You’ve read the title for this blog post. Are you wondering if I’m suggesting that happiness and homeschooling are mutually exclusive? Yep. That’s exactly what I’m suggesting. I’m thankful my friends Andy and Kendra Fletcher were the first to be honest about it, saying that homeschooling can be a buzz kill. It is possible to have a happy homeschool, but you need a homeschooling psychologist to tell you how.
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Before I go any further, I have to address the controversial issue. Which controversial issue you ask? The use of the word happy in my title. In some Christian circles, happiness is treated like the pagan step-sister of the word joy. Don’t believe me? I was once asked by a conference organizer if I would be speaking about happiness rather than joy. Happiness was strictly forbidden. You can imagine how happy I was to have this person listening to my every word and verifying that no happiness talk was included.
It’s okay to be happy. Really.
Now don’t get me wrong. I understand the theological difference from joy, which is a fruit of the spirit and isn’t subject to circumstances, while happiness is a fleeting human emotion. But I also believe that God created us to seek happiness. Happiness is related to the release of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine allows us to learn. Dopamine motivates us. Without happiness, we would all be the Hoho-eating, couch-dwelling bums we are often assumed to be. Seeking happiness isn’t evil, unless you are sinning or you’re a psychopath who enjoys inflicting pain on others. I’m going to leave that determination up to you and I will proceed.
A happy homeschool. How the two fit together.
I’m hoping all the psychopaths stopped reading. I also hope that I’ve established that being happy and seeking after it is a good thing. You can thank me later for absolving you of that guilt. But what I haven’t resolved is happiness and homeschooling. How do they fit together? The problem that most of us have is that we begin homeschooling, believing that it will make us happy. Well, maybe not homeschooling per se. Most of us believed that homeschooling was a path to well-behaved, godly children, who would one day win the national spelling bee.
If we really want to dig deep, and I do, we may admit that we thought homeschooling was a way to make ourselves look good as parents. Maybe we could prove to the naysayers that we actually know what we’re doing. The trouble with this is obvious. We had no idea what we were doing when we began homeschooling.
Homeschooling won’t make us happy.
And choosing to homeschool in order to be happy is an even bigger problem. Homeschooling can make us miserable. I met one of my now good friends when she had just begun homeschooling. She told me, “My son doesn’t want to follow my plan!” I just laughed. Our strong-willed kids never want to follow our plan. And even our submissive kids, if they had any sense, wouldn’t want to follow our plan. Our plan, when we are starting out, is nuts. We try to teach 15 subjects a day using 30 different books. And our schedules would make Navy Seal candidates turn and run. No human being can complete the obstacle course we call a schedule. Between being pregnant, nursing a baby, chasing a toddler, cleaning up after the preschooler, managing the tween’s attitude, and standing our ground with a rebellious teen, we have zero energy left to sew them matching outfits or grind the wheat for homemade bread. If you haven’t yet begun homeschooling, consider this episode your warning. Happiness is not ahead.
“I thought you said this was about how to be happy and homeschool too?” I know that’s what you’re thinking. I’m a psychologist, so I have that gift. I AM going to tell you how to be happy and homeschool too. But I had to make it clear that homeschooling won’t make us happy. I promise you, it won’t. If we want to be happy and homeschool too, we have to be happy first. I know some moms who want to homeschool and are unhappy. Perhaps they long for another child. Maybe their marriage could use a tuneup. Or maybe they aren’t happy working outside of their home. If you add homeschooling to your unhappiness, you’re highly likely to be miserable.
Get happy first.
Before you homeschool, you have to work on your happiness. Yes, happiness is work. It isn’t something that is bestowed on us by the happiness fairy. Happiness doesn’t come from getting married, having a baby, or getting an Instant Pot. (But in case you really want one, I’ll include a link.) Like physical fitness, happiness requires consistent attention. If you’re unhappy right now, keep reading. It gets worse.
Do things that make you happy.
Happiness isn’t a passive activity. Because happiness is a human emotion that is short-lived and tied to our circumstances, we have to pursue it regularly. One of the biggest mistakes we make with respect to happiness in our homeschooling is we stop doing the activities that used to make us happy. When I began staying home with my first child, I lost a considerable amount of income. Without consulting my husband, I decided that I would not spend any money. I didn’t feel I had earned the right to spend. I was not only living very frugally, but I had no social contacts. The relationships I had were all at work. It didn’t take long for me to become very depressed. If that’s you, I encourage you to listen to the episode I did on depression for Homeschooling in Real Life.
Here’s how I got my happy back. I started a Bible study with other stay-at-home moms at my church. We started going out occasionally to eat as a group, away from our husbands and children. Gasp! I spent money. I left my husband and my children at home. I did and I’m proud of it because it saved my sanity. I also started scrapbooking regularly with my friends. I had a hobby that I spent time and money on. It made me happy.
[Read how I still fit scrapbooking into my busy life]
Do things you used to enjoy.
If you want to be happy and homeschool too, you have to do things you used to enjoy. Depressed people do fewer and fewer pleasurable things. The solution can be as simple as pursuing those pleasurable activities once again. I can hear you making excuses right now. That’s another of my psychological skills. “I can’t afford to do the things I used to do.” My response? You can’t afford not to. You could spend a modest amount of money on the hobby or the social activities you used to enjoy or you can spend 5 to 10 times as much on treatment for your depression. You choose.
The fun is just beginning. If you want to be happy and homeschool too, you must do things you enjoy. You also must exercise. If you don’t have time to exercise, you don’t have time to homeschool. My opinion is that exercise is more important than homeschooling. How can I speak this heresy? Because in a homeschool, you are the most valuable player. Without you functioning well, your homeschool will fall apart. Your marriage will fall apart.
I think of a homeschooling mom like a thoroughbred. I don’t know much about horses, but I know that I would never race a horse that had had no workouts. Every day in the life of a homeschooling mom is a race. In order to be at our best, we have to exercise. Exercise is the most powerful drug we have. It can treat depression, anxiety, and it can prevent a host of physical illnesses. Best of all, it’s free and has very few side effects if it’s done correctly. Exercise releases endorphins that make us happy in the moment, but happier all day long. It doesn’t have to take long. A recent study demonstrated that three vigorous ten-minute walks were more effective than a longer walking session at a moderate pace. Take the kids with you. Get them dancing with you to Christian Zumba or on Wii Zance Party. Or get really crazy and go to the gym without them. To quote Nike, just do it.
Get enough sleep. Or even more.
If you are spending time doing things you enjoy, and you’re getting regular exercise , you are ready for step number three to make you happy. After racing my thoroughbred, I would not ask it to teach long division or correct papers late into the night. I’m going to give it adequate rest.
To be happy as homeschooling moms, we have to get enough sleep, even more than enough sleep. If you believe that you’re getting enough sleep, but you’re not that happy, add an extra half hour of sleep to your schedule and see what happens. Sleep deprivation makes us cranky. It’s produces fatigue, which makes running our homeschooling race so much harder. As moms we recognize our kids need for sleep. Let’s recognize our own. As I have gotten older, and more specifically hormonal, I need more sleep. I get it, even if doing so means I can’t keep up with my Navy Seals schedule.
[Read how to homeschool through hormones]
I can hear you again, and you’re saying you don’t have time to sleep. You have a baby, a toddler, or a teen waking you up at night. Then take a nap. A short nap of 20 minutes can do wonders in restoring your energy and your mood. Have a nap while your kids are napping. Ask an older child to supervise a younger while you nap. Put on a video. Allow the kids to play a beloved game. Yes, I mean a video game. Or hire a mother’s helper so you can nap. It’s all worth it to be happy.
It IS possible to have a happy homeschool.
I could give you more ideas (I just did above!), but these three (pleasurable activities, exercise, and sleep) are enough to get you started. When you are working to achieve happiness, you can be happy and homeschool too. In fact, with a happiness foundation in place, you can find yourself being even happier in your homeschooling than you ever dreamed. Homeschooling can be a buzzkill. But it can also be one of the most rewarding careers a mother can have. I have been homeschooling for 19 years. I have enjoyed a closeness in my relationships with my kids that thrills me. I marvel at the closeness my kids enjoy with their father and with one another. And the blessing of learning together is an experience not to be missed. But these blessings come after we are already happy.
Which of these happiness tips are you going to practice today? Tell us in the Homeschool Sanity Facebook Group.
Have you thought about teaching sign language in your homeschool? I asked Rochelle Barlow some questions about why and how to get started. You can listen to our conversation on the podcast or read a summary of the interview below. Either way, you’ll be blessed!
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Rochelle is an ASL teacher with more than 14 years of experience. She’s been an ASL interpreter for 18 years and runs a popular YouTube channel and website, ASL Rochelle, filled with fun and challenging ASL resources and lessons.
What got you interested in teaching sign language, Rochelle?
Reading the book Koko’s Kitten inspired me as a child. I’ve always loved sign language.
How can sign language help younger kids communicate?
Most people have heard of baby sign language using a smaller vocabulary. I’ve used it with all of my kids, but I signed the most with my oldest ecause of chronic ear infections.
Why should we teach sign language in our homeschools?
It’s a true foreign language with its own community and culture. It’s powerful, beautiful, and visual, using facial expressions. You can tell a story with one sign using your face and intensity. I recommend teaching ASL (American Sign Language).
Sign language can be a secret family language that bonds you. I’ve used it with my kids in church, for example.
Finger spelling words teaching spelling and learning words clarifies vocabulary and concepts.
You can teach sign language with other subjects. Signing is a way of making science processes more tangible, for example.
What’s the easiest way to get started learning sign language?
Use an ASL dictionary. I recommend the Gallaudet children’s dictionary. Dive in and make a list of words you want to learn.
You can also choose a topic and find the signs for that topic.
Next, look for YouTube videos and free classes in sign language.
Once we’ve learned the signs, how can we maintain the learning?
Review signs during morning time. Create your own flash cards as creating them will be review as well. Use a daily activity to cue you to review your signs.
What resources do you make available to help homeschoolers learn sign language?
The Learn ASL in 31 Days course is available on the front page of ASLRochelle.com. I also offer vocabulary videos with categories like ocean, holidays, and grammar. I have other free courses like one on finger spelling.
For students who want to learn more, I offer a fluency and vocabulary course, a practice, retention, and memory course, and a grammar course. My courses can take a student to a level-three college equivalent in sign language.
I offer a four-week summer camp in ASL and Facebook groups, where I give monthly challenges and offer feedback to students.
Thank you, Rochelle!
After I interviewed Rochelle, I was inspired to continue our sign language studies. I know you will be too.
Have you taught signing to your kids?
I normally don’t address current events or controversial issues on this blog. But news of the torture, captivity, and severe abuse and neglect of the Turpin’s homeschooled children is prompting me to speak out. I don’t have answers for how to prevent every case of child abuse, unfortunately. But I do have information that I think must inform our discussion about the issue and even prompt our action.
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The Turpin case, or child abuse and homeschooling
No doubt you’ve heard some of the horrifying details about the Turpin family in California. This mother and father of 13 children ranging in age from 29 to 2 are accused of starving, abusing, and holding them captive in deplorable conditions. Honestly, the case has given me nightmares. I want to say in no uncertain terms that I am mortified that their registration as a homeschooling family may have been used to allow them to continue abusing their minor and adult children. I am praying for the children and also praying that we can prevent the abuse of more than 600,000 children in the U.S.
I want to share my background with you before I launch into the topic. I am a clinical psychologist, not currently practicing. As a mandated reporter of abuse, I am familiar with the definition and signs of abuse. What I am also familiar with in this case is how to evaluate research and statistics. I have the added experience of having homeschooled my children for 19 years.
An estimated 3% of school-age children are being homeschooled in the United States for a total of about two million students. These are not exact numbers because not all homeschoolers are required to register themselves as such.
Is child abuse among homeschoolers a “widespread problem”?
In the L.A. Times, Rachel Coleman and Kathryn Brightbill wrote that the Turpin case is indicative of a widespread problem of abuse in homeschooling families. They list several examples of not just abuse but torture by families who claimed to be homeschooling. Ms. Coleman and Brightbill, as staff members for the website ResponsibleHomeschooling.org, are privy to a database they have created of examples of severe child abuse occurring in families who again, claim to be homeschooling. They admit that they have no statistically signifcant data that suggests homeschooling families abuse children at higher rates than non-homeschooling families.
However, I understand their perception that the problem is widespread. The details of these cases are disturbing and heart-rending. It’s their passion to protect these children that fuels their mission. Even one incidence of this type of severe abuse of a homeschooled child feels like too many. That being said, I still object to their use of the phrase “widespread problem.” It implies that it’s commonplace for homeschoolers to torture their children when there’s no evidence of that.
To protect homeschooled children from potential abuse, Coleman and Brightbill argue that states should require academic assessments and medical exams. They insist that lack of contact with mandated reporters is what creates the possibility for families like the Turpins to torture and severely abuse. When considering their recommendation, these are the concerns I have.
First, would this increased supervision of all homeschooling families prevent child abuse?
I recently read a description of one of the Turpins’ daughters attending school in the third grade. The filth of her clothes, the body odor she had, and her use of a candy bar wrapper as a hair band suggest that she was being neglected at the very least while attending school. Details are emerging, but I have read nothing which suggests the Turpins were previously investigated for child abuse while at least one of their children was in school. The LA Times further reports that none of the children had seen a doctor in four years. Were any of the children seen by a physician four years ago and yet not reported as being victims of abuse? My point is that mandated testing and physicals may not have protected the Turpins and may not protect other children. Couldn’t these families also move as the Turpins did and avoid mandatory evaluations?
I can imagine Coleman and Brightbill arguing that if more cases of child abuse were reported, their suggested legal requirements are worth it. But is that true? In 2012, 30 states reported that 8.5% of child abuse fatalities occurred in families who had received family services. Here is an example of one such child. These are child deaths and not data on continuing abuse. We can imagine continued abuse in reported families occurs frequently.
There is no guarantee that had the Turpins been reported that their children would have been protected. That’s especially true given the current state of the foster care system. Caseworkers are typically overwhelmed by the number of children under their supervision. There is also alarming evidence of high rates of child abuse within foster care homes. The stress of being removed from one’s home can further traumatize a child. The Turpin children and others subject to severe abuse have to be removed for their own safety, regardless of the added challenge of adjusting to a new home and potentially being separated from some siblings. But it’s important to understand that removing children from an abusive home doesn’t always have a happy ending.
I don’t think we have an answer to the question of whether increased supervision of all homeschooling families would prevent child abuse.
My second question is whether the potential benefit of required supervision offsets the infringement of all homeschooling families’ rights.
It’s possible that mandated testing and medical exams could create a new category of victims — children inappropriately forced to attend public school or removed from their homes and put into a foster care system that could truly victimize them.
What if a homeschooled child has special needs and is actually doing well in a homeschool setting but doesn’t test at an average or above level on standardized tests? Will these children be required to enroll in public school? If so, will they be released to their homes if their scores decline? I think we know the answer to that. Will the same policy be applied to private school students who aren’t scoring as well as the government deems acceptable? If not, why not? There are many small, private schools where educational neglect could be hidden.
The Atlantic reports: “Since 2008, the number of referrals to child protective service agencies…has increased by 8.3 percent, even as overall rates of actual child victimization declined by 3.3 percent during the same period. There is no system that can totally avoid putting parents who don’t deserve it through investigations, despite the fact that even the best moms and dads would regard the ordeal as nightmarish. Over time, however, the number of undeserving parents so burdened seems to be increasing–and the number is large.”
There are a number of horror stories about parents apparently innocent of abuse having their children taken from them without cause. Do we want to put the parents of two million homeschooled children through an evaluative process every year to make them prove that they are not abusing their children? Will we also do the same to parents of all young children being reared at home? The highest rate of child abuse is among infants with over 1/4 of abused children being under age three. If this would be a requirement of homeschoolers only, what justification is there for that? The biggest risk factors for child abuse are alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence. These risk factors are not correlated with homeschooling.
And who would evaluate homeschooling parents? Might they be anti-homeschooling or of the opinion that a religious upbringing or conservative political views constitute abuse in and of themselves? Such opinions are not rare. In fact, a fundamental belief of all homeschoolers is that their children are theirs to raise and not the State’s. Wouldn’t mandated supervision suggest that we have to qualify as homeschoolers to raise the State’s children?
I’m concerned about legally required oversight of homeschoolers and I don’t think my concerns are unfounded.
The third issue I want to discuss with respect to child abuse and homeschooling is children’s safety at school.
The assumption of Coleman and Brightbill appears to be that homeschooled children have a better chance of avoiding abuse if they can be exposed to mandated reporters of abuse, teachers being one class of them. I understand this view. Parents who torture their children want to isolate them. Teachers could recognize signs of abuse and neglect and could contact Child Protective Services.
But does the risk of the school environment offset this potential benefit? More than one out of every five school children is bullied. In fact, the Turpin girl was reportedly bullied in third grade. We are all familiar with high-profile cases of bullied students committing suicide and even responding to their bullying by shooting their fellow students at school. There have been a reported 11 school shootings in the U.S. in the last three-and-a-half weeks, though that statistic has been disputed. Regardless of the dispute, one might even refer to school shootings as a widespread problem.
Bullying and school shootings aren’t the only abuse school kids are subject to. A frightening 1 in 10 students has been the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of school personnel. Using the rationale of Coleman and Brightbill, we ought to require mental health evaluations of all students and staff to prevent this type of abuse. I haven’t heard any calls for this kind of monitoring, however.
How I think we should respond to the Turpin case and child abuse.
I don’t want any child to be abused or bullied. Like Coleman and Brightbill, I want to protect children. I believe they are precious to Jesus. The challenge is how to do that without victimizing even more people.
These are some steps I feel confident in advocating:
Get to know at-risk families and extend kindness to them. Experts tell us that most child abuse is neglect and neglect is highly associated with low income. Many families don’t have the education they need to parent effectively. They also don’t know the resources available to them. A mom has no idea where to get affordable childcare so she leaves her 9-year-old in the park near her workplace. You can offer encouragement and help in talking with neighbors or you can serve at-risk families through a ministry. In my area, Nurses for Newborns provides education and baby supplies during home visits that have been shown to be very effective in preventing abuse. Support organizations like this in your area with your time and money.
If you believe a child is in danger, make a report to Child Protective Services. You will not be held responsible if your report is determined to be unfounded. Professionals like psychologists are mandated reporters, but we should all consider ourselves mandated reporters when a child is at risk of serious harm. Here are signs to look for.
Get to know your neighbors as a homeschooler. In the aftermath of the Turpin case, people who don’t know us well may be suspicious of homeschoolers who are very private. If you are a Christian as I am, you are to be serving your neighbors anyway. People need to see that our kids are healthy and well-adjusted. Talk about what you’re doing in your homeschool. Many still don’t understand that most homeschoolers have a great deal of social contact through various activities and classes. We want to advocate for homeschooling instead of living in fear of being reported for doing so. Joining HSLDA is a good step to protect yourself from unwarranted reports of neglect. You can relax and be open about your family’s educational choice.
Get help. If you are having trouble disciplining your children without being harsh or your mental or physical health is keeping you from educating your children, reach out for help. Yes, you may have to make a different educational choice while you are getting help, but it’s worth the sacrifice for your kids’ sake. There are many options available to you and it doesn’t mean you can’t resume homeschooling in the future.
A potential legal change to consider
Coleman and Brightbill report that some abusive parents remove their children from school to “homeschool” them. The result, according to victims’ reports, is intensified abuse. This is likely the case for the Turpins. Abusive parents realize they can avoid detection by claiming to homeschool. Coleman and Brightbill argue that parents who have been reported for child abuse should have to be evaluated when they choose to homeschool.
These abusive parents often are not homeschooling but they claim to be, creating an association with homeschoolers that is a problem for genuine, caring homeschooling parents. While I can see the potential for a teacher making an unfounded report of abuse that then makes homeschooling onerous for a good family, I believe the benefits for children and even the homeschool community may outweigh that risk.
What’s your response to the Turpin case? Let me know in the comments.
I was sure my kids would be speaking a foreign language at early ages, but it didn’t happen. I learned German in school but wanted my kids to learn Spanish. I was thrilled when I met Anne Guarnera of Language Learning at Home, who not only has a Ph.D. in Spanish, but homeschools and helps homeschoolers teach their kids foreign language.
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Anne graciously agreed to an interview for The Homeschool Sanity show and answered these questions.
Why teach your kids a foreign language?
It allows us to serve others. A huge 75% of people in the world do not speak or understand English. We can serve people internationally or the large number of non-English speakers in our own communities.
Maximizes verbal skills. Learning a second language doesn’t impede the development of your child’s first language. The more languages you speak, the faster your brain functions. Kids who study foreign language improves processing speed for all subjects.
Teaches the importance of habits. Regular practice is the foundation of language learning, just as practice of a musical instrument is to music learning. Habit formation serves our students well in the study of all subjects.
What age do you recommend starting the study of foreign language?
As soon as possible. This isn’t to discourage students who haven’t started until middle or high school. I learned foreign languages when I was older. Older students have the advantage of understanding grammar and can learn more quickly.
Starting early is a real advantage for homeschoolers. You can make the decision to incorporate foreign language into preschooling. Formal study isn’t required, however. Picture books, CDs, and apps are a great place to start.
What are some tools parents can use to support their language learners even if they don’t speak the language their children are studying?
There are three types of resources I recommend. There are language learning apps. For younger students, the Little Pim app. For older students, I recommend Duolingo and Mango Languages that is often available through your public library.
A second type of resource I recommend is audiobooks in foreign language. The audiobooks teach accents. They can be paused and words looked up or used along with a print book.
A third type of resource is other people. I encourage parents to be creative about finding real-life opportunities to connect with foreign language speakers. That might be something like volunteering places where there are foreign languages spoken. Your child might join a Skype group to speak with native speakers with your supervision.
How can parents help motivate their kids who might not see the point of language learning?
Know your child. Help your child make the connection between what they’re doing and a larger goal. Because it requires so much deliberate practice, it can be hard to see the end goal. Introduce real-life scenarios in which they can use the language. Again, interacting in a community activity where the language is useful can be motivating. Or connect language learning to a future career plan or mission trip.
Even parents who are raising their children bilingually struggle with motivation. My own son recently told me he wanted to be a normal kid who just “talked English.”
I give other ideas for motivating your students at Language Learning at Home.
Where can we connect with you for more help with teaching foreign language?
I will send a list of the best resources for teaching foreign language to subscribers to Language Learning at Home. We also have a Facebook group and homeschoolers can connect with me on Twitter @LangsatHome.
What challenges have you had in teaching foreign language in your homeschool?
Getting organized is one of the most popular goals for the new year. I’ve met many wannabe organized homeschoolers at conferences. Yet I suspect that no matter how great my intentions, many of the homeschoolers who have heard me speak or own my book, The Organized Homeschool Life, still aren’t organized. I’d like to discuss six reasons I think that’s the case.
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#1 You decided to get organized
The first reason you’re still not organized is you’ve decided to get organized. What? You might think it’s true what they say about psychologists — that we’re all a bit crazy. But I mean it. Sometimes deciding to get organized destroys your motivation. Psychological research has demonstrated that the anxiety we feel about goals like getting organized dissipates as soon as we decide to do something about it. So, buying an organizing book, joining an organizing Facebook group, or even setting a goal of getting organized can make you feel like the battle is half won. You can relax because you’ve already started getting organized.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t decide to get organized. I’m saying that you can’t stop there. You’ll understand what I mean as I share more reasons you’re still not organized.
#2 You haven’t made organization a habit
We think organizing is an event — that weekend in August when we may or may not get our school room set up, the day when our husband has all the kids out of the house and we’re going to set up our shiny new record keeping system, the spring day dedicated to cleaning out the garage. There are so many problems with an event approach to organization. First, we’re always running behind. If you’ve waited until August to set up your school space and that’s when you’re starting school, you feel behind. You feel like a failure. You’re understandably stressed.
If we count on the golden time when all the kids are out of the house, you just know something is going to happen to prevent that from happening. Your husband will have another commitment, one of the kids will be sick, or something urgent will come up. Even if your day goes as planned, you’ll discover that there is more to do in your space than you thought or you’ll be frustrated that you can’t do more. When my husband has had the kids out of the house for a period of time, it always, always seems too short.
Organization is not an event, but a habit. If you read my article on mini habits, you know that habits are best established with daily practice. It’s what you do every day that determines how organized you are. If you’re still pinning your hopes on an organizing event, you’re going to remain disorganized.
#3 You’re taking on too much
Those of you who are event organizers are also taking on too much. You want to organize your whole school space, including lesson plans in a weekend, a day, or an hour. But even those of you who are trying to organize on a daily basis are also likely taking on too much. Our eyes are almost always bigger than our schedules. We can’t accomplish what we imagine we can in our fantasy world. So here’s what happens. We don’t do what we planned and we feel like failures. We give up. The organizing book goes back on the shelf or more likely in a messy pile. Another thing that didn’t work. We imagine that we are a hopeless case. Strategies that work for other people won’t work for us. I have been there. The truth is we are taking on too much and no normal homeschool mom can accomplish what we dreamed we could.
#4 You lose track of your why
About the time you give up because it’s all too much, you’ve also forgotten why it was so important to get organized in the first place. Maybe you’re fine just the way you are! You’re certainly better than that disastrous homeschool mom you know. You’re not that bad, so maybe you should just relax. If you kept feeling good about your homeschool life after giving up the quest for organization, I would tell you that was a good decision. There are a number of you who are organized enough to do all that God has called you to do. Hyper-focus on organization isn’t good for you.
But the rest of you? You know you’ll be right back in that place of rushing, being crabby at the kids, embarrassed by your home or your lateness, and wishing things were different. You need to reconnect with your why. Why DO you want to get organized? Think about your worst recent organizational day — the day where you got up late, forgot something important, had nothing planned for dinner, got next to no school finished, didn’t do chores, and wasted too much time online, and stayed up late trying to finish something you should have done a long time ago. Really picture it in your mind. How do you feel? Do you want to continue to feel this way in the future? How does your lack of organization affect your spouse? Your kids? Your finances? Your friends? Your witness? Be honest. Now imagine that you are as organized as you need to be to accomplish all God has planned for you. How does that feel? How does that affect your spouse? Your kids? Your finances? Your friends? Your witness? Now you should have your why. You need to hold onto it in order to finally get organized.
#5 You aren’t considering your time
I have shared why the most important area of your homeschool life to organize is your time. Unfortunately, we tend to focus our organizing efforts on our physical space. We want our books, art supplies, and science materials to look good. We want beautiful bookshelves, smart-looking bins, and creative spaces. I do think that an attractive, organized space is important. But organizing and planning time to maintain an organized space is even more important.
The primary way we fail to properly organize time is not anticipating the obstacles that may get in our way each day. The obstacles include our own temptations and struggles, like the hard time we have not answering the phone or responding to text messages. We ignore the likelihood that our child will be crabby, resistant, or slow to learn. We forget about the possibility of surprises — the guest who drops by, the furnace that konks out, the neighbor’s emergency. We can’t exactly plan for these, but neither should we expect the ideal. What we can do is ask ourselves what may get in the way of our week. And we can plan plenty of margin to accommodate the unexpected.
#6 You don’t have help
About the time we decide that we’re going to get organized, we also decide that WE are going to get organized. On top of everything else we are doing, we imagine that through our own strength, or force of will, we’re going to tackle the organizing problem. Take it from someone whose god has been her own strength for many, many years. That endeavor is destined to fail for a believer. God is not going to let you succeed in your own strength. Not only will you move further from Him and become convinced you can make it on your own, but your pride will grow. You’ll be telling everyone how you did it — how YOU did it with your organizing genius or your superior willpower or this program you found with your keen research skills. Why would God let us do this? He won’t. If you hear nothing else in this episode, I hope you’ll hear this: you can’t get organized if organizing is a struggle without God. You shouldn’t even try. I wrote about homeschooling without striving and I highly recommend that article to you.
The other way we try to get organized without help is creating our own approach. I believe in tailoring every approach or system to your personal needs, but reinventing the wheel isn’t a wise use of our time. Organizing books used to be written by born-organized people. They weren’t very useful for born-messy people like you and me. It isn’t that we’ve never heard of everything in its place. It’s that we need that broken down for us. Fortunately, there are people like FLYLady who have made organizing simple. We can adopt others’ grace-based approaches that recognize our natural tendencies — like if we have the opportunity to avoid putting something away, we’ll take it if we haven’t created habits for that.
Finally, we don’t get help getting organized by going through the process alone. It’s embarrassing to be disorganized. You feel foolish and weak. It feels so good to imagine getting your act together on your own and then pretending as though you’ve always been the same as your born-organized friends. I’ve had born-organized people who haven’t known me long tell me that I’m just like them. I laugh out loud. I’m not. Born-organized people have struggles that aren’t necessarily as visible as messies’ are. As I’ve shared the truth about me with other messies, I find myself loving them to pieces. There’s something so moving about being able to be real with people and their honesty in return. It isn’t that I don’t think it’s possible to get organized alone. God can get our lives in order, now matter how isolated we are. It’s that it’s not nearly as fun.
The tool that can help you finally organize your homeschool
There are people who have bought my book, The Organized Homeschool Life, who still aren’t organized. I can’t make people read the book or do the missions, even though some women wish I could. But I realized I could do something that would address these reasons some still aren’t organized. I’ve created a tool that will take my own organization to the next level. I used everything I’ve learned in years of experimenting with my productivity. I created a complete toolkit for Christian homeschool moms who want to organize their homeschool lives. It’s the Organized Homeschool Life Planner.
It allows homeschool moms to not just decide to get organized, but to take action daily. It allows them to create and track habits as well as each step of the challenges included in The Organized Homeschool Life. The planner encourages moms to choose one focus for the day by naming their day. Huge task lists are reduced to three priorities for the day and just a few others. You can finally finish your list and feel in control. The Organized Homeschool Life planner also has moms schedule their time — something that has been demonstrated to produce results. The weekly planning page prompts moms to write their why and anticipate obstacles to their goals. Finally, the planner prompts homeschooling moms to focus on where their help comes from. The daily page begins with a gratitude list, a place for a Scripture that spoke to you in your quiet time, and your response to God. I like to give any worries I have to God in this space. You could write a short prayer as well. Each month, there is also a devotion that will help focus your organizing efforts on what really matters. To encourage you to connect with other homeschool moms becoming organized, I’ve created The Organized Homeschool Life Facebook group.
The planner I’ve created addresses the major reasons homeschool moms struggle to get organized. It comes in two formats for your preference — a full-year, undated, digital planner or a two-book, undated, printed, spiral-bound planner set. The digital version has daily, weekly, and monthly pages that can be edited on your computer and kept there or printed out. It’s the most economical by far because you can use it year after year. If you’d like to print some or all of the 8.5×11 pages, you can.
The print version comes in a January to June version and a July to December version. Print orders will be shipped free in the US and when ordered direct, include stickers designed exclusively for The Organized Homeschool Life planner. At the time of this podcast, for a very limited time, take advantage of discounted launch pricing that also includes discounts on the book, The Organized Homeschool Life. To learn more and finally get your homeschool life organized, grab your copy today!
See The Organized Homeschool Life Planner
You’ll be able to download sample pages in the product notes or join me on Facebook Live for an inside look and coaching on how to organize your time and your homeschool life.
How are you supposed to do it all and stay sane in the process?
You do everything that moms with kids in school do, plus you have the responsibilities of a teacher, lunch lady, janitor, field trip monitor, and guidance counselor too.
To do it all, you have to be organized. But where do you start?
I was a born-messy mom. I was so disorganized with my ADD brain when I started homeschooling my oldest for preschool, that I was convinced I had to quit. I was buried in laundry, toys, diapers, and books. I had no idea what was for dinner and that was after getting no school done.
I was desperate when I found a woman named FLYLady online. She taught me that I needed routines and an approach to getting organized just 15 minutes at a time. Until I figured out what I was doing, I copied FLYLady’s routines.
I eventually found my groove and gained the confidence to have three more children, for a total of six. I longed for 15-minute missions that would not just organize my home, but my homeschool. I wanted to be ready for holidays in advance. I wanted to be organized in my marriage, parenting, and even my hobbies. I created The Organized Homeschool Life book to give homeschool moms like me easy missions for organizing these areas and more. Those who have taken on the weekly challenges tell me it’s made a big difference in their homeschool sanity.
But I needed something more in my quest for an organized homeschool life. I wanted a system for organizing my time and my homeschool.
“I needed a tool to simplify my life — not add to the overwhelm.”
Can you relate? I had used many task and goal-based planners and I wanted a planner that incorporated everything I loved about them in one place.
Get the Organized Homeschool System
Enter the Organized Homeschool Life Planner
Fans of the book gave me amazing insights into what The Organized Homeschool Life Planner should be. Because of their help, it features:
- Monthly devotionals that help Christian moms keep their organizing efforts in focus
- Weekly planning pages with the challenge steps from the book ready to be checked off
- Editable forms for those who prefer a digital planner
- All the forms needed to complete the organizing challenges in one place
- Heavyweight paper, spiral binding, and monthly dividers in the print planner
- Two-page monthly, undated, editable calendars with space for writing
- Weekly, editable meal planning and shopping lists
Start any time with the undated pages!
Daily and weekly planning pages are designed to motivate homeschool moms to meet their organizing and other goals.
Moms are raving about The Organized Homeschool Life Planner!
Also see reviews by I Choose Joy and Our Thrifty Home.
Buy the digital planner
Digital or Print?
Monthly calendars, weekly, and daily pages in the digital version can be easily edited on your computer or digital devices. Other forms can be edited using Adobe Reader on your mobile device, Preview on a Mac, or a PDF app on your PC.
Create reusable meal plans with shopping lists that you can save to your phone or print as needed. Save time and your sanity!
- The digital version of the system is perpetual. It’s undated and can be used or printed over and over in your organization journey.
- Print in color
- Print in 8.5×11 (the standard size) or in Happy Planner and other sizes by changing your printer settings
- Print only the pages you need when you need them
- Put printed pages in an existing binder or use your favorite binding system
- Save the 130+ pages to your computer or mobile device only and save paper, ink, and storage space
- Purchase custom holiday stickers to use with your printed digital planner here
- It’s a bargain!
- Undated pages allow you to start using the print planner any time!
- Nearly 300 high quality, planner-weight interior pages in each planner
- Beautiful laminated color covers
- Thick monthly dividers in color
- Lay-flat spiral binding
- Open and go — no searching for files or printing time required
- Two planners (Jan-June and July-December) so they’re not too thick to tuck in your tote
The Organized Homeschool Life Planner is designed to be used with The Organized Homeschool Life book. The book explains weekly challenges in detail, while the weekly page lists each step of the challenge.
Hand holding included
Join our Facebook community (open to anyone who wants to organize their homeschooling life) for support and inspiration. We’ll have daily check-ins and extra tips for success in your organizing journey.
You might expect a complete system that can organize your entire homeschool life to cost a lot. But my desire is for every homeschool mom to be able to afford homeschool sanity. Purchase the complete digital system for just $25!
Order the undated print planners in January-June and July-December versions for just $25 each, with free shipping or the bundle for just $45. I’ll throw in the print organizing book that will guide you through each challenge for just $10 more. Note: Ships in the US only.
Start organizing your homeschool today!
Still not sure?
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