I am overwhelmed, feeling like I am doing, doing all day long for my kids and fall into bed at night exhausted, with little accomplished. We seem to get farther and farther behind on homeschool. How do I get out of this hole?


I so understand. All moms who homeschool with a lot of children have felt what you are describing, I believe! But, one woman doesn’t have the energy to do it all. Although it is a gradual process, you can work towards directing your children’s energy to move the family forward.

God has modeled the best pattern for the growth of his children—never doing for us what we can do for ourselves. And so it should be with our parenting, including our homeschooling.

Stop right now and jot down a list of what you are doing for your children that they could do for themselves. Are you getting them up in the morning rather than training them to use an alarm? Are you explaining and re-explaining lesson instructions that they could read themselves and figure out if they just concentrated? Are you typing their papers rather than teaching them to type? Are you correcting math papers that could be self-corrected? Are you outlining the day or week’s work on a planner page or are they coming to you for every little thing? Are they getting out their books and supplies and putting them away each day or are you left to clear up the “homeschool mess” so you can get lunch on the table?

alarm-clock-590383_1280Start with the most basic thing: getting oneself up in the morning. Alarm clocks are cheap for the independence they bring! When a child feels autonomous in getting himself up in the morning, his whole attitude is affected. Nothing feels worse to me than being hopelessly behind. Getting up late (or worse, being dragged out of bed by someone else) is a bad way to start every day. Even a five-year-old can learn to set his alarm every night when he says his prayers and hops into bed. The independence he feels when he gets himself up for scripture study or homeschool is amazing!

Take an attitude during school time of “you can do it!”. Of course, you are the teacher and are there to teach them, but it only weakens a child to do for him anything he is capable of doing for himself. And usually our children amaze us at their capability! Louisa was consistently writing rather sloppily in her school journal, and had “trained” me to think that was the best she could do. One day I asked my older children to help me address envelopes. Louisa wanted to help, but I didn’t want sloppy writing on them. “Let me just try it, Mom,” she begged. So I let her address one, and I was amazed! When she put her mind to it, her writing was at least as good as the older children!

When things were particularly out of control in my homeschool, I found that instituting a “rotation plan” worked well. I had each child choose a spot. If you have desks, that is their “spot”. If not, each child chooses a spot to sit and do their work. The further away these spots are from each other, the better this works. Then, I required the children to stay in their spot and do their silent work (math, reading, journal writing, handwriting, etc.) while I rotated from child to child. I set up the little ones (who didn’t want to be held) with puzzles or other toys within view and checked in with them every time I rotated to another child. If a child got stumped on a problem, instead of whining, “Mom, help!” (which can be deafening when 7 children all call for mom at the same time), they were instructed to quietly go on to the next problem, just circling that one and when I rotated to them, we would take care of it. Rotating through the children every few minutes made it possible to get through a few hours of homeschool work with everyone quietly working, impossible as it seems! If a child called out to me while I was on rotation with another child, I would remind them to be quiet and go on to the next thing and soon it would be their turn. Eventually, the older children dropped out of needing me so very much. They had learned to work on their own, with just a few check-ins with me at the beginning and end of the quiet work period.

babydutySometimes we get caught up so much in the mode of being parent that we forget that our children are “in training” to become a parent/teacher themselves and need experience learning this role as well. They can help you! Any child who can read can listen to a younger child read. Every child can correct his own math paper, or a sibling’s. Children can give spelling tests to each other, with Mom just checking the final test (as children are prone to miss their own mistakes). Family read aloud can be rotated between children that read well—polishing their skills while giving Mom’s voice a break. When I had many preschoolers, I would list “baby duty” on my 8 year and up children’s school schedules. They would take the youngest ones into another part of the house or outside in the yard and teach them. The “baby duty” box had puzzles, picture books to read aloud, playdough, educational games for little ones, etc. For 20 minutes, they entertained and educated the little ones, giving me a much needed time slot to work with a beginning reader, and giving them a pleasant time with little ones. Even if they just swung them and walked around the yard looking at bugs, it was a mutually beneficial experience. Children who homeschool should not be spending much time babysitting, but a 20 min. baby duty is just right!

2girlsswimmingI tell my children when they are about 11 or 12 years old that they have come over to the “adult side of the family” and we need them on that team desperately (as we were so outnumbered with little ones for a long many years). Once on the “adult side”, they are supposed to be contributors, solvers of problems, not creators of problems. They are supposed to be peacemakers and help the little ones get along, and take on the adult position of helping out rather than creating more work. If you have a family of 2 parents and 5 children, just getting two older children over to the “adult side” can put a family back into balance, where there are more “helpers” than “little ones”.

So, breathe deep . . . things are going to get easier!


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What’s it Like to Be a Boy?

My son Ammon is a sensitive, intelligent boy who loves plants. He is a careful 17-year-old, and he has been working studiously on his budget. I noticed that his budget includes a monthly allowance for “breaking things”. I was amused that he would list such an expenditure, but over the days since we talked about his budget, I have had a taste of what it would be like to be a teenage boy. 

Not ripping your clothes is a constant challenge. Somehow barbed wire just jumps out at you when you walk by. Outreaching knobs and latches snag your clothes when you pass. Your pants end up with holes in them. Your buttons rip off when you wrestle.

Dishes slip out of your newly-large hands. Pictures on the wall just seem to slide off when you walk near them. Even ceiling moutned light fixtures are not safe from a boy’s antics. Keeping a watch on your arm while doing boy things is always tricky. That is, if you don’t lose it first.

Not breaking things is extra difficult. Yesterday alone included dropping a sharp object on the kitchen floor and denting it, and then dropping a stapler on the hardwood table and denting it. Perhaps it has to do with the need to do science experiments with every thing you handle. Last summer’s breakage expenses included a truck window. Ammon was loading firewood onto the back of someone’s truck as a service project, and accidentally jammed a log against the back of the cab window, shattering it. That was a pricey budget deduction. Last month, it was a broken bow to his violin. Whatever it is, breakage is a real and ongoing issue for boys!

My current theory is that teenage boys are kids in mens’ bodies, and still trying to learn to handle and direct all the sudden and unexpected muscle power. They mean well, but things do break ever so easily when you are a teenage boy!

Mom, don’t get too mad at your teenage or soon-to-be-teen boys. They really don’t mean to break a thing. They really mean to be very sensitive and very careful. It is just all this strength unleashed . . . it is hard to keep it in good control! It feels like driving a car for the first time. These boys will soon be men and off on important duties. Enjoy now!


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Kids to the Rescue! Training Children to Do Housekeeping

DCP_5869Emily is only six years old, but she loves to vacuum! She is too small to maneuver the vacuum cleaner very well, but that doesn’t matter. She is in training, and a partially-vacuumed carpet is better than an unvacuumed carpet!

When I began homeschooling ten years ago, I was in for a shock. “Where do you find the time to do homeschool in addition to the regular daily tasks you were accustomed to doing such as housework, grocery shopping, laundry, and gardening?”, I asked. After several months of exhaustive overload, I figured out the plain and obvious fact that there wasn’t enough mother to go around. From a sheer survival standpoint, I had to delegate the housekeeping duties. Now, looking back ten years later, I can see what a blessing in disguise it has been to not be able to keep up with my workload. As a result, my children are all well trained in housekeeping and cooking. They don’t balk at carrying a hefty portion of the housework chores. It really has become second nature to them, and each new little one that grows into toddlerhood in our home is expected to take on their portion of the work.

dishes-315084_1280No, they didn’t do it as well as I could, but then for several months there I wasn’t managing to do it at all so I decided a “child quality” job was just going to have to do. As the years have passed, the children have developed their skills through daily practice and can do the job as well and as quickly as I can. Best of all, they expect that they will do daily chores and help with meals. It would surprise them not to have their duties. We take off Sundays, holidays and one day a year on their birthday, we divide up their chores and they have a free day. By the manner in which they bumble around the house during chore time on their day off, I get the feeling that doing housework is like breathing. You don’t know what to do instead.

If you are trying to do it all by yourself, let your kids come to the rescue! In a large family, you will be stunned what can be accomplished in the half hour before breakfast. We get up at 6:30 AM for scripture study. Right after family prayer at 7:30 AM and before breakfast at 8:15, my entire house is cleaned . . .daily! Often the older children finish early and play their musical instruments for fun until breakfast is on. I always chuckle to see the little ones take their responsibilities so seriously. I finally realized that they feel loved and a real part of the family when they do their assignments. They are capable and contributing!

Of course the hardest part of getting children to do the housework is training them to do it, and consistently checking up so that they know it must always be done. As the months and years go by, they will become accustomed to the pattern and stop complaining about it! It becomes an ingrained habit. We do chores six days a week. On Sundays, the only chores that are done are the mealtime chores. It takes a parent or an older child to train children under six in doing their daily jobs. By the time they are six or seven, they are capable of doing almost any job in the house by themselves, including simple cooking.

spray-315164_1280It helps to have some good cleaning supplies. Old cotton towels cut in fourths, or old cotton cloth diapers are the best! Don’t try to use rags made from polyester as the water will just run right off rather than soak up. Keep an ample supply of cleaning cloths in a designated spot, right next to the cleaners. I use natural biodegradable cleaners, rather than grocery store stuff, just because I think it is safer for children to breathe and soak their hands in. Make sure you have enough labeled spray bottles to go around. Give the whole family a little training session about which cleaners go where: all purpose cleaner on all surfaces except mirrors and windows, glass cleaner on mirrors and windows, etc. Teach them to return cleaners and used cleaning cloths to your designated spot and hang them to dry before laundering.

I divide my house into areas such as living room, kitchen, pantry and mud room, upstairs bathroom, etc. Then a child is assigned two or three areas. The more children you have, the more cleaning your house will need but the less area each child will be assigned to do. Every area has a chart in a plastic page protector taped to the inside of a door or cabinet. The chart lists daily work needed for that room (Quick Clean), plus occasional work (Good Clean). For example, the bathroom chart Quick Clean requires cleaning the sink daily, but cleaning the bathtub is a Good Clean job only required on Wednesdays. At the bottom of the chart, I list infrequent jobs that must be done in that area. Once a month, on the first Friday, spots on the walls and the windowsills must be wiped down. The children do not mark on these charts, but just refer to them as they clean their assigned areas. Parents refer to them when they check the work. The littler children get drawings on their charts so they can participate too.

Ideally, children will grow past needing the charts. As my children have turned 12 or 13, I tell them that the chart is just a schoolmaster. Their goal is to keep their assigned areas C-L-E-A-N! They can train their eye to look for what needs doing. That is the long range goal.

The little ones, under six, are given jobs rather than assigned areas of the home. Right now, Ammon (4) daily folds the household laundry (towels, washcloths, tablecloths), takes the dirty clothes hamper to the laundry room, takes out all the garbage cans in the house, and scrubs the kitchen sink (2 x week).

Besides their assigned areas, each child and parent must maintain their own bedroom to the acceptable standard: no junk on floor, dust shouldn’t show, make your bed, change your bed sheets every other week. I’m still working on keeping my own room in order to the standard!

Mealtime chores are also divided up. The jobs are:

  1. cutlery-237802_1280set table, pour water in cups, put on serving spoons and trivets
  2. clear and wipe table and put away food
  3. sweep kitchen and dining room floor and spot clean
  4. unload and load dishwasher
  5. rinse and stack dishes that must be hand washed
  6. help with food preparation.

For the little ones, we have such jobs as “unload utensil bin in dishwasher” or “wipe off the countertops”. We also assign seating at the table for mealtimes and dish washing nights.

I rotate chores every three months. Children get proficient, and eventually bored, with their work after a few months. I am not walking around the house saying, “Who’s on the upstairs bathroom?” when I see a mess left like I used to when we changed chores every week because it is easier to remember. We keep chores for three month periods that naturally divide the year: Jan, Feb, Mar— Apr, May, June— July, Aug, Sept— Oct, Nov, Dec.

Is it necessary to check your children’s work? Only if you want them to do it. If you only check sporadically and let some things slip by, soon you will have trained your children to be sloppy in their work and to gamble not doing everything in the hopes that you won’t check up on it. The children aren’t trying to be bad; it is just human nature to do as little as possible if you never have to give an accounting.

Do I do chores? No, not in the sense that I take an area to clean daily. During our morning work time I do laundry, oversee training the little ones in doing their chores well, nurse the baby, start breakfast, clear off a counter, check the chores have been done, etc.

Louisa bakes cinnamon bread

Louisa bakes cinnamon bread

Developing some good habits will ease your workload too. One of those habits in our family is honking the horn as we pull in our driveway from grocery shopping. At the sound of the honking horn, all the children in the house come running to unload the groceries from the van into the house, and then from the bags into the freezer, fridge and cupboards. It only takes 15 minutes and the job is done, which is a nice ending to a tiring shopping trip. Another good habit is to have a “go through the house” time every morning orevening. Every person just walks through the house collecting anything that belongs to them as well as putting away anything they got out and left out, such as a stapler or schoolbook. If you do this daily, children get in the habit of picking up after themselves and it makes the task of cleaning that area much more pleasant for the person assigned. Little ones can be trained (and helped by the person assigned to that area) to clean up after themselves. There is only one problem with this little game: Mom and Dad soon realize that they are culprits in making messes and leave lots of stuff lying around too!

Although I was originally just trying to survive, I realize now that my children have received some much needed training in life skills. They know how to cook meals because they have all had a turn on helping with food preparation at my side. They know how to clean every room. They have the habit of doing chores before the day begins. We are a team, living together in the same house and sharing the upkeep of that house. I hope they make better husbands and wives because of these habits!


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Towel Overload

towelWith 9 family members taking a daily bath or shower, wet towels built up quickly! I found myself having to do a load per day of just towels.

I solved this problem by buying 4″ lengths of colorful grossgrain ribbon. I let each member select the color they liked, and write their name on the ribbon in permanent marker. This ribbon was safety-pinned to the edge of a bath towel to last all week long. Every Saturday morning, one of the young children was assigned to go and collect all the towels in a laundry basket to be washed.

Just doing this small thing reduced my laundry load by one-seventh!

I also took a short length of masking tape, wrote each family member’s name on it, and taped it above a towel rack or hook so every towel had a place to be hung up. This necessitated buying some more towel hooks, but that made me realize that without a place to hang their towel, no wonder those towels ended up on door knobs or on the floor. Now, no matter where the towel landed, if it wasn’t in it’s prescribed place, it was easy to see who the culprit was. Since the ribbons were different colors, the owner could spot his towel easily without having to read the name on it. No one wanted anyone else to use his towel, and everyone, including the little ones, become much more responsible!

The result? A drastic reduction of laundry, more neatly hung-up towels (as the owner wanted their towel to dry out well for tomorrow’s shower), and no towels left on the floor!


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Don’t Serve From an Empty Platter

feet-619399_1280Mother! The most important person in a young child’s life, indispensable to her husband, focal point of the home, and the one who makes everything right. Big job.

Also, the most exciting job: my first choice! I wouldn’t want any other. The joy of being with my children, the diversity of their personalities, the thrill of learning together daily, and helping them learn about life and how to live uprightly– these things make me feel devoted to motherhood! There isn’t a job that holds such rewards!

But there are times for all mothers when we are worn out… the well runs dry, the serving platter feels empty and the tears start to flow uninvited.

flower-215564_1280I knew a mother who had recently come to the mothering lifestyle. Leaving her high paying career behind, she had come to the trenches of mothering (the place we live, right?) and was drowning fast! She hung her framed graduation certificate and her career awards on the wall above her diaper changing table. When asked why, she replied, “If I could accomplish that, surely I can accomplish this!”

My little Louisa won’t keep a thing in her hair, but discards her well-fashioned pig tails with all their trimmings all over the house. I was in the bathroom, putting her abandoned ponytails bands and bows into the drawer, when the thought occurred to me that it wouldn’t be long until the house would “finally be clean, once and for all!” Right along with that thought came the awful realization that the job of mothering these children would be done, but I wouldn’t want it to be. Yes, I’d like a clean house, but no, I wouldn’t want all my precious children (who make the messes) to be grown and gone as well. It will be quiet one day, but I want to enjoy the whole journey today, even though it is accompanied by stress, strain and overload at times.

bible-450298_1280So how does a mom keep herself from feeling overwhelmed and worn out when there are so many needs and demands on her energy? Years ago, I read this question in a church magazine. A reader had asked, “How can I be a more loving mother?” Then she went on to describe how the demands of the children often pushed her over the edge and made her yell at her children or be impatient. The author had responded to her question with an answer that I found to be very curious! He told her to read her scriptures! What a strange and inappropriate answer, I thought! At that time, I was the young mother of my first son Daniel and had a toddler and a newborn as well. Most days, I felt like I was losing my grip. I wondered why the author didn’t reply to her question with some practical organization schedule or discipline plan or even menus plans! I would have liked that. Now, two decades later, I marvel that he was so inspired! I have pondered that answer countless times over the years, and it was so appropriate.

The answer to the question of how to be the loving mother you want to be, is to realize that everything from your minivan to your cuckoo clock needs refueling, rewinding, renewing. It must be. You can’t just go and go and go and never refuel. You cannot serve from an empty platter or get water from a dry well. You are an individual, a child of God, a unique person first and foremost. Even though the title and role of “Mother” overshadows that fact most hours of the day, it is still a fact. Your soul needs renewal so that you can go back to the job with renewed vigor and perspective.

lane-412586_1280For years I have walked every morning in the river bottoms across from my home. I would walk as far as my time allotment allowed and then I would turn around and look at my house, far off and up on the ridge. I would raise my thumb and cover the distant image of my house with my thumb. Then I would talk to myself, “See, it isn’t so hard! It isn’t so big and overcoming. I can blot it out with my thumb! I can cope with this and handle this!” I prayed while I walked, and by the time I returned home, I felt boosted and refueled and able to do my job patiently and lovingly, having taken care of my soul’s needs.

God has the fuel we need. You must carve out time to read your scriptures, pray, write a few lines in your journal. There seems to be no time to fit these things in, when mothering demands are high. But, there is actually no time to leave these things out, because the quality of your mothering—and your life—suffers drastically if you omit them from your life.

Yes, there will be days and sometimes weeks of illness or other demands that make it almost impossible to get a snatch of time to refuel. But that must be the exception, not the rule.

You need time for physical renewal as well, when you are a mother in demand. Exercising, a hot bubble bath (hopefully without a child at the bathroom door, begging to get in too!), a walk alone in the sunshine, a new dress (even it is comes from a thrift store)–these things can give you the renewing and refreshment you need to be a happier mother.

Your emotional well being is key. Plan on a date out every Friday night with your husband. Make it a standing date. If you don’t have a child old enough to babysit, arrange for a babysitter that will come every Friday night, not matter what. Having some time out with your husband renews your love and connection, and gives you verve for your plan to raise a family together.

If you are the mother of small children, I know that it sounds impossible to fit one more thing into your life, but the dividends for taking some time to renew yourself are tremendous. A little goes a long way to making you feel more able to serve and give to your children. Another benefit we often neglect to realize is that we are teaching our children a healthy pattern of self-care that will help them be a happier adult. We all know mothers who sacrifice themselves and become fatigued, frowny-faced women with no spark left in them. That isn’t what God wants for us, nor what we want to model to our daughters.

raspberries-215858_1280So, next time it feels as if you are serving from an empty platter, take the time to fill it up! Your whole family will be happier!



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Having a Bad (Homeschool) Day?

tornado-311711_1280There is an eternal law decreed that for every X number of good homeschool days, you will have to endure 1 bad homeschool day.

Calculating the frequency of bad homeschool days is an easy matter. Simply multiply the number of children you have under 5 by the number of children you have going through puberty. If you are pregnant or nursing, multiply this total by 2. (If you are morning-sick, overdue, or having nursing problems, multiply this total by 100.) Add the number of insensitive comments made by your husband since dinner last night. Divide your new total by the number of hours of sleep the students got last night, or the number of hours the teaching mother got last night, whichever is less. If students have eaten junk food within the last 8 hours, add 10. Divide by the number of days in a year and there you have it!—a completely accurate forecast of today’s chances for a blooper day.

A simpler approach is to focus on prevention. Although much of what can goof up our homeschool is totally out of our control, we can do something to help. Planning works wonders in preventing those dreadful days when nothing seems to go right, confusion reigns, and nobody really enjoys school.

I have trouble finding much spare time in which to do school planning. When I pondered this, I decided it would be better to spend that time with my child rather than alone, preparing materials for my child to use. I try to only buy programs and books that can be used with very little mother preparation time.

I do take 20 minutes, either right before we begin school (while children shower and dress) or the night before, to pull together a few ideas and books, pictures, etc. to teach a short lesson to all my children at once. We begin school together with the pledge of allegiance, song and prayer, and then we usually have a 30-minute lesson on something of interest before the children break up and go to their quiet study places. I choose the lesson topic either from our prescribed subject of the day (Monday = history, Tuesday = geography, etc.) or from something interesting in the news or weather (such as our recent record breaking windstorm), or a special holiday. If I find an unusual rock on my daily walk, I’ll bring it home and we will examine it, try to identify it and learn about it. It can be fun to flow with whatever we have been talking about as a family that they have been curious about.

I used to try to teach my children in-depth unit studies only to be disappointed as the oldest child wasn’t challenged and a younger child dissolved into tears because it was too difficult. Unit studies work best if you keep the group lesson brief and geared as a jumping-off point. The younger children enjoy the pictures or books presented, and the older children often have their appetite whetted sufficiently to look at the more in-depth books later. Best of all, it is a discussion in which we enjoy exploring a topic together, benefitting from each other’s input and relishing learning something new. Obviously, this works best if Mom is prepared.

The best teacher preparation is your lifetime of reading, listening, learning and experience. Some days you can almost ad-lib teaching school if you are well read and informed. Just consider teaching a little 5-minute spot on fire safety, for example. You could do it because no doubt you have some personal experience with a fire accident or seeing a fire. No amount of preparation can make up for your first-hand experience and maturity. So, see, you are better prepared than you think!

Preparation also means having a plan for your children to follow in their studies. Believe me, I have learned from experience that several children all asking what they are supposed to do for Language Arts at the same time does not make for smooth sailing. Devise some type of student planner so that your child can see his assignments in writing, can check them off when complete, and can have a sense of accomplishment every day. When I get too far behind to write up their assignments ahead of time, I just have all my children open their planners at the beginning of school and I dictate what they should do as they write down their assignments. (Everybody do one lesson in your math book, practice your music, write a letter to Grandma, etc.) This is not the recommended way to get a meaningful education, but it works in a pinch, and it is better than taking one more day off or waiting to start school until you are organized (which usually means around noon!).

Having just recently had a real mess of a homeschool day, I’ve had a fresh glimpse and renewed my perspective on the necessity of taking this matter of educating your children seriously enough to be prepared. There are enough dirty diapers, spills, and last minute crises to add excitement to life. You don’t need a bad homeschool day too!


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What to Do with a Restless Little Boy?

I find it a rather interesting fact that 80% of all homeschooled children are boys. That makes a definite statement about the inability of most little boys to sit in desks and endure the regimentation of public school. Little boys are wiggles and adventure. Sitting in a desk for hours on end sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to an energetic little man.

What can be done with those particular little boys that can’t seem to do well in homeschool either? It seems that in the past 14 years of homeschooling my children, I have rotated in and out of having a restless little boy many of those years. It gets very tempting to consider public school, especially when I have a baby. Public school seems like a good solution until you really study it out.

Advantages of Sending Your Restless Boy to Public School:
1. He would be out of your hair for several hours a day, meaning you could get something done (such as homeschooling your more compliant children, cleaning house, nursing the baby, etc.)
2. The school schedule would discipline him to being on time and preparing his homework ahead of time.
3. The teacher would teach him to obey and follow directions.
4. He would have other children to play with and tousle with, teaching him how to act and get along while diverting some of his boundless energy.
5. He would learn academics, which would be more than seems to be getting through in homeschool.

Let’s Consider Each So-Called “Advantage”
1. He would be out of your hair for several hours a day, meaning you could get something done (such as homeschooling your more compliant children, cleaning house, nursing the baby, etc.)
Mothers are to be about the vital business of teaching and nurturing the precious children that God has entrusted to them. You love him more than any other person on this earth loves him, and you care about his daily doings. No teacher could rouse the same amount of interest or concern for his success. Just because he is out of your hair doesn’t mean that he is no longer totally your responsibility. Often the problems school creates only stress and strain your relationship further, putting more pressure on you. Your son can easily sense why he was put in school. Instead of feeling loved and wanted, he will feel that he is a problem too great for you to handle. Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes lots of time and devotion, but it pays big dividends. Never give up!

Besides, maintaining your homeschool plus keeping up with the needs, demands, and homework of public school is extra exhausting.

2. The school schedule would discipline him to being on time and preparing his homework ahead of time.
Fat chance. If you haven’t been able to teach and guide your son to be on time and prepare ahead of time, the problem will only get worse with going to school. In homeschool you can be patient and lead him along. If he attends public school, it will be a mad dash to get out the door and a scramble to complete homework every school day for the rest of the school year. Talk to mothers who have their children in public school and ask specifically about the morning get-off-to-school stuff. I think you will hear that it is a crazy race to get out the door and that family prayer, a nutritious breakfast, hugs and kisses and other important beginnings to the day are often shrugged off in the hurry of it all. As far as homework goes, I spent several years helping my sons get their homework done after school before we discovered homeschooling, so I have a bit of experience. I firmly believe that it is much easier to teach them a concept in homeschool than it is to try to plow through their homework with them, explaining information (with no idea of how the teacher presented it in class) at the time of day when parents are most exhausted.

3. The teacher would teach him to obey and follow directions.
It is not the school’s job to train up your child. Besides, even if the school could accomplish it, you wouldn’t like the job they did it. Their values may be different from your way of life. The job of training children is best done at home, at an early age. If your little guy is still struggling with obedience, you are the best teacher and home is the best setting. Whatever problems he has at home will just be magnified at school. He will be labeled a troublemaker or a difficult child. The fear of a new situation may make him behave for a few days, but then he will begin to struggle with the same behavior that caused problems in homeschool. Home is the place to learn obedience from a tireless, consistent, loving mother. (God grant us the strength!)

4. He would have other children to play with and tussle with, teaching him how to act and get teamwork-649498_1280along while diverting some of his boundless energy.
Although I think it is important to have other children to play with and interact with, don’t count on public school for enriching your child’s social life. For one thing, you can control the type of friends your son associates with while he does homeschool. But in public school, often children who are restless fit right in with children who have lower standards and less self-discipline. You won’t like the language, play or dress codes that your son will quickly pick up in school. Although it seems like it would drain his energy to roughhouse with other boys, generally it only makes them wilder. Constructive play such as rigorous sports or building a tree house can divert that restlessness. When my boys were young, they dug long tunnels and built teepees and forts. They dragged themselves in from their work/play exhausted. Boys thrive on heavy chore jobs such as carrying wood or hoeing the garden, masculine jobs that need a boy’s muscles and strength to complete. Hobbies such as tying knots, whittling or woodworking can also keep him busy and happy. These are productive ways to channel your son’s energy.

When my sons needed social life, I looked for an older boy who was strong in the gospel for my boys to look up to, someone who could teach them new skills. When my son Daniel was younger he learned to operate a CB radio, connect to the Internet and compose music on the computer from older boys who appreciated having an interested listener and learner. Mark learned to raise chickens and grow a garden from men in our church who enjoyed sharing their wisdom. True socialization comes from following in the footsteps of someone older and wiser who models just how to behave.

5. He would learn academics, which would be more than seems to be getting through in homeschool.
There are more important things to learn than academics, such as the fact that Jesus loves you and died for you, that you need to treat your baby brother gently, to speak respectfully to your parents, to brush and take care of your teeth and health in general, to be patient and attentive to the sick and aged, to remember to feed your pets and be kind to animals, to shovel your elderly neighbor’s sidewalk without pay, and other crucial basics to a happy life.

liquid-415425_1280In addition, consider how public school will teach your son academics. If much of the work will be listening to lectures or doing worksheets while sitting quietly in a desk, your child is likely destined to be a failure. Restlessness in homeschool can be accommodated by hands-on learning, frequent exercise breaks, and alternate ways of gaining knowledge such as watching a video, playing a math game, tutoring little ones or doing a science experiment rather than just reading and filling in worksheets.

Food and Discipline

peanut-butter-684021__180There are a few other things to consider when dealing with a restless little boy. Food allergies can wreck havoc with a child’s ability to sit still and pay attention. Although I feel cautious about “blaming” food for such trouble, I do think it is worth observing. My 6-year-old son Ammon (who is currently the restless little boy in our homeschool) would pay attention and write his letters fastidiously neatly on certain days. Other days, his letters and numbers would be sloppy and backwards. After several weeks of watching, I decided that he was eating peanut butter and whole wheat bread for breakfast on the mornings that school went poorly. Removing whole wheat (difficult to do!) and peanut butter from his diet resulted in a more peaceful homeschool for Ammon, although it didn’t solve the problem entirely.

Lack of discipline and hyperactivity look very similar in behavior. I often think strictness and consistency on the part of the parents of restless boys might be more effective than medicine in many cases. Boys particularly seem to push limits and struggle with learning self-control. Without proper discipline, most little boys are a whirlwind. If you think lack of self-discipline is causing the problem with your little boy, help him learn little by little to control himself. I like reading my children a story from Little House in the Big Woods (pg. 87, chapter entitled “Sundays”) about what self-control little pioneer children were expected to have, to the point of not even laughing on Sunday. Talking about exactly what is expected behavior in home school helps too. For example, when my little guy sits upside down on the couch (meaning head down and feet up) during school, I tell him that had he gone to public school when I was a child, my teacher Mr. Bowen would have hit him with a hickory stick for that trick. Today’s school teacher may have sent him to the principle or held him in from recess. I am not excessively strict on how they sit or what they say during homeschool, but I do feel you must keep order and children must learn not to burst out with whatever pops into their head to say. Judging on some children’s actions that I observe at church, perhaps I expect better behavior than the public schools do.

Remember that your mischievous little boy is first and foremost God’s child, and God loves and values him greatly. Pray for help! If you don’t know what to do next, He knows. Lay claim to His promise: “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:17–18). “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” If we pray with full energy of heart, He will grant us pure love for our restless little boy. God will change our irritation and annoyance to understanding and charity. He will plant in our mind a strategy, ideas to help this child grow and become that man that He designed him to be. Remember you are the key figure in this plan. Mother forms and shapes the child more than any other influence. Your approval and love is crucial. It is true that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.


May I recommend:

What’s it Like to Be a Boy?

Public School or Homeschool?

Uncle Arthur Storytime Books

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Easy Exercise


We know we should exercise, but it sure seems hard to make it to the gym, or get out walking or jogging on icy roads. Having children at home for school complicates it even more—who is there to supervise while you are gone?

I’ve come up with a plan—sort of goofy, but it works! So, who can argue?

Besides, it makes my kids laugh!

Every morning, first thing in homeschool, in the time period that I would like to be out exercising, I select an educational video to put on. I throw on a loose, light, cotton robe; grab a weight in each hand (in the form of big soup cans, or 2 lb. bags of rice or beans) and start the movie. My kids sit and watch the movie (or join me exercising) and I stand off to the side, or behind them and exercise. I just march or jog in place, dance or do leg kicks or whatever I feel like with my legs which have the big muscles which really give your heart and lungs and whole body the benefits of an exercise workout. As women our arms can lack strength, so I use the soup cans (or bags of beans) to add weight and just pump them up and down or do arm circles or whatever motion I feel like with my arms. The idea is to keep a steady pace going to burn fat and benefit your heart. Don’t over-exert. Just keep at it gently and you’ll break a sweat without working yourself too hard. You should not be panting.

I put the timer on 30 minutes (or choose a 30 minute video) and away we go! I get to exercise, and the kids are thrilled to be allowed to watch a movie. Since I am not listening to something else, I am involved with them, can quell any squabbles and can discuss the movie—a head start on our homeschool day!

imageIf you have the Hero Classic DVD’s, these work great as they are just the right amount of time, have some music in them to keep you going, and are historically accurate. I love historical fiction or documentaries that boost our history studies.

Nothing to learn, no equipment needed, no blaring exercise music, no skin-tight-leotard-clad instructor to follow, no boredom . . . just watch a movie with your kids. Hey, this is easy!

Easy exercise—just what I needed.

Make ’em laugh!


May I recommend:

Take a Walk!

Too Tired!

Hopscotch, Hangman, Hot Potato, and Ha Ha Ha

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