Are you about to start something so big it feels like jumping off a cliff?
But the doubts creep up on you at night:
What if I fail?
What if I am not good at it?
What if my life is never going to be the same?
Many logistical questions occupy your troubled mind:
How am I going to teach all these subjects?
How am I going to meet the socialization needs of my children?
How am I ever going to have alone time again?
How is it going to affect my marriage?
These questions don’t even cover the gamut of things that keep you up at night.
Does it have to be this way?
Whether you are just considering homeschooling, have recently started it, or are a seasoned veteran in need of a homeschool makeover, there is a better way.
It’s called mindful homeschooling. No, it doesn’t mean every member of your family needs to twist into a pretzel and sit on a mountaintop waiting for enlightenment. Mindful homeschooling means that you are deliberate in how you set up a strong foundation and nurture a positive bond with your child.
It takes upfront work, but you will reap benefits for decades to come. When you build a solid foundation, you can get very creative with a structure. Also, when you take time to include the four cornerstones of successful homeschooling, you can count on amazing things to happen.
My passion is to show you that with the right tools and support you can make your homeschooling journey easier.
My approach to homeschooling was different from the beginning. I started with the mindful goals and applied my background in business, meditation, and my knowledge of psychology, neurobiology and childhood development to help me identify mindsets, routines, and habits that will help our children flourish.
I don’t say it is easy. Homeschooling is by its very nature demanding and time-consuming, but my family is thriving. From the start, I built a system that ensured my kids would do the schoolwork, get the emotional and academic support they needed to thrive, and complete their chores so I could keep my sanity. You can do that too!
Does it mean you need to copy my homeschool? No! My family is not your family, and what works for us is different from what will work for you. I am giving you ideas to inspire you to find mindsets, systems, and routines that will make your life easier.
Here are the two most important things I want you to take from our time together:
- You can create the homeschool you want if you go about it mindfully, and
- You can take a very complex endeavor like homeschooling and break it down into small and manageable components.
I find it useful to separate homeschooling into four areas (academics, relationships, chores and social time) and work them into a larger fabric of life.
But before you can start building the foundation, it’s essential to start with a blueprint for yourself, and that’s identifying your “why.” If you wake up every morning with a clear sense of why this day matters, you are more motivated to be patient, creative, positive, and flexible, all important things you need to be a homeschooling parent.
When I was new to homeschooling the words “mission statement” and questions like “what does success look like to you” irritated me. What mission statement? I just have a three-year-old, and I don’t want to send him to school. Success? It’s getting through the day without a meltdown on his part (or mine). Now that I’ve been doing it for a while, I see the wisdom of this work. Just pondering those questions sharpens focus, gives direction and concentrates energies where they are needed the most.
But I don’t want to start my guide with the part that everyone considers boring, so I put the four blueprint pages at the end of this guide in Appendix 1.
Now the fun part!
Let’s take a look at the four cornerstones of successful homeschooling.
Cornerstone #1 – Academics
Setting up the academics can be overwhelming, especially when you consider the momentous nature of the task before you. Don’t worry. You can do it. It is easier than you think.
Here is a four-step process that will guide your effort:
- create expectations,
- communicate the expectations,
- set them up for success with the right tools, and
- ensure accountability.
Notice how I’m not going into specific curriculum ideas, although I will mention one below. Not only are there thousands of great curricula out there, but a big part of what makes a good fit for your family will depend on your goals, preferences, and mindsets. If you need help here, let me know, and I will give you some suggestions. We have tried most of the major curricula and some of the lesser-known ones.
I knew from the start that I didn’t want to divide our life into school days and off days.
“Mom, is today Sunday?” (happy face).
“No, dear. It’s Monday.”
“Arg…” (unhappy face).
I wanted to create a culture of always learning. That’s how our Seven Day School was created
Don’t worry! Kids don’t feel traumatized by not having days off since very little school needs to be done on any given day when you do it every day. Most days they are up and away before they get the wiggles. And what a load off your shoulders! There is never pressure to carve out half of your day for their academic needs. How much time do you need exactly? It will depend on your goals and your curriculum.
But let me make something clear: most of what I call school work is the stuff kids naturally find interesting and exciting with a few fractions and Latin lessons thrown in for good measure.
Another amazing benefit of a seven-day school is that when you get busy or come across a day when nothing goes right, you can skip “school” without any guilt because you are always ahead of your own goals anyway.
But if a seven-day school is not for you, there are countless other philosophies and approaches to homeschooling.
The most important thing is to start with the clear understanding that your kids’ achievement will be affected by your expectations.
Higher expectations lead to higher performance. It’s known as the Pygmalion Effect.
You have to truly believe in your kids—fiercely, without a doubt in your mind and your heart—so that your words and your actions don’t send conflicting messages.If you are thinking, “Of course, my kids can do anything WITH proper supervision and prodding. But if I leave them to themselves, they will watch TV all day.” That’s not really believing.
Believing is having no doubt that your kids already have all the greatness and wisdom they need inside of them. They don’t need prodding; they need a parent who already trusts them. When you believe this wholeheartedly you communicate special energy that is contagious. Self-motivated kids are unstoppable.
For that reason, I often tell my kids, “I have no doubt that you will always find a way to learn everything you need to know in life in order to be successful.”
Note on the Curriculum
I always strongly advocate investing in the all-in-one curriculum during your first year. It might be costly (Wait for a special deal like Black Friday Sale. In addition, the month of May is traditionally the time when many homeschooling publishers have a curriculum sale), but you won’t be awake at night worrying if you are missing something or scanning the Internet for just the right “free” materials. (I did that one year. It was exhausting.)
Please note that no curriculum would be absolutely perfect for your child. There would always be something missing or not exactly right, but that’s easy to fix with free resources available online.
As you get more comfortable with teaching and discover how your kids learn best, you might start putting together your own curriculum from many different sources or perhaps even start creating your own resources. I now create loads of personalized lessons for my kids, and they love it. Star Wars! Wolves! Pirates of the Caribbean! I incorporate their favorite things into our lessons.
The real difficulty comes in picking your homeschooling method. We have tried Classical homeschooling, Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, unit studies, project-based, and Thomas Jefferson education. And after all these years, I still believe that Waldorf is the best start for everyone, regardless of your ideology. Its nurturing, flexible, comprehensive, as well as interesting to kids and (equally important) to parents (you’ve got to love it, to use it). Besides, it will make you a gentler, kinder parent, and it will give your kids a fabulous homeschooling start.
If I were to do it all over again, I would still pick Oak Meadow, and there is no affiliate link here. I just recommend it because I love it and I think you will, too.
Whatever you decide to use, create clear expectations.
- How many days a week is your school?
- How many hours?
- Where (kitchen table, separate room, bedroom floor)?
- Can kids get up and leave the room when they are done or show you their work first?
- How much freedom do they have in choosing what schoolwork to do daily?
But remember, this is just to help you be consistent when you start. Once you begin, you might have to change a thing or five. Flexibility and paying attention to cues is a key to mindful homeschooling.
For example, for most of our homeschooling years, mornings were perfect for our school time. We woke up, ate breakfast, and started school before kids got to their toys and started playing. But then I noticed that our school time started to get stressful because of constant interruptions from a one-year-old full of sound and energy, bursting with determination to take on the world. We switched to doing school in the afternoons when she is less energetic. I put her in the carrier (something she resists in the morning) and concentrate on the older kids. My oldest often doesn’t need my help, but he prefers to do school with everyone at the table. Find what works for you.
2. Communicating expectations
To get results, you need to communicate your expectations clearly and effectively to your children. Don’t assume that everyone is on the same page just because you mentioned it here and there a couple of times.
Have you ever driven to a grocery store with kids while they are telling you a story and you are mentally reviewing your shopping list? Then the next day, they are all saying, “Remember, mom? You remember that story, right?” And you say, “Sure, dear” (not a word).
The same applies to our kids. If you are not at their eye level having their full attention, then they probably have a dozen other things going through their heads.
So when you are standing in front of them, arms akimbo, face in a grim mask, asking, “Did you do your school work today?”, they are thinking what’s up with this crazy lady? and ask, “Who said it was such a big deal?”
And you say, “I did, right when I was pulling your sneakers out of the washing machine while talking on the phone with Nelly and giving your sister instructions on how to defrost a duck for dinner.” And they are like, “Ah?”
Communication is a three-step process:
Don’t assume compliance without hearing “I agree” first.
If your husband ran into the kitchen on the way to work and rattled out, “Hey love, can you take my car to the mechanic today, iron that blue shirt, and pick up my new lawn mower at Menards,” would you drop everything on your to-do list to heed his demands? And if at the end of the day you don’t deliver, can he hold you accountable?
Good communication is a two-way street. First, start with clear delivery of what you want and of what you don’t want, as well as how you will measure success. Then invite kids to express their wants and don’t wants. Consider your own ideas as a jumping-off point for some very interesting and informative conversations.
Don’t take silence as a sign of agreement to your way of doing things. If you don’t get a clear “I agree,” move to the next point.
I like to say to my older kids, “Let’s work together to come up with the plan that works for both of us. What are your thoughts?” If they have objections to some (or all!) parts of my plan, I listen and discuss alternatives. If you are not crazy about the idea of spending so much time “just” talking, consider this: developing verbal negotiation skills is school work, too.
Remember that kids are not likely to stick with a system if they had no say in it, so you might need to make reasonable concessions. However, sometimes just phrasing things in a different light will get the kids on board.
Other times signing a contract works well. Kids have great respect for the written word. You can actually find some wonderful templates online. And if you have multiple kids, you probably already have discovered that younger kids really want to do school work just from watching older kids.
- Mindful Follow-up
Are you spending your time on activities that matter? Are you reading your kids cues? Are you getting the results you want? Don’t be afraid to drop your approach and try something different. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can keep evolving until you find just the right fit. And kids really appreciate it when you respect their feedback.
So observe your day with nonjudgmental attention. Forget the shoulds and ask yourself what it is you really see. Are the kids happy? Are you happy? Are the expectations reasonable or are high expectations set too high? Is the workload compatible with their abilities? Is there something they need that will help them succeed? Be sure to provide opportunities, coaching, praise, etc.
3. Setting them up for success with the right tools
One of the main tasks of parenting is to provide our children with the right tools to help them succeed in life.
Carving out time for what matters is not easy amidst countless distractions, even for some adults. So set the kids up for success by helping them cultivate the right habits, which means not just the habit of sitting themselves down and doing the work. It also includes the habit of seeking out education and learning.
From the start, I made it clear to my kids that it’s not my responsibility to fill their heads with knowledge. It’s their job. I’m just a guide. But I do consider it my job to model the desired behavior. For that reason, my kids often see me reading books, writing in longhand, making notes, and taking online classes for the pure joy of learning.
To develop good habits, you need a good tracking system. We tried many different ones. Our most successful to date is a Seven-day tracker, an approach I came up with a few years ago. When we took a break from using it due to a new baby’s arrival, my kids asked me to bring it back.
All the subjects are listed for every day of the week. Once something is done it’s crossed out, circled, or highlighted.
The advantage of our Seven-day tracker is that it offers one convenient place to track school AND chores AND social life AND extracurricular activities like Latin tutoring and swimming lessons.
All people are different. What is right for us, might not be right for you. If you are thinking, “Too much structure! We are unschoolers! I’m not that organized! My kids won’t like it!,” then consider the following: experts believe that if you could only give your kids one thing, affection OR structure, the structure is more important! But, of course, I know, you don’t have to pick one. You can do both.
Not convinced you need to structure a routine to set your kids up for success? Read seven benefits of routines. Every time we and every parent we knowwell decided not to invest time in a routine, it ended with lives getting out of control.
If you need inspiration on how to create a great routine that works for your family, let me know. Also, here is a link to our seven-day-school template (please copy it before editing for your use).
What I discovered though is that a failure to deliver the agreed-upon results is usually a product of the two following things—lack of connection or lack of skill (or both).
Lack of connection means I have been doing lots of withdrawals from our goodwill account while neglecting to do any deposits. When a connection is a problem, you have to stop barking out orders and put all your time and energy into doing things that bring you and your child together.
Lack of skill means you have an opportunity to teach kids something they need. Does a child need help to organize his time? Does he know how to break down complex material into smaller and more manageable chunks? And while you’re at it, ask the following: Does she see the necessity of school?
I subscribe to the principle that a child’s behavior is a reflection of his internal needs. So if the schoolwork is not happening, the question for me to ponder is what does my child need to make it happen?
The main goal should not be that a child’s behavior falls in line and that every subject is crossed off the daily chart. The should be to ensure that their heart is in it. I will talk more about this approach in Part II.
I highly recommend reading positive parenting books on discipline likeWhy Disciplining Your Child Doesn’t Work and No-Drama Discipline. I’m currently working towards certification in the course taught by Daniel Siegel, Ph.D., the author of the latter book, and I love his gentle and loving approach to disciplining children.
II – Positive relationships
Do you think you need a Ph.D. in psychology to figure out how to create positive relationships with your kids? You don’t! You already have the most important ingredients in your arsenal—the genuine love for your children and the desire to be a positive influence in their lives. Everything else is a learnable skill.
I could write a million pages on the topic of positive relationships, but I am sure you don’t have time for it. The most important giveaway from this section is that you can’t be successful as a parent unless you put effort into cultivating a mindful relationship with each of your children.
You have to be consciously present, observing them nonjudgmentally and responding to clues they provide about what they need from you. What they need today will be different from what they needed yesterday. Let them be your guides. The alternative is for you to drag them where you want them to go, and they will sabotage you every chance they’ve got. Exhausting? Yes. Does it bring you the results you want? Not in the long run.
Below are ten more ways to create positive relationships:
- It’s all about Mindset
- Start with Yourself
- Put your energy into relationship first, then the academics
- Love them for just being there
- Trust their wisdom
- Talk with your heart
- Listen with your eyes
- Count the positive interactions until they are automatic
- Use the B.E.S.T. approach
- Alter ego mom technique
It’s all about Mindset
Everything you ever do or don’t do comes from your thinking. The adage change your thinking, change your life is true. My favorite example of this is how I learned the English language. When my public school got an English teacher, I hated it. I didn’t want to do it. I was bad at it. My mindset was I don’t need this one more thing on my to-do list. I didn’t have to worry about it for long though. The English teacher soon fell down the stairs in school and broke her leg. She returned a month later, fell down the same stairs, and we never saw an English teacher again. However, when I was sixteen, I got an opportunity to study in an American college, and I learned English in three months. I wasn’t fluent, but I was taking college classes in Marketing and Management in the English language after a mere three months of studying English. The mindset goes a long way! I keep it in mind every day. If my mind is set on having positive relationships with my kids, they will be just that. When you are determined to have something, you will find a way. As my grandpa always said, “As the man thinks in his heart, so he is.”
Start with Yourself
If you want something to happen or not happen in your homeschool, start with yourself. Ask yourself what it is you need to do or learn in order to bring about the desired behavior. For example, my oldest daughter started having trouble doing the laundry. I knew I could say, “Do the laundry or else” and she would have done it, hating me the whole time. And tomorrow I would be asking her to do the laundry again. Instead, I put aside an extra half hour to do the laundry with her for a week. I was patient. I was calm. I talked about my day. She talked about the books she was reading. At the end of one week, she would wake up in the morning and start on the laundry without a word from me. I changed her behavior by changing what I was doing first.
Put your energy into relationships first, then the academics
If you don’t have a good relationship with your kids, everything else will be hard. Your ideas will meet resistance, your efforts will be thwarted, and your simple requests will be ignored. If your relationship with your kids needs to be improved, check out anything by Shefali Tsabary and Howard Glasser. Like countless parents before you, you will be amazed by the transformation that will take place in your home.
Love them for just being there
If you can regularly find time and motivation to ignore your to-do list in favor of sitting down next to your kid and silently holding his/her hand, it will do more good than a fancy outing or buying an expensive toy. The simple “thank you for being here” carries heavier emotional punch than hundreds of thank yous for the things your kids do. You probably thank them for a job well done, for doing a chore without being asked, and for reading quietly in their rooms. But notice how all that praise is action dependent? Can you let kids know that you value them not for doing chores for you, but for the mere fact of being in your life?
Trust their wisdom
Give them space to blossom into the people they were meant to be. Kids come into this world complete with a blueprint. It’s easy to forget that when we are tired. Our tendency is to zero in on the problem and dispense our valuable parental wisdom: “this is the problem, and this is what needs to be done to fix it.” But it’s important not to manage our children’s lives for them. They already have plenty of wisdom. Instead, focus on understanding the meaning behind their behaviors. It makes our task all the more challenging, and we will not always get it right, but our relationships with them will be better just for trying.
Talk with your heart
Trust your instincts. You know those times when you felt like you had to do something to teach your kids a lesson, but your heart wasn’t in it? That was your instinct telling you not to do it.
Our culture and our own upbringing tell us that punishing, admonishing, preaching, and lecturing is the way to parent well. All these things do is teach kids to tune us out.
When you talk with your heart, you nurture the bond between you and your child. It’s not always easy. What works for me is to remind myself “I’m on their side.” Right in the middle of the disagreement, I will silently say “I’m on your side” and it’s amazing how the whole energy field around us shifts in response.
Listen with your eyes
After hours of playing together, kids can come out of a room and say, “I don’t like him because he is ugly” when what they really mean is “This playdate has been going on long enough. I need some alone time now.” Kids have feelings about things that they can not accurately put into words (many adults have the same problem).
So look beyond the words. To get insight into the true meaning of actions, observe nonjudgmentally, pay attention to inconsistencies, and trust in the fundamental goodness of your kids.
When things get rough, I like to mentally prime myself by saying, “it looks like he is misbehaving, but what is really going on here? Let’s find out….”
Count the positive interactions until they are automatic
You have probably heard Gottman’s research into the power of 5:1 ratio. According to his research, it doesn’t matter how many negative interactions you have with your kids as long as there are five positive interactions for each negative one.
There are families who are loud and crazy; they might have dozens of negative confrontations each day. It doesn’t matter as long as they take time to hug, say “I am sorry,” and keep up with 5:1 ratio.
To be aware of this balance between positive and negative interactions, you need to be conscious of what really takes place in your home.
Get your notebook out and jot down interactions until you can automatically track the ratio in your head. Gottman has lots of suggestions for positive interactions on his website.
Here are some examples:
- be interested in what they are saying and doing,
- maintain eye contact,
- say uh-huh,
- show affection,
- hold hands,
- kiss on the cheek,
- offer bear hugs and tickles,
- demonstrate they matter through small gestures throughout the day (i.e., take time to locate their favorite cup, arrange vegetables on the plate to their liking, wash their favorite shirt, and do their chore to surprise them),
- respect their perspective even when it doesn’t make sense to you.
Always do your BEST
BEST is an acronym I came up with for a four-step strategy that I use whenever I notice myself addressing the same issue AGAIN.
It’s so easy to get stuck in negativity. My kids are not doing chores. My kids don’t get along. Don’t, don’t, don’t. That’s where BEST comes in.
- Be present and phrase things in terms of what you want to see. i.e., I want my kids to do their chores. I want my kids to resolve their issues in a civilized manner. That’s what you want to see. Forget what you don’t want to see.
- Examine or investigate the issue thoroughly. Is there lack of connection? Is it a lack of skill? If I want my kids to resolve issues in a civilized manner, what do I need to teach myself first so that I can then teach it to my kids? Countless people have successfully achieved this goal. Learn from them. Make friends with books, online classes, and Google Scholar. Find the information you need.
- Strategy is the art of taking what you have found out and designing a custom-made strategy for your kids, for yourself, and for the situation. The first strategy might not work. Keep trying.
- Take action. Do it! Actively try to change the situation. Don’t rest until you have found a satisfactory solution to the problem of chores, or getting along, or whatever is giving you trouble.
Using BEST can help you so much!
Alter ego mom technique
The same day as I opened our Latin textbook on alter ego, which is a 16th-century Latin word for other self, I came across the concept of a wise heart in a professional training course with Dan Siegel, Ph.D., an author I mentioned earlier.
If I already have an unlimited capacity for wisdom within me, when exactly is it going to be available to me, I wondered. And the answer came to me at that moment. Why not right now!
Seriously! Be the mom you want to be right now. Fake it until you make it.
Just pretending I can act with grace, calm, and wisdom brings out the best in me. Does it always work? No. But it works often enough for me to appreciate my Alter Ego’s Mom wisdom.
Part III – Home and Chores
Keeping up with chores when you have homeschooled kids might seem like an impossible proposition. Not only are they home to make messes all day long, and someone is hungry every hour, but you also have to plan and execute lessons, host/attend playdates, and mastermind field trips. Who has time to keep the house clean?
Don’t despair! There is a way to keep the house under control. I call it CHS, a Clean House System. The only CHS that would work for you is the one custom designed by you, for you.
My Clean House System has six principles
- Get real
If you are planning to keep your sanity, you have to revisit your standards. When you homeschool, a mess is inevitable. But figure out your hot buttons and communicate that those are your non-negotiables. I personally dislike cluttered kitchen counters. So whatever I find on a kitchen counter is mine to keep. Indefinitely. It makes everyone think twice before dumping things there.
- Declutter. Declutter. Declutter.
This might seem obvious, but I want to give you a fresh burst of inspiration. If you don’t declutter, you will be organizing your piles day in and day out without much impact on the overall tidiness of your house. If you can’t work up the motivation to declutter, here is a bit of scientific evidence to help you switch to the other side. According to “Life at home in the 21st century,” every mom in this study had a spike in stress hormones while she was dealing with belongings. The more stuff, the more stress. The more stress, the less patient and the more reactive you are.
- Get organized
Each item has its own home. I believe an organized home is a productive home. Even if you’re not a very organized person, find a way to get organized. Buy organizing books, read blog posts and implement what you have learned, invite over an organized friend, go on a soup diet for a month as a family and save money so you can consult with an organizing expert. Princeton University scientists have found that your unnecessary stuff wears down your mental resources and restricts your ability to focus. Creative chaos is one thing. But things on every surface in the house is totally another.
- Chunk system
Thinking in chunks is a learned skill. I came up with this idea over the years in search of efficiency. It’s a magic ingredient that makes me super productive.
- Chunking up refers to identifying 2-3 small, specific tasks that you can tie together. For example, every night as I brush my teeth before bed, I immediately load the washing machine (with four kids I always have at least one load ready to go). The bathroom is next to the laundry room and on the way to my bedroom, so it’s an automatic action that requires zero brain energy investment. When I am done reading (I always read before bed), I throw the wash into the dryer and go to bed. In the morning my kids have a load of laundry to sort.
- Chunking down means stripping the action down to its components. If I wake up on a Saturday morning asking myself “What should I do first” while my kids jump around me screaming “We are hungry” and the baby squalls in my arms to add to the general cacophony, we wouldn’t have pancakes every Saturday. Making pancakes is a three-step process for me:
1) Friday night I set out the desired ingredients except for eggs and milk, mix flours and baking powder, and pull out a pancake griddle.
2) Saturday morning, as soon as I get up, I mix the ingredients into a batter and set it aside until an hour or so later.
3) My kids come down to the kitchen. I turn on the griddle, put the baby into the carrier, and start making and distributing hot, fluffy, and delicious pancakes to my hungry cherubs.
Mentally walk through your day and decide, which of your regular activities and chores you can chunk up and chunk down.
- Assign/select chores
The earlier you start, the easier it is to establish the cleaning habit into your kids. I see the wisdom of it with my younger kids. My five-year-old, for example, doesn’t even think he is doing chores. It’s as natural to him as breathing to empty a dishwasher, fold his laundry, and feed the pets. Not only does he do it joyfully, but he also derives a great amount of pride from being an important contributor to our family’s smooth operation.
Entitlement is a downward slope. Have you ever met people who thought they are entitled to things because their mama didn’t love them enough / they generally have no luck in life / their left pinky is shorter than their right pinky / insert anything? Babies come into the world self-absorbed, and it’s natural. But it’s our job as parents to gently guide them from there to an ultimately more satisfying place of caring for others.
If you are not convinced that involving kids in chores is worth your effort, consider this: scientists have discovered a higher level of happiness among kids who do chores (aka making a meaningful contribution to their families).
In my family, all kids are responsible for emptying the dishwasher, picking up toys, sorting clean laundry, wiping their spills, and putting away their homeschooling resources. They also have picked one special chore (like feeding pets) just for them. Sometimes they trade it with another sibling.
It took initial time and energy investment to get kids to cooperate, but it gets easier if you are consistent in reinforcing desired behaviors. And this brings me to the last item.
As I tell my kids, an accountability system is a way to protect everyone’s rights. They have a right not to be harassed in the middle of a fun game, and I have a right to live in a (relatively) clean house.
Three points to consider:
(1) Ensure everyone knows what needs to happen
(2) Discuss the timeline. In my family, kids are free to pick their own convenient schedule AS LONG AS chores are done by a certain specified time. For example, a dishwasher needs to be emptied before the sink fills up with dirty dishes.
(3) Agree on what’s going to happen if the chores are not done. Again, here’s the time to go with what you are comfortable with. In my house, if the chores are not done (say, washed clothes pile up or the dishwasher is not unloaded), the kids have to stop their play and we do the chore together side by side. But I’m sometimes asked, wouldn’t they always do that in order to get attention? Well, if the attention is what they need today, I am happy to give it. But my kids don’t need to give me a hard time about chores to get my attention. They are more likely to quickly do their chores, and then come over with a book for me to read aloud. So in a way, doing the chore with me is less beneficial in that they lose their privilege of doing it on their own time.
IV – Socialization
Oh, the infamous socialization myth born out of decades of indoctrination that only schools and “professionals” are adequately prepared to teach kids how to navigate the world of fellow humans.
Of course, this myth has been debunked with a multitude of academic research. Researchers have found that homeschooled kids are usually as good on different socialization traits (conflict resolution) as school children and often much better (especially in the area of leadership skills, independence, life skills, and self-motivation).
Most homeschooling parents have no problems finding plenty of opportunities for playdates and classes, but they often forget about themselves. I have noticed something interesting, though. Homeschooling moms who report a high level of satisfaction with life/homeschooling are the ones who also have a tribe of friends that share in their adventures. It seems that knowing we are not alone on this wild ride is vital to our overall sense of peace.
Okay, I agree that it’s much harder to keep up with friendships when every outing involves finding shoes for five pairs of shoes (in my case). But it’s worth the effort.
I meet so many moms who say, “I saw you were hosting that meet-and-greet, but x, y, z got in the way.” Xyz might all be very good excuses, but the fact of life is there will always be something that we think has to be done, no matter what.
So here is a bit of advice from an incorrigible introvert:
- Just do it.
It might seem intimidating at first to step out of your comfort zone and attend homeschooling events. But think of it as part of the homeschooling adventure. You are saying yes to the universe to bring the people you need into your life. Who knows what amazing friends you are going to make and what wonderful things you can end up exploring together!
- Set simple goals
One homeschooling event per month. One mom to strike a conversation with per event. One question you can ask at a good opportunity. One mom at a ballet class/kickboxing/ swimming class you can ask for a playdate at your house. I have had plenty of awkward playdates with moms who didn’t click with me, but it’s okay because I also have met lots of moms who have become friends.
- Do it on your own terms
If you host the event, you call the shots. When does the event start? When does it end? How many people are you okay with? As a host of a monthly Homeschooling Moms Meet and Greet, I set the end time for two hours. This way I get to meet homeschooling moms, chat about our kids, and get back to my to-do list in two hours.
Homeschooling is a time of optimism and musing. It also is a time of self-doubt about the great responsibility involved and a fear of screwing up.
I want you to be a confident, positive, consistent, energetic, and successful homeschooling mom. I believe you can be all of these things if you start with a solid foundation and build from there. I show you the way that works for my family, and you can adjust it to your journey and your goals.
Please note that it will be overwhelming to try to make too many changes at once. Start where you are. My goal is to motivate you and not to overwhelm you.
Do I do everything outlined here all the time? No. But I do it most of the time, and it’s enough to create a joyful homeschooling life.
If you have questions about what I have or have not covered here, let me know via email or in the comments below, and I will do my best to provide additional information. I’m on your side. I want you to succeed.
— Step 1 —
Begin with the end in mind
Here is the thing: life is always busy.
A lot of stuff that doesn’t really matter constantly gets in the way. If you lack direction, it’s very easy to be swept up by the flow of trivialities. But before you can focus on what is important, you first have to identify what is important to you.
- So start by asking yourself, Why do I want to homeschool?
- To provide better learning opportunities?
- To spend more time with my kids?
- To travel the world?
- To give my children a chance to unfold at their own pace?
- To work in a faster more efficient manner so there will be more time for play?
- Or because the school system isn’t working out and you’re looking into other options?
Write it all down.
- Now the second question: What does success look like to you?
- A superior education for your children?
- A child with an imagination and a heightened sense of wonder?
- A college degree by the time s/he is eighteen?
- A determined kid who pushes to be his/her best self in all circumstances?
- A nice person with a strong sense of responsibility?
- A high achiever fueled by his/her growth?
- A kid with a powerful sense of self who is brave enough to be authentic?
Of course, you can’t dictate what kind of person your child will grow up to be, but you can create opportunities, taking into the account the direction that is important to you.
- The final question is what do you value as a family?
Let’s face it. Even if we don’t communicate our values directly, kids pick them up from our actions. Each family values some things more than others. Are you mindful of what values you emphasize in daily life? As one 19th century writer noted, “parents forgive their children least readily for the faults they themselves instilled in them.”
What values do you want to promote?
Helping one another and not hurting others are essential values. Few would disagree with that. How about establishing a learning mindset, working hard for success, taking personal responsibility, spending less than earning, and planning for the long-term?
When we are not conscious of our goals, it’s easy to reward competition and say, “Your sister is already done with math. Why has it taken you so long to finish?” Remember, it’s not about the sister! Or you might foster a fixed mindset by saying, “You are so smart.” Intelligence is not a fixed trait! Or you may encourage negativity: “Oh, math is hard for you, poor thing.” Negativity and underachieving should not be rewarded.
Ok, did you write down the answers to the above three questions?
They will set the tone and give direction to your journey. When you hit a bump and start wondering why in the world you are doing this, the answers to these questions will give you energy and motivation to keep going. But that’s not all.
Write your Homeschool Mission Statement
— Step 2 —
Now you have to take your answers to the above three questions and turn them into a short and sweet mission statement.
“Mission statement? What are we, a McDonald’s?” said one homeschooling mom at a monthly meet-and-greet that I host for homeschooling moms.
There is a very good reason why companies have mission statements. They give direction, focus energy, and shape behavior. Your family needs all of these things, too. In fact, research shows that mission statements are an important component of any family’s success, and not just for a homeschooling family.
However, it’s okay not to have the big vision right from the beginning. Start simple and ask what is your homeschool motivation? My simple motivation was that I didn’t feel right about my kids spending all day in school studying what they could learn in a fraction of the time at home, I wanted them to have time to dig in the dirt as kids should.
It took me quite a few years and a lot of thinking to figure out our family mission statement. You’ll notice that it covers different areas: learning, home/belongings, and relationships. For our current mission statement kids chose the Star Wars Theme.
Every family is different, and your priorities will be different. You know yourself and your family, and you know what is important to you. If you have older kids you may try to involve them in the writing of the mission statement. When you are done, print it out and put it on the kitchen wall. This way you can often read it out loud, even after everyone commits it to memory. When it’s present in everyone’s mind, it’s a guide.
“If I have seen further than others, it is by
standing upon the shoulders of giants.”
We are so lucky to live at the time when countless homeschooling resources are available to us 24×7. There are homeschooling blogs, online homeschooling academies, and books we can buy from Amazon with a few clicks of a mouse. The downside is wading through this sea of information sorting jellyfish from seaweed.
Homeschooling is a fun journey full of learning and growth. I would like to share my favorite homeschooling resources that helped me on this journey.
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. For more about it read my full disclosure policy.
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