Ever had a day when Mount Fold-Me and Mount File-Me both erupt…all over your couch and coffee table? The left-over cheese and enchilada sauce have crusted nicely on last night’s dinner dishes. Six books and four DVDs are all four days overdue at the library. Your budding scientist says, “Oooops” and you just don’t even want to know. The smoke detector starts blaring, and you realize that you’d forgotten about the oatmeal on the stove top, and you step (barefooted, of course) on a Lego as you make a mad dash to the kitchen. You’re thinking public school sounds like a more peaceful, much better, option.
Take a deep breath.
This too shall pass.
In the meantime, here are 10 Ways to be a Happier Homeschooling Family*:
GIVING: serving others
It’s really hard to be depressed about the debris from Mount Fold-Me and Mount File-Me when our attention is focused on meeting the needs of other people who are less fortunate than we are. It’s a blessing to be able to be a blessing to someone else. It’s fun! It’s deeply fulfilling. One thing we homeschoolers have a lot of is time together with our children. And one of the very best ways to spend that time together is in service to our communities.
RELATING: connecting with others
Homeschooling doesn’t mean locking our doors and snapping your blinds closed, shutting out the outside world. We need friends. Our kids need friends. Make sure that we leave plenty of room in our homeschool schedule for spending fun, encouraging, and uplifting time with other people.
EXERCISING: taking care of our bodies
It’s easy to make excuses for not exercising, but we do so to our own detriment. It’s hard to enjoy life with our kids if we’re too fat, inflexible, weak, or exhausted to join them in the fray. Whenever possible, make exercise a family affair! Hop on bikes. Go for a hike. My oldest daughter frequently joins me for my morning trail runs.
APPRECIATING: noticing the world around us
One thing kids tend to be very good at is taking the time to stop and smell the roses. Whenever possible, resist the urge to hurry them along. Instead, join in alongside them in their awe of the creation around them. Call attention to the beautiful sunset. Pause on the trail and watch the ants scurry in and out of their nests. Pet a cat, but this time, do it mindfully. Really feel the softness of its fur. Go find art in the community.
TRYING OUT: learning new things
If you have followed my blog for even a few posts, you know that I believe learning is a lifelong endeavor, and that the best homeschooling parents are active and engaged learners themselves. Learning new things keeps our horizons expanded and the doldrums at bay. It’s hard to be unhappy when we’re digging into something interesting.
DIRECTION: having goals to look forward to
Besides being active learners themselves, I believe that the best homeschooling parents also have goals of their own that they pursue. People tend to be happier with some purpose in their lives. If our homeschools seem stagnant and our lives swamped by Mount Fold-Me and Mount File-Me, perhaps it’s time to take a good look at the vision we have (or, probably don’t have) for our lives. We need personal goals. We need goals to chase as a family. We should also be helping our children define their own.
RESILIENCE: finding ways to bounce back
Let’s face it: sometimes life just doesn’t go our way. Sometimes nothing is working. What do we model for our kids then? Do we hide in bed with the covers drawn up over our heads? Do we collapse on the couch and watch episode after episode of Jerry Springer? Do we grab a serving spoon and a carton of Ben & Jerry’s?Well, maybe. Maybe we do that, for a short while to regroup. But regroup, we must!
EMOTION: taking a positive approach
Okay, so nobody likes Mount Fold-Me or Mount File-Me. No one likes scraping cheese and enchilada sauce that has dried into a stubborn scab on the dinner plates off the dinner plates. No one loves overdue fines from the library. The word “Ooops” from a child brings dread to any parent who finds herself wondering what awful thing happened to prompt that “Ooops”. It sucks having breakfast burn. And well, there are no words for stepping barefooted on a Lego. But guess what, folks? Even mired in the daily grind where nothing is going according to plan, we can still hit the pause button and be grateful. We can still choose to be positive rather than continue to fuel a negative cycle.
ACCEPTANCE: being comfortable with who we are
I know of no surer way to end up unhappy than to compare my own life, my own children on their worst days, my own homeschool when things aren’t running smoothly to what I see of someone else’s life, children, or homeschool. If we want to be happier people, happier parents, happier homeschoolers, we must be comfortable in our own skin and comfortable doing things the way we do them. If something isn’t working, by all means, look for alternatives and make some changes. But do that to make things better, not to try to measure up to some imaginary set of standards.
MEANING: being a part of something bigger
This tip goes hand-in-hand with several of the others. People indeed are happier when we live according to some purpose, when we’re looking outside of ourselves. In my family, we find meaning in being contributing members of the family, our church, our homeschool group, our Sea Cadets battalion, and finding ways to make the world around us a better place because we are here.
The bottom line is that we’ll probably never have a full handle on Mount Fold-Me or Mount File-Me while we’re homeschooling children. Last night’s dinner dishes probably won’t always get done. This probably won’t be the last time we pay overdue fees to the library. We’ll probably burn another breakfast.
But there will come a point when we no longer have a small, budding scientist under our roofs who exclaims, “Ooops!” And there will come a point when there aren’t any Legos to step on anymore. Our children will be grown and out on their own, and we’ll think back.
When we do, we’ll either be comforted by the knowledge that we spent as much of our time as possible in joy and contentment, or we’ll regret having wasted so much of it in irritation, frustration, and doubt. The good news for all of us still in the fray is that we still have the ability and the power to make that choice each and every day.
Have you ever tried any of these ideas to turn around a bad day? If so, what did you do? Did it work? If you haven’t, I challenge you to pick a couple of these ideas to try. Then come and let me know here what you did!
*This article was adapted from Vanessa King’s article titled “!0 Simple Steps to a Happier You”.