When I first started homeschooling 14 years ago, creating a peaceful homeschool environment was the furthest thing from my mind. All of the focus was on figuring out how to sign my children up and then my focus turned to finding the ‘perfect’ curriculum. Does this sound familiar?
It is easy to spend hours, days, and even weeks searching for the perfect curriculum. There are so many wonderful curriculum reviews and biased opinions about which curriculum will produce the best outcomes.
But at some point, when the curriculum gets old, boring, or isn’t working anymore, we can easily become frazzled. Maybe there is nothing wrong with the curriculum, the house is just a disaster or we find that we have no time for fun. It is easy to fall into a slump and wonder why we even bother to do all that research in the first place.
Over the years, I learned that stress and frustration were caused by a lack of peace. I began to wonder if the peaceful homeschool atmosphere that you read about in the ‘how to homeschool’ books actually existed.
Wasn’t homeschool peace just magically supposed to appear once you had the perfect homeschool room, the best curriculum, the perfect plans? Is peace even attainable? Let’s be real, a house with 8 kids isn’t exactly the ideal candidate, right?
First off, I want to define what peace means to our homeschool. It doesn’t mean quiet, although quiet is nice. Peace is a state in which harmony is at the forefront. It isn’t the absence of struggles per se, but it is a time that has few conflicts or ones that can be easily resolved.
If you look at your homeschool over a period of several months, how would you describe it? Is everyone relatively comfortable with curriculum choices, the amount of work getting accomplished, and how the day runs?
If however, your child struggles with your authority and whines all the time or you are constantly experiencing frustration, know that this happens. I’ve been there more than once. You would think that I would have this all figured out after this many years, but alas, I am human.
During times of unrest, I have found a number of simple things that can be done in order to return to a state of peace.
How do you create a peaceful homeschool?
1. Pray over your homeschool. I read somewhere that anxiety comes naturally, but peace comes supernaturally. When we ask God to lead our homeschool, we humble ourselves and acknowledge that it is He who is in control.
There is so much comfort in knowing that God has your back. We are told in Philippians 4:6, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.“
A few years ago, I took the 30 Days of Praying for My Homeschool Challenge. Up until that point in our homeschool career, I had totally underestimated the power of prayer in our homeschool. We had our share of rough patches that year, but the shift in mindset helped me be more at ease with our progress.
Prayer is a powerful tool. God is eagerly awaiting our meager offerings in exchange for abundant graces. What do you have to lose?
2. Fill your own cup. Mama, you are important, and your health and well-being matters. You can’t continually pour from an empty cup and expect to have a peaceful homeschool.
Take some time for yourself every day. It might not sound like much, but a little bit each day adds up.
If you don’t take care of yourself, you run the risk of homeschool burnout. I speak from experience. I had to learn the hard way. It doesn’t have to be this way for you.
3. Give up the idea of perfection. No matter how hard you try, you are never going to reach perfection. This may sound harsh, but you and I are never going to be perfect. Our children are never going to be perfect.
I am not suggesting that we be lazy or give up on trying. Instead, we can strive to set realistic goals. Some kids will never sit still to listen to a story, read anyway. Other kids will always find math difficult, find ways to make learning more fun.
4. Plan based on abilities, not grades or ages. It is easy to get caught up with comparing our homeschool to public schools, especially when it comes to grades.
If our child is 8, then we automatically assume that our child should be doing grade 3 schoolwork. The problem with this is that the school system pushes everyone through at the same rate. Some children need more challenging material and others need more time to master concepts.
When we chose material based on our child’s ability, we are one step closer to achieving a more peaceful homeschool. Our children will progress at their own pace without the pressure of moving at a pace that is too fast or too slow.
This in turn builds your child’s trust. Children hate to feel stupid. If they feel supported and not pressured, they generally move through their material with less resistance and enjoy learning. That is the ultimate goal.
It also means there is less pressure on you as the parent. Trust in the process and resist the urge to buy a curriculum based on your child’s grade or age.
5. Don’t compare. I know that this is not always easy. It is hard not to compare our children’s abilities and skills to those of other children. It is especially hard when their peers are able to do things that our children can’t.
However, our children pick up on these comparisons and they can actually make things worse. It can cause children to struggle with confidence and can cause them to shy away from doing something or learning something.
As a child, I remember getting ready to play the piano at the music festival. I remember being asked who I was playing against. When I answered with the name ‘Allison’ I knew what I would hear. “I bet Allison is going to win. Her mom says she practices for hours every day. She is so amazing.”
These words haunted me for years. I never won against Allison and it is no wonder. I probably could have won against Allison, but the comparisons shook me to the core.
Comparison is a no-win situation. It disrupts the peace and jeopardizes your relationship with your child. If you are striving for a more peaceful homeschool, avoid comparison at all costs.
6. Take breaks. Plan breaks. Peace requires time to rest and time to recharge. Often without realizing that we are doing it, we rush our children. When they dawdle, we push.
If we need to finish the lessons to go somewhere or need to prepare a meal, we rush. If we sleep in, we push to get our work done. If our child isn’t progressing quickly enough through a book, we push. If we were up all night with the baby and we didn’t get enough sleep, we try to push through the exhaustion and end up cranky and frustrated.
In my experience, we often forget to plan in enough time to breathe. It is easier to fill a planner than to leave it a bit empty.
Don’t underestimate the power of time spent outdoors. Kids need to run off steam. They need to play and jump and run around periodically throughout the day.
I joke that the trampoline is the best investment that I made for our homeschool. In reality, it is no joke. Five or ten minutes of play is sometimes all it takes to help kids to feel fresh and ready to learn.
I am also a strong advocate for ‘quiet time.’ Schedule in a daily ‘quiet time’ to allow for rest and reset. In our home, this time is after lunch clean-up. I put the little one down for a nap, but the rest are expected to stay in their rooms for a specified amount of time.
In the beginning, children might resist quiet time, but in my experience and listening to other moms, kids start to look forward to quiet time. When you first implement quiet time, keep it short, and then work your way to a longer period of time.
Kids who can tell time will want to know when quiet time is ending. Younger children have no concept of time. They will feel like 10 minutes is an eternity. Make quiet time sound like a fun idea.
I don’t prescribe what my children should do during quiet time, however, I have strict rules allowing only quiet play, reading, or listening to audiobooks. The boys usually choose to play legos or to spend time drawing while listening to a story.
The girls choose to play paper dolls, calico critters, or Playmobil. As long as they are quiet and not doing anything that is too messy and in no way dangerous, I will allow it.
The whole point of ‘quiet time’ is to give everyone a bit of time to wind down and recharge. We all need a reset and recharge. Mom, you can use this time to read, pray, journal, rest or tidy a little.
Pour yourself a cup of tea, light a candle, or put on a diffuser with your favorite essential oil and relax. Your heart will thank you and hopefully, this respite will make for a more peaceful homeschool environment.
7. Remove negativity. Negativity is a huge cause of unrest. Whether it comes from the voice in your head or out of the mouth of a nay-sayer, negativity can disturb your homeschool peace. A negative mind will not give a positive outcome.
This is so much easier said than done. I totally get it. My inner voice is often negative. What I try to do is replace those negative thoughts with positive ones, or reframe them in a way that isn’t hurtful.
I can’t change what other people think or say, but I can control how I react and how I let those things affect my homeschool. There will always be naysayers.
You need to surround yourself with like-minded folks and set boundaries if needed. You can homeschool and you are good enough. Tell yourself this until you believe it.
8. Don’t try to fly solo. This goes hand in hand with removing negativity. You need positive and supportive people on your journey. You need like-minded people and those who will lift you up when you fall.
Everyone needs support and help along the way. Even after 13 years and two graduates, I need people to help encourage me and a shoulder to cry on from time to time. Homeschooling is a blessing, but there are days when I need a break or a reason to keep going.
Your children need a break from you, too. They need to play and forge friendships with other children. If you have supportive grandparents or other family members and friends, use their expertise to your advantage. Learning doesn’t always come in book format.
There are times when peace comes from outsourcing some subjects. You don’t have to do it all alone and there is no shame in having someone else teach some of the time.
Sharing the learning experiences with others can really add to the richness of your child’s education. It can make space for you to enjoy the journey and that alone will create a peaceful homeschool environment.
9. Implement child-led learning. Let your children have a say in at least a few study topics or extra-curricular activities. Interested children learn.
Every topic my own children had a hand in choosing ended up way more successful than anything I would have planned. I didn’t have to beg them to get to work. It didn’t feel like ‘schoolwork’ when they were excited about the topic.
Depending on their ages, children may need some guidance and help with picking out books and projects to complete. Collaboration is a trust-building exercise. It can strengthen your relationship and help them gain confidence.
Oftentimes trust and confidence are the reason that children push back and resist doing school work. Once children realize that they have a real say in their education, they can contribute more than just ideas. They grow into independent and responsible students. This is especially important when it comes to planning the high school years.
10. Don’t sweat the small stuff and enjoy! No matter how well prepared you are for the new school year, no matter how perfect the curriculum, there will be those days when nothing goes right.
Nobody’s homeschool year is perfect! Everyone has those days.
Enjoy your time as much as possible. The days are long, but the years are short. A peaceful homeschool is one that knows that a day that started off on the wrong foot can be salvaged by taking a different approach. Go for a hike or throw on a DVD and take an alternative approach and start again tomorrow.
Maybe you have a peaceful homeschool already. Share in the comments your best tips for other moms to read. What brings you peace? Let’s make this school the best year ever!
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