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Sunday, September 20, 2009

8 Habits of a Happy Homeschool Mama

For most homeschoolers, school is in session and has been for a number of weeks. We are on week 8, which is about the time I usually start pulling out my hair a bit. How about you? I think what happens is we start to let our habits slide a little bit in the busy-ness of our day. So, in an effort to refresh my memory, I'm looking back over my habits to see where the slide might be occuring.

Good habits help keep me sane and our homeschool happy. Here are some that I've found particularly helpful:

Habit #1 - Routine is your friend!
Some people like those wonderfully detailed MOTH schedules. Others abhor them (that'd be me). My family needs a routine, and I bet yours does, too. However, our family life also requires a good deal of flexibility on a day-to-day basis. So, instead of adopting a time-based schedule, we use a task-based routine.

I've orgnized our day around certain "hard-stops": breakfast, baby's nap, lunch time, read or rest time, dinner, etc. After breakfast, we have devotions and then finish chores. When the baby goes down for her morning nap, we start school and work hard. After lunch, we have "read or rest" time. After "read or rest" everyone gets their chores done, etc. You get the idea.

However you decide to order your day, by MOTH or "hard-stop", keeping a routine gives your kids an expected pattern to their day. You save yourself and them a lot of frustration.

Habit #2 - Don't answer your phone just because it rings!
I do not answer the phone during school hours. In fact, in our home we rarely answer the phone because we are almost always in the middle of something (school, chores, a meal, a nap). When my phone rings and I answer it, it can easily derail my day. The kids scatter while I talk and then I have to spend 30 minutes corralling them back to their tasks.

So, instead, we listen as the caller is leaving a message and if it is truly an important and/or urgent call, THEN and ONLY THEN do we pick up. During our next break, I sit down and return any calls necessary.

So, if you have an answering machine, USE it...if you don't seriously consider getting one.

Habit #3 - Know what you are having for meals each day.
Having a house full of kids all day, every day can mean a lot of time in the kitchen between snacks, meals, and more snacks. They have to eat, so there is no getting around that, but it sure makes life easier when you know what you are having at each meal and for snacks, too.

Dinner is the most important meal to plan, then lunch, and then breakfast, and then snacks. If you can only handle planning for one, make it dinner. Donna Young's website has wonderful planners, including meal planners. Spend some time each week planning out your meals for the week.

At the very least, make sure you know what you are having for dinner each morning. Allow yourself the time needed to do any prep work, defrosting, marinating, etc. In fact, many times you can get some of this prep work done during the day rather than waiting until 5:00. Also, make sure you have all the ingredients on hand!

Always keep the ingredients on hand for an easy, family favorite dinner. Ours is Tuna Tetrazzini. Everything can be kept in the pantry and needs no defrosting or prep. Other ideas: "Taco Night" and "Breakfast for Dinner". These favorite easy meals are wonderful to pull out when you need to "punt" (see the next habit for an explanation of "punting"). And don't forget keeping meals in the freezer! There are many websites and cookbooks that have great ideas for "freezer meals".

Consider making a master schedule of meals. One particularly busy year, I set up a 4-week rotation of about 15-20 simple meals (dinner). Then I didn't even have to plan each week - it was already done for me!

Habit #4 - Know how to PUNT.
Ok, you are going to have many of THOSE DAYS during your homeschooling career. If you are like me, that might be once a month or even once a week! :) On these days you have to know how to "punt" - a term that means, "setting aside the lofty plans and just getting the job done any way you can". Plans fall apart, kids get sick, moms get sick, friends need big favors, etc.

So, how do you know when to "punt"? Anytime you are feeling overwhelmed and "normal" seems beyond your reach it is time to punt!

How do you "punt"? Keep a PUNT plan in your head - maybe even make a special PUNT box. In this box, keep fun, educational games, activities, books, movies. Throw in some special art and/or craft supplies, too, if you like. This is a good time to plan simple meals (like the "family favorite" mentioned above). Remember, kids CAN live on cereal for a day or two if they have to!

Habit #5 - Nurture the Nurturer
Take care of yourself. I repeat...TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

Get good rest. Do not feel guilty about taking the appropriate amount of time for rest that you need. Keep in mind this can change depending on your activity level and your season of life. If you are not well-rested you will be more prone to grouchiness. And, did you know, overeating!

Refresh yourself. Introverts need time alone to be refreshed. Extroverts need time with others to be refreshed. Get real and accept that this is the way the Lord made you - and it is GOOD. Find ways to provide this time for yourself on a regular basis.

Cultivate your own mind. Read books and magazines of interest to you - only for you. Spend some time learning something new or researching a subject you are interested in. There are some great online magazines and blogs that will challenge and inspire you - and most of them are FREE!

Habit #6 - Refuse to feel the need to defend your choice to homeschool.
Sharing your reasons for choosing homeschooling with someone is one thing, but don't feel that you need to defend the whole of homeschooling everytime someone questions or disparages your choice. A simple, "We find it works best for our family and our children," will surely suffice. And if not, just change the subject. "Oh, Norma, have you been doing something different with your hair? It looks just lovely!" Develop a thick-skin and a healthy sense of humor - you really can't homeschool without either.

Habit #7 - Find an "accomplished task".
With motherhood and homeschooling come many, many tasks that are never ending: laundry, meals, kitchen clean up, cleaning the house, planning school, etc. All of which are tasks that have no completion point. (Oh, you complete them for one day, but have to repeat them again the next.)

Find an activity that you can point to at the end of each day or week or month to see an "accomplished task". Try scrapbooking, painting, sketching, photography, crochet, knitting, quilting, etc. Whatever you enjoy!

This blog is one of my "accomplished tasks". Each post is complete and finalized when I'm done. I can look back and see what I've accomplished. Another hobby that I enjoy is crochet. I've always got a project or two going!

Habit #8 - What habit do you have that keeps your homeschool a happy place? Leave a comment!

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Mindy said...

These are great habits. We also try to start every day on the right foot with prayer, Bible, and character lessons. Getting the foundation of learning started right away, helps all of our attitudes (even mama). We get along better, activities go more smoothly. If children know how to learn and why, they can learn anything.

joelle said...

Thanks for these, they were very encouraging to read. Another tip would be to avoid to compare our kids with others.

Jessica said...

This was an encouraging read. So far, for us, routine seems to be important. With four under five, our routine involves lots of buffer time, but that's what seems to make it work.

Sara said...

Great habits. I'll definitely come back to reread this post. My new habit is similar to not answering the phone - don't check email during school time. Amazing how I get sucked in by the screen when I should be educating my chicks.

Amy said...

I liked your "punting" concept and the idea of "accomplished tasks." I need those, too! And I'll have to give your tuna tettrazini a try. :) Our go-to dinners are omelets and black bean quesadillas.

The only other thing I can think of that helps make our schoolday happier is when we incorporate some music of some kind: singing together before we open the books, stopping to play a freeze-dance game as a break, or even just having classical music on in the background in the afternoon. Music makes everything better! :)

Thanks for this well thought out post!

Dana said...

Remembering to do the fun stuff. When stressed, I tend to strip lessons down to essentials for time's sake. But the kids don't value the time saved as much as the leisurely walk through lessons & associated play.

Kerry said...

GREAT additions to the Habits for Happy Homeschool Mamas. All good ideas!

Anonymous said...

What excellent tips!

I find that I do just about everything on your list...but there is one that I have found is absolutely essential to keeping sanity and joy in the home: Time Alone with God (or TAWG, as I call it). I need this in the morning because it sets the entire tone for my day. By the time the children wake up, I'm awake, alert and ready to tackle the challenges laid before me because I've renewed my strength with the Lord.

When I don't get this time, it REALLY shows.

momishome2 said...

Great reminders - thanks for sharing. Since I'm also a WAHM, what makes this mamma happy is protecting my work time as much as possible. I've set up certain times to help my girls with big projects and discussions and certain other times for me to work. Of course, I am always available for quick questions, but this helps our day to flow a little more smoothly.
Bethany L.

H-Mama said...

Hopping over from Elizabeth Esther's. Great list! ;)

Christa said...

"Don't put it down, put it away." That habit goes a long way toward saving my sanity. We're working on instilling in it our children as well as ourselves.

Nikki said...

If I start my morning off with both spiritual and physical exercise everyone has a better day!
We are currently on week 8 too, and I agree...I am letting all my good habits slip. Thank you for the very timely reminder.

Joshua's blog and his mom Angie said...

Thanks! I think I need to paste all of the ideas on my fridge as a reminder:)