Peaceful Homeschooling: 12 Ways to Pursue Peace in Your Homeschool

Peaceful Homeschooling:

12 Ways to Pursue Peace in Your Homeshool


Peace can often be a moving target within homeschool hearts, and homes. Sometimes, we achieve a limited sense of peace that comes from temporarily letting things go, not pursuing any specific set of goals or ideas. Other times, we achieve a temporary sense of peace that is a result of buckling down and achieving goals, marking things "complete" on our list. Neither of these is wrong, and they each have their appropriate season, but they are both short lived and not sustainable.We, as homeschoolers, tend to teeter between these things, never being able to maintain either for any extended period of time.  What is elusive, then, is a peace that comes from operating within a plan and the framework of routine, knowing what it is that we are working toward and having a grasp upon the habits that best contribute to that work, while also holding loosely to all secondary and lesser things. We have peaceful homeschools when we develop habits that allow us to continually seek peace, and when we have routines that do not lord over us, but that we master and utilize as tools to maintain the peace that we seek and work for. 

Following are 12 things that have contributed to peace within my homeschool, and the homeschools of those that I admire and have worked closely with. Every one of these things plays a part, small or massive, in the peaceful way in which our homeschool is carried out. None of these things are personality specific, although some could be more challenging for some personality types. More challenging, but altogether worth it. ALL of these things take effort, and none of this is a secret or magical formula. Our attitudes, and our habits, absolutely hold the key to the peace in our homeshool, and peaceful days aren't something our children hold the responsibility for. I wholeheartedly believe that peaceful days are our responsibility, and that we can work to achieve them. Everyone is different, and these things may look or work differently for you, but to some degree, I believe each of them can play a part in the peace of every homeschool. 

1. Prioritize Relationships 
When in doubt, always choose people. We can be peaceful when we continually realize, and choose to remember, that our children are people and that our relationships with them are more important than any goal, objective, milestone, test, math problem, assignment, book, grade, or achievement. As such, we should cherish our relationships more than any of those secondary things. When we evaluate our time, our attitudes, our goals, our materials, and our priorities, we can measure each choice that we are making up to our relationship with our children. If we were forced to choose whether, when they are grown, our children were well educated, or whether they had a good and active relationship with us, we would all say that having a relationship with them is worth sacrificing everything else for, even their education. We don't have to choose between those two things, but we DO often have to make small decisions that temporarily favor one or the other. And, we can, and should, always choose relationship. Out of relationship, their education will thrive. Without relationship, even the most well executed of educations will fall painfully short. I often say that if you've driven your child to tears, then you need to stop and put away whatever is at hand. Your child is more important than the algebraic equation. Choose people. YOUR people. 

2. Don't Be a Pinterest Mom 
I am opening a can of worms here, but, here goes: Activities don't really teach much. Salt dough maps, and paper mache statues, and cut and paste projects, and coloring pages, and mini books, and the million and one cute and torturous fun activities that are available on pinterest, and in our social media feeds....the truth is, they are a waste of time. They can be fun, and fun is a valuable pursuit. But, choose wisely, and choose sparingly. Good books, discussion, narration, observation, exploration: these things make quality use of our time. Every activity that every homeschooler you know is doing, and posting, is not only not quality use of time, but it also quickly robs a mom of peace. Resist the urge to "help" or "supplement" your books. Resist the urge to "connect" ideas to other ideas through carefully planned and orchestrated activities. Resist the urge to crowd out grand conversation about ideas with paper mache and coloring pages. Don't be blown about by every wind of philosophy, and by every idea, curriculum, book, concept, system, tool, resource and method posted about by every homeschooler that you know. While you're resisting these urges, also carefully limit your comparison of yourself to others. Compare yourself to a few homeschoolers that you respect and admire, long enough to learn from them and to grow and then go about the business of implementing what you've grown and learned in, rather than lingering over your pinterest boards and your Instagram feed thinking about homeschooling more than you're actually doing it. 

3. Don't Stop and Start 
Running full steam ahead, and then abruptly halting, changing, adding, removing or tweaking what you're doing in your homeschool does anything but contribute to peace. Yet, we so often do just that very thing. We dive into what is new, and fresh, and exciting and then we change systems, books, schedules, and ideas as soon as something else new and fresh and exciting comes along. Sometimes, a system or the schedule needs changing. Sometimes, an idea isn't working. Sometimes, a book isn't capturing the mind of our child and we need to drop it (read: not because it's hard. Many living, and worthy, books are hard.). However, there is a sensible and a responsible way to implement change, and watching us model that is a vital lesson for the maturity of our children. Unfortunately, we often don't model it. I am certainly not saying that in order to have peace, you must continue upon a path that isn't working for you. I am saying, however, that abrupt stops are chaotic, and they don't allow time to make a reflective, rational choice instead of an emotional or flighty one. So, to avoid stopping and starting, choose blocks of time that you will make plans for (for me, 6 weeks {half a term} is perfect) and then stick to those plans. Take note of what isn't working, and then sensibly and carefully change it when it is time to plan again. During these "pause points" of your year (it doesn't have to be a school break, it is just a point at which you plan for the next block of time), reflect upon what didn't work and why, and then implement a change into your new plans. Don't stop and start, no matter how tempting that may be. You owe it to your children, and to yourself, to implement change peacefully, not chaotically.

4. Manage Your Mornings
It's no secret that I am a fan of becoming an early riser. However, whether you wake up hours before your children or 5 minutes before them, your attitude is within YOUR control. You can, and should, take calm control of your morning, before it runs away with your entire day. A bad morning is often at the helm of a bad day, and good morning lays a foundation for a day that follows suit. No matter what assault your morning brings upon you, learn to take a deep breath and seize calm control over this important part of your day. Seize control by tidying what you reasonably can, smiling even when you don't feel like it, bending down to look each child in the eye and greet them warmly, providing some direction for the day ahead, checking your plans and your menu, and being a source of calm, not chaos. If YOU can't be calm, and in control, then it surely isn't fair to expect much else from your children. Put into place small rituals that you can carry out no matter what your morning holds, that signal to yourself and to your children that it is the beginning of a new day, with new mercies within it. These small rituals could be turning on an oil diffuser, opening blinds or windows, putting on music, lighting a candle, etc. In addition to these small rituals, have a non-negotiable starting point in your school day. This isn't a time that is non-negotiable. This is a point in your schedule at which you will begin whether it is 8 am or noon. For us, this is Treasure Time. If you're running behind, begin at your non-negotiable starting point, no matter how you currently feel, and then you can make rational decisions about what to cut from, or adjust within, your day. Don't expect these decisions from yourself in the midst of morning madness. Seize control, perform small rituals, and then start where you've determined you will always start. From there, you can adapt and adjust accordingly. 

5. Don't Multitask
Contrary to our nature, and to what seems to be popular advice, I don't think that we can have true homeschooling peace if we are multitasking throughout our homeshooling day. The truth is: you can only do one thing well at a time. If you are doing 10 things, then each thing is only getting one 10th of you. If you are paying bills online, scrolling your newsfeed, answering a text, making a grocery list and overseeing your child's lesson, then your child is getting what is left of your attention after you've given much of it to your bills, your friends, your social standing, and your tasks. This leads us, day in and day out, to feeling pulled in a dozen different directions, scattered, and frazzled. All of these things are antithetical to peace. We tend to think that because we have so much to do that we should try to (partially) do several of these things at one time. This, however, simply doesn't work. If homeshooling is worth doing, then it is worth your attention. Do the next right thing, and do it well. When it's time to clean, clean and clean well. When it's time to interact with your friends, interact with your friends wholeheartedly. When it's time to homeschool, homeschool like it's important. You won't get to everything, no matter how hard that you try. You can get to many of the things, however, with a peaceful and effective presence, if you do them one at at time. 

6. Use a Timer
At first glance, this tip could seem better suited to certain personalities. But, the truth is that whether you are an easy going free spirit or a type-a list maker, you will always be chasing time down unless you manage it. Each thing has a suitable amount of time that should be devoted to it, so there is no reason not to stop chasing down your minutes, and instead use a timer that assists you in giving each thing its due time. If 20 minutes is a reasonable amount of time for math, then 20 minutes is reasonable whether 1 problem has been completed, or 100 problems. Your child (and yourself) doesn't become any more capable of processing information for a longer period of time than is reasonable simply because they haven't completed enough for you to be able to check your box. So, why would we let math drag on, and begin to chase all of the following minutes and hours that we have now wasted trying to complete a certain amount of material, even though the suitable time for that lesson had passed? Stop chasing time,and stop nagging about time that is being spent, and wasted. Instead, set a timer, give each thing its rightful place and rightful portion of your day, and then keep moving.

7. Fence Your Heart
When it comes to influence over your heart and your ideas, quality is to be desired so much more greatly than quantity. A homeschooling heart that is influenced by every person, every idea, and every philosophy with which they come into contact is a heart that is constantly riding the waves of homeshooling trends and fads. Protecting your heart from this roller coaster is not only a great source of your peace, but it is also being a good steward of your emotions and your time. Every moment that you spend researching every new thought, latest trend, what so-and-so swears that you should do, and what you see the homeschooler next door doing well, is a moment that you don't actually spend homeschooling. So, for the sake of peacefully implementing what is worthy of your time, attention, and energy and to implement it well: build a fence around your heart and carefully choose who gets a key to the gate. Choose some sources of inspiration (and conviction) and curate your newsfeeds, your inboxes, your time, and your thoughts in order to allow those things inside your fence and keep all others at bay.  

8. Be at Home
It is my firmly held belief that the true benefits of homeshooling occur AT HOME. Friendship, fun, and fellowship (along with resources and access to a multitude of lessons and projects) are icing upon the homeschooling cake. They are wonderful, but they aren't the main thing. Keeping the main thing the main thing means prioritizing time at home. Whether you (and your children) are introverts or extroverts, social butterflies or hermits, they (and you) need ample time at home. They need empty, unscheduled hours. They need a schedule that isn't interrupted by 3 clubs, 4 lessons, and a play group every single week. They don't NEED play group and co-op and sewing lessons. They NEED good books, great discussions, and time to explore and narrate and digest what they are learning. The clubs, the co-ops, the sewing lessons...they are important, but they should be kept in their rightful place. Peace won't be found in over-exhausted moms and children running to and fro frantically, eating in the car, attempting to be 3 places at once. Peace will be found at home, calmly and excitedly discussing what was read. Peace is found exploring, climbing, building, creating, growing, and spending time within a space that is completely safe emotionally and mentally, in which children can work out with fear and trembling who they are, who they are becoming and what they think with those who truly know and love them. 

9. Build in Margin 
If every minute is full, they are already overfull. Your schedule shouldn't contain everything that can possibly fit within the hours of your day. Washing machines will overflow, packages will be delivered, technology will fail to cooperate. Toddlers will create disasters, babies will wake up early from naps. We are educating in the midst of a full, and real, life. This is a blessing, but it can quickly seem a burden if we fill every moment of every day with something that is "supposed" to fit within those moments. Between lessons (especially those which require use of technology, transition to a different place, the use of several materials, etc), build in margin. You can't finish math, put away math materials, collect materials for drawing, open a drawing video on the computer, AND move to the table at precisely 9:45 am. You need margin for transition, and you need margin for life to happen. Build in transition time, build in breaks, build in free afternoons, build in calm evenings, build in suitable time for meals and cleanup, and build in relaxed weekends. Know, from the get go, that you need margin, and give it to yourself peacefully, rather than by force when life moves about as it was always going to, outside of the control of your jam-packed, color coded schedule. 

10. Don't Be Mastered by Resources
Just because 36 out of 36 lessons have been completed in the (supposedly) 4th grade level of a particular math program, doesn't mean that anything has been learned, much less, mastered by the student that has completed it. And, just because 20 out of 36 lessons were completed, leaving 16 undone, doesn't mean that a child hasn't learned and mastered more than plenty of material for that school year. Even if they haven't, they couldn't do so in extra evening lessons, Saturday lessons, doubled up lessons, rushed lessons, and lessons given by a frantic and crazed mother who simply wants them to "finish" the book and to check off "Math Level 4" from her list. That madness doesn't create peace, and it doesn't accomplish anything. What would be much more reasonable, and effective, is faithfully completing 20 minute math lessons on each day of school, moving on from material only when it's been mastered, and moving forward peacefully, never frantically. The first scenario doesn't cause math to be mastered any quicker, and nothing that you do really can do that anyway. The second scenario leaves you in calm control over what you've been given to be a steward over, without being mastered by resources written by people who have never met your child. If your child knows how to read, and has mastered phonics, it's silly to continue their "First Grade" level of language arts just because they are (supposedly) in first grade. Use resources as ways in which to serve your born person, by spreading a feast before them. Don't use resources to bind fetters around yourself and to create a false sense of something resembling peace because you're increasing your completed page count.  

11. Be a Marathon Mom 
Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. Homeschooling is a long game, and you must be in it for the long haul. There will be fruit that isn't borne, but is being cultivated, for years to come. You will not get much instant gratification in homeschooling, and if you're dependent upon seeing "results", then you will quickly burn out. Instead, take the long view. Continually correct your focus upon the future and upon things that matter far more than the memorization of multiplication facts. If your peace hangs upon this particular set of lesson plans or this particular math curriculum, then you are set up for inevitable failure. Your peace is within God's power to do what you can not, and His faithfulness to work your meager efforts together for the good of your child. Your peace is within the fact that their character matters more than their GPA. Your peace is within the fact that THEIR peace won't be tied to their ability to cite sources in a research paper. There is more at stake than their mastery of exponents, and you are not consumed by small things. You have peace because you have a long view of the long game, and are ready for the long haul. You're running a marathon, Momma, not a quick sprint. This mile won't make or break the end result. This mile is one of many, many miles. So, don't let it break you. Run, run, and keep running. Faithfully, patiently, peacefully.  

12. Don't Neglect Yourself
A mother who is spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and relationally starving can not peacefully meet the demands of other humans. It is unequivocally counterproductive to fail to properly care for our basic needs in order to check more things off of our never-ending lists. Any moments gained by not spending them on the reasonable and necessary care of your mind, soul, body, and relationships is a moment that is wasted because they are spent meeting demands and checking boxes with half a heart, a mind devoid of ideas and inspiration, a weary body, and without the continual support of godly friends. We were created to need physical, mental and emotional care. We were created for relationship and community. To neglect any of these things isn't a badge of honor, and it doesn't make us more selfless or more well respected. It isn't selfless to give a worn down, beaten up, barely functioning version of ourselves to our children, when it is withing our control to instead choose to care for ourselves so that we bring our best to the table. You can't get everything done, no matter how much you sacrifice of your body and your mind. But, you can get a lot done with a mind that is well fed, a spirit that is well nourished, and a body that is cared for and with the support of your community of friends. Make your care of your self and your relationships non-negotiable, and make lesser things the things that you get done if they happen to "fit" instead of starting with a plate full of lesser things and hoping for the best with your needs and your relationships. A spotless house, volunteering for everything that is asked of you, your facebook feed,a junk drawer that never gets disorganized, towels that are folded perfectly instead of in the sloppy way of little hands.... those are all lesser things. Reading a book before going to bed, coffee with a friend,  plugging away at your own handicraft or hobby, taking in the beauty of creation, and nourishing your mind with ideas clothed in truth and goodness and beauty....those are non-negotiable. Don't neglect yourself, and instead come to the table filled with the peace that comes from being well nourished so that you, in turn, can nourish others. 
Homeschooling is hard. There will be sleepless nights. Your heart will ache, and you will fall flat upon your face. You will make mistakes, you will leave gaps, you will miss important things. You will be stretched thin, you will be exhausted. You will sometimes wonder why in the world you thought that educating your children at home was a good idea. It can never be easy, but it CAN be peaceful. You will have moments where your peace seems to have vanished, but over the span of weeks and months and years and a lifetime, you can continually pursue peace and maintain the habits that allow you to maintain it. A frantic, harried, distraught homeshooler who second guesses her every move and is consistently run rugged and run over by the clock, her chosen resources, and her lack of good habits is not a source of peace for her home and her children. The good news, Mommas, is that you can choose the things that contribute to your peace right now, and that you can keep choosing them. 
Your homeschool can be peaceful, and it isn't nearly as elusive as it seems. 

May All Your Days be Spent....Delightfully Feasting <3 


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for reminding us that our kids are people just like us. Giving them the freedom to imagine and explore is necessary. The difference is night and day. Deliberately love your little person and nourish and care for yourself so you can give them your best. Love love love!