by Diane Helfrich

So, you’ve decided to homeschool, or you have been homeschooling for a bit. It’s quite a responsibility, yet one you gladly choose because you are giving your kids what you want them to have. Let’s take a look at a sample day in the life of a homeschooler:

  1. Get up early to get breakfast made and grab a cup of coffee
  2. Get the kids up and dressed 
  3. Eat breakfast
  4. Clean-up the kitchen
  5. Start school
  6. Break to prepare for lunch while the kids play for a few
  7. Eat lunch and clean-up
  8. Get back to school
  9. Play with the kids outside or at the park for some fresh air
  10. Run to the grocery store
  11. Run a load of wash, run the vacuum, and prepare for supper
  12. Greet spouse with quick hello with a hug when arriving home
  13. Eat supper and clean-up
  14. Fold the laundry
  15. Read to the kids and maybe watch a little TV while grading papers
  16. Get kids to bed
  17. Talk to your spouse
  18. Grab a shower and set the alarm for tomorrow
  19. Collapse

Does this sound like a day at your house? Maybe it’s a different order, but it’s all there in some form. It’s productive. The kids and spouse are well cared for. But what about you? Where did anything focus on you except maybe the cup of coffee and a shower? It’s so easy to get into a rhythm of work that feels like you are accomplishing what needs to be done, but after some time, the grind runs you into the ground. One of the difficulties we homeschoolers face is that we live right in the middle of our work. If we aren’t mindful, the work never ends. A few little routines may help you refresh and reset so that you don’t run into the ground and in that process, lose your motivation. By the way, these routines are important habits to teach our kids. They too will have lives that need a little self-care in the busyness of work and family.

Breathing: Mindful breathing at any point in your day can bring calm and a few moments of rest. In the Benedictine monk tradition, a bell rings on the hour, and everyone stops their work for a few moments of prayer—thankfulness for the work of the day and all things sustaining them. Even taking a moment to close your eyes, focus on breath, and feel it go down the back of your throat—closing out the world to all else can bring calm. Breathe…

Down-time: Take an hour for everyone soon after lunch. At our house, each needed to be in his or her room. The kids could read, take a nap, or play quietly. I did the same—maybe lying down, feet up, and breathing. Maybe I read a book or wrote a letter to a friend. I sometimes played some soft music. Often, I was simply in communion with God; I was doing no work, not using the computer, not talking or playing on my phone, just having me-time. This routine breaks the work routine and forces a micro-vacation in your day even if you don’t do it every day or for a full hour.

Completion: At some point, consider your work done for the day. Maybe it’s after supper. Maybe it’s after the kids are in bed. Knock on the kitchen door three times and make a mental commitment that this is your signal to be done with work. You can’t quit being a parent or a spouse, but you can conscientiously separate from school and housework. You can even wash your face and change your clothes. Wash your work out of your mind and let your stress and cares wash down the drain—watch them go. Make these efforts holy routines in the sense that you focus on the element of self-care as you do it. Be mindful as you fold your clothes, and do it with loving care. “Feel” things as you do them. It’s a matter of calming your mind to be in the moment. Rest can come in moments. You can focus on yourself in moments. When you take the time to clear your mind, God can speak and reassure you of His presence in your life.

This article is not intended to minimize the bigger breaks we all need. We do need time with friends, time alone with our spouse, and vacations where the entire family gets out of town for a bit. I’m a firm believer, however, that if we can breathe and build moments into our day, and bring conscious closure to the end of our day, we can flow through our schedule a bit easier. The eighteen steps above may not change, but step nineteen may no longer say, “collapse.”

Diane Helfrich is a veteran homeschooler of fourteen years. She now serves as the NCHE development director. She is active in her church music program and loves teaching confirmation to middle schoolers at her church. Outside of church, she has taken up playing the ukulele. She is married to newly-retired David. They have two children. Ian is working on a Ph.D. in economics at Georgia Tech, and Anna is a case manager for trafficked and abused children in Yakima, Washington.