One of the biggest challenges we face in homeschooling and life is distraction. There are many obstacles in the path to focusing on what really matters. And ignoring them is quite a challenge. But it’s possible! That’s what I want to share with you in this article.
But before I do, I want to invite you to engage in the distraction of Homeschool Sanity Circle. Yep, it’s on Facebook. But it’s an encouraging, supportive group. Have a question, a problem, or something funny to share? We are there for you.
Before we discuss how to ignore distractions, let’s define them. Distractions are anything unimportant that doesn’t help you achieve your goals in homeschooling. Let me give you an example from my own life. I have a newfound love of fashion after joining Get Your Pretty On. Read more about it here. As I was out for my walk one morning, I thought about adding a fashion section to this blog. Then I had another thought as though the Lord were consulting with me. What’s the end goal for that? Uh, I had no answer. I don’t intend to become a fashion blogger or Instagrammer or to make an income in the area of fashion. While fashion continues to be a fun hobby for me, it could serve as a distraction from my homeschooling and my homeschool business.
Hebrews 12:1 says “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” When I’m making a decision like whether or not to add a fashion section to my blog, I can lie to myself that I don’t know the race marked out for me. I do know it. I know that time with God, time with my family and teaching them, and time spent creating resources like Grammar Galaxy for homeschooling families is my calling now. That may change later, but right now it’s clear. What is also clear is that I do not have hours of leisure time to devote to another goal. If you don’t know how much time you have to devote to something else, use my schedule worksheet.
When we remind ourselves of our goals in this season and how our time is being allotted, it’s easier to recognize playing online games, watching the news, and scrolling social media for the distractions they are. But what about things like new extracurricular activity, a new job, or new curriculum?
How can we know if these are distractions or part of achieving our goals?
First, use your schedule worksheet to determine if you have time for the new option. If you don’t, what will you eliminate to make room for it? I didn’t have time for fashion blogging and I had no desire to eliminate my podcast to make room for it. You may also benefit from basic tracking of how you spend your time each day. It’s like a monetary budget that keeps you from buying a boat you can’t afford if you’d also like to pay off debt. Be sure to listen to the podcast episode I did on margin. Don’t underestimate the importance of breathing room in your schedule for your physical and mental health. Several people have told me that while they hate the pandemic, they love having a more relaxed schedule.
The second issue to consider with distractions is boredom. Many times, we get tired of the same old, same old and look for something new. In the meantime, we create stress because we add on commitments or get behind because we are spending so much time researching the new and shiny things. If boredom is the issue, make sure you have fun days and breaks planned into your schedule. That will reduce the need for you to look for a fun distraction that can get you off track. Making my afternoons and weekends unscheduled has helped a lot with my boredom. Family outdoor activities have helped, too. I have resumed sharing my daily outfits on Instagram at Psycho_with_style. Wearing a new combination each day is a way of preventing boredom that doesn’t take hours of my time that fashion blogging would.
Finally, are you facing a challenge? When we have a difficult parenting issue or we come to a concept that is difficult in a curriculum, our natural tendency is to escape and focus on something new and easy. The trouble is the problem remains and will eventually give us grief and will have to be addressed. Delaying rarely makes the problem easier. There are aspects of my business and home life that I don’t enjoy. One issue is website management. I’d like to skip that, so thinking about fashion blogging is a great escape. A better strategy is to deal with the challenges head on and get help if you need it. I hired a web designer to create a new website for Grammar Galaxy Books. Now I’m as excited about it as I am about fashion.
When you are tempted by something you know is a distraction from what’s most important to you, consider these tips:
Take a short break. In my 3-hour Caveday Zoom sessions, we take a break after every 45-50 minutes or so. I am amazed by how invigorating the breaks are. But the key is what we do and for how long. In the past, I was using social media as a break. My breaks usually broke my focus and tanked my productivity. Now my breaks are active. We stretch, exercise, talk, leave the room, get a drink, and chat. But the breaks are very short. In no time we are back at it. If your distraction is calling, choose an active break instead and set your timer. When the timer goes off, get back to it until the next break.
Give yourself guilt-free leisure time. If you feel guilty every time you scroll social media, you’re more likely to get stuck there. Instead, have blocks of time or even entire days when you can engage in your distraction without guilt. Most of the time, you’ll be less drawn to it. This principle works well for kids, too.
Imagine how you’ll feel after the distraction. If you give in and start researching a new math curriculum instead of doing the science experiment, how will you feel? In most cases, you’ll be down on yourself for making that choice. This works for other bad habits like snacking when you’re not hungry, too.
Make distractions more difficult. I keep my phone muted and out of sight when I’m in the cave, writing. When I plan to workout first thing in the morning, I wear my workout clothes to bed. I’m less likely to scroll my phone. Turn off your notifications. Use app blockers on your phone or computer. Unsubscribe from emails that are selling you things you don’t need or want. Let your friends and family know when you’re engaging in focused work and shouldn’t be disturbed.
Recognize distractions for what they are. Ask yourself if you are bored or anxious. If you had a friend who was entertaining the same distraction that you are, what would you think? I have struggled with FOMO, fear of missing out. Reading that FOMO is really covetousness in disguise has helped me a great deal.
Finally, meditate on Scripture and pray. Repeat this verse from Hebrews on throwing off everything that hinders. Read the New Testament accounts of Jesus not letting anyone or anything distract Him from what He came to do. Then ask the Lord to give you Jesus’ single-mindedness.
When you identify distractions, use breaks, have guilt-free leisure time, imagine the future, make distractions more difficult, recognize the real reason for the distraction, and meditate and pray, I believe you will overcome distractions in your homeschool.
Science has been in the news a lot lately. And misunderstanding about science has me taking action this week. You may not know that my education and even my training as a psychologist centered much more on doing and analyzing research then it did on clinical practice. In fact, my job in graduate school was coordinating clinical drug trials.
In this article, I’m going to use what I know about science to share three principles our kids must learn while they are in our homeschools. If they don’t, they can be seriously misled, even if they do well on their college entrance exams.
Speaking of college entrance exams, I want to make it clear that this post isn’t about helping kids do well on them. Many homeschoolers believe that they must teach their kids science information in order for them to do well on the ACT and SAT. The SAT does not have a science section, however, and the ACT’s science section is not a test of knowledge as much as it is a test of nonfiction reading comprehension speed. Your student will have to pick out information from tables and graphs and text that is all new.
I include science vocabulary and nonfiction reading comprehension in grammar galaxy elementary language arts curriculum because learning these concepts is important. My newly released volume blue Star is a great place to look for these lessons. You can still use code podcast to save 15% on your grammar galaxy order. To see if it is right for your students, go to GrammarGalaxyBooks.com/samples.
What does your homeschooler need to know about science?
#1 Science isn’t just facts.
The first thing your student needs to know is that science isn’t just a collection of facts. While it is useful to know that water boils at 212°F / 100 degrees Celsius and interesting to know that Neutron stars can spin 600 times per second, science isn’t just a body of knowledge. This notion of science as fact is what leads to labeling of people as science deniers and the popular sign platitude “science is real.” If science is established fact, we must believe it or be ignorant threats to society.
But science is not just a body of knowledge. An online dictionary defines science this way: “the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” In other words, science is a method of inquiry by which we seek to understand ourselves and our world. The study is ongoing and is not one and done.
I invited my friend and evolution researcher Dr. Carl Warner to join me on The Homeschool Sanity Show. His research is convincing that macro-evolution is not settled science that belongs in the body of knowledge category. I was just reading an astronomy paper that described the dilemma of dating a star that appears to be older than the universe. Even evolutionary scientists have to reappraise what they consider to be facts.
#2 Science is not opinion.
The second principle we must teach our children about science is that it is not opinion. When it comes to mask mandates in the midst of a pandemic, I have heard people say we must follow the science. Science cannot give us a mask mandate, nor can it tell us that we should not have one. Instead, people have to give us their opinion of the research that has been done.
A variety of studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of mask wearing. Some are studies of health care workers. Some are comparisons of infection rates in areas with mask mandates and those without. Still other studies are conducted only in the lab, with no way of knowing if the results translate into decreased infection rates in everyday life.
Research papers accepted for publication generally begin with a review of research in that area of study that leads to the investigators’ hypothesis about what results they will obtain. After the data are presented, the study authors give their opinion on what the results mean. Researchers generally admit to the flaws in their study design and call for further research in other settings and populations to determine if their results hold up.
But this is not the type of scientific opinion we get in the media. One lab study on masks I read concluded with the opinion that mask wearing might prevent sick people from spreading infection. This opinion would likely be rewritten for the media as “masks work” when that wasn’t the researchers stance.
When I have shared my contention that science isn’t opinion, a few people have said, “So you’re saying that you don’t believe masks work.” My response is, “No, I’m saying we don’t know.” Science is ongoing investigation. We need a lot more types of study in a variety of settings and populations to feel confident in giving an opinion. Of course, that hasn’t kept a number of professionals and politicians from confidently giving an opinion. You and I may already have an opinion, but that opinion is not science.
#3 Science requires validation
The third principle we must teach our children about science is the need for validation. I have mentioned previously that I participate in Caveday, a Zoom accountability meeting for productivity. Last week one of the leaders said that she had the unusual ability to put and keep her hands together, with the middle knuckles bent, while being able to separate her ring fingers. I was easily able to do this and said so in the chat. She asked me to show her, so I did. She pointed out, much to my embarrassment, that I had to keep my middle fingers touching at the knuckles. Then I couldn’t do it. I’ll demonstrate on a Facebook Live soon, so you can see what I mean and try it yourself.
My point in telling you this is that I could have gone around saying that I had experimented to discover that I had this unique ability, but my experiment had no validity. I wasn’t measuring the right thing and couldn’t replicate or repeat my results.
Let’s talk about tests for COVID-19 in terms of validity. To be sure that the tests work, we have to have a number of people who are known (via electron microscope image of blood samples) to have significant quantities of the virus in their systems that is also responsible for their symptoms. No other microbe should be present that can explain their illness. Then the test (using a sample from a patient) should be positive only for those people who have a COVID-19 infection. It should be negative for those who don’t. The test should be sensitive enough to pick up true infections in sick people but not so sensitive that it picks up traces of virus that either aren’t related to COVID-19 or aren’t a risk to the patient or others they come into contact with. As with any medical test, data has to be collected and analyzed for a long period of time (typically years) in various settings to determine how accurate the test is. We are continuing to get data on COVID test validity.
The need for validity is important for more than just testing. One of the ways researchers establish validity is through the randomized, double-blind controlled trial. These trials attempt to minimize bias and the placebo effect. We know that our beliefs can easily affect results, whether we are the researcher or the patient. For example, my young children believed that bandages were pain relievers. As soon as the bandage was applied, the tears stopped. Of course, bandages have no analgesic properties. But my kids’ experience would tell me that they do.
A randomized, controlled trial attempts to keep both subjects and researchers in the dark as to who is really getting a vaccine or taking a medication. The problems with doing this with respect to mask wearing should be obvious. But using placebos in drug trials can be just as problematic. The experience of certain side effects can clue both patient and researcher in to a patient taking a drug and not a placebo. In some trials, there is also the ethical dilemma of not giving all patients a treatment that could save their lives.
There has been quite a bit of controversy over the effectiveness of HCQ in treating and preventing COVID-19. You’ve no doubt heard officials argue that randomly controlled trials have not proven its effectiveness. Meanwhile, some physicians have argued that they have case studies (that are not random or blinded) that show it works. They have also suggested that HCQ works when patients aren’t already critically ill and when it’s combined with zinc and an antibiotic. Who is right? You and I no doubt have an opinion on that, but again science is not opinion. Continued study will be required to have confidence in recommendations.
Related to validity is the principle that correlation is not causation. Correlation means that two events or characteristics co-occur at higher rates than would be expected by chance. I have no data on this, but in the early years of my homeschooling, I noted a large number of mini-vans at homeschooling events. My guess is that data collection would have shown that there was a modest correlation between homeschooling and driving a minivan. But a correlation is not causation. When a family decided to homeschool, they wouldn’t feel compelled to buy a minivan, nor would anyone gift them one. There are other variables that can explain why homeschoolers drove minivans more often than other families. One of those variables is likely family size. If we looked more closely at the data, we might see that homeschoolers who have more than three kids drove minivans at a higher rate than those with smaller families. In addition, we would likely find larger families in homeschooling communities than in the population at large.
Confusion of correlation with causation causes us all kinds of grief. This is why people who have panic attacks can develop agoraphobia. If a person has a panic attack at a shopping mall, the mall is subconsciously assumed to be the cause of the attack. Malls must be avoided. When the next attack occurs at the grocery store, they are avoided, too.
Let’s apply this concept to data about health and people groups. If one group of people has poorer outcomes when contracting COVID-19, does that mean that their race, diagnosis, or mask laws are responsible? Not necessarily. A number of variables could explain that association. Medical professionals, politicians, and your neighbors may tell you that a specific correlation is why some people are getting sicker and are even dying as a result of COVID-19, but that’s an opinion and not science. We need a lot more study to inform opinion and that study takes time.
In teaching your children that science isn’t just facts, that it’s not opinion, and that it requires validation, I hope they’ll be confident responding to labels of science denier and assertions that science is real. They will understand, as many do not, that science is ongoing study. Expert opinion will change as we gather more data.
My personal confidence is in Christ. I believe that my days are numbered. If the Lord chooses to call me home via a COVID infection, I know it’s not only the right thing, but there is nothing I can do to change His plan. By the same token, I know that if the Lord chooses to keep me here ministering to my family and others, I have nothing to fear. If you need help trusting God, read the year-long series I did on this topic.
If you are starting your homeschool year for the first time or the tenth, you need to be organized to be successful. Here are six organizing tools that will help.
#1 The Organized Homeschool Life Book and Planner
I thought homeschooling a preschooler would be easy. It should have been, but my lack of routines and planning led to failure.
Having a simple plan of 15-minute missions to organize every area of your homeschooling life will make all the difference. If you are already time disciplined, all you need is The Organized Homeschool Life book. But if you don’t know how to squeeze 15 minutes of organizing into your busy day, you need The Organized Homeschool Life planner.
The Organized Homeschool Life Planner isn’t a lesson planner. You’ll need a separate book for that. I love this Acco four-person appointment book. It’s perfect for creating a lesson plan for up to four kids. My advice is to work no further out than a week at a time.
These Mead 5-Star notebooks have space for kids to store loose papers and are designed to hold reference material students refer to all year. The front cover labels, table of contents, and thick paper make these notebooks perfect for staying organized.
Getting and staying organized this homeschool year is easier with the right tools. Check out these six options that I’m excited about.
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.