Updated: Oct 22
January 16, 2023
As time marches on into new territory, the land of 2023, I want to encourage homeschooling parents as we survey the new landscape of another homeschool year. If you have been homeschooling for any amount of time, you already know that every single year is different and unique, and the needs and demands change every year.
Today I would like to share a few essentials that you should pack in your proverbial backpack, or should I say teacher’s bag? Something that is essential is absolutely necessary for the success of a mission or task, and what I plan to share is truly needful for a homeschooling parent. Every homeschool parent needs these essentials no matter the age or stage of his homeschool students.
If you are getting antsy wondering if I’m trying to promote products, do not worry; this is not going to be a marketing post trying to sell you the latest and greatest “thing” for homeschooling. Rather, today’s post will be sharing essentials that are integral to you personally, something you already possess or can possess today.
The list of 6 essentials that I will share is by no means an exhaustive list, and you could probably name quite a few other helpful essentials! These essentials are what I plan to focus on this year in my homeschooling.
1. Sense of purpose
So why are you homeschooling? What are your reasons for taking on the incredible task of educating your children? In an earlier post, I shared eight reasons why my family chose to homeschool, and you very well probably share some of those same reasons.
Before you set out to homeschool, you must have clear reasons why you are homeschooling (purpose), but you must keep ever before you those reasons for homeschooling. The reason I labeled this essential as “sense of purpose” is that it is not enough just to have a purpose or reason for homeschooling, but daily you must have a sense or firm belief in that purpose or those purposes.
“Homeschooling families should run their homes just like a traditional school. Every morning the parents should march their children outside, and then march them back in the door again to signify the start of the school day.” The speaker never personally homeschooled his children or allowed his wife to homeschool their children long-term, yet he held a staunch opinion on how homeschooling families should operate. Another homeschooling parent in the audience turned around and looked at me with a questioning look to which I gave a weak, uneasy smile.
Though the speaker intended to arouse a sense of duty and commitment in the audience, I believe his curt statement had the opposite effect. Yes, homeschools should be run efficiently, but part of the beauty of homeschool is the opportunity to slow down and learn at a pace of wonder and excitement. Our homes should be a warm environment where learning naturally takes place, not an army dormitory with 4:30 am role calls and drills.
Homeschool parents need a framework from which to work, but we need to allow ourselves the grace to deviate from that framework when “life” happens.
Some people loathe this word and will literally walk away from a relationship or conversation when this polarizing word is mentioned. Yet many times the ones who shy away from structure actually crave the stability that comes from structure.
Instead of thinking of structure as something like a box that surrounds you and keeps you captive, perhaps think of structure like the four legs of a table. The four legs of a table are solid (or should be!), unmovable, and provide stability for the top of the table. Any number of activities can safely and enjoyably take place on the top of a stable table: decorating cookies, family meals, art time, and the list goes on and on. No one would criticize the legs of a table and say, “Table legs, you are too narrow-minded. You are just too rigid! I wish you were not so ‘structured’.”
At this point, you may be laughing out loud at my silly example, but bear with me a little bit longer. Certainly, this analogy breaks down, but the point I am trying to make is that the structure of the table, provided by four solid legs, creates a stable environment. This stable environment then hosts any number of activities.
When we have structure in our homes, we can enjoyably and safely move through our days with productivity and peace. Sure, will there be rough days even for the most structured homes? Absolutely. But when a home has no structure, the home has no legs to stand on so to speak, and the littlest problem can send the home into physical and emotional disarray.
Instead of viewing structure as something that traps you, view it as something that supports you and holds you up, like the legs of a table. Though our homes should not be as inflexible as the legs of a table, our homes should be strong like a sturdy table. A home without structure cannot bear the weight of expectations placed upon it, but a home with structure can bear tremendous stress.
What does structure in the home look like? Consistent, dependable systems that aid in the progress of the home. I am not even necessarily talking about a rigid schedule but rather a rhythm to your home that includes the necessary tasks to succeed. Sit down and think about what needs to take place in your home each day to be successful, and then set up simple systems to accomplish those tasks each day or week.
4. A love of learning (we as homeschool parents need to love learning!)
After grad school I was burned out mentally, and to my shame, I did not pick up many books for quite a while after graduation. In time I began collecting books as my mind turned to schooling my own children, and honestly, I learned more practically from the books I read on my own than I did in grad school. I was pursuing education on my own by this point, and my mind veraciously fed on what I was reading. In order to be a fresh fountain of knowledge for my children, I must personally be feeding and stretching my own mind. Chances are if I am excited about learning, my children will be, too!
You may be thinking, “Ashley, you have already mentioned structure, so isn’t consistency a bit redundant?” Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines consistent as “Fixed; firm; standing together or in agreement.” Consistent means I am not vacillating day by day to the point my children do not know what to expect. Though structure and consistency are very similar, I like to think of consistency as the day-by-day application of structure. In simple terms, being consistent is doing what you know you should be doing around the same time each day. Is consistency hard? Yes. Is consistency boring? Sometimes. Do children thrive on consistency? Absolutely, a 1,000 times yes!
In order to survive the journey of homeschooling, I am finding that rest is an absolute essential to avoiding burnout. Physical rest is important, but spiritual rest is just as necessary. There are some times that I need to spend extra time reading my Bible so that God can saturate my mind with His Word. Creating pockets of time to pursue personal interests is also vital for a mother to keep her mind sharp and simply have quiet times of enjoyment. I’m finding that by having a little quiet time to myself each day, it actually helps me to be a better mother.
Thank you for joining me as I pondered another year of homeschooling. If you are a homeschooling parent, what do you consider to be essential to a schoolyear? If you are a veteran homeschooler, what advice would you share with those of us still “ in the trenches?”