Is it possible to thrive as a homeschool mom?
I always wanted to be a mom. With six younger siblings, I usually had a baby or toddler around to play with until I was a teenager. I would play dolls and dress them up, play school, and even pretended to be Mary Poppins. What could be better than being a mom with my children all day?
There were a number of things I didn’t understand about mothering and homeschooling though, obviously. For one thing, my mom did not homeschool, so she appeared to have time to herself to do things she wanted when my siblings and I were at school or the little ones were taking naps. I didn’t realize the reality that homeschooling is hard and is a full-time job, and it is not like being Mary Poppins! It can wear us out if we’re not careful. Sometimes we end up in survival mode. But I want to enjoy life and thrive, not just survive, as a homeschool mom. Don’t you?
Now I’m not talking about a health and wealth gospel here. I am not saying we will never have times of “just getting through” and we will never be in survival mode. Life throws some tough curve balls sometimes, and there are times where we just have to put one foot in front of the other and hope things get better soon. But “survival” doesn’t have to be a word that characterizes our homeschool years. How can we thrive, not just survive?
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1. Keep an eternal mindset: make your relationship with God a priority.
This is the most important aspect of thriving! It is so easy as a mom to try to do things in our own strength. But we can’t. We can do nothing apart from God, so we must be abiding in His Word and getting our strength from Him. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
God wants to revive us in His Word, the Bible, and in our relationship with Him. We will find refreshment in the truths and perspective and promises of the Bible, but even more so as we grow in a relationship with Him. Developing our relationship with God reminds us of our purpose in life, “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism #1)
In addition to time in the Bible, prayer time is vital. We need to be able to pour out our concerns to God and lift up our children and activities. We also are able to find perspective as we focus on praising God for his character and thanking him for our many blessings. I like to keep a daily journal of things I am thankful for along with wins in personal growth to remind me of God’s faithfulness to me.
Again, time with God – keeping an eternal mindset – is the most important aspect of how to thrive as a homeschool mom!
2. Figure out your priorities.
What is really most important in your life? I’ve heard it said, “If everything is important, then nothing is important.” You need to decide what is important and thus where you should focus your energy and time.
There is a powerful visual demonstration of this using rocks in a jar. If you want to fill all the spaces of a jar using big rocks, small stones and dirt, what would you put in first? If you put in the dirt first and then the small stones, there would not be space for the big rocks! Yet if you put in the big rocks first, then you can still fit in small stones. You can even fill in dirt in all the extra spaces.
The big rocks are our priorities, but so often, we fill our lives with all of the tasks that are “urgent” or “necessary” – that is the dirt and the small stones – and then we don’t have time for what is actually important. So again I ask, what is really most important in your life? These are the big rocks and we need to put these first in our jar of life. We need to make time for these first.
Once you have decided what is most important, you will need to eliminate or take a break from activities or responsibilities, even if just for a season. There are seasons to life and you can’t do everything at once. This means learning to say “no” to many things. I want to do it all, and I want my children to have every opportunity to grow and learn. But it is unrealistic to try to do everything. This could be as simple as saying you can’t bring a meal to a family who just had a baby this time. Maybe you can skip enrolling your child in soccer this season. Or it could be letting go of a commitment for the year – not tutoring or teaching Sunday school this year. Or perhaps you need to take a break from being part of a co-op so that you are only responsible for your own family and can make up a schedule to fit your needs and desires.
You need to fill your time with your priorities and eliminate those things that are not as important in this season so you can thrive as a homeschool mom!
3. Create routines.
Another way to thrive as a homeschool mom is to set up routines and automated systems. These are necessary so we don’t waste mental and physical energy on things we do regularly. Routines which save time and energy are meal planning (a schedule of meals for the week or month so you know what to buy and what to thaw and/or cook each day), meal routines (what needs to be done for meal preparation and cleanup and who cooks, sets the table, clears and cleans dishes, wipes the table, sweeps the floor after the meal) daily tidying of your home, making a cleaning/chore chart (yes, teach your kids to help you around the house!) I even have a morning routine and evening routine of self-care. These routines enable us to not be overwhelmed on a daily basis!
Routines are essential if you want to thrive as a homeschool mom!
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4. Set goals.
Once you know what is an essential priority (point 2), you can set goals. Having goals is imperative, for, along with knowing your priorities, goals give you direction. Instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you can live intentionally. After all, as Zig Ziglar says, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Dream big with long-term goals, and then break them down into short-term goals.
Setting goals can also help with your mindset. If you know you are working towards a goal, it doesn’t feel like each day is the same thing every day. While our real purpose is to glorify and enjoy God, it helps to also have a sense of purpose in working towards a goal, for as Cathy Heller says, “Purpose is the opposite of depression.”
Making goals outside of homeschooling and mothering will give you purpose and help you thrive as a homeschool mom!
5. Make a Plan.
Having a plan is a key to sanity as a homeschool mom! Indeed, with all the things we need to do with my children in homeschooling and all the things we want to do with our lives, not having a plan causes us to run around in circles and feel like we’re getting nowhere.
In some ways, I am a free spirit, so when I tried scheduling in the past, I found schedules confining. But I am also a Type A personality who wants to get things done, and thus I was frustrated at perceived lack of productivity. So I approached scheduling with a new attitude. I read books on managing my time better and setting goals. Then I bought a planner and began a weekly and daily planning time involving scheduling my important (prioritized) tasks first and then arranging all the “small rocks” in the leftover time slots using time blocking. You may need to figure out what style of planning suits you best, but do make a plan to organize your time!
You also need to plan your children’s homeschool schedule. This could be a separate planner from your own. You will need to look at the priorities for their education – what is most important for them to learn while they are at home (long-term learning) or this year (short-term learning)? You may also want to make goals or help your children define goals for the year. Then you will want to look at how many lessons are in a curriculum and how many days of school you will meet. From here you can sketch out a plan in pencil of how many lessons you need to do a month and a week. Finally, each week make up a daily schedule or list of what needs to get done each day that week. (I like lists for my children’s homeschool because as older learners now, they know what they need to do for the day and can take however long they need for an assignment. On the assignments we do together, I schedule a time block with them. (i.e. 10 – 11 AM Latin) Indeed, make a plan so you can thrvie as a homeschool mom!
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6. Take time for self-care.
Self-care is implementing all of the above steps, but also planning time for things that you enjoy. As homeschool moms, we are in a season of giving a lot of ourselves to our children, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t have anything to give. If possible, we need to strike a balance between giving to our families (and so fulfilling our calling as wives and mothers), and taking care of ourselves by making sure we get breaks for refreshment.
Getting exercise and fresh air are a vital part of self-care, so you may want to start with taking regular walks. I love to walk early in the morning while I pray, for example, or go on walks with my husband to get some alone time with him. When my kids were younger, I’d pack them up into a bike trailer and take a bike ride. I was with them but getting exercise, sunshine and a sense of alone time.
You know what kinds of things fill you up – time to read or write, alone time if you are an introvert, a get-together with friends if you are an extrovert, a date night with your husband, etc. Make time in your schedule for some of these things in the next week, and make sure to add in breaks and self-care regularly!
If anything, start with making time with God a priority! This is the best form of self-care!
Learning to thrive (not just survive) as a homeschool mom is a journey. These tips will help you get started on the path to enjoying your life so you can thrive, instead of just survive!
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