I don’t know about you, but this school year is certainly so much different than I could have imagined a year ago! Our family has been homeschooling now for 7 years, but nothing could have prepared me for this school year. It can feel very lonely, overwhelming and frustrating, especially if you weren’t counting on having school at home this year.
As you transition to schooling at home, whether it be through homeschooling or virtual school, there are so many great ideas out there…blogs to read, books to give ideas and tons of Facebook posts from other mamas. As you read all the ideas, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you can’t do it all. Guess what…you’re right…you can’t do it at all. No other mom is doing it all either and if she tells you differently, she either never sleeps or she’s lying. Ha!
Here are some tips that have helped our family as we navigate through this school year. Remember, these are just ideas. Keep the ones that work for you and toss out the ones that don’t work for you. When we feel overwhelmed, sometimes we end up not doing anything because we don’t know where to start. Let me encourage you to pick ONE thing to start with. Pick out something and stick with it. Consistency really does pay off. You just may be surprised at some of the special memories that will be made during this unexpected time.
1. Start the day together.
Our kids range in age from 1st grade through 6th grade, so they are obviously at very different stages in their learning development. But each day we start our day learning something together. This has ended up becoming a special time for all of us. Right now we are all memorizing Psalm 103 together. So we recite our verses together. We are also learning all the states and capitals and I read a chapter out of a book we have chosen to read.
There are tons of things you could do together—read a poem, sing a song, share prayer requests, etc. By coming together to start your day, you get to all focus on something TOGETHER and all learn alongside each other. There’s something special about your child watching you learn alongside them. My kids are killing me at knowing their states and capitals. They really enjoy “teaching” their mama.
2. Set up a loose schedule to help you run your day.
One of the beauties of homeschooling is the flexibility. If you need to spend an extra day on a subject, you can do that or if you need to take a day off, you can do that too. However, you don’t want to be so scattered that you’re not making school a priority. So try to make a loose schedule of the things you’d like to accomplish each day to keep you accountable. If you are in a virtual school program, you may have a certain schedule where you have to attend zoom meetings, etc. Make sure those are priorities. Also, remember to put things on the schedule like working out or riding bikes to get some exercise as well.
3. Read Together.
If you’ve never read the book, The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids, you need to read it! It was an eye-opening book for me!
"Reading aloud, as simple and quiet and insignificant as it may seem, is a way for us to pause, enjoy, and delight in these kids, in this day…These moments will live in our children’s hearts even when our kids no longer live in our homes. I read aloud to my kids because I know that my years with them are short. Because I long for a deep, soulful, real connection with each of them…these are moments we will never regret. Even better, these are moments our kids will treasure for the rest of their lives" (Sarah Mackenzie).
My husband was not much of a reader growing up and I started not enjoying it in college when I was assigned to read books that I did not enjoy. After reading Sarah’s book, it made me realize how much reading has to offer and how I wanted our kids to have a different view of reading. I love how we can share ideas and escape together as we read. 1/3 of Sarah’s book is devoted to reading lists, broken down by ages, for your kids. I love how she makes it easy: she tells you what books to get that are so good. I don’t have time to sort through a thousand different library books, not knowing which books are going to be keepers and which are not. Her book makes it so easy because every book in there is great!
4. Take a Fun Class.
Have you noticed a hobby your child is drawn to but just haven’t had the time to explore it more? Here’s the chance to do that. Take an online cooking class together, learn how to paint or draw from an online guide. Here are some online resources we’ve used in the past, but there are so many great options!
5. Have a Catch Up Day.
If possible, make Fridays a Catch Up Day. We don’t plan curriculum on this day, but instead use it to get caught up. If I see that one of our kids is struggling in a certain subject, we do extra practice. If everything is in order, we may use it to work on an art project or to play an educational game. This is also a great day to have kids do “reports” or recite things they’ve been memorizing. It’s easy for this to get overlooked in a homeschool setting, but it’s important for kids to practice public speaking. We record them on our iphones or call a friend or grandparent to hear them recite.
6. Look at the Big Picture.
Right now it’s so easy to get distracted. Things are just weird in our world right now. It’s all too easy to become negative and to not want to do anything productive. I am continually reminded that I have to fix my eyes on Jesus EACH and EVERY day or I will fall right back into this distraction and emptiness and numb out. Another great book recommendation is Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen. She says it well:
"When we shift from the thoughts that distract and choose to fix our thoughts single-mindedly on Him, everything shifts! The enemy is trying to distract our single-mindedness. Winning is focusing on Christ. If we think on Christ, if we zoom in and are consumed with Him, then everything else grows strangely dim. But the enemy wants you to focus on anything but Jesus… part of quitting feeling anxious is finding an altogether different reason to live. When Christ is our prize and heaven is our home, we get less anxious because we know our mission, our hope, our God cannot be taken from us."
Remember that you’re not alone. Mamas from all over the globe are just doing the best they can and trying to make it through another day. But Jesus sees it ALL…and He knows you better than you know yourself. Sometimes it’s just easier to choose distraction and white noise because we don’t want to sit still and allow our minds to be filled with the power of Christ. It takes discipline and faith and trust and it can all seem scary right now. But when we focus on Christ, something inside shifts. We know that He is bigger and better than anything this world has to offer or try to take from us.
We’re all in this together…taking it one day at a time! Press on mamas…we can do this! - Amilee Sanders, S&GK Sales Rep and Sales Team Educator