I lost all the music on my phone.
Technology can be a beast sometimes.
I didn’t realize my music was gone until the next morning when my alarm rang to a buzz instead of the normal tune. I didn’t think the change was that big of a deal until one week later – I was failing to wake up at my usual time consistently. Every day last week I slept past my alarm. Snooze. Snooze. Snooze.
This isn’t like me. I’ve learned through so much trial, error, and victory that there are certain disciplines that are just so worth the little effort that I don’t want to put them off or ignore them.
And more than the immediate victories and rewards as motivation, I realized that they also guard me against being pitted with a hard choice of whether I will do the work now, or put it off for later.
Because once I put off one thing, it feels strangely more tempting to put off another thing, and another, and another. You get the point.
When I put off doing the right thing in my day, I don’t realize that I’m setting myself up for failure for the rest of the day. But by giving into distraction, I’m feeding on a lie that somehow I will feel like doing the right thing later on in the day. For me, that later on in the day feeling never happens.
The same is true in home schooling. If I say we are going to start at 9 o’clock and I let that time roll on by, my kids may or may not notice it in the moment – but they sure notice it sometime. They are hungry for consistency, routine, integrity, and discipline.
Yesterday, my daughter was caught up in the feeling of doing her math lesson. By that I mean, she absolutely did not feel like doing it. She begged for all various ways to simply “do it later.” She wanted a break to get a drink, have a snack, wipe her eye, finish another lesson on her daily journal assignment, or play outside and then come back to do it later.
I sat calmly right next to her almost the entire time she struggled through her lesson – mind you, she did not struggle because the problems were too difficult nor because the lesson was longer than appropriate for her age. She struggled to find the discipline to keep her mind on the page. She let herself wander mentally, and she was discontent with boring math.
(Oh, how painful it was to see myself in her in that moment. How many times I have told myself I can just to do the dishes later, or just declutter later, or just start writing later – and my phone, the computer, or a book is right within reach tempting me to pay attention to it instead. Oh the subtle lie that I can distract myself from the boring work of something for the fruitless waste of a delightful distraction.)
I don’t think that parents – especially home educating parents – should just heap unrealistic expectations on their children and then task-master all day long. No, first we must make ourselves the students of our children and then inspire them to follow our example in the way we are disciplined, balanced, and trustworthy.
I’ve learned the hard way that just giving them arbitrary times and numbers of lessons to accomplish is a recipe for failure. I must first study when it fits best into the whole scope of our day or best within the natural bends of their attention. I’ve seen how drastic of a difference keeping my word versus not keeping my word has been on their actions, attitudes, and words.
The number one thing to ensure failure in home schooling is to put off until later what should be done right now.
Whatever “it” may be, one slip in my day and I’ve lost ground with myself and my children.
How can I ask my daughter to sit and finish what she has been assigned if I can’t sit and teach at the time I told them I would?
I’m still learning this lesson.
I’m also learning that just because she begs for what she wants, doesn’t mean that giving her that thing is best for her.
So for my daughter, I changed our dinner plans from what was on the menu to frozen pizza. I barely left her side in order to show her through my commitment that hanging tightly to discipline and doing what we know is right is the best decision we can make.
I made a point of teaching her to finish, instead of just telling her to do so.*
This is when knowledge with action leads to wisdom.
And I want more than anything for my children to be wise. I know they won’t be gifted at everything. They won’t remember each lesson or each year of school. I won’t be able to teach them all there is to know, but I can train them to do the work of integrity: to work out what is right, to try hard at something that isn’t natural, and to enjoy the fruit of faithfulness.
I know it’s almost October, and so all the high hopes for the new school year have drooped a little bit. That’s okay. Each new school year doesn’t have to feel right every day to be right. It is still possible to have an excellent year of progress, not because you have the latest book, course, or blog (even this one) on the topic of organizing your home school, but because you choose to do what is right.
Don’t put off for tomorrow what is in your power to do today.
* The simple switch from telling to teaching is a concept I'm learning from No More Perfect Kids: Love your kids for who they are by Jill Savage and Kathy Koch, PhD.
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