What didn’t get done in your homeschool this year? What things do you routinely put off? What things do your children put off? The solution to accomplishing important tasks or projects in your homeschool is to make them a habit. I’m excited to tell you how.
Our tendency is to want to develop habits by sheer force of will, whether that’s our own or our children’s habits. This method is exhausting and is destined to fail with time.
How Mini Habits Can Change Your Homeschool
I recently read the book Mini Habits by Stephen Guise and rediscovered a powerful tool for accomplishing important things. I chose three mini habits to develop.
The wonderful thing about mini habits is they are so small, and require so little effort, that you can work on developing more than one.
In the past when I have accomplished big things, I have done so by having a singular focus. But as homeschoolers we have many changes we want to make, even if that means having more than one child who needs to make a change. My three mini habits are to write 50 words of Grammar Galaxy curriculum, to declutter one item, and to read one page of a paper book.
The exciting thing about these three mini habits for me is that I have done them every day for more than three weeks. Many times I have gotten to the end of the day and realized I had to do them before I went to bed. These habits are so small that I can finish them in just a few minutes, even at bedtime.
To be successful, your mini habits should take a minute or less.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we? These mini habits are so small that they don’t seem to matter. Fifty words, one item, and one page aren’t much. Yet over the course of a year those 50 words add up to more than 18,000. A total of 365 items would have been decluttered and 365 pages would be read. I realize those numbers aren’t likely to motivate you. That isn’t the real gold behind mini habits. The value in establishing mini habits in yourself and your kids is that often we and up doing more than the minimum we have established as our mini habit. I have written curriculum for two hours, have decluttered entire closets, and have read 20 pages in a sitting. So why not make the daily habits bigger, you may ask? To require myself and require yourself to do more on a daily basis will mean we develop resistance. Psychologically, we don’t want to spend two hours writing, cleaning, or even reading. So the big expectation, even if it’s unstated, can interfere with motivation.
Mini Habits to Adopt to Change Your Homeschool
Now that you understand a bit about why we need to make habits that are so small that we feel no resistance, let’s talk about the kinds of habits we can develop to change our homeschools.
Exercise. If you don’t exercise, I believe that a mini exercise habit can change your homeschool. You and your children can develop an exercise habit that will increase your energy, improve attention, and your health. The author of Mini Habits started by doing one push-up a day. Alternatively, you and the kids could use the Move app which provides one small exercise for you to complete. It can be set for the timeframe you prefer (like once an hour), but you would only be requiring yourself to do one exercise per day. If you want to exercise longer, you can. I have used this approach to exercise for many years. On the days when I haven’t wanted to exercise, I only require myself to start.
Is there a subject that your child resists? It’s perfect for mini habits. You may understandably balk at asking your child to do one math problem per day. Math requires more time. But if your child is math phobic, requiring just one problem a day would be a good place to start. You could also establish a mini habit of your child practicing math facts via flashcards or a game for one minute a day. Anything that your child resists and has not developed a habit for is fair game for mini habits. Your child could practice foreign language using the DuoLingo app or could practice a musical instrument for one minute. Some other ideas for your child include reading for pleasure, handwriting, writing 50 words, typing, studying for tests like the ACT with the Magoosh app, and picking up.
It’s important to explain to your child that the only requirement in those instances is the one-minute practice. However, if they are enjoying themselves, they should feel free to spend as much time as they wish. Mini habits should not be used for behaviors that are already habitual. I do not have an exercise habit of doing one push-up a day because I already have the exercise habit. Anywhere you or your child struggles to establish a habit, however, is a great area to use mini habits.
What about mini homeschool habits for you? How about checking work, record keeping, and filing?
The key to making mini habits stick is to track them daily. Do them every day. I did mine over Christmas too. The traditional way of tracking habits is to mark them off on a paper calendar. You can mark off family mini habits on the calendar together. Be sure that your child marks off her own mini habits. The goal is not to break the chain. You want to do the mini habit every day for as many days in a row as possible. Creating a long chain is motivating in and of itself. No other rewards are required. However, depending on the age of your child, you may want to promise a reward like getting a frozen yogurt after a week of mini habits. The younger the child, the fewer mini habits should be established and the limit for everyone should be three. There is an app I love that is very useful for tracking mini habits called Productive. As I slide to mark my mini habit complete, I am given an encouraging statement and I’m told how many days in a row I’ve completed my habit.
Establishing mini habits changes our homeschools.
As we continue to record our mini habits, our way of thinking changes. For example, I constantly find myself looking for things to declutter. I have realized how easy it is to keep my home decluttered if I am always doing a little bit. I have come to appreciate my print books and how enjoyable reading them is. I have rediscovered the value of doing something like writing every single day. Resistance disappears.
As you work on habits in yourself and in your children, you will also discover the value of completing your habits early in the day. Even though it is possible for me to finish my three mini habits before I go to bed, it’s not optimal. Make it a game with you and your kids to finish your mini habits as early as possible to get to the reward of marking them off.
Eventually, you will have the habits established. You won’t even have to think about them and you can work on establishing new habits. But definitely don’t rush this process. If even doing your mini habits is a struggle, your habits are likely too big. They need to be incredibly simple. Doing even a 10-minute workout every day is too long. A better mini habit might be going outside to walk for one minute or driving to the gym. They sound ridiculously small, but they work to establish positive behaviors with our rebellious psyches. In the effort to establish mini habits in yourself, you’ll come to understand your children’s resistance to certain things much better. You will learn to keep requirements of less rewarding tasks small.
And remember: a mini habit completed is better than nothing.
The momentum and self-confidence you and the kids create by completing mini habits will pay dividends for life. You aren’t just teaching your child to complete tasks; you are teaching your child how to make life changes.
I’m excited to get my kids started on mini habits of musical practice, foreign language practice, and ACT study. I would love to hear what mini habits you choose and how it’s going for you.
You can change your homeschool one mini habit at a time!