Dear Self,

I am here today with some tough love.

Because I do love you, and I know this homeschooling your kids thing is important to you. And yet, you struggle with homeschooling consistently.

Often.

Homeschool consistency

So someone has to point out the elephant in the room before all the peanuts are gone and you are left with thirty-year-old shells living in your basement, lacking virtue and the skills to even make change at the local fast food joint. (exit Ghost of Homeschool Future)

Homeschooling won’t work unless you do it consistently. As in most days. As in not taking off more unplanned days in a year than your husband would be expected to take from his job.

Go ahead — count up his paid time off — that’s your grace period for the school year (not counting your holidays and planned time off). Anything more than that you can consider “excessive.” Hey, I promised you tough love.

I know you beat yourself up for your inability to maintain a routine. Twenty mental lashes, hours of guilt and remorse, promises to yourself do better. But the promises don’t last much past a month of Mondays and you are back to your old, inconsistent ways.

That’s because you are missing a vital element — the why. There are specific reasons that homeschool consistency comes hard, but until you get to the bottom of those reasons, Self, and work past those challenges, then you will continue to strive, struggle, and fail.

Your reasons may not be the same as your neighbor’s, but I would bet that one or more of these are causing you to struggle.

You lack good morning habits

It is entirely possible that your consistency issues start each morning long before you even consider homeschooling.

You can’t wake up at a decent time because you failed to go to bed the night before. The kids’ breakfast is congealing on the countertop while you shuffle around in your pajamas yelling at everyone to get their teeth brushed and get started on that math worksheet while you shower.

As soon as you leave the room World War III breaks out and you return for the fifteenth time to yell, threaten, and wonder why a 9-, 7-, and 5-year-old just can’t do five minutes of math without you.

The truth is, your morning is a mess, and until you get some good habits in place to get your morning off to a good start, you will continue to struggle to get your homeschool off to a good start.

You don’t need to wake hours before everyone else, make a breakfast from scratch, spend an hour reading hard books, or writing in a journal. You DO need a few simple habits in place that will help you go to bed on time and get ready quickly in the morning.

You don’t treat your homeschooling as a job

Mothering is a full-time job and homeschooling is another part time job on top of that. So you don’t have one job, you have two. You wouldn’t shirk your duties as a mom, so do not shirk them as a homeschooler.

Protect your homeschooling time as valuable by telling family and friends the hours each week you do school and expect them to honor those hours — yes, even your husband. While homeschooling, like any work done from home, affords us wonderful flexibility, the work still has to be done to see the reward.

Use the Weekly Planning Sheet from the Plan Your Year free mini-kit to mark off the hours dedicated to school. Use the annual calendar to pre-plan days off. Then commit to keeping that work schedule like your husband commits to his own.

Appointments can be scheduled for 1:00-3:00 PM — still within the public school day for lighter crowds, yet late enough to afford you a chance to get a good day of learning in at home. Errands can wait for a single day every other week. Groceries can be purchased in the evening as other working mothers have to do.

You are ruled by perfectionism

You’re not fooling me. I know that many times you simply don’t do anything because you know you can’t execute something perfectly.

You read about an activity in a book or on a blog, saw something on Pinterest or Facebook, have a new idea from a friend to add to your homeschool day that would make things perfect. And yet you don’t have all the supplies you need, or the weather isn’t right, or you’re waiting on a book from the library or the UPS man to deliver an order.

So you sit and do nothing instead, using this as an excuse to put off school for a few days because your plans won’t be perfect.

Stop.

The kids don’t need perfectly executed, Pinterest-worthy lesson plans. They need consistent work on skills like writing and math. They need to read and be read to. The need action.

You don’t have a plan

I know what you say. You’re spontaneous. I get that. I also get that you feel if you don’t have anything written down to do then you can never fail to meet your own expectations. I get that too.

But honestly, you are cheating your own peace of mind by not having a simple plan in place that defines your minimum school day. On a day that is going horribly wrong, started badly, is filled with appointments and the unexpected what is the minimum you need to do in order to feel good about your homeschool that day? Is it Morning Time and math? Latin and phonics? A good read aloud and a history documentary?

The minimum school day is going to vary from family to family, but if you have a plan for it and know that is your to-do list for those bad days, it does wonders for your conscience. No longer is your day defined as good by checking a long series of boxes, but instead by accomplishing two or three of your most relevant, most important subjects.

These subjects don’t make an entire education, but they do make an emergency plan you can feel good about using.

You’re trying to do it alone

This is the biggie. You could never look your homeschool girlfriend in the eye and tell her your struggles. After all, her homeschool looks so perfect (not to mention her house and clothes as well — sheesh, how does she do that?) Surely she wouldn’t get it.

This problem, though, is more widespread than you might imagine. Homeschool moms all over the world struggle with it daily in silence when instead they could be owning up to their problem and seeking support from each other.

By having others to be accountable to, you will have the support you need to work through some of the reasons listed above and find solutions to your consistency issue. By providing support to others you will work hard not to let them down and help provide solutions to their concerns. It’s a win-win.

If you think you need help with personal accountability read this.

If you think this post is too harsh you can read this.

If you want more posts like these you can sign up here.

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Pam Barnhill

Pam is the author of The Your Morning Basket Guide and Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace. She also is the host of three popular  podcasts -- The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast, Your Morning Basket, and The Homeschool Solutions Show. She lives in the Deep South with her husband and three kids, where she is the go-to lady for great curriculum recommendations or a just a pep talk on a rough day.
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