Are you overwhelmed by homeschooling? You really don’t have to be. Homeschool mom Emily Copeland explains the key to avoiding homeschool overwhelm: embracing homeschooling as a lifestyle – a simple way of life.
Homeschooling isn’t hard for me. I know it sounds arrogant, but it’s true. Some days come more easily than others, but as a general rule I don’t have all of those struggles I was told to expect with the homeschool life.
Even so, I read or hear of someone sharing their homeschool-related struggles nearly every day. Some are caused by difficulty teaching or grasping a concept, while some stem from specific challenges, or the logistical aspects involved in making it all happen each day. Regardless of the why behind it, the spotlight seems to be on the struggle rather than the beautiful experiences that come from having this time with our kids.
But if I’m being honest, I sometimes feel guilty when I see all of this because that’s not my homeschool and it’s never been my homeschool experience. Even on our worst days, homeschooling comes pretty naturally for us. None of that is because of me. I’m not extraordinarily patient and I don’t embody the fruits of the spirit from the moment I wake up to the moment I close my eyes at night. I’m not a professionally trained teacher, I’m certainly not supermom, and I don’t have it all together.
And my kids? They’re amazing, don’t get me wrong, but homeschooling isn’t easy for me because of them. They’re not exactly angelic, nor do they hang on my every word each minute of the day.
My homeschool budget isn’t the source of our mostly struggle-free homeschool life either. I don’t have the luxury of purchasing every beautiful book I come across and I don’t have a closet packed with award-winning resources to use any time I wish.
As for our home, we’re grateful to have it, but this apartment is a far cry from a swoon-worthy homeschool space that inspires learning and creativity all day long.
None of these things are the reason homeschooling comes easily for us and it’s never been because of us personally, what we buy, or where we live. Not at all.
Homeschooling isn’t a struggle for us because it’s our family culture, it’s who we are when we’re together. It’s a way of life.
When Homeschooling Becomes a Way of Life
Homeschooling is a way of life for us, but it hasn’t always been like this. When we began our homeschool journey in 2009, I wanted applause and approval from all the naysayers in my life. I had something to prove to them and my goals were shaped by all the wrong things. I knew that I believed in homeschooling and why I believed in homeschooling, but I can’t say those beliefs shaped my day-to-day decisions, purchases, or objectives for the first few years.
I wasn’t using my gifts and my passions to serve my family and I wasn’t celebrating the unique born persons sitting next to me at the table. Instead, I treated our homeschool as if it were something that needed to pass inspection and be deemed legitimate. I sought approval and affirmation from everyone but The One who called us to home education in the first place.
But progress always counts and it’s always worth celebrating. Even though it seemed to come at a glacial pace, I stopped thinking it should resemble what happens in public schools and private schools. I stopped compartmentalizing it and thinking of home and schooling as two independent things. All of this shifted who we are as a family.
That shift was gradual for us, so don’t sweat it if you’re not there yet. You can get there and know homeschooling as so much more than something on the schedule each day. Here’s what to remember when you’ve had enough of the struggle and you’re ready to experience homeschooling as a way of life.
Overthinking Is the Enemy
Homeschooling is a way of life, but that doesn’t mean every waking moment morphs into a learning opportunity. We all need time to absorb, release, and rest before taking in more. Your kids need time to be kids and you need time to be a wife, mother, and friend without having your inner Dead Poets Society Robin Williams on call at all times.
Also worth noting, if overthinking is involved, homeschooling is probably more of an obsession than a way of life. That’s why it’s so important to love the homeschool you have and stay in your lane. We lose sight of what’s exclusively been entrusted to us when we spend our precious time thinking our homeschool isn’t enough because of what appears to be happening around the other tables.
When homeschooling is a way of life, you don’t have to worry about what public schools and other homeschoolers are doing. You can stop overthinking it all. There’s freedom that comes in knowing standards and comparisons don’t define your children or your abilities to teach them. Accept that freedom. It’s how we allow ourselves to loosely hold a list of suggested topics to cover and focus more on God’s presence in every area of study we explore.
Consistency Is Key
Whatever you sow, you will also reap. That’s where consistency comes into the picture. If you’re faithful to sow seeds of compassion and mercy, you’ll see compassion and mercy rise up in your children. If you’re faithful to sow creativity and curiosity, creativity and curiosity will become part of who they are.
Because of that principle, we must be faithful to sow what is good. That’s how homeschooling transforms from something to do each day into the way of life we enjoy as a family. Some of that faithfulness is heart work, but some of it comes down to routines and habits.
It’s easy for us to think of our routines as things that hold us back, bog us down, and make us feel less than, but may I submit to you that our routines can be the greatest gift we have in cultivating what matters in our homeschools?
“Bad habits make slaves of those who have them. But good habits are like tracks along which our usual behavior runs. This frees us to concentrate on the important choices we have to make in life. Routines form habits. They are frameworks we can think about.” – Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake
Homeschooling becomes a way of life when we embrace routines and allow them to lead us to consistency. That’s not to say there’s no room for breaks and margin in a healthy homeschool, but faithfulness and dedication go hand in hand with structure and reasonable expectations.
Lead by Example
If you’re leading by example, they’ll catch on to this lifestyle of learning. I think of my dad here because he’s the best example of lifelong learning that I know. Part of who I am today is because of what he’s modeled all these years. He’s 71 now and paints every day because he likes the challenge. My dad runs because it’s good for him. He reads book after book and even writes his own just for the sake of writing.
I didn’t always recognize this as lifelong learning, but I see its value now and realize how much he’s impacted my beliefs about education by allowing learning to be a part of his daily rhythm. It’s not about grade levels, test scores, or what anyone else is doing. It’s just who he is and what he does with his time.
Your children are watching and they need to see you grow. You don’t have to be an artist, avid reader, or writer, but you do need to find your thing and pursue it. You’ll benefit from it in ways you can’t imagine, but your children will benefit from your example even more.
Be faithful to plant the seeds. Don’t worry about the harvest right now, but stay committed to your calling and lead by example. You’ll experience the shift. You’ll see for yourself how it all changes when homeschooling is a way of life and not just something you do.
Emily is a Christ follower, minister’s wife, church planter, and homeschool mom of two. She offers help and hope for the homeschool journey at tablelifeblog.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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