Dear First Time Home School Mom,

I’ve got a secret to tell you.

It doesn’t matter if you knew ahead of time that you were going to home school this year.

It doesn’t even matter if you spent 3 months, 3 days, 3 hours, or 3 minutes preparing for your first day.

One thing you’ll have to learn the hard way is – this year will be more about you than them. There isn’t a special trick to avoid it.

Photo credit; words added.

Photo credit; words added.

Before you listen to your initial reactions – but this noble cause is for their good! Or that sounds selfish to say that this year is about me, not them!

Hear me, because what I have to say is time tested truth – you will learn so much more about yourself and your strengths and weaknesses through this year of home schooling than you ever could without it.

So I recommend that if you want to make your first year a real success (and by real, I mean one that produces the godly fruit and character you desire from yourself and your  child – not the success that is only measured by the number of resources completed or boxes checked) then lean into the burden you feel right now.

Home schooling is wild. 

It isn’t tame, it doesn’t stay the same from one day to the next, it isn’t fully predictable, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all box out there that can contain you, them, or all the wonderful things you want to learn.

Let it be this way. 

Instead of pushing, striving, fretting, and controlling – pray. The Lord loves to lead through our weaknesses.

Don’t put on false strength – He will resist you. When I have done this (it’s a daily battle to remember to embrace my weaknesses) I have suffered from feeling so alone.

With my children, in the noise and busyness, but crushingly alone.

Home schooling isn’t meant to be school at home.

If you don’t know what I mean, then check out the educational theories series and you’ll discover that most of us try to produce a traditional model of education in the home because that’s our default. Most of the home school moms I know weren’t home educated, and so we are learning to educate our children on our own and it’s out of our comfort-zone.

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you’re willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when trying something new.

– Brian Tracey

Home schooling is for everyone in the home.

Don’t neglect your further education for the sake of passing information down to your child. They will grow at exponential rates when they see you modeling for them what it looks like to engage in personal growth. 

Home schooling changes.

There will be seasons of sowing and seasons of reaping.

Be careful in each to stay stable and steady in your efforts to maintain balance and rhythm in your activities. Just because one season is hard and tiring doesn’t mean that the next season owes you a break. Stretch yourself. Build endurance. Keep working when it feels fruitless. Don’t grow wearing in doing good.

Home schooling allows for re-do’s.

Scheduling, planning, multitasking, cooking, cleaning, reading, writing, lecturing, etc. all need to be smashed into everyday. You will get it wrong. Don’t give up when you get it wrong. Learn from yourself. Lean into who you were created to be.

It took me a long time to figure this one out because of my crippling fear of failure. When things didn’t go as I planned, or children didn’t cooperate as I’d hoped, I took that as a sign that I was too broken to accomplish anything. My too-broken-self would then resent our routine. I would grow apathetic to doing things in order. I didn’t have the strength to boss myself around so why try to be the authority my children needed?

I learned to start keeping track of my time. I scheduled backwards – I recorded what we did, not what I wanted to do. I analyzed what points in our day filled us with joy and what points drained us – I didn’t separate myself out from my kids, but I studied us as a unit – as a home. I watched how we were all like dominos – cause and effect.

Home schooling is work.

Yes, I gave into the fantasy that my children would rise to eat a healthy breakfast, dutifully accomplish their morning chores, and politely seat themselves at their appointed spots (don’t get me started about desks) signaling to me that they were ready to receive their instructions.

It doesn’t work this way for us; we are getting there, but it has required a lot of work on my part to set up a good routine.

If motherhood has taught me anything it is that I can do more work than I thought I could. Boy, was I a lazy bum before kids.

Maybe you don’t struggle against the weakness of laziness, and that’s great! But maybe your struggle is knowing when to stop all the other good works available to you inside and outside the home. These good things compete with the work of sitting next to a child without distraction, just waiting, being available, and ready to help.

Sometimes the work of laundry, dishes, and other duties must wait.

Trust me, you can get better at balancing your work, but first you may have to accept the mess. Accept that the work is hard.

Home schooling is best when shared.

Just like the fantasy world of home education caused me to be jaded for a season, so has hiding our reality from the world. I don’t believe we should parade our failures and make light of them, but hiding them will only lead to a scary place of false pretenses.

Find another home schooling mother who is a few years ahead of you in the journey and listen to her. Join a community of educators to learn, grow, and support.

Home schooling is cooperative.

You and your child will have to learn to work together. I can tell you, this mama can’t do it all. I would have, however, died trying if someone hadn’t intervened and taught me to delegate.

Respect and obedience, self-control and submission all must be given clear leadership by living this way. Your child will thrive when trusted, discipled, and guided to learn along side you.

Home schooling is a gift.

Both to you and to your child. You have a limited amount of time to make a deep and lasting impact on their heart. Hold it carefully and closely. Whether you keep them home for 1-year or all the way through high school, the time you have together is a great gift of love – don’t let the fears lessen the blessing of enjoying this gift together.

Remember what the secret was? This year will be more for you than them.

The greatest gifts don’t always come in pretty packages, rather the greatest rewards are earned by those who do the hardest work. Work on yourself and you will reap greater rewards.

Finally, know you aren’t alone in this good work.

Here are some great resources for encouragement:

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling :: Patrick Farenga :: Guide to meeting state requirements, setting up a schedule, defining teaching styles, etc. It is small, helpful, and written in conversational language.
  • The Year of Learning Dangerously – Adventures in Homeschooling :: Quinn Cummings :: This is her humorous story of choosing to homeschool her daughter after 5 years in public and private schools.
  • Educating the WholeHearted Child :: Clay and Sally Clarkson :: The gold standard for encouragement to not only keep your child home for their education, but also to disciple their heart, mind, and soul. This is a large resource, best used as a reference guide.
  • Why be crazy enough to homeschool? :: Ann Voskamp :: Her delightful and long answer to this question will help anyone wanting to see the long view of what we are doing this for. Although it is impossible to copy and paste another family’s routine, philosophy, and interests – there is so much to learn from their example.
Click on this image to learn more about how you can learn more about living healthy now.

Click on this image to learn more about Healthy Living now. You may find the right encouragement to take your next step in one of these resources.

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When You Feel Desperate to Change

January 14, 2010 was a day that sparked a great change in my life.

Actually, it was probably the 13th that was the spark and the 14th was the first flame.

I came to a crossroads moment. I was watching a movie that was a true story of a woman who was determined to make a change in her life. She started with a small, almost silly goal, but it grew into the motivating factor for everything in her life.

I knew I needed a motivating factor too. I felt paralyzed by the struggle of raising a toddler and a baby – everything in my life felt like work – hard work. I was desperate, and I didn’t have anything to show for it. (Important side note: I had so much to show for the work I was doing – two beautiful children who were loved and cared for! I hope the pictures in this post prove the point that the hard work of raising littles is worth it, and the hard work of setting small personal goals is worth it too.)

On Developing Better Follow Through toddler and baby

When I thought of the one thing I enjoyed doing most – reading – I felt like a failure because most of the books on my shelf were only half read.

I needed to change. I wanted to change.

The half read books symbolized the challenge I needed to overcome. If I truly wanted to become a finisher, then I would have to create a challenge for myself to fight my way through to the end.

It was easy at first to turn off the TV at night and curl up with a book instead. I believed what I was doing was worth my time and attention. What I didn’t realize was happening under the surface was – I was becoming a finisher. I had my goals and they were time sensitive. I had to prove it to myself that I could follow through.  

After a few years of homeschooling now, this mindset has transferred over to how I set goals and follow through for my kids. I finish what I start because they are worth it.

On Developing Better Follow Through worth the work

We started a book* back in October 2014. Life interrupted and we had to set that book down for another one. We left the first book on the shelf until just this month because I can’t stand the idea of leaving a story unfinished. And more importantly, I told them I would finish it – I gave them my word. Following through has everything to do with trust.

Being able to follow through doesn’t mean that you have to do everything. There are books that we have started and not finished. Our science text for this year isn’t finished. I chose to put it down and save it for later. My kids are in 1st and 2nd grade material and this one was written for 5th and 6th graders.

Don’t over think things that aren’t worth it to you. Just like following through on the read aloud was an important choice for me to follow through on, it’s okay that I didn’t follow through on the science. It’s also okay to set challenges and goals for yourself that look differently from the families around you.

Comparison is not only the thief of joy, but also the jailer locking you in inactivity. Just because my friend is able to set what I think is “higher” goals for her family, doesn’t mean that my goals are “lower” and inferior. The more I set goals that are attainable, the more success will inspire me to set higher and higher goals. At the end of the day, it’s not about how impressed you are with me – it’s how satisfied I am with myself.

So set goals, make plans, chart the course for what you want to accomplish – personally or for others. Then memorize the plan. Make your personal challenge something easy to rehearse so that you don’t forget it and go a week without fighting to attack it.

Just like the book we put down, life gets bossy with all the activities and demands on our time. So use one calendar. My husband and I share our Google calendars with each other so that we can see potential conflicts, and we can plan accordingly for times when one of us has an engagement. (Don’t like digital only calendars? You can print your Google calendar and put it into a cool notebook like this.)

Synchronizing calendars feels like more work to do, but it aids in communication, follow through, and has a better impact on the lives of everyone in the family.

Character is at stake – theirs and mine. I don’t commit to plans quickly. My friends joke that I am over-protective of our schedule. It’s true. I am very committed to follow through, and I feel like it’s a mark of poor character to not finish well.

I also recognize that certain plans will enhance teaching good character to my children and other activities will test that character. It is important to have both. Struggle, hardship, busyness – these can teach perseverance and good work ethic. So my key isn’t to avoid all difficult plans in order to ensure a 100% success rate of follow through, but rather the key is balance. It’s letting my yes be yes, and my no be no.

With my young children, I have come to recognize that they need me to answer their questions about our schedule and plans. It’s good to hold their hand and walk them through carefully. They are little for such a short time.

On Developing Better Follow Through

In order to have balance and peace of mind – knowing I’ve taken the time to tend to their heart and prepare to arrive on time for our plans – I use timers, simple instructions, and I mean what I say. My kids can feel time. They know what “5 more minutes” really is. Because I’ve committed to follow through they can’t be tricked by loose standards.

Follow through is a work in progress for me. When I started my personal challenge back in 2010, I was an entirely different person that who I am now. The seemingly insignificant challenge I set for myself was just the sort of distraction I needed to keep my focus in my mothering positive and separate from my self worth. I’m living proof that little choices in the right direction make great change over time.

Only the link marked with an asterisk is an affiliate link in this post. The rest are provided for further reading and reference. Enjoy!

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