By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
In my first year of homeschooling, I pictured my children soaking up the exciting lessons my over-achiever self had so carefully planned and organized. They would, I imagined, skip happily out of their rooms in the morning, eager to spend time in God’s Word and ready to dive into math and reading. And they would happily alert to my wisdom and grow, like the boy Jesus, “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people” (Luke 2:52 NLT).
I was already envisioning how we would love it so much we would continue learning all year long, including summers. After all, we want to produce lifelong learners, right?
Are you surprised to hear that the reality was somewhat - different?
By the time May arrived, all dreams of an idyllic learning environment perpetuating throughout the summer had evaporated like steam rising from hot asphalt after a thunderstorm in July. A bit ashamed of myself, I couldn’t bear the thought of continuing past the mandatory number of school days. You would rightly conclude I had much to learn about homeschooling.
We all require times of refreshment—a fresh infusion of strength, energy, and wisdom. Sometimes we need physical refreshment, and other times it’s spiritual. Often, it’s both. Thankfully, the Lord is in the business of refreshing.
For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes. (Jeremiah 31:25 NASB 1995).
That spring, I came to the end of my resources physically, mentally, and spiritually. I needed refreshment, and God came through. God schooled me that summer, showing me the following five ways to refresh myself so I could “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 NASB 1995).
1. Refresh Yourself Physically and Mentally
As caretakers, moms often neglect their own health as they focus on the needs of their children. We’re naturally wired to sacrifice. We put off sleep to tend to a nightmare. We rise earlier than the household to pray. Even as we supervise the lessons of several children, we’re multitasking to complete our other responsibilities. And then there’s discipline and training. Whew! No wonder we sometimes feel worn, dry, and empty.
Before giving some ideas for ways to refresh over the summer, I want to encourage you to learn to refresh yourself every day in Christ and His Word, so you don’t parch like desert ground baked under a scorching Arizona sun. Even with daily refreshment from the Lord, I suggest you take some extra time in the summer for extended physical and mental renewal.
- Schedule some “play dates” with your homeschool friends throughout the summer. It’s not just the kids who need fun.
- Take a week off from all responsibility except the immediate care needs and refuse to even think about homeschooling.
- Start an exercise routine that might become a year-round habit.
- Read your favorite books.
- Journal about your year, noting what worked and what didn’t.
- Create a scrapbook of memories from the year.
2. Refresh Your Children
We’re not the only ones who grow weary. Our children also need a break from academic demands and the daily routine. When children spend time in play, they develop cognitively, socially, and emotionally in ways that are impossible through academic study. Children benefit from unprogrammed time. Allow them to be bored and to figure out how to creatively entertain themselves.
Encourage lots of time outdoors, limit electronics, spend extended time on an existing hobby or develop a new interest, enjoy a week at camp, visit relatives, serve other people, or learn a new household maintenance skill.
3. Refresh Your Spirit
So often, we neglect our spirit when we feel stressed or tired. Your spirit is that inner part of you created in the image of God, designed to connect with Him. We can nourish our spirits’ ability to gravitate to God with activities that allow our minds and hearts to lift to Him.
- Get outside regularly and meditate on creation, perhaps journaling, lettering, or drawing your thoughts.
- Pursue a creative hobby such as painting, learning to play an instrument, sculpting, or sewing.
- Plant flowers and discover the art of flower arrangement.
- Dive deeper into reading and studying the Bible.
- Set aside an extended time to worship, talk, and listen to God once a week.
- Check your local library schedule for other fun, creative activities.
4. Refresh Your Space
There’s no right or wrong about your space for homeschooling. Some have a homeschool classroom. Others work at the kitchen table. And some have no set place for learning. It happens on the fly, in the car, on the swing outside, on the living room floor, or in separate corners or bedrooms.
Summer is a great time to evaluate how your space works for your homeschooling style. Think about what worked and what didn’t. Do you find it easier to supervise and teach when your kids are together in one space, or do you need a bit of separation to ease attention problems? Would a more structured atmosphere be helpful, or do you prefer to set your kids loose to follow their imaginations?
- Clean out clutter that distracts.
- Organize your curriculum and storage spaces so you can easily access what you need.
- Deep clean those spaces that were neglected during the school year (if they bother you).
- Create a cozy nook for the reluctant reader.
- Connect learning spaces for children that positively motivate each other.
- If it works in your home, allow your children to add their creative touch to a space designed for them.
5. Refresh Your Motivation
When you’re hiking through a forest, all you see are trees. The canopy of green obscures the sun and blue sky. Your attention might be glued to the map or the path, ensuring you don’t get lost. But there’s usually a destination on a hike—that scenic overlook where we pause and drink in the beauty.
Don’t we crave those breath-stealing moments in the homeschool journey? Taking time to reflect and see the big picture—the overarching reason for homeschooling—will reenergize your motivation for the next year.
- Attend a regional or state homeschool conference.
- Read a book that moves past the how-to to focus on the why.
- Spend time in prayer and meditation, humbly requesting encouragement from God Himself.
- Listen to a motivational homeschool podcast once a week.
- Talk with other homeschool parents to share ideas for motivation.
The Value of a Break
I naively thought homeschooling itself would be such a reward that I would always be motivated. I didn’t anticipate how the daily grind might sap my strength and enthusiasm. I also didn’t consider that non-traditional activities also contribute to learning.
Though you may take a break from your usual school activities or curriculum, you, in fact, are always homeschooling your children. They are in your home, so they are learning. Many of the activities they do over the summer—developing hobbies, musical pursuits, special interest camps, reading, and the like—may count toward official school days. I encourage you to consider how they enhance your educational goals and record them as attendance.
Knowing I needed something to change after that first year of homeschooling, I signed up for a homeschool conference. Wide-eyed, I wandered through the vendor hall filled with slick curricula and gadgets galore. My mind clicked and whirred with ideas for the upcoming year. But the excitement of new material couldn’t surmount the hurdle of my exhausted spirit.
I passed by the vendors and went to classes where conference speakers reminded me of my calling as a homeschool mom. God ordained our mission to teach our children, and it’s not primarily about academics. Even better, if God calls us to homeschool, He is also continually equipping us.
Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass (1 Thessalonians 5:24 NASB 1995).
There will be days when you’re at the end of your rope. You may feel like a failure. At those times, you’ve probably taken on more responsibility for the outcome than you should. God asks you to faithfully walk out the purpose He’s designed for you and leave the results to Him.
So, if you are tired, set aside the notion of perpetual academics and take a break. Refresh yourself this summer. By August, I suspect you, like me, will feel reinvigorated and eager to dive into another year walking in your calling to homeschool.
Annie Yorty uses her writing and speaking to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.