we’ve had a more memorable meal outside of Thanksgiving. Easter is coming up and the kids are already asking me for special foods. I plan to dress up for watching the livestream of our service together. I don’t know if I can talk the kids into dressing up, but I’ll try! Finally, we have been playing indoor and outdoor games together and having so much fun. We had a blast playing spoons and the app Psych!. We have played pickleball and four square outside. We got out our stilts that have been sitting for years and I was even using them.
Use this time to create shared experiences. Cook together, exercise together. Plan celebrations for your family. Have extended family join you via FaceTime or another video app. And play games together. Make a list of games you have. Try some you haven’t played much and give any away you don’t enjoy. Consider playing some of the free grammar games I share on my site. Or sign up for the Grammar Guardians mission calendar for free.
When you adjust your expectations, reserve time to recharge, and give your kids what they need, you’ll not only survive this time, you’ll thrive during it.
Recently, a woman on my Psychowith6 Facebook page, made a comment on the self-care movement. I wasn’t aware that self-care was a movement, but she got me thinking. Previously, I wrote How to Be Happy and Homeschool, Too in which I discussed the importance of what could be called self-care. In fact, I frequently talk about the importance of it during my sessions at Great Homeschool Conventions. I suddenly found myself wondering if I had been teaching wrong things. So I wanted to address the topic in today’s episode. Is self-care a snare? I am tempted to tell you the right way to think about this issue. But instead, I am going to give you some considerations for you to take to the Lord.
How should we define self-care?
First, I want to take time to define self-care. We can’t have a fruitful discussion if we haven’t defined our terms.
Time away from family
A couple of years ago I asked on my Psychowith6 Facebook page how long it had been since moms had been out on a date. One response that I got surprised me. The mom said that she not only hadn’t been out on a date, but she thought that staying home with her family was the whole point of homeschooling. I’m not going to take issue with her statement now. But I am going to take from her statement one potential definition of self-care: time away from your family.
This definition of self-care can certainly elicit strong opinions. I have taken time away from my family over the years, whether I was off to scrapbook with my friends while my husband watched the kids, whether I had time to run errands while my niece watched my young children, or whether I accompanied my husband on a business trip out of town while family or friends watched my kids.
I believe that I have benefited greatly from that time away. And while that has been my experience, I would not insist that every homeschooling mom needs that time away from her family. I think that that is again something that you will want to take to the Lord.
Justification for destructive behavior
Another definition of self-care surprised me. I was talking with a formerly homeschooled young man who is now a college graduate. He asked me what I thought of the self-care movement. Again with the movement. I had no idea that this was such a popular thing. And I asked him why he was asking my opinion and furthermore what his definition of self-care was. He began to tell me that people his age were using self-care to describe their destructive habits. For example, friends might say they had spent the night drinking because of self-care. Or they might say that they had been binge eating or watching Netflix all day when they should be working or studying. This they described as self-care.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that this is not my definition of self-care. I can see taking a day off to relax and even to indulge in more treats than normal. But anything that harms us or dishonors God or others is not how I would define self-care, nor is it anything I would recommend.
Caring for our body, mind, and spirit in a way that allows us to continue caring for other people
Physical self-care is important. If I do not pay attention to signs of illness that require medical care and I let it go too long in a way that results in my inability to teach my kids and care for my family, I am not loving myself, my family, or God.
Mental self-care is important. If I am not having a mental and emotional time of refreshment and quiet where I can think and relax, my very sanity may be at risk. You might think I am exaggerating, but our mental self-care or lack there of can lead to crippling depression, anxiety, and even psychosis.
Finally, spiritual self-care is important. The less connected I am to the Lord, the more likely I am to have physical and mental problems. Time for worship in a way that builds that connection allows me to fill up on God’s love that I can then share with others.
Is Self-Care Selfish?
The next issue I’d like to address is whether or not self-care is selfish. That whole issue will turn on your definition of self-care. If you believe that time away from your family is harmful to you or your family, then by that definition self-care could be selfish. If your definition is like my young friend’s, then behaving in a destructive way can absolutely be selfish. You are likely not concerning yourself with other people’s needs and you are putting your body and mind at risk. But if you are taking time to care for your body, mind, and spirit in a way that enables you to care more for other people, I do not think that self-care is selfish.
So given that you can already sense my answer to the question on selfishness, let’s talk about what unselfish self-care might look like. Let’s start by discussing care of the body. I was very surprised to hear other homeschooling moms I know talk about exercising as selfish. This is one of the reasons they didn’t engage in it. I suspect that that has to do with the time away from family definition. So if you are leaving the kids at home while you go and get exercise, or you are leaving your kids in a gym daycare, and that feels selfish to you, I am not going to try to convince you that time away from your family isn’t selfish. I likely couldn’t do it if that is your fundamental belief. Instead, I’m going to say that exercise is one of the most powerful treatments and preventatives we have for dozens of diseases. The Bible says that physical training is of some value.So it isn’t that exercise is evil and staying at home and praying and serving your family is the only unselfish thing. No, exercise helps to keep you healthy and strong and energetic and even mentally equipped to keep teaching and serving your family.
If being away from your family is an issue for you, know that there are many ways you can get exercise as a family. Walk, play a sport together, do an exercise video together. You can even use your baby as part of your exercise routine, whether that’s walking with your baby in a stroller or doing chest presses or squats with your baby in your arms.
The next unselfish way to care for your body is to get enough sleep. You are more likely to be ill or irritable if you aren’t getting enough sleep. I recently watched a video of a mom talking about falling asleep while driving with her kids in the car. Two of her children were killed in the car accident she had. Do whatever you have to do to get enough sleep. Sleep while your kids nap or watch videos, ask your husband to watch the kids while you get to bed early, or hire a mother’s helper to get yourself some extra sleep. Jesus slept when He was tired, even in the midst of a storm. His disciples wouldn’t dare have called him selfish!
Body self-care isn’t selfish because your family wants you to take care of yourself. Your family does not want you to be too overweight to play with them and engage with them. They don’t want you to be too tired or too sick to teach them and enjoy spending time with them. Your husband doesn’t want you to be too exhausted to have intimacy with him. Self-care of our bodies is one of the most unselfish things that we can do.
Self-care of our minds and spirits can also be unselfish. I scrapbook once a week at a friend’s house if my schedule allows it. While I am gone, I relive wonderful memories of times with my family and friends. I talk with my friend about what’s been going on in our lives. By the time I return home, I am usually in a fantastic mood. I’ve not only relived great memories, but I have had a refreshing time of talking. The added bonus is I often have finished scrapbooking pages to show my family. My husband and my kids love my scrapbooking. Sometimes I include my daughter in our scrapbooking sessions and it becomes a special time for her, my friend, and I. Could scrapbooking become something that is selfish? It certainly could. It hasn’t in my life, but I believe that anything that we truly enjoy can be used in a self-serving manner.
Spiritual self-care can be reading Scripture, praying, reading Christian books, listening to sermons or Christian podcasts, attending worship, singing, or playing a musical instrument, and attending a retreat for starters. Whatever leads us closer to God and isn’t harming us or our family is not selfish but a loving thing to do.
Is self-care a slippery slope?
Aside from selfishness, the issue some have with self-care is that it’s a slippery slope. And it can be. I was reading a Christian novel on our group family vacation and while I enjoyed the mental and spiritual break it provided, I found myself wanting to keep reading instead of interacting with friends and family.
If your self-care is resulting in more and more time away or more and more childcare, or if you’re spending more money that your family doesn’t have, you should be cautious. We should ask ourselves if our self-care is leading us closer to Christ and to more love for others, and if not, we should reevaluate.
The snare of guilt
Even though it can be a slippery slope, self-care doesn’t have to be a snare. Guilt and pride are more likely to trip us up. If we feel guilty every time we go to the gym, the enemy can use it. He can convince us that we are terrible mothers, that something awful will happen if we aren’t home, and even that God isn’t pleased with us. The Holy Spirit can use guilt to check sin, but persistent guilt where there is no sin is not from the Lord. In this case, guilt is the real snare. Take your guilt to the Lord and ask Him how to respond.
The snare of pride
The next real snare is pride. We may be tempted to judge others’ self-care. If you’re an introvert, your self-care will likely not be getting out with friends. Yours may be staying home to have some quiet time. That’s still self-care, no better and no worse than the mom who is physically, emotionally, and spiritually built up by being with others outside her home.
So, is self-care a snare? Think about what you do to care for your body, mind, and spirit. Is it destructive, excessive, or expensive? Does it draw you closer to God and your family? Ask the Lord about your self-care or lack thereof and trust His answer.