“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” -John 10:10
You know those days where nothing seems to go according to plan? You wake up late, the pot boils over, the kids are arguing...and you haven’t even started your school day yet! We all have those kinds of days. This is life, and it’s not always as pretty as what we pictured when we started out. There is hope, however! Because the truth is, every day is a mix of ups and downs, highs and lows, successes and failures. It’s what we do with our daily experience that really matters. Our attitude is a choice. We can choose to give in to our frustration, or we can choose to embrace the good, true, and beautiful in our days, no matter how small it seems.
Yes, our attitude is a choice.
And yes, I am preaching to myself!
Now that sounds simple, doesn’t it? Just choose to be content! Well, you and I both know it’s not that simple. Patterns of negativity can be pretty tough to overcome, especially when you are tired, stressed, and outnumbered (as many homeschool moms are!). I’d like to offer just a few ideas to help you break with the negativity and to embrace the good gifts God wants to bless you with every day.
1. Release your expectations.
Think back to when you first decided to start homeschooling. Maybe you jumped in and just started without really knowing what to expect. Maybe (like me!) you spent countless hours researching methods and approaches, poring over curriculum catalogs, and laying out an entire plan for your kids from preschool through graduation. If there was a master’s degree in homeschool styles, I’m pretty sure I studied enough to earn it, ha! Regardless of how you got started, chances are you probably had some expectations in the back of your mind of what your days, your children, and your family life would look like. Your kids would be geniuses. You would be deeply fulfilled in your role as mom/teacher. Your house would be clean (because, you’ll be home all day, right? Why in the world would you not be able to keep it clean and tidy??) And, for that matter, your kids would be clean. Now we’re really dreaming!
I’d like to suggest taking a step back and releasing these expectations. Acknowledge that your home is a place of life and work, not a hotel or a showplace. Instead of viewing the mess of daily life as a burden, try to see it as evidence of all the good things going on in your life. Acknowledge that your sense of fulfillment and value cannot come from your children, or from your stellar abilities as a homeschool mom. That can only come from God. And (here’s the real kicker!), acknowledge that your children are no better than the next person’s children. Are they unique? Are they a blessing to you? Do they each have their own special gifts and talents? Of course!! But they are not better. They will have areas of weakness, just like you. Don’t saddle them (and yourself) with the burden of perfection.
2. Take a time out for something fun.
Sometimes all it takes to salvage a homeschool-day-gone-bad is a little burst of lightheartedness. If the kids are grouchy, bickering, and you’re about to lose it, just stop what you’re doing. Call everyone together and do something fun, silly, or downright off the wall. Here are a few ideas:
-have a one-song, one-family dance party
-do a mad lib
-run a lap around your house
-run a lap around your house acting like superheroes
-have an arm wrestling competition
-sing everything you say, full-on opera style, for 5 minutes
-work on a puzzle for a few minutes
-play a few rounds of “would-you-rather?”
3. Find a short phrase or prayer, or Bible verse to repeat when doubt, darkness, or negativity begins to creep in.
It’s so easy to let our thoughts spiral out of control sometimes, isn’t it? You burn the bacon for breakfast and before you know it you’ve got yourself convinced you are the worst mother in the world and you are going to ruin your children for life. It’s times like these that you need truth so deeply ingrained into your soul that you can’t escape it. In her excellent book, Teaching From Rest, author and homeschool blogger Sarah Mackenzie suggests you can do this by “arming yourself” with a small number of very short prayers or Bible verses that you have committed to memory. This is your “in-the-trenches arsenal.” You might not have time to go sit down and do a full biblical word study on patience, but you can express your heart to God and lean on His truth to renew your mind and your attitude. Here are a few examples:
-Lord, I need you now.
-You are my way, my truth, and my life.
-Calm my heart so I can hear You speak.
-Thank you for the cross.
-Your grace is sufficient for me.
The list could go on and on. The most important thing is that you memorize a few prayers or verses ahead of time, so that when disaster strikes (or just the final straw!), you are prepared!
4. Begin the practice of Morning Time with your kids.
I cannot express how thankful I am that we started to implement “Morning Time” into our school days. Many thanks to Cindy Rollins (link her name to her website) for introducing me to this practice in an early episode of the Mason Jar Podcast from the Circe Institute. (link!) If you have not heard of Morning Time, it is essentially a time when you get all your kids together and spend some time on the things that really matter. How often do you find yourself saying things like, “I wish we memorized Bible verses. I wish we listened to classical music. I wish we studied famous artists. I wish, I wish, I wish…” That is exactly what morning time is for! Here are a few tips for beginning your morning time:
-Don’t spend too long on any one thing. The idea is that just small doses of the very best ideas, words, and songs will add up to a full, rich foundation over time.
-Start with just a few things. Sing a hymn or worship song you all know, work on memorizing a Bible verse, and read a short chapter of a really good book.
-Be flexible. Remember, this practice is here to serve you. Don’t feel like you have to do every element every day.
There are a couple things about morning time that I especially love. One is that it builds a common family culture. Instead of everyone always going off and doing their own separate work, we are all learning many of the same things and being formed by the same ideas. Over time this adds up to your family’s own unique vocabulary; your own collective memory. Another wonderful aspect of morning time is that it gives me the feeling of freedom to study the “riches” with my kids. Because we’re only spending a short amount of time on each element, we can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, setting up our days to be focused on things that are truly worthy of our admiration. “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” -Philippians 4:8
For more ideas on how to begin and plan your family’s morning time, I highly recommend Pam Barnhill’s website. She has some great tools and articles there to help you get started and continue to grow the practice in your home! In short, does morning time take a little planning? Yes. Is it worth the time? A hundredfold.
Take the next step:
Have you allowed yourself to be discouraged by unattainable expectations?
What are a few things you and your children really enjoy doing together? How could you utilize those things on days that aren’t going so well?
What are some Truths you could memorize for those tough days?
How might establishing a morning time practice in your home help your family to focus on what really matters?