A new homeschooler herself, Kimberly Lynch suggests survival strategies that are working for her.
It came as a pleasant surprise to me and countless other parents stuck at home with their kids during the quarantine last spring: spending all day at home with your kids can actually be peaceful, fun, and a beautiful way to work on the relationships with those dearest to us. I was one of those moms who had originally dismissed homeschooling as something reserved only for a select group of parents who had been gifted far more patience than the rest of us, and there was no way I would ever willfully choose (or survive) such an endeavor. But as the first couple weeks in March melted into months of spending a lot of time at home, I discovered that it was actually good for our family to be all together, and perhaps I did know something about educating my own children after all. And so, after much contemplation, prayer, and deep breaths, my husband and I decided to homeschool our kids.
With the enthusiasm of a runner ready to jump off the starting line, I excitedly started our little homeschool at the end of August. And after a few days … I felt like the runner who trips and falls on her face right off of the starting line. That first week was painful, to say the least. While it’s taken time for everyone to adjust, I am happy to report that we’ve found our groove (I think). Every day still remains unpredictable, but I’ve found a few strategies that have worked.
Have something you look forward to in the morning.
Every morning I like to wake up to a cozy mug of bulletproof coffee. It has a frothy cap on top, the caffeine helps me to wake out of grogginess, and most importantly, no little children want it. I sit in a particular corner of my house, in between a statue of Our Lady and a window, where I can gaze out on the lawn and witness the morning colors change with the sunrise. I pray and read, all while sipping from my cozy mug. Even if one or two of my little ones are awake with me, I can usually distract them with breakfast while I duck into the next room for a few moments of quiet. That time is so important to me that I make sure everything is ready the night before. I may be known to leave some dishes in the sink at the end of the day, but you can bet that my coffeemaker and blender are cleaned out and ready to go for the next morning.
Don’t be hesitant to take a few minutes for yourself when you’re beginning to become unraveled.
When you are caring for little people with their own distinct personalities, mornings can quickly and easily go sideways, and it’s important to be able to recover so you can brave the rest of the day. On a day when I was struggling with reluctant children to sit down and start their homeschooling work, I stepped away from the knee-jerk reaction of yelling (and then feeling guilty for yelling), and allowed them to check out an educational show while I jumped in the shower. I blasted my Casting Crowns Pandora station, shampooed and conditioned, and returned to the table refreshed and much more relaxed than if I had forced a task that no one wanted to begin in the first place. Your kids will react far better to a relaxed disposition than to gritted teeth. What’s a favorite tune you can listen to that will fire up your spirit so you can walk with your shoulders back once again? Claim a go-to prayer for your frustrating moments and call it out. Even a simple “Jesus, I trust in you!” can redeem a rocky start.
Dress for the job.
As we’ve all experienced with the quarantine back in the spring, staying at home brings a real temptation to stay in pajamas or sweats all day. However, if you are raising little ones at home, you have a job to do and you need to dress in a way that’s both practical and professional. I don’t don my Sunday best when I am in homeschool mode (because sticky fingers), but I also have learned to stay away from any outfit that makes me feel frumpy, no matter how comfortable it may feel initially. And probably the most important accessory I put on is my Miraculous Medal on a simple chain. It’s something I can literally clutch in the desperate moments to remind me that I am never alone. Choose something subtle yet significant to remind you of the beloved woman you are.
Check off something quick from your to-do list.
I learned quickly that my kids balk if I hand them a long list of assignments or chores, and I have a hunch that I’m not alone (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree … ahem). This morning I changed my strategy from “eat the frog” (that is, to do the least appealing job first and get it over with), and opted for a gentler approach. I simply started my son off with a relatively easy lesson, and we discussed it while he munched on his cereal. Easy, done, check. It got momentum rolling and we had a great day from then on. The “frog” eventually came, but with a positive beginning and the brain juices flowing, he tackled it without much complaint. I took note for my own days that seem to be fraught with anxiety and worry.
Challenge yourself to work hard for a limited time, then take a break. Repeat.
Working moms, stay-at-home moms, or a combination of both, let’s admit that we all have a laundry list of tasks every day. We manage a lot. I, for one, can easily get lost in despair with all the responsibilities I have. I took another note from my son this morning when I told him he had to complete three assignments, and then he could have a break. He worked hard, moved on to the next two tasks, and then played hard outside for a well-deserved break. I corralled him in for the next “chunk of three,” and he worked through it. This feels like interval training from my college cross-country days, or a good HIIT workout. Work hard for a bit, rest, repeat. Give yourself manageable tasks and a manageable amount of time to do them. Do them well, then take a good break, and get after it again.
If you’re a total newbie like me, rest assured that you are not alone in the cycle of frustration, tweaks, triumphs, and new frustrations. I’m learning (slowly) that the most important element of your homeschool is peace, and that often requires mom to be at peace with herself. So give yourself plenty of grace, claim your favorite mug of coffee, offer up every moment of painstaking instruction, and laugh at the misadventures at the end of the day. Don’t lose sight of the joy to be had.
About the Author
Kimberly is a Catholic convert, writer, wife, and mother to six awesome children. She blogs at PassingThroughMountains.com, where she encourages her readers to recognize sparks of joy despite the arduous climb up life’s inevitable mountains. She enjoys running in the morning, a strong cup of coffee, reading a good book with her feet up, and hiking in the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where she and her husband raise their brood.