Posted on

Small Goals and Baby Steps

small goals and baby steps
small goals and baby steps

I remember years ago when I still had four kids at home how we dreaded the time change every year (well, twice a year)! When the time changed, a regular question for the next few weeks was, “Are you guys back on schedule after the time change?” And my typical reply was, “Yes!” Because I began preparing for the time change a week or so ahead of time. I slowly altered my kids’ bedtime and wake-up time by about 10 or 15 minutes each day so they’d be adjusted when the time change happened. It worked like a charm.

Just kidding! I was like nearly everyone else. The time change was horrible! It threw us off for days (or weeks)!

In reality, I usually forgot about the time change until the night it happened. My kids and I were usually exhausted and cranky for at least a week afterward. It’s amazing how much one little hour can change our whole reality, isn’t it?

small goals and baby steps

Small Goals and Baby Steps 

So here is the conclusion I came to as I gave some thought to the time change and how it affected us:

If one little hour can alter our schedules and our attitudes, why do we (at least I) tend to downplay the significance of “baby steps” in our own attempts to make improvements in our lives?  

I would love to say that I have always embraced the importance of the baby steps I’ve taken toward having a better attitude daily, eating more healthfully, encouraging my husband, kids, and friends more often, exercising…and the list goes on!  Instead, I tended to dismiss small changes as unimportant and focus only on the final goal.


Why do we dismiss small goals and baby steps and try to go straight to our goal? (Even when we know it’s harder and doesn’t usually work very well?) 

I have come to believe that much of this type of thinking comes from our misconceptions about not only those around us but also of ourselves.  How many times have you seen the mom in the grocery store with four well-behaved kids in tow, calmly shopping, reading ingredient labels, comparing prices?  Ok, maybe never, but many of us have the notion that WE should be that woman!

I, for example, am fairly often “accused” of being organized!  I try to dress neatly (My closet is a disaster, but I happen to be a master at “hide and seek.”), I never forget my earrings (Only because I never take them off!), and I remember to bring my organizer and a pen wherever I go. (I think I actually have an organizer addiction!) My appearance tends to lead folks into thinking that I am well organized, and apparently I don’t outwardly appear to be flustered or frustrated often.  Both of these things are occasionally true of me, however, they are not the norm!

So how do I move toward actually being organized instead of just appearing to be organized to others? How do I make changes that will help make my home and my homeschool run more smoothly each day? 

Set a goal to make smaller goals!

Yep. My first goal was to make it my goal to set smaller goals!  I know that I need to have something to work toward, but I want that work to be positive and enriching in my life and NOT make me feel like a constant failure!  My goals (and your goals, too) need to be small, do-able goals.

I’m also keeping in mind that, as a homeschooling mom, I believe I am the main role model my kids are likely to follow. I want to model for my children a positive approach to setting and accomplishing goals. In addition to that, my desire is to emphasize having a positive attitude along the way!


But wait! First, give yourself credit for what you’re already doing well!

A good example of setting a small (do-able) goal was years ago when I decided to help my son, who was then two years old, to walk.  He has Down Syndrome and, although I suspect he would have learned to walk eventually on his own, was showing no indication of interest in walking. When he reached his second birthday and was still crawling or being carried everywhere he went, I felt like a failure!  I was so disappointed in myself for not taking the time or making enough effort to teach him how to walk.

After beating myself up a little bit, I realized that his verbal skills and sign language skills were pretty amazing. He absolutely loved to help his brother empty the dishwasher, and he enjoyed helping his sister and me load wet clothes into the dryer and unload them once dry.  These things that I worked hard to help him accomplish did not erase the fact that I had carried him around rather than working with him to learn to walk. However, they did encourage me that I was NOT a total failure.

I had put time and effort into teaching him age-appropriate communication skills.  I had encouraged him to be a contributing family member. (I believe all kids, no matter how young, feel special and have a positive kind of pride that comes with completing chores and playing a role in caring for the whole family.) It made me feel better about what I’d already done and gave me confidence that I could move forward when I first gave myself credit for what I had already done well.

Next, think about your big goal and write down some baby steps for accomplishing it.

So, how did I “solve” the walking problem?  I sat down and wrote myself some goals.  They started very, very small.

  • At first, I pulled him to a standing position when he wanted to be picked up.
  • Then I picked him up as usual.
  • Next, I encouraged him to stand up on his own and reach for me before I would pick him up.

We took tiny, tiny steps toward the goal, and in about 6 months, he was walking on his own!  Yes, that seemed like a long, long time, but it was not nearly as stressful a process as it could have been if I had pushed too hard and caused anger or rebellion to develop in him or more frustration and anger in myself! Or if I had simply set a larger goal to teach him to walk without breaking down the steps along the way.

Once you reach your goal, set new goals and write down baby steps to accomplish them.

Yes, we still had to practice walking on uneven surfaces, balancing, running, jumping…so many other related activities.  But the great part was that, by that time, I had complete confidence that we would be able to meet those new goals. Our success with the baby steps we had accomplished and the goal we had attained gave me that confidence!

The best part, in fact, was that I knew as he grew he would understand that I was (and still am) his ally in the process of learning and not the enemy!  My hope was to bond and foster positive give-and-take rather than causing him to feel hopeless or rushed.

How This Affected My Attitude

How did this tie in with my attitude?  I stopped letting myself feel guilty for waiting until he was two to focus on walking. I stopped rejecting the praise that came when others saw the work we had put into walking for the past six months. I gave myself and my son credit for our hard work and was proud of what we had done!

I found that the “winning combination” for me was to allow myself to achieve just a little at a time and then make sure that I cheered myself on when each goal was accomplished instead of sliding back into old habits of self-criticism or guilt!  It seems to me that keeping this focus actually empowers me to continue to achieve and to smile as I do so! It makes my focus a positive one rather than a defeating journey in which I beat myself up a lot and teach my kids that scowling is a normal way of life.

What do you want to accomplish?

What are the goals you hope to accomplish?

  • Do you want to keep your house cleaner?
  • Want to find time to exercise?
  • Do you have a goal to study your Bible each day?
  • Maybe you are having difficulty keeping your kids current on their school assignments and want to change that.

Try setting small goals and baby steps!

1. Choose ONE change to make.

Set a goal to make ONE change to make the situation a little better. For example, if you find that the kids are sleeping later, dragging around in the mornings once they finally get up, and that school is beginning later and later and you feel frazzled, stop feeling frustrated and guilty!

Don’t try to completely change your entire morning routine all at once. You’ll just end up even more frustrated and defeated. Resist that temptation! Instead, choose one change to make. 

The first change I made was…breakfast!  I made a breakfast plan and got organized first thing in the morning.  For example, if we were to have muffins, I set out the ingredients the night before, mixed them up and baked them in the morning, and set out steaming muffins and glasses of cold water or milk at each child’s place before I woke them up.

My kids enjoyed the peace that came with me not rushing around all morning. I enjoyed the peace of knowing I had breakfast under control before morning even arrived!

2. Then make one more change.

After you’ve made your first change and given everyone time to adjust, choose one more change. For my family, my second step was teaching my kids to go straight from breakfast to doing morning chores. Once they adjusted to that, I chose one more change and so on until, finally, we accomplished our ultimate goal of staying current on school assignments.

Does it always work? Nope. Does it usually work? Yes!

Yes, it is true that I still forgot the time change.  It is also true, however, that I recovered from my oversight pretty quickly with no permanent damage done!  I still have a messy closet, but I don’t let it make me feel like a failure, and I don’t worry that I am doomed to a life of disorganization and clutter.

I attempt to remind myself, when necessary, that the closet just hasn’t made itself a high enough priority yet in my list of important goals (and baby steps toward accomplishing them), and I smile when people make comments about how organized I am!

You May Also Like:

how to survive homeschooling your teenage son 990x990 1

How to Survive Homeschooling Your Teenage Son

HHM 10 Reasons Why Im Glad I Was Homeschooled

10 Reasons Why I’m Glad I Was Homeschooled

WUH Want Your Kids to Love Reading Try This 500x715 1

Want Your Kids to Love Reading? Try This!

Posted on

Dear Burned Out Homeschool Mom

dear burned out homeschool mom
HHM Dear Burned Out Homeschool Mom PIN2
HHM Dear Burned Out Homeschool Mom PIN1

Are you having a hard day today? A hard week? Feeling exhausted? Frustrated? Ready to give up? Ready to ship your little sweeties off on the next big yellow bus that passes your house so you can take a break? I understand! I’ve been there too.

HHM Dear Burned Out Homeschool Mom FB

NOTE: Please read all the way to the bottom of this article and enter the Mother’s Day giveaway! I’ve partnered with a great group of bloggers to bless some moms by giving away FOUR $100 gift cards to the winners’ choice of Hobby Lobby,, grocery store of your choice, or a restaurant of your choice. 

I’ve been homeschooling for 24  years, and I’ve had many days when I thought I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was ready to give up. To pack up my kiddos and send them off to school somewhere…anywhere…so I could regain my sanity. You too? Yep, I get it!

So what can you do about it if you’re in that situation? Dealing with burnout is a very real and serious issue. However, there are some effective coping strategies that can help you relieve some of the pressure and get into a better routine.

1. Put on a happy face.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over my homeschool years is that I set the tone in my house. If I wake up feeling grouchy, my children will probably be grouchy that day too! But if I decide to try my best to be happy (or at least pleasant), my children often behave much better. Of course we all have days now and then when we just feel crummy. That’s life. But if we try most of the time to be pleasant, our children will (hopefully!) learn from our good examples and will be more pleasant too. And even if you don’t feel happy, do your best to act happy! You may even end up tricking yourself into feeling better. 🙂

However, there’s something important you need to keep in mind. If you think you’re truly depressed, you need to see a doctor you trust!

Depression can be dangerous and often isn’t something you can get over on your own or pretend away. If you wake up consistently feeling down,  please don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to seek medical help. Many of us have gone through depression. It’s so much better to admit it, seek help, and move toward feeling better! In fact, it’ll end up being better for you and your whole family. So don’t just “think about it.” If you’re depressed, get help. Now.

2. Take care of yourself.

I know. That’s easier said than done. But it’s also important. Necessary. For the good of your entire family, you must take care of yourself.  I don’t mean that you have to eat only organic fruits and vegetables, work out five days a week, sleep late every Saturday, and never deal with stress.

Those things would be nice, but they aren’t what I’m talking about, and they’re probably not always possible right now, anyway. But there are things you can do to take care of yourself. You may not be able to do all of them, but maybe you can do one or two things for yourself. Think about which of these things you can incorporate into your daily routine. Or maybe there’s something that’s not listed here that’s more important to you. Think about yourself and your own situation, and use these suggestions as starting points.

  • Read a book for fun.
  • Go for a walk with a friend–or even all by yourself.
  • Call a friend to chat for a few minutes.
  • Go on a date with your husband or have a girls’ night out with friends.
  • Try not to eat too much junk food.
  • Take a good vitamin supplement.
  • Get out in the sunshine as often as possible.
  • Turn on some music to enjoy while you do housework.
  • Take a “power nap.”
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Get to bed at a decent time.
  • Diffuse essential oils or burn a candle to make the house smell good.
  • Take a bubble bath, even if it’s early in the morning or late at night.
  • Dance.
  • Bake something for fun.
  • Write in a journal or keep a gratefulness journal.
  • Sit outside in the sun and be quiet and relax for a few minutes. 
  • Listen to an inspirational podcast.
  • Color or draw.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Perform a Random Act of Kindness.

3. Don’t stress about your homeschool.

Think it’s easier said than done? Maybe, but -believe it or not- your homeschool does NOT have to be perfect. You do NOT have to be a perfect teacher. Your children do NOT have to be perfect students.  Actually, ALL of these things can be perfectly IMperfect, and your kids will STILL turn out okay!

Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that public and private school teachers are just people? They’re just like you! There’s nothing magical or perfect about them, either! Give yourself a break and realize that the single most important thing you can do to be a good teacher is care about your students.  (And I’m willing to bet that you do care about them quite a lot!)

Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s important to have balance in your homeschool. Yes, your children do need to participate in outside activities like art or music lessons or church activities or sports if possible. But they don’t need to do these things every single day or every single evening. If you find yourself living in the car to get to all of those extracurricular activities to the point where you (and maybe your children too!) are tired and miserable, cut back on what you’re doing!

Or it could be that you’re in the opposite situation. Maybe you never get out of the house with your children. In that case, choose one or two activities to begin participating in. Start small. Maybe meet some friends at the park once a week or so to let the kids play and the moms visit. Maybe let your children begin a class or sport of some kind. Maybe your local library has a storytime. Think about what might work for you and your children, talk with other moms in your local homeschool group or local area, and get out of the house once in a while for some fun!

4. Pray about it.

Personally, I’m the worst about worrying, feeling helpless, worrying some more, and then finally praying about it when I’m not sure how to handle a situation. I don’t know why I do it, but I often think of praying as a last resort instead of a first response. I have to remind myself sometimes that God cares about everything we go through–whether it’s related to our homeschools, finances, personal lives, or other areas. I guess sometimes I feel like I’m bothering God with my small problems when there are so many more important situations going on with so many people. But guess what? God cares about our homeschools! He cares when we feel burned out. So don’t wait to pray until you feel like things are out of control. 

5. Ask for help from friends or family.

Sometimes we are reluctant to ask for help from friends and family members. We may feel like we don’t have people we can ask for help. If you do have family members close by, ask them for help! If you don’t have family close by or if your family members can’t or won’t help, ask a friend.

It’s so important to be part of a local homeschool group, church, playgroup, babysitting co-op, or some other kind of supportive group or organization if you possibly can because most of us at one time or another need help! You may be able to trade babysitting with another family or hire a teen who’s willing to work for a rate you can afford. Local churches or homeschool groups may even have volunteers who are willing to give you a break once in a while. It won’t hurt to ask!

6. Keep this in mind.

Most of us go through burnout at one time or another. It’s not fun. It’s not something we want to go through. But it is normal. And it is possible to get through it and keep on going with a happy life and a happy and productive homeschool! Going through burnout does not mean that you have to send your children to school somewhere in order to feel better again. It doesn’t mean you’ll always feel this way. It just means that you need to make a few changes in order to handle things until you feel better. It means you need to reach out for help. It means you need to give yourself some grace for a while.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Wendy-Signature-Transparent-Backgroundxoxo.png

Want more information about preventing or dealing with homeschool burnout and other related topics?

Here are some additional articles that I think you’ll find helpful! 

Preventing Homeschool Burnout

Want to Prevent Burnout? Try Year Round Homeschooling!

Worried About Finishing the School Year?

Combat the Homeschool Blahs

If you’ve gone through homeschool burnout, what have you done to get through it? We want to hear from you!  

Mother’s Day Giveaway


If you read (at the top of this article) about this giveaway, you already know I’ve partnered with a great group of bloggers to bless some moms by giving away FOUR $100 gift cards to the winners’ choice of Hobby Lobby,, grocery store of your choice, or a restaurant of your choice.

I know the Rafflecopter below has quite a few entry options, but each blogger generously chipped in her own money to bring you this giveaway, so I hope you’ll take a few moments to complete all the entries. And the more entries you do, the better your chances of winning!

The giveaway ends May 7 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the email to claim her prize (so be sure you check your email on May 8 to see if you won!). By entering this giveaway, you will be added to the email lists of the participating bloggers. (We hope you’ll love being on their email lists! Give them a try! If not, you can unsubscribe.) Please be sure to read the Terms & Conditions upon entering the giveaway. By entering, you agree and acknowledge your understanding of the Terms & Conditions.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted on

Worried About Finishing the School Year?

worried about finishing the school year

The holidays are long gone, and your homeschool year may be drawing to a close in the next few weeks. Are you excited? Or are you tired or discouraged? Are you wondering if you’re jeopardizing your child’s future by not sending him or her to public or private school? Are you worried about finishing (or not finishing) the school year?

NOTE: I republish this article almost every year. Why? Because every year at about this time, many moms start to worry about finishing the school year. They start to worry that they aren’t going to have time to get through everything they need to finish by the end of May (or whatever other date they’ve set to finish the school year). I truly hope this is an encouragement to you as you finish the school year and get ready to take a break over the summer! And for those who homeschool year round, I  hope you find some encouragement too!

Worried about finishing the school year 2

So often we homeschooling moms put tremendous pressure on ourselves to make sure our students–our children–learn everything they need to know. We certainly don’t want to leave any gaps in their education, right?

I’m here to tell you to relax! Don’t let homeschooling become a source of stress and pressure. (I know that’s easier said that done. I have to remind myself of this often!!) And if it already causes you stress, now is the time to begin changing your thinking!

You may be wondering how I can suggest such a thing. After all, we’re talking about the futures of our children! Yes, we certainly are. And guess what? God has it under control! Lately I’ve been reminding myself that it is an honor and a privilege to homeschool my children. I truly believe that this is what God called me to do, and I’m happy (ok…most of the time I’m happy) to do it! And if this is what He wants for my children, I must also believe that He can take care of the outcome.

Have you heard the phrase, “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called”? It’s true! No matter how hard we work, we will never be good enough, smart enough, prepared enough, or patient enough to homeschool. But the good news is that we aren’t even supposed to be all of those things! We’re just supposed to be willing. God can (and will) handle the rest.

So if you’re dreading the rest of the school year or lamenting the mistakes you’ve made earlier in the year, take heart! Remember that God loves your children even more than you do; He gave them to you because He knew that you would be the best mom for the job.

Are you leaving gaps in your children’s education? Yes! Nobody can teach or learn everything there is to know about everything. Do you mess up sometimes? Absolutely! We all do. But if you will simply remind yourself that you’re doing the job God wants you to do and all you need to do is the best you can do, things will turn out just right. God wants us to lean on Him. If we could do things on our own, we wouldn’t need Him, right? So it’s absolutely perfectly fine that you can’t do it yourself. You’re not supposed to be able to.

I hope you will finish off the school year depending on God to lead you and knowing that He will do just that. And besides being good for you, you’ll be setting a wonderful example for your children!

So on the practical side, what should you do if you don’t think you have time to “get it all done” before the end of the school year? Here are a few suggestions to consider:

1. Go through the remainder of your curriculum and pick out what’s most important.

Make a plan to teach only those concepts/lessons. It’s ok if you don’t teach every single lesson in every single subject. Honest. In fact, the majority of what we learn, we forget. The most important thing is that you expose your children to the information and ideas that you feel are the most important and that you teach your children how to find important information when they need it.

2. Finish your math and English grammar.

Because the material for next year will probably build on what your children have learned this year, you might want to try to finish at least those two subjects–even if you have to do it over the summer.

3. Or pick your curriculum back up at the beginning of your next school year.

If you just can’t stand the idea of leaving some lessons untaught (or if you just can’t finish your math or English grammar by the end of the school year), choose a stopping point for each subject and then pick back up where you left off next school year.

4. Get as far as you can by the end of the school year, and then make a plan to teach the rest over the summer.

Choose one lesson or concept to teach each week over the summer. By doing this, you can finish the curriculum in a more relaxed way without the pressure of cramming everything in before the traditional end of the school year.

5. Adopt a year-round homeschool approach.

By doing this, you can give yourself time off when you need it here and there, but you will still have more time to finish your curriculum each year. If you have a student who needs more time to learn and who doesn’t do well when rushed, this may be perfect for you! Or if you have a student who doesn’t retain what he learns over the summer, this could be your answer. This way of homeschooling also eliminates the need to spend the first few weeks of the new school year reviewing last year’s lessons.

In fact, if you’re interested in a great homeschool calendar/planner, take a look at this post! It may help you with your plans.

The Benefits of Homeschooling Year Round 2

I pray that each person who reads this post will have a blessed and happy rest of the school year and that you will allow God to work through you to give you the best school year you’ve ever had! Blessings to you and yours this year!

Do you try to finish your entire curriculum each year? Why or why not? If you do, what are your “secrets” for getting it all done? 

worried about finishing the school year pinterest

Posted on

Journal of a Not-So-Ready Homeschool Mom: Unboxing Our Homeschool

journal of a not so ready homeschool mom unboxing our homeschool
unboxing homeschool books

Are you a not-so-ready homeschool mom like me? It’s been several months since our ready-or-not homeschool officially convened. I’m tempted to classify them as long, hard, slogging days. But if I take a step back and put on my objective lens, they haven’t been quite that bad. They just don’t look anything like the idyllic portraits of homeschooling I see on Instagram…it takes a hot minute before my objective self can remember that Instagram isn’t the standard I’m holding to. And sometimes I do have to remind myself to choose joy in my everyday homeschool. Because it is a choice. It’s not something that magically happens when everything is going according to plan…obviously!

Last month, I shared about the initial focus I’d set for our homeschool, and I’d say we’ve done well at it. We’re all getting into the flow of new rhythms, setting aside things that aren’t critical in this season, and building our gratitude muscle by constantly looking for things to add to our thankful jar. In evaluating the first few weeks of our journey, I’m struck by the transformation I’m seeing, even in these very early days. I might’ve once likened it to peeling away the layers of an onion; but having recently dived into our first new curriculum, the image of unboxing is much more appealing. Life is like a box, as the saying goes. Maybe it’s chocolate, maybe it’s books, maybe it’s the layers of yourself or your kids you thought you understood. We’re all unboxing something.

not-so-ready homeschool mom

Unboxing Me: The Not-So-Ready Homeschool Mom

I am still a mom trying to focus on kids, a household, graduate school, freelance work, and pandemic survival. All those layers, for better or worse, are still with me. Every. Single. One. Perhaps I can hold out hope for a few of those things to be unboxed someday. But for now, I’ll be grateful for these new layers of myself that I’ve noticed:

New Appreciation

I am becoming tuned into the unique perspectives of my children. My daughter sees life as one big quest to discover all the things, and she asks the most amazing questions. I spent three years of high school in a Socratic program and distinctly remember agonizing over my inability to ask questions. It’s fascinating to me how quick she is to question pert near everything. There are far more questions happening in our homeschool than there are answers, and I’m learning to be ok with that. I don’t need to have all the words. She is so quick and so sharp; I am learning to appreciate her innate curiosity and talent for learning. This is the beauty of our homeschool journey.

New Perspective

I am resting in the unconventional nature of my role during this season. While my husband’s career in live events is in a strange holding pattern and I’ve assumed the role of primary provider, I don’t get to do as much of the teaching as I’d like. And that’s ok. Everything we need for this day has been generously given to us: my opportunities to work, his opportunities to be here and participate in our homeschool journey. This won’t always be the case. Occasionally, I have to unbox the guilt that wants to grip my heart for not being fully focused on the kids. By unboxing it, I can name it and release it bit by tenacious bit.

Unboxing the Kids

I remember thinking when I was a brand new mom that I would not let anyone put my kids in a box. To be honest, I’m not sure I did so well with that; I’ve certainly learned it’s not as easy as it sounded back then. I have renewed that commitment to myself to allow my kids to explore the world on their terms and to discover and follow their passions free from conventional standards. This is quite a shift from the boxy classroom approach they’ve had the past couple of years; the sudden freedom to not conform has certainly taken some getting used to.

They’ve been such champions this season. Cantankerous? A little. Fidgety? Most days. Messy? More than I’d like to handle on occasion. But they’ve also pivoted on a dime, adapting as their ready-or-not homeschool teachers have gotten their bearings, and kept chins up despite the unfamiliar nature of all the things.

New Expectations

I knew that the expectations they’d formed during their time in a traditional classroom would take some time to undo, so I’ve not been concerned with packing our homeschool days with schedules or rigid structure; I just wanted us all to settle into a rhythm. And they’ve done that. I borrowed a concept they loved from our Montessori pre-school days: the workplan! It’s a flexible tool that provides the kids with both autonomy and accountability. Some sources list specific activities for each day, but I keep it simple and only list subjects since we don’t really have multiple options per subject these days. The workplan lets the kids know what’s expected and also allows them some control over the course of their day.

New Standards

Someone asked me this week if homeschool would be rigorous enough, and I was able to confidently reply that I’m just not concerned about rigor right now. There’s a time for everything, and eventually I will be concerned about how hard they’re working and what progress they’re making. But right now, I want to make sure that we reignite a holistic interest in the act of learning. How quickly they can recite math facts is far less important to me than whether they are learning to think mathematically. I could force them to spend dedicated time in rote memorization, but I’d much rather watch them unbox a love of learning and know that the math facts will come in time. When they ask if we can read more Life of Fred at dinner and again at bedtime…I know we’re on the right track.

Unboxing Our First Curriculum

Our house is a testament to my deep love affair with books. There are shelves in every room, and I am always overdue for a purge. But really, is there even such a thing as too many books? I think not! But I digress… When we unboxed our first curriculum, it was hard to say who was more excited, the kids or me. Side note: that they’re as excited as me about a box full of books may be one of my favorite accomplishments of motherhood to date.

So Many New Books!

My kids were skeptical at first when I told them our new schoolbooks had arrived from GeoMatters, but by the time they had all the books unboxed, they were begging to get started. From character studies to encyclopedias and atlases, this collection of books will take us through the early exploration of our country in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere. (Note: No matter what curriculum you use, you really do need great books to homeschool successfully!)

Unboxing Curriculum

Paths of Exploration provides our framework for history, geography, science, language arts, and creativity. I was hooked from the minute I heard it was literature-based and only loved it more as I investigated, finding its roots running deep in Charlotte Mason philosophy of the natural flow of subjects for holistic education.

Learning how to think is one of my top priorities, and this curriculum is informed by the research of Drs. Benjamin Bloom and Ruth Beechick, both of whom studied the paramount nature of thinking skills in the learning process. At the same time, given the ready-or-not start of our homeschool journey, the step-by-step parent-teacher guide removed nearly all of the overwhelm I felt at the prospect of sourcing and crafting comprehensive lesson plans. Every single thing we need for each lesson is all in there…amen and hallelujah!

Unboxing Curriculum

They enjoy the variety of activities within their student notebooks. My son has even come to appreciate the copywork at the beginning of each lesson! Differentiation is built right in so that we can adjust for their unique needs from one activity to the next. I’ve enjoyed the ease with which we’ve all taken to this new framework; we were able to fully engage with it from the outset, no easing in required.

Always Something New

In reflecting on the past few weeks, I’ve realized that homeschooling will likely be a journey of unboxing one thing after another. Something will always be new and emerging: sometimes it will be new pieces of me, other times it will be new insights about my kids, and yet other times will be the excitement of discovering the new places our journey will take us next. The thing I need to do right now is learn to make the most of those unboxing moments because that’s the beauty of homeschooling.

Posted on

Dear Homeschool Mom: How to Love Your Husband While Homeschooling

dear homeschool mom how to love your husband while homeschooling
husband and wife holding hands

Dear Homeschool Mom,

Sometimes as we homeschool (or as we get prepared for the new homeschool year over the summer), we let our jobs as mothers and teachers (and chefs and housekeepers and chauffeurs…) stop us from spending time with our husbands and showing them that they are important to us and that we love them. Being a mom is a hard job, and being a homeschooling mom is even harder! (And if you have special needs kids, that adds an extra element of stress and difficulty!)

husband and wife holding hands

But it’s important for our children to see what a healthy marriage looks like. I realize there are more and more single moms who homeschool today, and I’m so happy that single moms are increasingly able to homeschool! But I think most of us hope that, if our children choose to marry as adults, they are happily married!

Having a happy marriage while homeschooling is possible! Yes, we’re busy. Yes, our lives are often stressful. But we don’t have to sacrifice our marriages!

I don’t remember when I came across The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary D. Chapman, but I wish I had come across it much sooner! I think it would have been so helpful for my husband and me to have known about love languages and affirming each other’s love language 30 years ago when we were first married. We didn’t know that we spoke different love languages or that we needed to each meet the other person’s need to be loved in the way each of us understood. We probably each thought we were doing all we could do to love the other.

And to be truthful, when our children were all younger (They’re 25, 24, and 18 now.) and needed so much care and attention (especially our severely autistic child), we were both exhausted and burned out most of the time. I sometimes wonder how we survived! I hate to admit it, but our marriage wasn’t top priority for many of those years. But we had promised God and each other that we’d stick together, so we were determined to do it! The love languages book did make it easier, though!

And, to be honest, I’m not sharing this with you because I have any obligation to this book or the author. I’m sharing it with you because I truly do wish I’d known that different people have different love languages. I think it would have made some of those difficult years a little easier. I think it could have helped us avoid some misunderstandings. And I think it would have made the good years better!

Basically, there are 5 love languages. They are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

I realized that my husband has two primary love languages. (Most of us have more than one.) His are quality time and physical touch. My husband loved (and still loves) movies and television shows. He has always enjoyed sitting down in the evening—especially after the children are in bed or in their rooms for some quiet time before bed—and watching a movie or TV show. I never took the time to sit and watch a show with him because I was always too busy. Once the kiddos were in their rooms or in bed was the only time I had to catch up on everything I needed to get done! When I reminded myself that quality time was one of his love languages, it became easier for me to set aside what I thought needed to be done and spend 45 minutes or an hour watching something with him simply because he enjoyed it when I did. (Keep in mind that it’s his idea of quality time, not mine, that meets his need!)

His other love language is physical touch. I think most men speak that one! I realized I also was not spending time giving my husband the physical affection he needed—inside or outside of the bedroom. That was difficult for me for a long time because my children were so physically needy that I felt like I had nothing left to give at the end of the day. I didn’t want anyone touching me or needing anything from me once the children were in bed. But once I began to understand that physical touch was one of his most important love languages and that he didn’t feel loved if his physical needs weren’t being met, it helped me understand his needs and that he wasn’t being selfish or uncaring. He simply needed me.

This doesn’t mean that my husband doesn’t appreciate acts of service, words of affirmation, or receiving gifts. It just means that those aren’t as important to him. Those are the love languages that he might appreciate having met now and then, but they aren’t necessary for him to feel loved on a day-to-day basis.

You can probably guess that, as a busy work-from-home, homeschooling mom, my most important love language (at least right now) is acts of service! My sweet hubby is wonderful about helping with the laundry (my downfall!) as well as helping to keep the kitchen clean. Now that the children are older, they are required to help more too, but my husband makes sure it gets done one way or another, and that means so much to me! (It also helps free up more time for me to spend with him—and he knows that!)

Over time, we began to realize that meeting the other person’s needs made each of us happier too! We didn’t start out doing a very good job of it at all, but we have improved with time and effort, and you can too!

No, you don’t have to read this book to have a happy marriage. But it can definitely be helpful if you’re looking for ways to help your husband feel loved and to strengthen your relationship. Not only will you and your husband be happier, but it will be a great example of a happy marriage for your children. After all, our children are the reason we do what we do, right? So I’d like to encourage you whether you have a wonderful marriage or a marriage that needs some improvement to learn how to better love each other. It truly is worth the effort!

Wendy Signature Transparent Backgroundxoxo

NOTE: There are also books for The Five Love Languages of Children and The Five Love Languages of Teenagers. If you like the one for adults, you might also like these!

Do you have tips or ideas to share with us? We would love to hear what you have to say about having a happy marriage and modeling a happy marriage for your children! 

You May Also Enjoy These Articles!


3 Ways to Choose Joy in the Everyday Homeschool

10 simple eays to teach children to love 2

10 Simple Ways to Teach Children to Love

6 Healthy Marriage Practices for a Busy Homeschooling Mom Featured Image

6 Healthy Marriage Practices for a Busy Homeschooling Mom

date night wide

The Homeschool Marriage: How to Find Time to Date Your Husband

hot homeschooling marriage

Three Secrets for a Hot Homeschooling Marriage

Posted on

Three Ways to Choose JOY in the Everyday Homeschool

three ways to choose joy in the everyday homeschool
3 ways to choose joy in the everyday homeschool

As homeschool moms, most of us juggle about a hundred tasks every day (or maybe even every hour), always with the feeling that there is just so much to do! At the heart of this reality, there is also the struggle to maintain the atmosphere of peace and joy that so many of us long for in our homes.

We’ve had those days occasionally, right?  Those blissful, wonderful, happy, joyful days when the sun is shining, the breeze is warm, and all is well in this happy little home. And then, there are the normal days.  The ones where we’re happy most of the time but there is just that hint of argument between siblings or that lack of patience from Mom or that whiny, “HOW many letters to I have to write?” attitude.  And it doesn’t take much for joy to flee from us.  I know the battle. So I wanted to share with you three ways I have found to really help our family maintain a peaceful atmosphere in our homeschool. Hopefully they will offer some encouragement to your heart today.


 1. Put relationships before curriculum.  

So many of us have done it (or been tempted to do it). We get a shiny new book or curriculum, and we love it so much that we just HAVE to make it work.  Even if our kids hate it and it isn’t working by any stretch – we are STICKING to it because, for goodness sake, it was expensive and we’ve already scheduled out the year.  Yep.  I know the feeling.

I know from experience – if a curriculum truly isn’t working for your family, it may be time to put the curriculum on the shelf and tune into what the people need.

When we force curriculum, schedules, book lists, philosophies, and methods onto our children when they aren’t working – we’re stirring up a recipe for unrest.  The joy and peace we’re seeking are quickly heading out the Exit.  Because if the children aren’t enjoying their days, we won’t be enjoying our days.  Mom will be frustrated, irritable, and discouraged, and those feelings will be communicated to the rest of the family (whether directly or indirectly).

After six years of homeschooling, I’ve realized that if I want joy in our homeschool, the little people in my life need to always come before any sort of program I have in my head or on paper.

Charlotte Mason talked about this concept often in her writings.  She spoke about children being ‘born persons,’ meaning each child is an individual with God-given gifts, talents, abilities, and a personality all their own.  Every one of them will have unique needs in the homeschool setting.

Relationships before curriculum means the delight of learning and the joyful atmosphere of home always come before my desire to pursue a certain method, read a certain book, or accomplish a curriculum.  Sometimes, this means going against the grain, making sacrifices in love and choosing to trust in God’s leading and your child’s unique abilities and needs.

2. Say YES more often.

The other morning, I had a full-blown ‘yes’ moment which I recently wrote about in a post titled, Why We Can’t Let our Schedule Steal our Joy. But basically, the short version is this:  The kids desperately wanted to go outside and play in the beautiful autumn morning sunshine.  I desperately felt the need to stick to my schedule despite that aching feeling in my soul to just GO OUT AND PLAY.  I chose so surrender and say YES.  We were all incredibly blessed by a morning of autumn glory and building relationship with one another.  The ‘scheduled’ work got done (at least mostly) later.

I’m convinced we all just need to loosen up, laugh, play, and say YES to those positive spontaneous opportunities that arise.  And this TOTALLY includes me!  I’m right in there with the moms struggling to pull the reigns in and stick to those checkmarks and notebooks.  But here’s the thing – this time when the kids are young and want to play with me and long to just revel in the joy of the unexpected, of the precious, of the joyous – this time won’t last forever.   Kids grow up FAST.  We grow old.  Time is short and there is so much beauty waiting to be enjoyed and explored all around us.

As homeschooling parents,  we have this crazy gift of time with our children.  We CAN run outside on a Monday morning and roll in leaves and call it Nature Study.  We can spend 3 hours reading on a rainy afternoon.  We can play a 7:30am game of cards just because our youngest child gives us those eyes we can’t refuse.  We can make pancakes for lunch and eat them in a fort.  We can say YES, and we should do it much more often.  Because every time I’ve said ‘yes’ to surprises like these, I have been RICHLY blessed and filled with joy– right along with my kids.

3. Refresh and refocus.  Often.  (Every day if possible.)

For me, this means curling up on the couch, in bed, sitting outside in the early morning stillness – however and wherever I can, to spend time alone with God and my journal.  This is the time to refresh and refocus on what we do and why we do it.  To consider the bigger picture of what life is all about.  It’s a time to pray about the struggles we’re facing, that situation that stole joy today, that regret we have, those moments we were lacking in everything we needed.  Also, a time to count gifts and journal gratitude for every little smile, wink, achievement, experience we were blessed with throughout the day.

This is when the Lord fills me with His renewing strength for yet another day pursuing a JOYFUL life.  I can’t do it alone, and I know I need His daily cleansing and refilling to keep on pouring into my children.  This focus on what really matters, this reliance on God, this practice of reflecting on blessings and triumphs, this surrendering of all the ways I need His help… THIS is where I can really move towards a home filled to the brim with JOY and peace.


Posted on

Dear Strong Homeschool Mom

dear strong homeschool mom
woman and kids dressed as super heroes

To the mama who knows that her rough moment, which maybe turned into an entire afternoon…or week, will not become HER. To the mama who can hurt from the weight of life’s demands, both self-imposed and otherwise, but will still rise to the challenge the next morning. To the mama who may be overlooked because your sister, your cousin, your bestie has it less together, needs more help, or makes others feel needed. To the mama who chooses to commiserate instead of complain.

This one’s for you.

mom dressed as super hero with kids

You seem like you have it all together. With errors few and far between, you get to all the practices, lessons and meetings on time. Your kids are in relatively clean clothes. You can find something in the fridge or pantry to toss down the gullets of those hungry babies… most of the time. You are a shining example to the people who can’t understand how you do it all.

But, even the shiniest stars burn out.

Maybe our fake smiles are just a little more deceptive?

When my husband first left to work overseas, I thought for sure this was my Everest. We had friends and family pouring in the, “we got her”s to him, and the “if you need anything..”s to me. But, somewhere along the line, when I absolutely did not have a very public downfall, people decided that I was the mystical unicorn that could do it all, be it all, handle it all.

Can we tackle our to-do lists? Preach, sisters. This mama relishes in the scratch of the pencil lead (Ticonderoga #2s, obvs) crossing another task off my planner. But, guys? What if I was crying as I did it?

You see, just because we are capable does not mean we are bullet-proof.

Are you tired? Because I’m tired.

A beautiful tired.

A content tired.

But, tired.

The schoolwork, and the lesson-planning, and the house, and the kids in a season of bickering, and the surprise, “I better go get new tires!” and the, “Why are we out of eggs AGAIN?” We are not impervious to those things or to this life.

But, we do refuse failure. We COULD. NOT. cook dinner tonight? We know we can order a pizza. We needed to slow the moment by watching a movie with the kids? We know that doesn’t mean we’ve ruined them from the inside out.

The strong mamas are all mamas. All those mamas who come from a place of love. To fight for it another day. Who know they are making a difference. However incremental it may seem. Who know that their fatigue is not the sign of a hard life, but of pulling-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps grit.

Maybe you share my belief that God sees me. And has not given these trials to drown me, but opportunities to birth new light in me. To shape my endurance.

Maybe you don’t come from a place of faith. No biggie. You know who sees you? Those little nuggets you made. They see you never giving up. They see you getting knocked down and getting right back up. They see you taking care of their basic needs.

You are making an impact. This is your legacy.

You may not have your tribe beating down your door to offer help, but you are seen, sweet friend. You matter. You’re not just here to take care of the pee-sheets and the dinners and the math work. Little eyes are looking up at you as the one who gave them grace for their accidents, who made their favorite dinners, who know you care so much you devote your days to teaching them at home.

Us strong mamas, all mamas, we are carried by our faith and/or each other.

Struggle for a day. But you find that warrior princess inside you that has kept you going this long. That has fooled people into thinking you’re the unicorn. You draw on us until you find her.

Because you have never walked alone.

:: Rocky theme music plays ::

author with her family

Posted on

How to Ease the Transition Back to School after a Long Break

how to ease the transition back to school after a long break
Are you wondering how to ease the transition back to school after a long break? Here are some tips for making it easier for yourself and your kiddos!
Are you wondering how to ease the transition back to school after a long break? Here are some tips for making it easier for yourself and your kiddos!
Are you wondering how to ease the transition back to school after a long break? Here are some tips for making it easier for yourself and your kiddos!
Are you wondering how to ease the transition back to school after a long break? Here are some tips for making it easier for yourself and your kiddos!
Are you wondering how to ease the transition back to school after a long break? Here are some tips for making it easier for yourself and your kiddos!
young girl doing science experiment

At our house, back to school is not easy.

My kids do not look forward to getting back to a school routine after a long break. My kids thrive on routine, and any change in routine requires a period of adjustment.

Over the years, I’ve created a few routines and ideas for helping kids who struggle with routine changes get back into school without creating stress, fears, or tears.

girl doing science experiment for back to school activity

How to Ease the Transition Back to School after a Long Break

Use these tips to make your own back-to-school experience happier!

1. Start with the Fun Stuff

My daughter’s favorite subject is science. She loves conducting experiments and learning about how the world works. She is a lot more likely to be responsive to a change in routine if that routine involves her favorite activity–science projects. I always try to plan a fun activity for our first day back to school.

Another option is playing educational games. There are lots of games that can be used to teach math, science, geography, history, and more! This is a fun way to get back into structured activities that your children will look forward to.

2. Create a Routine and Stick with It

Since routine is so important to my kids, they are much more accepting of getting back to school when we follow a strict routine. My eldest, “Monkey,” likes to create her own routine, so I include her in the new semester plan. She likes to assign a specific time and order for each subject in school.  If she is allowed that control, she is much happier about the return to school.

Some families do better when they plan an order for the day but not necessarily a strict schedule. In other words, you might decide to create a flow for your day so that your children know what comes next, but you might not want to assign strict times for each subject or other activity.

3. Start Small

After long breaks like Christmas break and summer break, we often start small and gradually increase our school to the full load over the course of a week. For example, on Monday we might do science and math. Then on Tuesday, we add English. On Wednesday, we add a couple more subjects until by Friday we are doing every subject. The slow build-up keeps it from being overwhelming to the children and to me.

4. Have One-on-One Time

My kids start to act out when they do not get enough one-on-one time. During a holiday break, they spend a lot of time playing on their own but get less parent face time. My kids respond well to one-on-one time, and I bet yours do too! However, if I ask them to do something alone (a hard school assignment or a difficult chore), they will get upset and – inevitably- conflict will occur. After a break, my kids like to see me right there in the trenches with them, either offering hands-on guidance in school, reading something to them, or doing chores together.

5. Spend Time in Review

Sometimes it seems that my kids forget an entire grade level during a long break. I know this is why many families choose to homeschool year-round, but for us it works better to take breaks during holidays and summer. If you feel like year-round homeschooling might work well for your family, though, our article, 10 Reasons Why Year-Round Homeschooling Is a Great Idea, will give you some information and even free printables to use for planning.

When school starts again, it helps make things easier if…well, if it is easy! I often go back and have the kids work on things they haven’t forgotten in order to build up their confidence before giving them something new to learn. This has worked well for us in preventing meltdowns and stress during the return to school. Many curriculum programs even have this review system built right into the textbooks.

These simple strategies have worked for us as we transition back to school after a long break. I find a little foresight goes a long way!

NOTE: If you’re struggling with getting back to school because of feeling burned out, please read Dear Burned Out Homeschool Mom. I think it will be an encouragement to you and will give you some strategies for dealing with burnout and hopefully preventing it from happening in the future.

Do you have ideas for easing the transition back to school after a long break? Please share your tips in the comments! 

Posted on

Should You Make New Year’s Resolutions?

should you make new years resolutions
New Year's Resolutions

Believe it or not, whether or not to make New Year’s resolutions can be a hot topic! Many of us have strong feelings one way or the other about it. Some believe it’s extremely important to make them each year because, after all, it’s hard to reach goals we haven’t set. Others believe it’s a complete waste of time and should be avoided for that reason.

New Year's Resolutions

What about you? Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, do you make them for your homeschool? Your family? Fitness? Finances?

I’ve had years when I’ve made homeschool New Year’s resolutions and years when I’ve made resolutions related to fitness or my family. I’ve had other years when I haven’t made any at all. I try to base my decision each year on how well I’m already doing reaching my goals or how much I need extra motivation and a fresh start.

Today I’d like to share several articles related to this topic. I hope you find these articles helpful and that they’ll give you some guidance as you decide whether or not to make your own resolutions this year.

5 New Year’s Resolutions to Inspire Moms

If you’d like a few ideas for realistic resolutions that will inspire you to connect more with your family in the new year, 5 New Year’s Resolutions to Inspire Moms is for you!

5 New Year’s Resolutions to Strengthen Your Family

The first article in this list was full of ideas to inspire moms, and 5 New Year’s Resolutions to Strengthen Your Family is, you guessed it, full of ideas for families! So take a look at this article, choose a few suggestions for things you’d like to add to your family’s time together, and prepare to have a great year with your family!

3 New Year’s Resolutions I’m NOT Making!

Our article about New Year’s Resolutions I’m NOT Making is a look at how we sometimes tend to put pressure on ourselves to make resolutions that may be difficult to keep and that may add stress to our lives. If you tend to be a perfectionist or to set goals that stress you rather than bless you, I hope this article will encourage you to give yourself grace.

New Year: Resolutions vs Goals

What is the difference between a resolution and a goal? Why does it matter? Do you need to make one or the other? In our article, New Year: Resolutions vs Goals, you’ll get the answers to these questions and more. You’ll also get 5 tips for creating your own goals or resolutions for the new year!

Parenting Resolutions

These Parenting Resolutions are all about allowing God to show you how to live and how to teach and guide your children. These aren’t difficult, but they will be life-changing for you and your children!

7 Stress-Free New Year’s Resolutions

If you’d like to make some New Year’s resolutions but you need them to be realistic and doable, this article is for you! These 7 Stress-Free New Year’s Resolutions are sensible and reasonable, but they are also going to help improve your new year!

Why I Never Make Homeschool New Year’s Resolutions

Or, if the idea of making New Year’s resolutions is nonsense to you (especially the idea of making homeschool-related resolutions), you might enjoy Why I Never Make Homeschool New Year’s Resolutions. It’s on our sister site, Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, and it’s a look at why you might not want to choose the new year as a time to make changes to your homeschool.

It makes sense to take some time to think about whether you want to make resolutions for your life, your family, or your homeschool. It is definitely smart to consider how things are going and make a conscious decision about whether changes need to be made. It also makes sense, though, to make changes at the right time and to make changes that, if possible, are not stressful to your family or you!

I hope you have a blessed and happy new year!

Wendy Signature Transparent

You May Also Like:

Are you looking for ideas for activities, games, printables, and recipes for some New Year’s Eve fun with your kiddos?

New Years Eve ideas for families

Whether you love to party the night away or go to bed early, this article is for you and your family! You’ll find a variety of printables, games, activities, crafts, recipes, and more that you can enjoy with your family on New Year’s Eve! These Family Ideas and Activities for New Year’s Eve include suggestions from moms like you along with printables, tutorials, and recipes from our websites.

Posted on

5 Tips for Finding Gratitude in 2020

5 tips for finding gratitude in 2020

We’re reaching the end of what has been, for many, an especially difficult year.  I don’t have to tell you that the last several months have been full of totally unexpected struggles and complications as a result of the global pandemic. We’ve all been affected in some way, whether emotionally, financially, physically (or all of the above). But now, as we finish get ready to say farewell to 2020, we are also entering the holiday season: a time of gratitude, reflection and hope. I think that many of us are looking forward to the holidays, and the warmth and good feelings that come with them.

Still, it can be hard to find those feelings of gratitude – even though you may want to –  when you’ve been grieving losses and living under a cloud of stress. Though I feel very fortunate to have not been as impacted by the pandemic as I know many others have, there have been other years in my life when personal loss has cast a shadow over the holidays, and the tips I’m sharing today are things that have  helped me – and other friends of mine- reconnect with a sense of gratitude in the midst of difficult times. If you are looking for some ways to shift your perspective as we wrap up 2020 – and move forward into a brand new year – then I hope these 5 tips for finding gratitude will be helpful to you.

gratitude scaled

A little disclaimer: Please note that I am not promoting “fake happy” or a plastered on “attitude of gratitude.”  I’m personally a very big believer in being real with yourself about what you’re experiencing and feeling. In other words, if you are sad or down about something in particular, I think it’s important to be able to say to yourself, “I am upset about _______, and it’s okay for me to feel that way,” while also looking for things in your life to be grateful for. I’d also like to note that – if you are here because you are struggling with depression and/or anxiety that has been constant – l hope you’ll reach out to a friend, family member or counselor who can be there for you.

1. Write Down/Verbalize the Things You are Grateful For

Okay, so this is probably the first thing you expected to see on this list, but that’s for good reason!  When you start looking for things to be grateful for, and actually make a habit of pointing them out to yourself,  it re-wires your brain to cultivate “an attitude of gratitude” (AKA the Pollyanna effect).  Some people like to keep a special journal that they use to write down a certain number of things they are grateful for, each day. It doesn’t have to be a big number of items, or even big things in general. In fact, it’s the little things that sometimes add the most sweetness to life, if you can learn to stop and appreciate them.

Snuggling up with your family to watch a movie, reading a book with your children, taking a walk with a friend, or having a quiet time with your cup of coffee in the morning –these are valuable moments in life that we can sometimes fail to appreciate unless we try to be aware of them.  I’m a Christian, and one way that I like to cultivate this habit is thanking God for specific things when I pray (as I teach my daughter to pray, this is something I am trying to help her cultivate, as well). Whether you keep a gratitude journal, commit to a regular prayer time, or try to make a habit of verbalizing a certain number of things you are grateful for everyday (or all three), making a habit of noting the good, small things in your life can make a big difference in how you see the world.

2. Create New Traditions to Look Forward To

When my husband and I were dating, there was a period of about a year and a half when our relationship was long-distance. It was hard, and every goodbye seemed to get harder. However, one thing that made it easier was always having our next meeting  already planned in the calendar before we ever said goodbye.  It didn’t make it easy, but the hope of having that next meeting in mind helped both of us to move forward in our day-to-day lives while also maintaining a long distance relationship. That experience was difficult, but it made us both more grateful for the time that we had together (and, once we were able to live in the same place and get married, our long-distance experience made us more grateful for that, too.)

More recently, when the pandemic put a damper on all of our travel plans for the year (as I know it has for many of you), my family created some new weekly traditions that we could look forward to. We started doing family art nights more regularly, and we began making more of an “event” out of family movie nights (we even bought a popcorn maker and seasonings). Yes, we were still (very) bummed to have to cancel a long anticipated vacation, but having these new, smaller traditions to look forward to definitely helped and has given us many new memories to be grateful for.

My point in all of this? Hope is a big part of gratitude. You need things to look forward to and be grateful for in your future, as well as the present.  If you’re reading this, maybe part of what you’re sad about is that some of your favorite holiday traditions just aren’t going to work out this year. That’s totally understandable, but I’d also encourage you to come up with a new tradition that you can look forward to, and be grateful for,  this year.

3. Take a Moment to Breathe (and Re-prioritize)

The phrase, “taking a moment to breath,” can having many meanings.  However, in the case of growing gratitude, more than one of them  apply. For example,  if you’re feeling overwhelmed with life, stress, or negative feelings, taking  (literally) a few minutes to simply breathe mindfully may actually help you step away from your mess long enough to find a new perspective. Sometimes, finding more gratitude in your heart can really come from something as simple as a quick breathing activity.

But “taking a breather” can imply bigger changes, too. Sometimes it can mean taking a break from something–stepping away from one thing purposely, in order to focus on something else. I think that this meaning can be extremely helpful for anyone struggling to cultivate a grateful heart, particularly in these ever-changing times. Many people this year (maybe you are one of them) experienced a major shift in daily responsibilities: jobs furloughed (or permanently lost), kids now at home more often, etc.  For example,  maybe you suddenly find yourself displaced from a previous role, while now filling the (perhaps unexpected)  role of “homeschooling parent.” 

It can be unsettling when your daily responsibilities are get shifted so suddenly. Sometimes, it can even leave you feeling strangely guilty, or like you are wasting your time, simply because life does not look how it did before, or how you expected it to.  When things feel that way, consider this suggestion to “take a moment to breathe,” with this meaning: allow yourself to take a break from any previous expectations, so that you can enjoy your life at this moment.  Savor the present, even if it’s not what you were in the middle of anticipating before life caught you off guard. Take a break from that previous image, and be here, now. Your life is precious: far too precious to spend your days feeling like you’re waiting around or wasting time. Take a moment to breathe and refocus on current priorities. It may help you to feel more grateful for each day.

4. Stop the Scroll-and-Compare-Syndrome

The comparison game can be a real challenge to feeling grateful, particularly when our iPhones act as magic mirrors to the outside world. I’m guilty of social media comparison: 100%. And you know what? Too much scrolling and comparing (as addicted as I can be to it) never makes me happy or pleasant. In fact, in kind of makes me feel like a whiny brat inside! Someone else is always updating their kitchen for fun, while things around my house are constantly falling apart. Someone else is always losing weight doing the same diet that never worked for me. Someone always looks gorgeous when I feel like a mess. That family goes on all the cool vacations, and we haven’t been able to travel. Ect. Ect. Ect. 

I’m just being real with you guys. And you know what else I’m going to say, right?  This scrolling and comparing situation is not healthy, nor is it conducive to having a grateful heart.

Not only is Scroll-and-Compare-Syndrome unhealthy, it’s also not based on anything real.  Social media is a magic mirror to the outside world, but it’s one with a very limited perspective.  The other day I did an experiment with my own social media page; I scrolled through my Instagram and tried to imagine what other people see. You know what I realized? They see me with make-up on, at pre-approved angles. They see my daughter always smiling or doing something cool. They see the beautiful property where I live, not the sometimes stressful symptoms of living in a very old home.

Often, we document only our favorite things on our virtual pages, and we leave the stress and unpleasantness behind. I was just thinking (and I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else), wouldn’t it be nice if we could snapshot and save our favorite moments of each day to look at–just for ourselves, instead of comparing our stresses to everyone else’s “best-moment feeds”?

5. Learn from Failure and/or Loss

One thing that we homeschooling moms can usually agree on is that we want our kids to learn from life, right? And if something goes wrong, or if it’s a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Well, there are lessons to learn from that too. 

For some reason,  though, it can be  hard to have this same kind of grace with yourself as a “grown-up.” After all, are grown ups “allowed” to  make mistakes, or have things work out differently than how they planned? Ha! We both know the answer is, “Of course we make mistakes.” Also, sometimes we are going along, sincerely doing our very best, and life pulls the carpet out from under our feet anyway! But we still can – and still should- find things that we can learn and be grateful for, even (especially) in the messes that leave us humbled.

If this season in life has been really rough  for you, and you are struggling to find external things to be grateful for, then perhaps it will be more helpful to search for the internal things you can be grateful for. 

How did you grow? What did you learn? 

Maybe you’ve found a healthy way to cope with stress this year, like taking time to journal, pray, or exercise.  Maybe you’ve learned that you are stronger and more flexible than you ever knew before. Maybe you’ve learned how to recognize the people in your life that you can trust or count on (or those that you can’t). Maybe you’ve found more valuable priorities from realizing what you can do without ( and what you can’t.) This kind of wisdom and insight is infinitely valuable, and you simply can’t find it when life goes smoothly. So, as you reflect back on times of recent struggle, remember to be grateful for those things that only you can see. Write them down, and keep them close.  It’s an unexpected sort of gratitude, but it’s beautiful in it’s own way. 

I hope that these tips help you to find gratitude and joy in your heart in the midst of the holiday season.  It’s been a strange year for the world, and I know that many of us have learned a lot of things we did not expect to. If you have more  tips for cultivating gratitude that you’d like to share with other readers, I hope that you’ll drop them in the comments below for all of us to read! Wishing you peace and joy.