Do you regularly find yourself at the end of the school day with nothing to show for it? Do you feel like you aren’t getting anything done? If that’s you, you’re in good company. I regularly hear from homeschoolers just like you and I can’t wait to share the solution I give them.
I can relate.
Before I tell you why you aren’t getting anything done in your homeschool, I want you to know that I’ve been there. I started homeschooling my oldest child for preschool. Yes, I had a toddler and a baby at the time, but I could not understand why I wasn’t getting to the preschool curriculum I looked forward to teaching. My laundry piled up, my house was a wreck, and I had no idea what was for dinner. My husband was frustrated and so was I. That’s when I knew that I couldn’t homeschool my kids. If I wasn’t going to be able to teach them the important subjects beyond preschool, I did not want to risk being arrested for educational neglect. I also knew I could not have any more children and that made me sad. But I obviously couldn’t handle any more than I already had.
I hope you understand from my story that I can relate to you if you feel like your children are behind, the house is cluttered, and you feel like a failure. When we are in this place, we tend to think that there is something fundamentally wrong with us, our kids, or even with homeschooling. Please hear me when I say there is not. Instead, there are three main reasons we become stuck in chaos. Fortunately, the fix is simple.
Three Reasons We Aren’t Getting Anything Done in Our Homeschools
Reason #1: We believe we can get things done.
The first reason we aren’t getting anything done is because we believe we can. What a crazy statement, right? You may think I’ve finally lost it because you know I have said before that you can do this. Allow me to explain.
When we believe we can overcome the chaos, we raise our expectations. Tomorrow will be different, we tell ourselves. We’re going to have a plan and our family will follow it. We will be the patient, loving mother of our homeschool dreams. We typically don’t give our families the memo that tomorrow is going to be a miraculously awesome day. And as a result, they don’t cooperate. They whine and cry and fight you over everything you have planned. And don’t forget the interruptions. The diaper blowout, the dog escaping from the yard, and the dishwasher that starts leaking.
If we believe we can overcome the chaos, we’re going to be disappointed. We’re going to blow our top. We’re going to decide that we were right in the first place and conclude that we can’t do this homeschooling stuff.
Another reason we ought not to believe that we can get things accomplished in our homeschools is because we’re going to be exhausted. Even though I wasn’t getting anything done when I began homeschooling, I was tired. I was worn out. And the thought of staying up later, working harder, and giving it more of an effort exhausted me. The harder I tried, the harder I fell. If you believe you can do this on your own, there is one benefit to this approach. You’ll come to the true solution faster. So if I haven’t convinced you that you can’t conquer the chaos, go right ahead and give it your best shot. Just remember to come back and listen to this podcast again. I know of what I speak. I am a self-made homeschooler. I want to do it all my way without help, thank you very much. But I can’t do it. I honestly can’t.
If you want to get things done in your homeschool, if you want to spend time with your preschooler, teach your first-grader to read, and help your third-grader master long division, you’re going to have to admit that you can’t. You’re not capable. Instead if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have to believe that God is your help. God can change you. Believe that He can empower you to do all the things that count.
This is the point in most articles like this where I tell you that you need to pray. But if you stop and pray one time, “Lord, help me,” you’ll see very little difference in your homeschool. You’ll go back to depending on your own strength. And the chaos will continue. Instead of throwing up one desperate prayer today or even asking for help each morning of your day, ask for help constantly. And you have to rest in believing prayer. Here’s what I mean.
Have you ever been in training for a new job? I have. I had to ask how to do everything. I did not believe that I knew best how to do the job. I asked for help and supervision every step of the way. If I had customer with a question I didn’t know the answer to, I immediately turned to my trainer. This is how we must be in our homeschools, no matter how long we’ve been doing it. When the kids are squabbling, when a student is dawdling, or and interruption changes your day, you go to your supervisor and say, what now?
I believed my supervisor had the answers to my questions and could make me into a competent employee. Believe that God can advise you, help you, and make you into the homeschooling mother He wants you to be. Yes, I advise you to either start or end your day in prayer and God’s word. Reading God’s word is like reading the training manual for your new job, except we never get out of training. You won’t understand how God is making things work in your homeschool and in your life until you live in complete believing dependence on Him.
When you stop believing or stop asking and you blow it, simply ask for forgiveness. I once worked in a sub sandwich shop that had excellent training. The first night that I closed the shop on my own, I had a problem. I blew it! I locked the front door of the shop as I was supposed to. I finished all of my cleaning chores and did the last chore of the day. I took the trash out to the dumpster behind the store. As I added the bag of trash to the dumpster, I remembered my supervisor saying to make sure to prop the door open, so I could get back in. That’s when I heard the click of the door locking. My purse and keys were locked in the shop and the shop’s lights were left on. It was the middle of the night and I had no phone. I found a pay phone, called 911, and the police called my supervisor. I was certain I would be fired. My supervisor had been awakened in the middle of the night to come get me back into the store. Instead she laughed and told me it was fine. I kept working there and became a trusted employee.
When we mess up in our homeschools, God doesn’t mind if we come to Him, confessing, and asking for help. We simply go on with our work as I did at the sub sandwich shop.
Reason #2: No routine.
The main reason we aren’t getting anything done in our homeschools is because are trying to do the work in our own strength. We are not believing that God alone can give us success. The second reason we aren’t getting anything done is because we do not have a routine.
At the end of a day when I was first homeschooling, I had no idea what I had accomplished. That’s because every day was different. I woke up at a different time, prepared meals at various times, and did not pick up or teach at any particular time. You have likely heard me or FlyLady talk about the importance of routines. Routines, once I’d adopted them, are the reason I could identify what I had done during the day. Routines gave me and my family a sense of control.
You may be similar to me in that I wanted freedom as a homeschooler. I didn’t want rules for how my days went. The truth is that freedom does not come in unpredictable days. Freedom comes from predictability. When you know what to expect each day, you are free to be present with your children. You know you will have an opportunity to do the things that matter. You know your house and your school are in order, so you are free to enjoy conversation with your husband and family time in the evenings.
When our homeschool is out of control, it’s very difficult to determine what your routine should be. I can relate! When I found FLYLady, I copied her routines. Her routine, even though she wasn’t a homeschooling mom, gave me the structure I needed to get started. I was soon able to modify her routine for my purposes. I found that my husband, my children, and I thrived with a routine.
I want you to get started today with a routine. I’m going to share my routine with you so you can modify it for your family’s needs.
My recommended homeschool routine
My routine for you includes morning activities prior to the children getting up. If your children are early risers, check the alternative times for your time later in the day.
First, mom gets up and exercises or walks
Next, mom has breakfast and chats with husband if available
Mom has quiet time with the Lord and plans her day
Kids wake up and have breakfast. This is where moms with early-rising kids begin their day.
Mom and kids do chores
Family time school, including Bible, read aloud subjects, and memory work
Quick exercise time. Have the kids do jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups to get the blood flowing to their brains. You better join them or they’ll complain.
Individual time with kids. Children who are not with you are working on a subject like math together near you. They may also be reading or playing assigned games or activities together.
Lunch break. After eating and cleaning up, kids go outside if possible or play inside while mom does email, social media, or other tasks.
Loop schedule. Subjects like art and science experiments are looped here. Every day you are home to do school, you’ll do the next subject. If you are home for school on Monday and Wednesday, for example, you would do art on Monday and science experiments on Wednesday.
Worktime. This is nap time for youngers, more individual work time for olders, and mom’s work time. Children may also be occupied with educational videos and games at this time. Mom may have her quiet/planning time here if she has early risers.
Flex time. This is a time left open for leftover tasks, unexpected demands, or outside activities. Mom may choose to work out here if she has early risers.
Dinner and family time.
Kids’ bedtime routine.
Adult time. This is time for you to read and relax with your husband.
If you already know that you need to change an aspect of this routine now, go for it. But I recommend that you try it before concluding that it won’t work.
When you have a working routine ready to go, post in a visible location. Share it with your kids and your husband and walk them through each part of it.
When you are ready, you can create routines for days you attend co-op and weekend days too. The most important thing is developing a realistic routine. I’ve used this routine and I know it works.
Reason #3: Your children don’t respect your time boundaries.
When you believe that only God can help you get things done in your homeschool and you have a routine you’re following, you are beginning to see results. But this third reason you’re not getting things done can stand in your way. It is incredibly common. Your children do not respect your time boundaries.
If you are beginning morning time, and kids start clammering to do science experiments, you either give in and do them or you throw up your hands in despair and say that the routine doesn’t work.
You are working with Junior on his phonics when sister interrupts to ask for help with math. If you stop what you’re doing to help sister, you’ve just taught Junior that he is welcome to interrupt any time too. You’re in your work time and the kids’ bickering or demands are keeping you from getting anything done.
Early on in my homeschooling, I was a frequent radio guest. I would be on the phone and live on air. I had to ask my husband for help when he was home to keep the kids away from me. On one of these occasions, I was in my basement when my oldest came creeping down the stairs. I was waving wildly to get him to go back up and he did not. Fortunately, he was quiet. As soon as the station took a break, I put the phone down and bolted upstairs to see what was going on. I saw my toddler walking through the kitchen, steak knife in hand. My husband was sitting outside, chatting on the phone. I had to explain again what watching the kids while I was being interviewed meant.
It can take time to convince your family that you mean business, but don’t give up. Post signs as reminders that you are working. Create consequences for unnecessary interruptions. One I particularly like is to assign some of my work to the kids because they wasted my time.
If you question whether your children can be trained to respect your boundaries, think about whether there are people whose boundaries they do respect. My kids knew not to walk into my husband’s office when he was on the phone, for example, because he had enforced those boundaries.
If we are meeting our children’s needs for attention, comfort, and education, they are more likely to respect our boundaries of reasonable work periods. The younger your children are, the shorter those work periods need to be.
If you believe you are incapable of getting things done in your own strength, if you create a routine for yourself and your family, and you establish and enforce boundaries, you can find that you are getting more done than you ever dreamed. That’s been my experience!
Which of these reasons is the main reason you aren’t getting things done in your homeschool?