In life, what we all really want is joy. We want to feel happy and fulfilled and enjoy our lives. Since homeschool is a huge part of who we are, we need to find joy in our homeschool if we want joyful lives. Here are a few things that have worked for me.
They say if Mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy, but the reverse is also true for me. When my kids are whiny it ruins my whole day. No one will be in a good mood all the time, but I’ve found it helps our happiness a lot if I am consistent with my kids. Consistency with our routine, with chores, and with discipline makes all the difference in my kids’ attitudes and behaviors. When kids know what to expect they whine less and behave better. When we all work together daily to keep up with our messes, we are happier. And if I always mean what I say and don’t waffle, they don’t question what I say or talk back. Having mutual loving and respectful dialogue and kind behavior brings me joy, and consistency is the key.
Being intentional with my time also brings me joy. It’s easy for me to fall into the trap of adding too much into our school day. It can feel like a mad dash to squeeze everything in – too many activities, too many lessons, too many worksheets. But when I step back and look at what that cute crossword puzzle worksheet is actually going to do for us, I come up blank. There are valuable ways to spend our time, and there are time wasters. If I am truly intentional as I plan our lessons and our activities, we only do the things that build and teach us. Now, I’m not saying that every single minute during homeschool needs to be spent packing as much knowledge in as we can. Quite the opposite actually – getting rid of all the little time wasters and unimportant things frees us up and takes off a lot of pressure. Cut out the busy work and you save yourself the time it took to find all those worksheets AND the time it takes to complete it.
Match Your Teaching Style
We worry a lot about teaching our kids in their learning style. But if you want to have joy, it’s just as important that parents teach in their teaching style. You might be an adventurous, on-the-go, field trip type. Perhaps you love projects and painting and creativity. Or you may prize the scholarship of spelling bees, little known facts, and historical maps. You may be a read-aloud parent who focuses on reading books above all else. Whatever kind you are, embrace it.
Karen and I are the classic example of this. She is crafty and creative and loves projects. I am the opposite – I like ready made printables (especially maps), and discussions. Her homeschool room is full of art supplies and her homeschool day is full of hands-on projects. My homeschool room is minimalist and my homeschool day consists of us reading, discussing, and doing printables. If I tried to do constant projects all the time, it would drive me crazy, and quite frankly, I just wouldn’t do it. Likewise, if she tried to teach in my style she would feel uninspired and unmotivated.
You have to find a style that makes you happy. That doesn’t mean my kids never do a project and Karen’s kids never make a map or have a scholarly discussion. We do. But we don’t fill every single day with things that make us unhappy. We’re better, more joyful teachers when we teach in our style. I spend most of our time in the things that make me comfortable, and then throw in an occasional field trip or project to keep things interesting. And yes, I usually have to leave the supplies on the table and just walk out while my kids craft away.
Know Your Limits
You only have so much time, energy, money, and patience. Trying to stretch any of these to the limit will heap stress on you, not happiness. Stay well within your limits if you want to have happiness.
Know Your Time & Energy Limits
If you pack your schedule so full that you are running from one activity to the next, always running late, and trying to figure out how on earth you’ll cram learning in, then you’re too busy. Say no to things that run you ragged, even if they’re good things.
Know Your Money Limits
Homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive. A library card is the most valuable tool a homeschooler has. It’s tempting to buy every single shiny homeschool supply and book out there, but fairly often we buy way more than we actually use. Save yourself money and stress by staying within your budget and saying no to the extras that you probably won’t use anyway.
Know Your Patience Limits
The trickiest part about homeschooling is that you’re at home all the time. When I’m at work or in a social engagement, I know there’s an end to it. My patience can withstand the activity because I can count down the hours or minutes until I’m done. But home is forever. I’m always there and I don’t get to punch out at the end of the day. But although home is forever, my patience is not. Some days I’ve just had enough, and I can’t be a patient, nice Mommy eternally without a break. Know your patience limit and give yourself a break. Don’t press on through the math lesson when everyone is frustrated and angry. Once the patience is gone, learning won’t happen anyway. Take a break when you need to, for both your sanity and your happiness (your kids will thank you too).
Make “Homeschool Mom” Your Job
Being a mom is a full-time job. Being a homeschool mom is a fuller time job. So claim the title. Own it.
I’m not saying you can’t work if you want to; I’m just saying you don’t have to agree to every request people put on you because you’re “just a homeschool mom.” Without any explanation at all, you can say no to people who ask you to babysit their kids, go shopping during the day, schedule appointments in the middle of school, or any other number of hoops they want you to jump through. Learn to say no. Say it often and with a smile. If you can’t say no, then say, “Oh, I wish I could, but that won’t work in my schedule.” People never ask a full-time teacher to skip work to do them a favor. You are a full-time teacher. It’s your job. Don’t apologize for it and don’t let people trample over you.
Take Time For You
Everyone always says this. I hated it when I had babies and toddlers and people told me to take time for myself. I didn’t even have time for a shower, much less for anything extra I actually wanted to do. But as much as I hated it, I found out it’s true. Whether it’s 30 seconds of deep breathing or a girls’ weekend away with your friends, take time for you. You only have so much of yourself you can keep pouring into others before you will dry out. You need to fill yourself up with joy in order to give it to others. My joy is as simple as a mug of hot cocoa and a good book. What fills you may be entirely different, but whatever it is, take time for you.
Remember that having a happy homeschool is worth it. Learn to say yes to the things that bring you joy and no to all the others. Keep life simple and unhurried. Don’t deplete your resources and don’t deplete yourself. Too often we try to make EVERYONE happy. You can’t. But you can build a joyful life for yourself, and it will naturally spread to others too.
Keep going if you’ve ever worried over how to really have an effective homeschool schedule. Find out why I threw our schedule out and created a school day rhythm instead.