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.