A note to every homeschool parent
Dear homeschooling parent, if you’re chugging your fourth coffee for the day and wondering how on earth you’re going to make it to (and through!) the end of the year, you’re not alone. The to-do and to-finish lists seem never-ending. How do you do it all without losing your mind? Here are some tips to help.
One thing at a time, one day at a time
Yes, I’m writing this as much for myself as for you. Breathe. Take a bit of the pressure off. Look for ways to lighten the load, such as meal planning and/or prepping for the week ahead so you don’t have to think about what to make for dinner every day. Try to focus on one task at a time — be present while you’re doing it. Multi-tasking, especially at this time of the year, only leads to misplaced phones, car keys, and minor meltdowns!
Say no to draining events
This tip is one of the biggest sanity-savers ever. Burnout and chronic fatigue are higher than fuel prices for many parents right now, so if it’s not absolutely necessary for you to attend something, don’t. You can send gift vouchers or drop them off while running errands. Make a list of the things that are top priorities for you during the next two or three months, i.e. time with your children, time to REST, time to reset for the beginning of the New Year.
Before agreeing to attend any year-end function or meeting or social invitation, ask yourself how much of your health will it cost you? Will it impose on your top priorities? If so, go ahead and decline politely. You’ll thank your future self sooner than you think.
Block time out for fun and rest
Take your list of top priorities and block out the time for them during whatever holiday time you have during Christmas time. Be intentional about it — the anticipation of fun is half the joy of doing what you planned! For instance, on which day are you going to take the kids to see the Christmas lights in town? What day are you going to go on a picnic? What else would you like to do? Mindful fun planning also helps ensure you don’t spend the entire holiday just cleaning out the house!
Block time out for planning your routine in the first term
It’s always challenging to get your head back in the game in January. If you plan ahead on how you’re going to ease back into work and homeschooling, it will make it so much easier. Make a list of what you need to make the first week of work and homeschooling as easy on you as possible. Prep that while you’re doing your Christmas preparations, then you know it’s all done. Think of it as giving yourself extra small opportunities to rest and catch your breath in the New Year.
Reflect on what you’ve achieved this year
If you have trouble doing this without focusing in and beating yourself up for what you didn’t achieve, get your family or close friends to help encourage you and remind you of how far you’ve come. Forgive yourself for the things you never got around to, it’s okay.
Pandemic notwithstanding, it’s still been a challenging year for most parents. But you’ve gotten through it. Give yourself at least a tiny bit of credit for that! What did you learn from this year? What worked for you and your family in home education and what didn’t? Consequently, what will you do differently next year? Make this a family conversation if possible. Children love to participate and have a say.
Fill your own cup
As a parent, it’s natural to focus only on what our children need, but in doing so, we easily forget that we as parents have needs, too. And to be the parent and home educator we dream of being, we need to make sure that we take care of ourselves and take our own needs as seriously as we do our children’s. If you cope better, it will also benefit your children.
What do you need to fill your own cup? When last have you had a health check appointment? Are you getting any exercise? Do you talk to anyone about your personal struggles so you can address them? When last have you had fun — the kind that makes your soul breathe deeply and makes you happy to be alive? How can you incorporate your own needs into your life, even if it’s only in small ways, 20 minutes at a time? Ask a friend to keep you accountable on this.
Start a family project or habit
Why not try something new with your kiddos? Think of it as a reset project. No more arguing over work that didn’t get done, the mess in the house, etc. You can start a project with your kids that is fun for all of you, gets your mind off the things that didn’t work out like you wanted, and puts the fun back into your holidays. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. It can be as simple as:
- Reading through a classic children’s story at the dinner table every night and discussing it
- Starting a veggie garden
- Redecorating a room or some furniture — paint a bookshelf or a table together
- Building a model replica of something interesting, like an old boat or a famous castle
- Painting, calligraphy, making soap or candles, etc.
- Planning a road-trip together and deciding how you will raise the money for it as a family
It’s a great way to engage your family in a fun way and spend quality time together. If you’re a parent whose brain is always on the to-do list, this will also help you to be more present in your time with the kids. They can help plan and take initiative on the various aspects of a project and learn something along the way.
Take screen breaks
Letting your kids watch a movie while you take a nap occasionally is totally fine, but as a parent, you also probably don’t want you and your kids spending the bulk of year-end in front of a screen. It’s well known that kids’ brains can’t handle so much screentime, and it’s not good for you, the parent, either. Be intentional about unplugging. Consider deleting all social media off your phone for a week or two, especially when you’re on leave.
Swap the scrolling for a good book and challenge your kids to see who can read the most books during the planned screen-free time. You’ll have something new and stimulating to talk about during mealtimes, your kids’ reading and spelling skills will improve, and your stress level will go down while your concentration gets a reboot. If your kids see you reading, they will start doing the same, and as a homeschooling parent, that’s a huge win!
Dear homeschooling parent, if no one has told you that you’re doing a good job lately, you are. If no one has told you that your kids notice what you do even though they might not say it (or act like it), they do. You are parenting in one of the most challenging times the world has seen. That alone is a big achievement! Take a good break celebrate your children and your hard work this year. You deserve it!
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