Funny, the day before I started to write this blog post, I received a notice from my blog host provider. My blog had been deactivated, and I had to clean up a number of files in order to have it restored. Having no idea how to do this myself, and having lost access to my blog, I contacted the support center. “Of course we can help you” was the response—for a monthly fee. I then had a real-time experience in staying motivated as I contemplated how difficult it might be to begin a new blog (free, but with the same hacker potential). Then I meditated on scripture—Psalm 35—to soothe my angry mind. “Brandish [the hacker] with spears and javelin,” I said to myself. Then I had to laugh; how dare I get so flustered with my first-world problems when so many others bring more serious concerns to the Lord. I simply came against confusion in the name of Jesus, and as you can see, He came through as always.
There is a similar level of grace in which we also have to operate at this point in the homeschool year. If you roll with the public school schedule, the period after spring break is what I think of as “the wind-down.” (Maybe that is a part of the problem. Hmmm…) The crisp, cool air is yielding to the sun’s warmth, which begs to be felt on bare skin. Vibrant new growth draws our attention away from the table and outdoors to the smells and colors of spring. Personally, I have become far more intentional about our gardening efforts (a post all its own for April), so I have waited very impatiently to spend more time out of doors (or at least to compile my honey-do list).
How, when nature calls you to everything but school, do you stay motivated? I have some ideas based upon my own experiences.
- Do the pieces you love. There are some aspects of homeschooling that I do not like. With a goal of staying motivated, however, I focus on the pieces that I enjoy. Yes, everything has to get done, but within that self-imposed boundary, there is room.
There is room to get outdoors (after all, gardening can be educational, too).
There is time to read, to research, and to plan.
Even if my daughter says I’m “extra,” there is time to make things pretty.
2. Plan for the year to come. Speaking of planning, there is nothing like the thought of a clean slate to renew your energy. Even if the reality of the next year is 180 degrees from the fantasy, dare to dream for a minute. What could a homeschool day look like for you if you stepped out of the box? Then, what is keeping you from realizing that vision?
3. Balance. Now out of the box, perhaps move toward what you want to do while maintaining what has to be done. There are great links on math and/ or science lessons while cooking or grocery shopping. And please don’t forget the refreshing field trip (perhaps without the obligatory post-trip written report this time, please?) Change your location, perhaps to the park or the coffee house. Change your methodology, maybe watching a movie or playing games. The idea is to create balance so that you as the educating parent don’t always have to be “on.”
4. Take a break. Speaking of down time, it does not make you a bad teacher or parent to need a break. Traditional school environments build in mental breaks for both teachers and students. (Yes, sometimes our kids need a breather, too). Our homes do not have such built-in breaks, so we must create them for the sake of the entire family.
5. Embrace the season. I talk repeatedly about learning the ebb and tide of your home and then flowing with it, not against it. We have to take into account the bigger picture in order to avoid frustration. I had a chance to preach this sermon to myself recently when the two youngest kids’ spring breaks conflicted. A younger Belinda would live and die by the schedule I set last fall, denying myself the joy of rest and simplicity, and taking some sort of demented bliss in the thought that I was “giving it everything I had.” Years of bumping my head in that way resulted in me doing the wiser thing: adjusting our homeschool break so that both kids “broke” at the same time. Consequently, our daughter was in school while her friends were out, but I allowed her some time with her public school friends.
The winter snow? The spring flowers? That community event that everyone else is attending? They all demand our attention. Give them their due, and then get back after it.
It sounds cliché, but homeschooling really is a marathon, not a sprint. You must take the appropriate mid-course adjustments for the long journey ahead. Run your race such that your family finishes well.