Our First Year of Homeschooling – Keeping my Sanity

One of the most common questions I get about our first year of homeschooling relates to how I managed to not lose my sanity what with having the kids at home all the time. Well, this is a pretty valid question! When our kids go to school, we mamas get some time to ourselves – whether to finish house work, run errands, or just relax and do something for ourselves. This is essential and we must never feel we are being “selfish” when we look forward to some time alone. Being at home with the kids all day can be overwhelming and it can be challenging to find a balance between doing school work and managing our responsibilities at home.

Last year all my routines changed. On top of what I already doing I now had a big chunk of my day devoted to planning lessons and teaching two different grades. I sometimes felt I was back in school! A few weeks into homeschooling, I knew I had to be intentional about certain things to maintain my sanity and to avoid overwhelm. Here are somethings I tried to do –

I did my best to wake up early. Not just a few minutes before the kids woke up, but enough to be able to have some time with God in Bible reading and prayer. This was always a game changer – because when I missed out on doing this, something almost always went wrong! Waking up before the girls also helped me get ready for the school day. If there was something I needed to do for lessons, I tried to finish that in the morning as well. I would plan and prep meals and get a load of laundry in the machine. This meant that once the girls woke up, I could give them my full attention.

I learned to prioritize my daily responsibilities. The night before I would make a list on my phone of all the things I needed to get done the next day. This included even trivial things like – defrost the chicken, dust furniture, answer so and so’s email, etc. This may seem useless to do, but this really helped me know exactly what I needed to do.  Once I had my list, I prioritized what needed to get done first and did that. If you didn’t guess already, I love to check off tasks from the list once it is done! I tried my best to stick to completing the list, but some days other unplanned things did take priority and certain tasks got carried forward to the next day. This is fine generally, but the danger is when it happens more often than not. That is when we need a reset, and that brings me to my next point.

I learned to say NO. Let me be honest. I didn’t always complete all the things I needed to do every day. But most days I did get all the things done that were necessary for my home to be in a peaceful state. And that’s only because I sometimes said no. It was often tempting to say yes to every sudden plan that arose on a weekday. After all, isn’t that why we homeschool? To have the flexibility? Well, yes. However, as true as that is and as much as we enjoy this flexibility that comes with homeschooling, we would really get no work done if we said yes to everything outside of our routine. We definitely did take a break sometimes and caught up with friends, but was rare on a weekday.

I have tried to be more organized because it’s definitely hard to work in disarray. We did a reset every evening to put away toys and other scattered items. This really set us up for success the next morning. I often remind the girls – “Everything in its place and a place for everything.” Now, we did slack off sometimes specially on holidays but on school days we did our best to stay on track. The girls finished their morning chores before breakfast so we could work in a neat environment until we finish school. Then all the toys came out and the place was a mess again! 🙂 We had a designated shelf for each child’s books and stationary which made it easier for them to take their things and put them back.

Training my children to get involved in the workings of the house really helped ease my load. Giving them age-appropriate chores to do round the house taught them to be responsible, encouraged team work, and helped them learn life skills.  It was important for me that they understood that it is the responsibility of all the members of the family to tend to the house and not just the mother or father.

I taught my kids to entertain themselves. I believe children benefit from independent play as much as they do from playing and engaging with family and peers. After we finished school for the day, the girls would often listen to an audiobook while drawing or playing with Legos. Or they would read or play in their room. This freed me up to get some of my writing or other work done.

Having said that, I also tried to spend a little while every day (maybe even 10-15 minutes) engaging with the girls doing something that was not “school” related. I found this helped bridge the gap between “teacher” and “mom.” It was good for them and calming for me as well. We would play a board game or watch something together, colour or draw, build Legos, or often I was invited to their pretend restaurant or movie show. 🙂

Connecting with other homeschooling mamas has been great too. Hearing of the struggles, challenges, and successes of others always encouraged me and reminded me that I wasn’t alone.

It has also been important for me to take time and do things by myself. I enjoy reading and writing, working on my shop products, catching up with friends, teaching Sunday School and sometimes even window shopping! I’ve been blessed to have family and friends who are always willing to have the girls when I need to step out of the house. If you have people you trust in your life who offer to do that for you, I would definitely encourage you to take them up on their offer!

On some days I found myself doubting our decision. I would worry about social aspects, or doubt my own ability to teach, or sometimes it just was one of those ‘bad days.’ At such times I found it helpful to remind myself why we made the decision to homeschool. There were many reasons, but the main one was because the God called us to do it. I reminded myself of Deuteronomy 6:4 – 9.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (emphasis added)

And that helped. A lot. It also helped to remind myself that I actually enjoy doing this. I witnessed the kids learning and growing, and that helped too.

To all those feeling called to homeschool, but are worried about how they’ll manage it all… let me encourage you friend, if God has called you to this, He will provide in every way – material, spiritual, emotional, and any other way you need. He will equip you and bring the right people in your lives to enable you to walk the path He has planned for you.

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