Home Education

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Homeschooling Mamas

January 2, 2017 by Brandy Vencel

‘Tis the season, you know. It’s January, and everybody’s doing it. Are you ready to make some resolutions? Because I’ve got five ideas to share, and I really think keeping them could make a homeschool mama’s life oh so much easier.

Here's the list. If you keep it, it'll truly make your homeschooling life better.

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Before we get into the list, I want you to know that resolutions like these are an act of trust. I remember when my third child was born. Life got so crazy. I thought that if I sat down for even a moment I would drop all the balls I had in the air. I was pretty frantic for the entire first six months. To say that I’m going to make time for something like sleep or exercise is to say that I’m going to trust that the life depends on God rather than on me Doing All the Things. It’s a trust in Him who made me human, which means He made me to need sleep. It’s a realization that I ca let go of the clamor of things that need to be done, and do something human that doesn’t feel particularly productive.

1. Get more sleep.

The younger your children, the harder this one is to pull off, but even then, I would recommend you not completely disregard this. The important word here is “more” — get more sleep than last year. It doesn’t say “get 8 hours” or some other ideal number. The vast majority of mamas do not get enough sleep. We’ll be talking about this later on this month in The Low-Energy Mom’s Guide to Homeschooling. But for now, I think we all know that sleep is important. I think we all know we’re tired.

And yet, people! Why the disconnect?

We put one and one together and get an apple!

We say, “I don’t get enough sleep. I’m tired. I need vitamins/coffee/therapy/me time.”

I am not against vitamins, coffee, therapy, nor me time, but isn’t the obvious thing to do the one thing we leave off the list? Get more sleep.

A couple years ago my husband decided I needed to get more sleep and since I was incapable of making a good decision in this area, he announced we were going to start going to bed at 10:00 pm. We had been going to bed at 11:00 pm or even later. Now, of course that doesn’t happen every single night. But 10:00 pm is now my “normal” bedtime, and it helped me oh so much.

2. Get more exercise.

(Unless, of course, you already get enough. In which case, you should be writing this post and I should be taking notes.) Last year, I set a double goal of 10,000 steps per day plus 70,000 steps per week. (I track my steps using my Fitbit, which I love.) How did I do? Well, I checked my stats for the year, and I only met my goal half the time. But … because I’ve had my device for 2 years, I could look back. And you know what? I did better than last year. And you know what else? I plan to do even better this year.

It’s hard to get enough exercise when so much of our job involves sitting. We sit to teach math. We sit to teach phonics. We sit to nurse a baby. We sit to listen to a narration. We sit to write an email. We stand to cook dinner. There is so little movement there.

My Fitbit has changed my habits. I now pace around my living room while kids are doing their math worksheets. I take a child for a quick walk to the end of the block and back while listening to a narration. Not all my sitting can become moving, but some of it can.

And once I got moving, the momentum was there. I added some other things. I plan to continue them in 2017.

3. Get more laughter.

Do you remember when we first told you that we take ourselves too seriously? That a big helping of levity would help solve homeschool burnout? Well, it’s true. Think about the days when you are so stressed out and overwhelmed and irritable. And then think about the days when you laugh a lot. Notice anything? Those are not the same days.

The Bible tells us that a merry heart doeth good like medicine.

So take your medicine this year. Resolve to laugh more. Watch a funny movie. Watch your sons do dumb stuff. Whatever it takes for you to take a deep breath, loosen up, and remember how to laugh..

Motherhood is too short to get too serious.

4. Get more inspiration.

What will it take for you to fall in love with learning? With books? Do what it takes this year.

Years ago, I realized that teaching starts with me. In her sixth volume, Charlotte Mason wrote:

Perhaps she reads a short portion from Pilgrim’s Progress. She must, of course, be a person who wants to understand and enjoy this herself. (p. 37)

And a couple pages later:

The adult, whether teacher or parent, has to be able to enjoy and understand what he or she is reading with the children.

Enjoy and understand. Those are two separate things, but they go together, right? If we don’t understand something, it’s going to be really hard to enjoy it.

Let’s face it: our own attitudes are contagious. Getting them under control will go a long way in helping us successfully complete this marathon we call homeschooling. But “getting our attitudes under control” sounds like we just need a pep talk. I don’t think that is enough. I think sitting down and figuring out what are the barriers to success in this area is key to remedying the problem. For example:

  • Is the problem that I don’t understand the book or subject? Maybe I find some notes online that will help me. Maybe I join a book club and learn through the discussion.
  • Is the problem that I can’t enjoy it because someone interrupts me before I can ever complete a thought? Maybe I schedule a couple hours away (sans children) each week for personal mother culture time with my books and journal and definitely coffee.
  • Is the problem is that I am too tired to enjoy it? Possibly I need to refer to number 1 above.

Those are just examples. I couldn’t possibly know what the barrier is for you. So ask yourself the question: what’s stopping me? Follow this question all the way to the end and then build solutions from there.

5. Get more organized.

There are a lot of ways to get more organized. You could, for example, dump everything out of your worst drawer — or worst closet — go through it, toss or donate what you don’t actually need, and put everything back nicely. That would work! But here I’m thinking about something that packs a punch — that really optimizes daily life.

Sometimes, the equivalent works with schedules, but you have to be willing to take risks for this one. You dump everything out of it. You toss what you don’t need and then put everything else back nicely. The only catch is that if “everything else” doesn’t fit, then you don’t get to put it back. You have to toss things out until your life is actually livable.

Here’s the truth: the more children you have, the more organized you have to be. For reals. When I only had one student to homeschool, I could work from a weekly list and get everything done. Sometimes I assigned an order, but I never needed to assign times. In fact, assigning times would have made me twitchy — I would have felt like I needed to stick to them and what a bummer that would have been when my toddlers destroyed the playroom and the baby was crying!

But times have changed and now I have four students. You know what it takes to juggle those? Organization. Including set times — set duration as well as starting times. I prefer to be more loosely organized, but I’ve faced reality and made a plan, and it really pays dividends. Overhauling your lesson schedule might be your best bet in the New Year, especially if what you’re currently doing hasn’t worked.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Museumschooling Mama January 7, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! It’s the time of year when we all need to reflect on what we’ve been doing and commit to improvement. I definitely needed to see this, especially as we continue on our museum-based schooling endeavor (museumschooling.wordpress.com). Thanks again and a very Happy New Year to you and your awesome family!

  • Reply Amy Creasap January 2, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks again for all your thoughtful posts. I am wondering if you could take some time to explain a little about how you do your book of centuries. My oldest is in year 1 and I’ve been struggling to make the book of centuries happen.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 2, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Amy! I use my personal BOC when I’m pre-reading for school — so I just keep it with me and make an entry when something strikes my fancy. It’s really that simple. Charlotte Mason didn’t start BOCs with students until they were about age 10, so that I start it in fifth grade. With my firstborn, it didn’t take very long until he understood how it worked and I just said “make one entry per week” and he did. With my second born, I have it on the schedule after history readings once per week, and we do it together.

      If you want to start a BOC for you, that is great, but I personally wouldn’t do one with a Y1 student. There was a sort of timeline CM did with students that age. I’ll see if I can dig up an article on that. There was one I used to send out that was really simple and helpful…

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