11 tips for regaining the home school mojo

I don’t know about any of you other homeschool mamas out there but I am T.I.R.E.D. and it is only September. We have had a little bit of a hiccup in our school these past two weeks and it has left me tired, feeling defeated, doubting myself and now, reflective.

Just last week, I spoke to three other homeschooling moms who have been experiencing this early-in-the-school-year burn-out as well. For me, I know we kicked off our school year with a bang, have worked, studied, and field-tripped our hearts out and we have just hit a wall. I know it happens every year, and every year it seems to take me by surprise.

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So I have been making a few notes for myself of things that work and things that I like to do when we go through one of our more trying (or tiring) seasons of homeschool. Below are my top 11 tips for curing the homeschool blues:

Pray More

It sounds cliche, but it is a valid and true solution. Sadly the other night, I realized that it has taken me days to remember that I need to bring my struggles to the Lord. I also need to pray, out loud, specific prayers with and over my children. The state of their hearts matters to me, but even more…the state of their hearts matters to God. I need to pray more often, but I also pray for more; more patience, more strength, more creativity and more wisdom.

Switch Up the Scenery

We have a homeschool room but so far this year we haven’t really worked IN that room. We’ve been at the dining room table so last week I put out our card table and chairs and we sat in our homeschool room. Other alternatives we opt for are to take our work to the library, go outside, add some artwork or posters to our work space for added inspiration, rearrange our seating arrangement, or light a fragrant candle. Anytime I can change up the classroom space, my students take notice and it often gives them some added motivation.

Start OR Finish the Day with the Fun Thing

Often I try and begin our school day with our fun science or art project as a means for setting the tone. I try and hook our kids with an activity that is delightful. Or, sometimes my kids are better motivated if I save the fun thing for the end of the school day. Once the academic work is done THEN watch the cool history video or do the awesome geography project. Different days and different moods call for different approaches. I just have to read my audience to be sure which will work for us.

Be a One-Trick Pony

I am notorious for trying to do ten things at once especially when I need to be focused and give all my attention to doing JUST ONE THING well. Many, many of my greatest frustrations come when I try to multi-task. Loading the dishwasher, making a phone call, tossing in a load of laundry, returning or composing emails, or folding towels can wait. Two hours, uninterrupted, sitting with my kids giving them my UNDIVIDED attention results in more productivity than four hours of grouchy, interrupted chore and school work juggling.

Get Out OR Stay Home MORE

Sometimes our problem can be one or the other–lately we have been trying to squeeze in a little too much fun. Between co-op, a weekly Bible study, and a few field trips we have just been out of the house too much and putting too much pressure on ourselves to try and get too much academic work done on the days we are home. I looked at my calendar for October and November and literally wrote across the top of my planner, the words “NO MORE,” “NO FIELD TRIPS,” “NO PLAYDATES,” and “NO YES’s.” We have a full plate this next quarter and I simply know our limits and can’t add anything else and maintain a stress-free school week. However, at other times the opposite has been true for us. We have had other seasons were we have been home TOO MUCH. During those times, maybe a trip to the park or library is just what we have needed to get out and stretch our legs and clear our heads.

Let the Inmates Help Run the Prison

I sometimes have a hard time admitting I don’t know it all, have all of the answers, or am fully in charge of the situation. Early last week in the midst of our most recent funk, I pulled the plug on the work we were doing and called an immediate meeting out on the back porch. We hit the reset button with our attitudes (mine included) and I gave my children the chance to voice some of their concerns and make some suggestions for improving our homeschool day/vibe. It turns out those three little stooges had some brilliant ideas and great solutions; some of which I have already implemented.

Make a Calendar, Make a List: Make it Public

I’m not going to lie. I keep a mean plan book. I take a lot of pride in making (and implementing) lesson plans, marking in my book neatly and keeping our school days/weeks/quarters and year running like a finely tuned machine. HOWEVER, my kids don’t necessarily see what’s coming. I assume that the information included there is for my eyes only. And nothing could be further from the truth. Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t give them a minute by minute play by play but it does help them to see, at a glance, what is expected of them. I have done as much as a quarter at a glance, but usually do a week or month at a time to not overwhelm my kiddos. Most recently I printed each of them calendars for October, November, and December (although I only gave THEM the October one) and I color coded each subject, chapter for each day of these next nine weeks. Everyone LOVES checking off a finished item and seeing progress. Print a list or calendar, or fill in a dry erase board or chart. Visibility is the key!

Get Some Fresh School Supplies

I mean really, is there anything that a new pack of pens can’t cure? Fresh markers, sharp new crayons, new pencils, motivational coupons, or stickers can greatly help with morale. And don’t forget Mom too! Nothing says I cherish my job as a home educator quite like a new multi-color pack of Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball Extra Fine pens. (I’ve heard.)

Implement an Incentive Program If I don’t yell at anyone today, I get a chocolate bar. At various times in our years of homeschooling I have needed to resort to an incentive program. Make a chart or graph, add stickers or stamps, and let your kids work toward a goal of your choosing. For example a while back I let them earn up to four stickers a day and kept a record of their progress on a free printable 100s chart. They could spend the stickers in increments of 10. Prizes ranged from small (like bedtime extensions) to awesome (like a new X-Box game). You’ve got to speak their language and sometimes bribery is the very measure you should take. In our house sometimes the incentives are academically related and other times they are attitude related.

Budget Something MORE for Mom

I’m just going to put it out there, I can very easily and quickly fall into the martyr trap as a homeschooling mom. I allow the weight of my undertaking to educate our children to become a very heavy burden on my shoulders. I love it but sometimes I can play the “woe is me card” a little too frequently. No one is putting a gun to my head MAKING me homeschool. I have chosen this and it is a joy and privilege to have this time with my children. Having said that, it is SO VITAL to give myself the breaks (both mental and physical) that I need. So I have to budget for that. I budget extra time for getting out to walk. I budget extra time for getting to bed at a reasonable hour. I budget extra time to read books for me or watch a favorite television show. I budget extra money (sometimes) for a sitter or a new purse or the treat of a nail appointment because those things recharge my batteries. I have to remind myself that going to the grocery store alone DOES NOT constitute “me time.” I have to be intentional about budgeting time or resources where I need them to help me be a better me so I can be a better mom/teacher. For instance, lately I have been getting up early before anyone else in the house just to sit in dark silence and drink a STEAMING HOT, FRESH cup of coffee alone. I’d love to budget more time to let that morning routine also include rigorous exercise and a shower but alas, I am not a miracle worker.

Try and Remember That This, Too Shall Pass

In homeschooling, like life, there are seasons. Some days, I feel like freaking Charlotte Mason and I hear my inner monologue bellowing out “This girl is on fiiiiiiiiirrrrrreeeee. This girl is on fire…” My kids are getting it and the learning is clicking. There are even blue birds on my shoulder. And then other days (like the past two weeks) every day feels like an uphill battle. Every day feels full of negotiations of “please,” “stop,” “now!” Every day feels like I have made a huge mistake and maybe the teachers at the public school down the street would know how to handle my kids better than I can. And every day there are tears (some of mine and some of theirs). But I have to vehemently remind myself that mama said there’d be days like this. And that’s okay. The difficult days help me to appreciate the success and wins much more. The difficult days mostly remind me, that just as I am trying to disciple and teach and shape and mold my children in every way to be who they are destined to be, so is Christ trying to do the same in me. He longs to disciple and teach and shape and mold me too! And he is using the endeavor and undertaking of the Wood Academy of Christian Kids to do just that.

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 I too often and too easily forget that this homeschooling gig is my calling. Right now, in this season of life, it is literally my full-time, (albeit unpaid) vocation. It is the thing I have been called to do by the Lord and I aim to give it my best; give my kids my best and ultimately give HIM my best.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” {Colossians 3:23-24}
I translate that in my heart and head as, “Claire, whatever you do…whether math, science, reading or discipling your children…whether making lunch, cleaning up another project, planning another unit study…work heartily, as for the Lord and not (the approval) of your kids or others, knowing that from the Lord you will receive your reward. I am earning no pay check now, not accumulating any vacation days or time off, no teaching or professional honors, but the reward of my eternal inheritance, well that’s as good as it gets! Even in the smallest, most trying or seemingly insignificant moments of my day, I am serving the Lord Christ. Even when I have three little people trying to talk me out of doing their work, or even when I don’t think I can make another dinner after a long day, or when I think that no one sees or notices the work of “just a mom,” that I am serving the Lord Christ.”

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Other homeschooling parents? What about you? What are your tried and true tricks of the trade for getting your groove back? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment.
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