Author Archives: Sallie

Feeling Inadequate and Homeschooling Stress

Feeling Inadequate and Homeschooling Stress

Feeling Inadequate and Homeschooling Stress

I started my teaching career 25 years ago this fall. When I think back to what I didn’t know, I’m amazed at what I was able to accomplish that year teaching a group of twelve third-fourth-fifth grade students in a brand new school that consisted of four portables. The reality is most teachers are inadequately prepared when they step into their first classroom, even if they graduate from a top program like I did at Michigan State University. There is no way to know everything. You must learn as you go.

I have often wondered why they hired me. Partially I think it was a God thing because most of my professional life traces back to that one job that I had for one year. I don’t think it was a coincidence I was there. But I can think of a few things I said in my interview that were not at all in line with what Hillsdale College stands for and promotes. They obviously looked beyond those comments and saw something else in me. I’m guessing they saw the following traits.

  • A track record of being self-motivated
  • A successful academic career
  • A strong history of leadership

None of those things really have much to do with being adequately prepared to be a teacher. Or do they? I would say they do, especially in a brand new school.

I believe some of the same principles carry over into the arena of parents who feel inadequate to homeschool.

Many homeschooling parents feel inadequate for the responsibility of homeschooling their own children. That’s not surprising. Homeschooling may have never been on your radar. You might not have even liked school yourself. You might think you aren’t smart enough. You might believe teaching is something for professionals.

I think success as a homeschooling parent has far more to do with who you are willing to become than it does with who you currently are.

The questions you need to ask yourself are these:

  • Are you are willing to learn?
  • Are you willing to research?
  • Are you able to be self-motivated?
  • Are you willing to adapt and be flexible?

These are the character traits that parents need to have in order to be successful homeschoolers. Homeschooling requires a significant willingness to grow as an individual. Just as no teacher is totally adequate for the job when she starts, most parents are not totally ready for homeschooling. But if they have a commitment to doing whatever it takes, I believe the vast majority can be successful.

Even with all the experience I had in the classroom, I’ve still been on a huge learning curve with homeschooling my daughter. Gifted/2e was never on my radar. Dysgraphia wasn’t on my radar. My education experience prepared me to a certain degree, but when it comes down to it nothing could have really prepared me for this homeschooling journey. I’ve had to jump in and constantly educate myself in order to give my daughter the education she needs.

Honestly, when I think about moving toward middle school and high school, I am tempted with feeling inadequate. I’ve spent my teaching career in elementary school. This is my arena. So even though I’ve had to make a lot of changes in my thinking, this age was still my “thing”. I think ahead to how in the world I’m going to get Caroline through to a high school diploma and it’s truly overwhelming if I dwell on it.

But I know if I am willing to continue to learn, research and adapt, we’ll get there somehow.

And so will you.

This is part of my Overcoming Homeschooling Stress series.

Overcoming Homeschooling Stress - A Series

A Busy, Messy House and Homeschooling Stress

A Busy, Messy House and Homeschooling Stress

A Busy, Messy House and Homeschooling Stress

Is your house busy? Is it messy? I suspect for many families this is a significant area where they need to make changes in order to overcome homeschooling stress. However, this is one of the stress factors that is easy to identify and can be acted upon rather quickly in most homes.

The bottom line is this.:

Find a way to clean out your house. Find a system to keep it cleaned out.

I know that sounds simple, but it will never fix itself. You must attack it ruthlessly.

Get Rid of Half of What is in Your House

I’m not joking, but get rid of half of what is in your home. I would guess most people who struggle with a messy house could remove HALF of what they own from their home and they would still have plenty.

  • How much do you have in your kitchen that you never use?
  • How much junk do you have in your bathrooms and linen closet that you never use, is past dated or you don’t like?
  • How many clothes do you have hanging in your closet that you never wear?
  • How much homeschool curriculum do you have falling off shelves that you will never use?
  • How many books do you have in your house that no one reads, no one will ever read, and you only keep around because homeschoolers “should have lots of books in their homes.”

There is no lack of information online about how to deal with messes, but most of it involves the clever storage of the stuff, not actually ruthlessly getting rid of the excess. I’ve shared a few times recently about my experience reading and using The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

It’s a simple book, but a powerful process. It is not about buying more storage containers and shuffling stuff around your home so you can cram more in. It is about getting rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy.

How much could you get rid of? You might be surprised once you get started.

Keep the Mess to Designated Areas

As homeschoolers with little and big people around all day, there is always going to be something going on. There is no way to homeschool and not have stuff around. But if you can keep the homeschooling action to designated areas, it will make a big difference.

Find a place in your house where you can keep the mess of homeschooling and children contained. We created a learning room out of our living room. We also have an art area in our unfinished basement where Caroline can paint and do messy crafts. That’s it. We don’t allow it to spread throughout the dining room, family room, office, etc. We have a smaller home and use every inch of it in a purposeful way. We practice containment of the homeschooling paraphernalia pretty ruthlessly.

If you need ideas on how to organize or set up your homeschooling area, check out my Creative Ways to Re-energize Your Homeschool Space for ideas that cover all different kinds of homeschooling situations.

Come Up with a Plan for Papers

This is a big one for homeschoolers. I only have one child and we do minimal paperwork. I STILL have struggled with what to do with the papers, especially the artwork. LOL!

The best solution I’ve hit upon is a three-ring binder with plastic sleeves. It won’t hold everything, but it can hold a great deal. Plus it’s fun to go through and look at all of the different things we’ve done over the year!

Caroline notebook cover

Caroline notebook

Finding a paper system that works for you is very important if you are going to eliminate the messy house. If you take the time to file the paperwork every Friday, it doesn’t become overwhelming half way through the year or, even worse, at the end of the year.

What steps can you take starting today to get on top of your busy, messy house once and for all?

This is part of my Overcoming Homeschooling Stress series.

Overcoming Homeschooling Stress - A Series

Feeling Behind and Homeschooling Stress

Feeling Behind and Homeschooling Stress

 

Feeling Behind and Homeschooling Stress

Do you ever feel behind as a homeschooling parent? I think it is a normal part of the homeschooling experience that often contributes to homeschooling stress. And since I’ve been a classroom teacher, too, can I let you in on a little secret?

Teachers deal with this all the time. Even the very best teachers struggle with feeling behind and not on top of things. I think it is part of being an educator whether you are educating at home or in a school building.

So what drives this feeling that we always feel behind? How much of it is true and how much of it is something else?

Too Much Curriculum

One of the biggest reasons we feel behind is that we simply expect too much. We have unrealistic expectations about what we can accomplish in a day, a week, a month and a year. We homeschool our children because we care deeply about their education. In our desire to provide them with an excellent education, we expect far too much of them and ourselves.

In order to make sure they get everything they could possibly need, we plan too many subjects and curriculum that is too involved. Some parents try to pack so much into their year that it’s virtually impossible to accomplish it all. You can look at their schedule at back to school time and predict with certainty that they won’t be able to do it all.

If you constantly feel behind because you expect to much, try to decide what really matters. Are you doing something because it is best for your kids or because someone else is doing it? Are you doing something because “all good homeschoolers do this” even if it doesn’t appeal to your child? Be brutally honest about what you are trying to accomplish and what needs to go.

Unrealistic Schedule

Some parents design schedules that are frankly just unrealistic. There is no margin in the schedule for the disruptions of life we all face. They fail to factor in enough time for sickness, emergencies, down days, and my personal favorite, the drama of age disequilibrium.

When scheduling, try working in catch up days. At the very least, plan one every few weeks. Or you can schedule all your learning for Monday through Thursday with Friday designed for catching up. However it works for your family, be realistic and not idealistic when setting up a schedule.

Wrong Kind of Long-Term Vision

Parents can fall either way on this one. Some parents feel constantly behind because they live in the distant future rather than the present. They are afraid Susie won’t be ready for college calculus if she doesn’t stay on top of second grade math this fall. Rather than enjoy second grade math, they worry about calculus.

The other extreme is the parents who fail to see the big picture of homeschooling and trust that it will all work out in the end. They obsess about crossing every t and dotting every i every single day for fear that they will miss some little detail. Instead of thinking long term and letting the process unfold, they  constantly feel burdened by the details of today.

A Change of Mindset

Getting rid of that nagging feeling of always being behind might be as simple as changing your thinking a tad or making a few adjustments to your curriculum and planning. How can you reduce your homeschooling stress and stop feeling behind?

This is part of my Overcoming Homeschooling Stress series.

Overcoming Homeschooling Stress - A Series

Survival List for Work-at-Home Homeschooling Moms

Survival List for Work-at-Home Homeschooling Moms

Survival List for Work-at-Home Homeschooling Moms

As if homeschooling our children isn’t enough, many of us also decide to add working at home to the mix. I still haven’t decided if we’re blessed to be able do this or totally crazy. Probably a lot of both.

I began working at home as a writer in 1998 when I decided to leave teaching. David began working at home when he was downsized out of his corporate job in 2001. He’s an excellent web designer and graphic designer. We often work together on projects and he has his own clients as well. He also does all the design for my products in my learning shop. We worked from home together for five years before Caroline was born and have continued to do so.

After working at home for over fifteen years and the past nine with a child I’m now homeschooling, I’ve determined that there are definite needs in order to succeed. This is my big picture, all-in-one survival list for homeschooling moms who are thinking about working from home.

What Do You Need to Work from Home?

Realistic Goals

It all starts here, folks.

I belong to a bloggers group on Facebook. We regularly have moms who say something like: “I have five children under the age of eight and I’m homeschooling the oldest three. I really want to earn a full-time income off my blog I just started two months ago, but I’m finding it hard to get the time to get much done. How can I get it done?”

You know what the answer is 99% of the time for that situation? You can’t. Unless you have an incredible support network that regularly helps with childcare and/or you have a husband who makes very good money so you can outsource most of your homemaking responsibilities and get lots of babysitter time, you simply aren’t going to be able to be a good mom to five kids, homeschool three of them, and work full-time from home. That’s not a realistic goal.

Another example is people who decide to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers after seeing an article about teachers who have made a million dollars selling on there. They expect to earn $5,000 a month after a couple of months. That’s not realistic.

Working from home, especially when it is your own business, is a marathon. It will take a long time to build up a business that pays well. We’re talking YEARS. If you need cash right away, it is better to find someone who will pay you to work from home such as answering phones for a customer service line. If you aren’t careful with your spending, you might be better off finding ways to cut corners and save money instead of trying to generate a way to make more money.

You have to be realistic or you will be constantly frustrated. And one guess who will bear the brunt of your frustration. Your children. Because it will be all to easy to see them as the obstacle to your money making goals instead of delightful little people entrusted to your love and care. Unless you are truly in a desperate place financially, working from home can wait. Little people can’t.

A Supportive Husband

If you are going to work from home, you need to have a supportive husband. If he’s not on board with your plans, it is going to cause friction in your marriage and it isn’t worth it. He’ll resent the time you spend working instead of taking care of the home and investing in your relationships with him and your children. If you are barely holding it together in terms of taking care of your home, homeschooling and mothering, it’s not going to get any easier when you try working as well. Your best approach to change his mind is to demonstrate you can do everything else over an extended period of time and then suggest that you slowly add a few hours of work time each week.

I could not do what I do if I didn’t have David’s support. He supports me emotionally and physically. He does many of the household chores because we agree that my work is just as important as his. Our marriage is truly a partnership in every sense of the word. If your husband isn’t willing to support your need for time to work, then think long and hard before you try to take this on.

Sleep

If your business plan requires that you sleep only four or five hours a night, rip it up and start over. You cannot be a healthy person on four or five hours of sleep. This goes back to the realistic goals I mentioned up above. If your plan to work requires that you sabotage your body in the process, forget it. It’s not worth the long-term health problems.

Your little people need a mama who is reasonably healthy. You simply cannot be healthy mentally, emotionally and physically if you are chronically sleep deprived. A lack of sleep messes with your brain in a multitude of ways. You lose your ability to think clearly, you lose your ability to be patient, etc. You need your sleep.

A Simplified Life

If you are working from home and homeschooling little people, that is enough. Period. I personally think that you need to consider letting go of any other commitments both for your own sanity as well as your children’s. It is going to be challenging enough for some of your kids to share you with work. If you are also involved in multiple outside activities, you are probably going to be stretched too thin.

We live in a culture that thinks margin is optional. You need margin. Your children need margin. Your family as a whole needs margin. Again, if you are homeschooling and working from home I truly believe that is enough for most women. If you aren’t convinced, read one of my favorite books – Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. (He also wrote another favorite of mine – The Overload Syndrome: Learning to Live Within Your Limits.)

If you have a hard time saying no, then you need to get a grip on that as well. I wrote a short ebook about that very topic – Thoughts and Quotes on Learning to Say “No”. (Here for Kindle version.) It’s a brief book with an action plan in the back. If you have a hard time telling people no when they ask you to do this or that, please read my book. You are going to need to set boundaries in order to achieve some sense of balance and margin in your life.

Routines

Routines are very beneficial to a work-at-home mom. You don’t want to spend the precious limited energy you have each day herding children who have never been taught routines. Determine the routines that work for your family and then implement them. Try to get as many parts of your family life on autopilot as possible. This includes laundry, cleaning, and meals. Conserve your mental energy for when you sit down to work.

Flexibility and a Sense of Humor

While I just said you need a routine, you also have to be willing to be flexible. That great workplan you have lined up for this afternoon that you can’t wait to get to? It will get torpedoed when one of your little people ends up breaking an arm, you have an inconsolable teething baby, or the babysitter can’t come. Family life is going to get in the way of your work plans over and over again. You can laugh or cry. Choose to have a sense of humor about it or you’ll end up stressed out and angry.

Confidence that Comes from Prayer

What you are attempting to do is challenging. If you are a Christian, I encourage you to pray about this before you begin. While it may be your desire to work from home, the Lord might have other plans for you. It might be a season of “not yet” at this point. Ask for guidance and then more forward in confidence with whatever answer you receive.

A Work-at-Home Environment

So what about a work-at-home environment? What is important to consider?

Tanks Filled First

One thing we learned as work-at-home parents is that we have to fill our daughter’s tank first. She must have her needs met early in the day or the entire day can quickly go downhill. Doing homeschool with her is not filling her tank. I’m talking play and total focus on her. If we fill that tank before lunch, the rest of the day generally moves along much more smoothly.

A Tidy and Clutter-Free Home

Everyone has the ability to live with different levels of “mess”. For example, some people work fine at a messy desk and other people are paralyzed by it. You need to do what works for you.

The clutter I’m talking about is the mess that constantly sucks your time. The things you shuffle around because they really don’t have a home. The pile of stuff in the basement that never gets dealt with and continues to grow. The overflow of toys that you constantly have to pick up because your children haven’t been taught any kind of routine or there are so many it’s basically impossible for them to clean up.

This kind of clutter is a drain.

I recently wrote about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I highly recommend reading it if you have too much stuff. If you read the post I wrote, there are also links to a couple of dramatizations that show it in action. As I’ve gone through my home following these principles, I’ve eliminated probably 30-50% in each room or storage area. This surprised even me as we are not terribly materialistic and live in a relatively smaller home by today’s standards (1550 square feet). I’ve already pitched and decluttered many times in the past. But this book was kind of like the magic key I needed to take it to the next level.

Don’t waste your precious mental and emotional energy on clutter. Tackle it once and for all. Take a few weeks and attack it relentlessly. Free yourself from the bondage of stuff.

Be brutally honest with yourself. If you can’t tackle the clutter that regularly impedes your life, how will you manage your own business or work from home?

Work-at-Home Tools

So what are some tools that you need to effectively work from home? I’m not going to give you a long list of expensive bells and whistles. I’m going to share the things that truly make the biggest difference in our lives.

Planner

Find a planner that works for you. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I have used this Blue Sky Weekly/Monthly Planner in a slightly different pattern for the past four years. It is not expensive and works fine for my life. I only last year added a separate planning three ring binder for my blogging, social media, sponsored posts, reviews, etc. because it was becoming too much to manage in one calendar. But when you are just starting out, you can start out small. There are many free blogging planners available online if you do a search. Start with something basic.

I know there are many planning and organizational apps out there as well, but I’m a paper and pencil gal. I don’t want my life to all be on an electronic device. If that works for you, great! I’m wired differently and prefer to keep things as simple as possible. Some people see technology as simplifying. I do to a point, but only to a point. After that point, I think it minimizes margin and boundaries by making us too accessible and making it almost impossible to disconnect from our work. (That’s another discussion!)

A Quality Website

Make the investment in a quality website. If you are serious about your business or blog, make it look professional. Buy your own domain and set up a self-hosted WordPress website. Don’t use a Blogger or WordPress.com website because you don’t own them. (Blogger can delete your website at any time and for no reason. You do not own your Blogger website or the content you put on there. WordPress.com does not allow you to engage in commercial activity.)

If you have a blog or website you aren’t happy with, David would love to help you (just like he helped Leslie with her website)! Or if you need something completely yours, he is very experienced in creating a site that will be just what you want!

A Mailing List

This is one of the biggest mistakes I made the first several years I was blogging. I never developed a mailing list. From the beginning, make it easy to keep in touch with people who visit your website. I use MadMimi and am very happy with it. Set up an easy way for people to subscribe to your mailing list. Even if you only contact them once a quarter when you are starting out, you are building up your own list of contacts.

iBlog Pro

If your business is blogging related, I highly recommend iBlog Pro – taking your blog to the next level. It is full of practical information that will help you move forward with your blogging as a business. I contributed a few chapters and there is so much great information in there that I wish I had known when I started out.

Amazon Prime

Honestly, Amazon Prime is the best tool for work-at-home and homeschooling moms. I don’t have time to run all over the place shopping. I can get virtually anything shipped to me in two days for free. Caroline can watch tons of videos through Amazon Prime for free. Between the Meijer that is a mile from our home, the local shops we have a half a mile from our home in Cute Little Town, and Amazon, I rarely have to take time to go shopping. (Like I said, we’re not very materialistic at all.) Amazon Prime pays for itself over and over and over again every year.

A Babysitter

If you can afford it, hire a babysitter. I honestly think for a homeschooling work-at-home mom a babysitter is a legitimate need, not a luxury. We hire a sitter to come in one afternoon a week (sometimes two) and it makes all the difference in the world. The ability to focus for an extended period of time without being distracted or interrupted is gold. It’s also fun for our daughter who gets someone different to play with.

A Drop-Off Homeschool Co-op

We’ve been members of a drop-off homeschool co-op since Caroline was in kindergarten. It’s win-win for everyone. She gets to go to co-op and have fun with other kids while learning. We get a break and can focus on work during that time.

Highly Engaging, Self-Directed Activities for Children

This is critically important. You need to have highly-engaging, self-directed activities for your children. For us, that also meant making peace with screens.

I’m not exaggerating when I say getting a Kindle Fire and Kindle Freetime changed our lives. It was something that was highly-engaging, learning oriented and self-directed for Caroline. Then we added Minecraft – Pocket Edition. Caroline found that she absolutely loved the exploring and learning of Minecraft. With the different options we had available to us, it freed up a couple of hours a day for David and me to work.

Meal Plans and Shortcuts

Having a list of quick meals and recipes is important. If you spend all the income you earn on eating out, you might as well not work. A slow cooker is great for having a good meal on the table at the end of the day. Even better, the new Instant Pot makes it possible to cook a meal in a very short period of time.

Some people do detailed meal planning for every week. I’ve personally never found that to work. I keep a variety of foods available and we use what works that day and that meal. I’ve found working at home requires flexibility in terms of unexpected phone calls and so on. Whatever method works for you, just make sure you have one!

Online Support System

Find some groups online that make up a support system. There are many groups on Facebook, website forums, etc. where you can connect with other people who do similar work at home to yours. When you work at home, it is easy to feel disconnected professionally. I think seeking out people who do similar work is vitally important both for interaction and also networking, trouble-shooting and so on.

Household Help

I put this one last because this is something I don’t have, but wish I did. The first thing I would hire out is the lawn care, even before a housekeeper. We’re pretty tidy people by nature and I’m very good about keeping things picked up. We don’t mind cleaning and with only three of us it really doesn’t get that dirty around here that often. But I would love to have someone take care of the lawn (and the snow) since it always seems like a huge inconvenience when David has to do it. So those are on my someday list. If you can afford them, it might be well worth the expense, especially once your business gets going.

Work-at-Home Homeschooling Moms

It is possible to work from home and homeschool your children! For some, it is the perfect answer to both their financial and educational needs. It could be the answer for your family as well.

If your children are very young, think carefully before taking too much on. They truly need you a great deal of the time. Just a few years down the road it will be much easier. In our own home, the difference between what we could accomplish with a five year old and what we can accomplish now with an almost nine year old is HUGE. Truly HUGE. It’s so much easier now. That isn’t to say we don’t have challenges, but the older your children get the more they can at least understand why you need to work. Lay the groundwork slowly and start with even just cleaning out your home! That will start you on the right track.

Best wishes in your working endeavors!

Discover what other homeschoolers can’t live without!

Things My Homeschool Couldn't Do Without

Choosing Homeschool Curriculum and Homeschooling Stress

Choosing Homeschool Curriculum and Homeschooling Stress

Choosing Homeschool Curriculum and Homeschooling Stress

When I look at homeschool curriculum websites, articles and catalogs, generally two things happen.

My eyes glaze over.

My brain wants to shut down.

Seriously.

Choosing homeschool curriculum is often a contributing factor to homeschool stress. I think there are a number of reasons for that.

  • It’s often expensive so we don’t want to make a costly mistake.
  • There are so many choices it is overwhelming.
  • We don’t want to mess up our child’s education and teach her the wrong things.
  • We feel pressure from friends, family and other homeschoolers to do school a certain way.
  • It’s tempting to get sucked into the newest and hottest thing.

I do think it is possible to greatly reduce the amount of stress related to choosing curriculum if we adjust our mindset a bit.

First, accept the fact that you are going to waste money. You are. So cut yourself some slack from the start and accept that NOBODY makes perfect curriculum choices every time, every year. It happens to all of us.

The second is this bit of wisdom from a veteran homeschool mom. I’ve linked to this many times since she wrote it in 2007, but it is so true. Anna at Pleasant View Schoolhouse wrote in Homeschooling Heresies:

Curriculum doesn’t matter. I don’t care what I use to teach my children. Give me something, and I will make it work. I am deeply wary of the desire for perfect teaching materials, and I view the search for the magic bullet curriculum as a time and money pit. Because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you sat down with your child and together engaged in mastering an idea.

If you aren’t familiar with Anna and her children… I would say her approach has worked out very well for their family eight years later. Don’t miss the rest of that post.

Reducing the Stress

So how do we reduce the stress of choosing curriculum? Here are a few suggestions.

When classroom teachers are given curriculum, they adapt is as they see fit for their students. Unless their school district is incredibly rigid, teachers take what they are given and do what works for them. They never use it as it is written. (Often they don’t even LIKE what they’ve been given!) That’s what we should do as homeschool moms as well. As Anna said in her post, adapt rather than buy different. If you discover you’ve purchased curriculum and it isn’t working, ask yourself why. Ask your child why. You may be able to continue to use it but in a modified fashion. Sometimes it might truly be something that you cannot salvage, but oftentimes you can.

If you can’t figure out a way to adapt it to make it work, get rid of it. It’s not worth the stress and conflict. You would be better off printing free worksheets from the internet for a few months than trying to use something that isn’t ever going to work. For example, I bought Life of Fred to try with Caroline after reading how many children who are wired like her love it. She hated it. Flat out rejected it. If you’ve ever seen it, you know there really isn’t any way to adapt it. Chalk it up to a loss and move on.

Be sure to work with your child’s natural bent. I’ve said it before, but my learning style and Caroline’s are different in many ways. It really doesn’t matter what I like. I have to work with her natural bent. I have to figure out how to work with who she is and plan to accommodate her needs. So seek to understand your child and then choose. If you are choosing based on your school experiences or what you think a “good homeschooler” should do, then you may end up with curriculum that doesn’t work for your child. We all choose to homeschool so we can give our children the education they need. The way we do that best is by working with who our child is whether it is his personality type or his age-specific needs.

Keep it simple because less is more. We all start off the year with these grandiose plans about how much we are going to accomplish. The reality is most of us are biting off way more than we can chew. Then we feel guilty for not using the things we so carefully purchased which leads to more guilt. Instead of trying to cram in as much as possible, how about trying to do the minimum and open up more play time for your child?

Have clear and realistic goals. If you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish, it is going to be hard to select curriculum that will get you there. Don’t worry about the goals of other families in real life or online. The only family that matters is yours. Set clear and realistic goals and then find the materials that will help you achieve those goals.

Be realistic about your own limitations. You know what classroom teachers lament? There isn’t enough time. You know what homeschool parents lament? There isn’t enough time. No teacher can meet the needs of every student. And you know what? You can’t meet every perceived academic need of your child. You really can’t. You have to choose where you are going to focus your time and energy. Just like every child who graduates from traditional school has holes in his/her education, so will your child. That’s just reality. No one does it all. No school system does and no homeschool mom will either. If you think you can find curriculum so your child’s education has no holes, you will slowly drive yourself insane. Seriously.

So as you decide on curriculum for the upcoming year or try to figure out what to do with the mess you currently find yourself facing, remember that choosing curriculum is a problem that can be solved. You can make changes. And you will find an answer!

This is part of my Overcoming Homeschooling Stress series.

Overcoming Homeschooling Stress - A Series

FREE-for-the-Summer

FREE for the Summer from Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op

Disclosure: iHomeschool Network is compensating me to share this free, no strings attached offer with you.

We’ve all heard of the summer slide. As a teacher, I witnessed it first-hand every year. Children took the entire summer off from academics and it took them weeks to get back in the swing of things in the fall. We spent the first few weeks every year repeating content they had learned the previous year. It was catch up time with math, reading and writing. The summer slide is real. (In fact, you probably remember those boring weeks of reviewing in school yourself each fall.)

Whether you are a homeschooler or utilize traditional school for your children, keeping them academically active during the summer can help prevent the summer slide. After all of the effort you and your child put forth to learn, it’s really a shame to see it lapse over June, July and August. To help you out with this, a number of companies are partnering with the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op to provide fun learning activities for free with no strings attached this summer. All you have to do to take advantage of this great opportunity is become a member of the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op if you aren’t one already. (And that is free, too!)

Scroll down to see what is being offered and find the opportunities that would best meet your child’s needs this summer to prevent the slide!

FREE for the Summer

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It’s FREE to join and membership is private!

Age Disequilibrium and Homeschooling Stress

Age Disequilibrium and Homeschooling Stress

Age Disequilibrium and Homeschooling Stress

Several years ago I became aware of the idea of age disequilibrium. It answered many of my questions regarding how a child’s behavior could change so drastically over the period of a few months. I wrote at one point about my perplexity with the half year disequilibrium at three and a half years. If you aren’t familiar with these concepts, then you can see this explanation of the roller coaster of equilibrium and disequilibrium.

It is unfortunate that every expectant parent isn’t required to study child development and topics like this. I think many problems could be avoided, especially for parents who truly have no idea about the different stages of childhood. I had a good working knowledge as an educator and even then that was not enough.

Although there are general time frames, every child goes through the stages at his or her own individual pace so you have to learn to observe and read your child. For example, one thing I noticed over time is that Caroline did not hit the stages at the six months on and off exactly. She seemed to hit the next stage about two months ahead of time.

Age Disequilibrium and Homeschooling

So what does this have to do with stress in homechooling? It could have a great deal to do with it depending on your child’s birthday and your school year flow.

For example, let’s say it is the start of school and your child is hitting a disequilibrium stage or is already in the midst of it. Here is the dedicated homechool mom trying to get the school year off to a great start. Here is her child entering a huge developmental change which entails lots of angst, emotions, rigidity, etc.

Can you say recipe for conflict and stress?

Mom feels like the child is uncooperative and disobedient. The child feels out of sorts and probably doesn’t even fully understand what is going on in his body. This is the kind of situation that will cause a lot of stress for mom. It may even make mom hate homeschooling and want to quit.

Disequilibrium + First Year of Homeschooling = Major Challenges

So what if your first year of homeschooling coincides with your child’s year of disequilibrium?

Whoa.

Can you imagine? If you look at the stages of development chart here, imagine you start homeschooling in kindergarten. Are you starting kindergarten with a child who is happily in equilibrium from 5 – 5.5 or are you starting with a kindergartener who is in disequilibrium from 5.5 – 6? Can you see how that could make a tremendous difference in how homeschooling goes?

Or what if after a couple of years of traditional school you decide to homeschool. So you bring home your seven year old child to start homeschooling in second grade. Except year seven is an entire year of disequilibrium. And lucky you if your child’s birthday coincides with roughly the start of school.

So not only are you trying to deschool and adjust to homeschooling, your child is also going through a major period of disequilibrium.

Can you see how that could contribute to homeschooling stress?

Homeschooling During Disequilibrium

There have been times when I could discern Caroline was going through a period of disequilibrium and I just said forget it. If she’s already dealing with growth stuff, I’m not going to pour gasoline on the fire and push her in other ways. Disequilibrium is not the time to decide you are going to double-down on the academics and get caught up. You might be lucky to just get the minimum done.

The trade-off was when Caroline was in equilibrium, we could get so much more done. She was much more cooperative and eager to learn. Honestly, it is easier to coast for a month or two when the disequilibrium is at its worst and make up for it later on when the child is better able to handle it.

Obviously the more children you have the more challenging it is going to be to adjust your homeschooling to their periods of disequilibrium. But if you can be aware of how these times of growth and change are impacting your child, you can at least make some adjustments with your academic expectations. And if for some reason you truly have to keep a rigid schedule, just remember that the way your child is acting has far more to do with what is happening physically, mentally and emotionally than it does with you. The Center for Parenting Education points this out specifically:

Try not to blame your child for being more sensitive or less flexible during periods of disequilibrium. They are not “acting that way on purpose” and are not “out to get you”.

It’s really important to not take it personally even though it might feel very personal at times.

This goes double for the mom who is also in the role of homeschooler/teacher.

Wanting to Quit

I wrote a post about 5 Reasons Not to Quit after Your First Year of Homeschooling. There are so many challenges and adjustments to make that first year. I think it’s especially true if you have been through a tough year of homeschooling AND your child was in disequilibrium.

If the stress of homeschooling makes you want to quit, try to step back and look at the big picture. See if developmental spurts might be contributing to the stress and then come up with a plan to adjust your year or expectations accordingly.

This is part of my Overcoming Homeschooling Stress series.

Overcoming Homeschooling Stress - A Series

Personality Types and Homeschooling Stress

Personality Types and Homeschooling Stress

Personality Types and Homeschooling Stress

Do you know your personality type? Do you realize how much your personality type impacts how you interact with people, events and environmental stimuli?

Have you considered how the personality types of the other people in your home impact your homeschooling experiences? Did you ever think that conflicting personality types and homeschooling stress can go hand in hand?

For my 31 Days of Learning Differently Series, Susan Williams wrote a guest post on How Understanding Personality Types Can Improve Your Parent-Child Relationship. If you haven’t read that post, please click over and read it or this post won’t make sense (unless you are already well acquainted with personality types such as those done by Myers-Briggs).

I do want to say that as a Christian I do not believe we are bound to or captive to our personality types. I see them as helpful, general ways to understand how we instinctively function in the world around us. Certainly any parts of our personality type that cause us frustration can be areas for spiritual growth. But thinking about this can be tremendously helpful.

Conflicting Personality Types

So using the type explanations and examples Susan gave us, let’s imagine these two people in a homeschool situation.

Mom:

  • Introvert (thinks and then acts, processes information alone)
  • Sensing (starts at the beginning and completes one step at a time)
  • Thinker (strives for achievement)
  • Judging (lives by schedules)

Child:

  • Extravert (thinks out loud, acts and then thinks)
  • Intuitive (imaginative, creative, jumps in, notices everything new or different)
  • Feeler (strives to help others)
  • Perceiving (postpones decisions, asks a lot of questions, likes to keep options open)

Can you imagine how often this mother and child would clash? Can you imagine how this child could drive this mother nuts? Can you see how this child could be viewed as extremely uncooperative by this kind of mother? Can you imagine the stress for both of them?

The mom would be stressed because the child won’t settle down, focus and just stay on schedule. The child will be frustrated because the mom is constantly trying to push to stay on schedule and Get. Stuff. Done. while the child is too busy thinking about something new and keeping up a steady stream of questions and thoughts about whatever has captured his attention.

Can you see how this one aspect of their relationship (personality type) can cause huge amounts of friction every. single. day?

Mom thinks that she’s a terrible homeschooler/parent (and Christian) because:

  • she is constantly struggling to keep the child on task
  • they aren’t getting through the curriculum quickly enough and get behind
  • her child seems to only be interested in exploring every new thing that captures his attention instead of the lessons she has meticulously planned
  • she is constantly frustrated and short-tempered with child

Child thinks he is a bad child and student because:

  • mom is constantly upset with him and becomes frustrated every time they do schoolwork together
  • he struggles to stay on task when she asks him to do things he finds boring
  • mom gets mad every time he asks an interesting question or makes an observation about something not related to the lesson

Now understand that these are just two of the sixteen possible personality types (ISTJ and ENFP). And most of the members of your family will have different personality types.

Can you see how this can create some tremendous stress in a homeschooling situation?

The truth of the matters is there is nothing wrong with either one of them. They simply approach life and learning differently. They will have to find a way to make it work in such a way that they can both be happy.

And the reality is that it is up to the mom to adapt to her child’s learning style and needs more than it is up to the child to adapt to what the mother wants while at the same time maintaining a mom-friendly homeschool approach. It is definitely a balancing act.

If you’ve never figured out your own personality type, I highly recommend taking the time to do so. It will help you understand the way you approach life, home, work, homeschooling, your children, your spouse, etc. Even if you can’t clearly identify the personality type of each child in your home, you should be able to get a general idea of each one.

If you don’t have a lot of time, simply go through the options in Susan’s post and see which way you and your children lean. If you want to know more, there are numerous short tests you can take online that will give you an idea of what you might be. If you are really committed to finding out, you can be professionally tested.

Once you figure out your child’s personality type, you can begin to make adjustments to the way you structure your homeschooling with each one. You might discover better ways to structure their learning, how to change the types of lessons you give them (or don’t), and how you deliver their lessons.

And in case you were wondering, I’m an INFJ, David is an ISFP, and I’m guessing Caroline is an ENFP.

This is part of my Overcoming Homeschooling Stress series.

Overcoming Homeschooling Stress - A Series

Overcoming Homeschooling Stress - A Series

Overcoming Homeschooling Stress – A Series

Overcoming Homeschooling Stress - A Series

I’m a proponent of home education and believe it can be a powerful option for many families. It’s easy to find information about all of the benefits of homeschooling whether they are educational, social, financial or emotional. But the reality is that homeschooling can be incredibly stressful for the parents and the moms in particular. Many parents find themselves wanting to quit due in large part to the stress that often accompanies homeschooling.

As much as I believe in homeschooling, I confess I find it stressful. I wish I didn’t, but I do. I believe there is a combination of factors that contribute to that stress. Part of it is my personality. Part of it is life circumstances. Part of it is the way my child is wired. And part of it is just the natural stress that occurs in almost every homeschooling family.

If you are one of those parents who finds homeschooling easy and you rarely struggle with it on a regular basis… I’m happy for you. You probably don’t need this series, but I hope you will read along and share it with your friends who do struggle.

If you are a mom who struggles with stress related to homeschooling more than occasionally, then this series is for you.

We’re looking at different areas of homeschooling and family life that can cause stress. Identifying what is causing the stress and how we can deal with it will make a big difference. It’s easy to just say that homeschooling is hard and stressful, but never take the time to analyze what is contributing to it. In reality, for most people it is probably a combination of factors causing the stress.

The truth of the matter is if we don’t deal with the stressful aspects of homeschooling, they can overwhelm the good we are trying to accomplish with our children.

So what are we going to look at? This is what I have planned (but not set in stone or necessarily in this order!).

Do you relate to any of these? I’m guessing you do. I hope you find encouragement and some suggestions that will work for you. If you’ve discovered something that helps you in any of these areas, please leave a comment on that post and encourage other moms with your hard-earned wisdom! And if you think I missed a topic, feel free to contact me with suggestions!

Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Life Changing Magic of Tidying UpI’ve just finished reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I learned of the book in a Facebook group when someone shared two videos that were made about it. After watching the videos, I wanted to read the book.

Does it spark joy?

The basic premise is to only keep those things in your home that make your heart throb with joy. Kondo has a very specific order when it comes to helping her clients with their mission of tidying up. You go through discarding and then deciding where to keep things. You do the discarding in this order: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany) and mementos. You also  do each category a very specific way which she outlines in the book (and which you can see in the videos if you choose to watch them).

My Struggle

Organizing comes naturally to me. But I do struggle with getting rid of some things and this is where the book especially helped me. First, the idea of only owning items that spark joy resonates with me. (I will keep things out of guilt or because they cost good money.) But this is the money section that describes how this approach is different from any other I’ve read in terms of how it addresses the struggle to get rid of things.

But when we really delve into he reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.

During the selection process, if you come across something that does not spark joy but that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away, stop a moment and ask yourself, “Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or because of a fear for the future?” Ask this for every one of these items. As you do so, you’ll begin to see a pattern in your ownership of things, a pattern that falls into one of three categories: attachment to the past, desire for stability in the future, or a combination of both. It’s important to understand your ownership pattern because it is an expression of the values that guide your life. The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life. Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future not only govern the way you select the things you own, but also represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including the relationships with people and your job.

I’m at the point of needing to let go of a lot of things from my past. Caroline will be a fourth grader in the fall. Everything from my teaching days was from early elementary. I’ve simply moved past that part of my life and don’t see myself ever teaching again. That means I’m about to close the door on a significant chapter of my life. Although I continue to create learning materials for early elementary, it is from a business perspective rather than that of a mom or teacher.

So all of the things I saved from my teaching days to use with my own children “someday” have served their purpose (or were never needed). It’s time to move them on. I’m not going to lie. It is hard to do this both from the standpoint of having an only child and as a former teacher.  That’s some significant door closing going on. At the same time, I am ready to move on and see what new things God has in store for me. So letting go of all the early elementary items will free me from my past in many ways.

I also think anyone who has gone through significant financial hardship understands the perceived need to hang on to things for fear of the future. If you had parents or grandparents who lived through the Great Depression, you know that the instinct to save things just in case is strong. It became ingrained in their thinking. I believe the same can hold true today. Anytime you go through an extended period of financial downturn due to job loss, medical bills, or any other financial reversal, it can become easy to feel the need to hang on to whatever you have of value because you know that you might not have the money to buy it in the future.

But I do believe that Kondo is right in that what we keep in our homes impacts how we live life today. She suggests that when you are going to get rid of something, you thank it for serving a purpose and then you release it. I’m not going to talk to inanimate objects, but I do think there is value in looking at objects, realizing they have served a purpose, and moving them on if they do not spark joy and serve a current purpose in your life.

A Thought-provoking Book

There are a few of aspects of her approach that would not work for me. I also don’t agree with some of the spiritual aspects that she discusses in the book. But for a way to think about tidying up, it’s a thought-provoking book that spoke to me in a way that other organizing books haven’t. I definitely think it is worth reading and recommend it.

If you would like to watch the videos I mentioned, here is Part 1 and here is Part 2. They are a dramatized story of the principles behind The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It starts off a bit weird, but stick with it at least through Part 1. The events at the start lay the groundwork in the main character’s life. It’s interesting to see the principles in the book put into action and watching the videos made the book even better for me. Kondo writes that tidying up changes your life, your job, etc. and you can see that in the video’s story.

EoE Badge

National Eosinophil Awareness Week

EoE BadgeThis is National Eosinophil Awareness Week. During this week, people who have been impacted seek to raise awareness regarding this set of diseases. In some cases, it is parents raising awareness on behalf of their child. In other cases, it is the adults themselves who have been impacted.

What is all this? The American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders explains it this way:

A group of uncommon chronic illnesses, eosinophil (E-o-‘si-n-o-“fil) associated disorders, are rapidly emerging as a healthcare problem worldwide. Yet, many patients suffering from these disorders go undiagnosed for years due to a lack of information or awareness of these diseases.

What is an Eosinophil?

  • A type of white blood cell associated with allergies, parasites, and cancers

What are Eosinophil Associated Disorders?

  • High numbers of eosinophils accumulate in body tissues causing inflammation and damage
  • Classified by body tissue where eosinophils accumulate
  • Diagnosed and monitored by tissue biopsies
  • Chronic diseases requiring long term treatment, with no known cure
  • Debilitating diseases leading to missed work, school, social outings
  • Delays in diagnosis are common

This video focuses on children impacted by these horrific diseases, but know that there are many adults suffering as well.

I was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis last year. To say it disrupts your life is an understatement. It’s ridiculously expensive to deal with.  I am very thankful that mine is controlled at this time with swallowed steroids, medication, and a severely limited diet. I still do not know all of my trigger foods, but hope I will over time. I also know that my EoE is triggered by environment as well. For example, a few days ago I got out some white vinegar and breathed too close to it. It made my EoE much worse. Many environmental factors mean that I don’t go outside in the spring or summer and we must keep our windows closed almost all of the time. I have to cook all of my food at home. Stress is a horrible trigger for my EoE so I have had to severely curtail most of my life outside of home.

We pray regularly for healing for me. I am a Christian and I do believe I can be healed. Whether God chooses to do so or not is up to Him. If you think of our family, we would greatly covet your prayers for all of our needs and that a cure could be found quickly.

Girlday

Happy It’s a Girl Day!

Girlday

May 11 is an official holiday in our home! We celebrate It’s a Girl! Day to commemorate finding out via ultrasound that we were at very long last expecting a girl. We had prayed specifically for a daughter all of those years and were a mixture of joy and tears when the technician told us we were having a girl.

Our celebration is pretty simple. Caroline gets to choose whatever she wants for lunch. The past few years it was Chinese, but this year it was Taco Bell (?!?!?!?). Since we almost never eat out  due to my health issues, Taco Bell is a treat. LOL!

She also gets to choose one thing she would like to do or buy ($25 max). Since her birthday is in late September, it’s a nice fill-in between Christmas and her birthday. There’s nothing like being a little girl on a trip to Meijer to choose whatever you want! Inexplicably to me, she chose this. Our tastes are just so different! LOL!

We’re so thankful for our girl!  Caroline is funny, clever, thoughtful, and compassionate. She brings so much joy to our lives. We’re thankful God chose to answer our prayers and send us this wonderful daughter.

Happy It’s a Girl Day!