The success of our homeschools is primarily a result of what habits we, as homeschooling moms, have formed for ourselves. Of course, it’s our responsibility to help our kids form good habits, but it starts with us.
After some false starts and a whole lot of practice, some habits, like reading more, have taken hold for me. Even though I’m a super-slow reader, I can proudly say I read 41 books last year. My goal was 36. The point is not to brag (though I am proud of myself!), but to show that there really is something to these tips on habits.
Let’s talk about some principles that helped me and may help you in your homeschool habits.
Three key ideas can help build better habits for your homeschool:
- Make them small
- Realize there will always be an excuse
- Failure is not an option
First, make your habits tiny
I’ve talked before about mini-habits. I first heard of this concept when I read Stephen Guise’s book, Mini Habits Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. Guise offers the concept of habits that are “too small to fail.” In fact, they’re embarassingly small. Like do one pushup per day. That’s it, that’s the whole habit
You can feel like a success when you’ve done a single pushup per day. Guise says these mini-habits tend to snowball into bigger habits. You think, “Gee, I can do more than one pushup, and I’m already down here anyway.” So you bust out five or ten pushups.
Second, recognize the excuse.
The part about mini-habits that I was missing is something I learned from my friend Christy at play4lifemoms.com: There will always be an excuse not to do the habit. Even your embarassingly tiny habit. Last year, I watched as Christy kept posting and posting about her runs. She was on a running streak and the days just kept on rolling. Without fail, Christy kept running every single day. Eventually, she was featured on the Brave Writer podcast in their “Awesome Adulting” episode. And that’s where Christy shared the gem: There will always be some reason not to do your habit. Something will come up, sickness, travel, other activities, and for us military wives, even deploying husbands. But we can recognize the pattern: that there will usually be some kind of excuse and we’ll have to overcome whatever that particular excuse is that particular day. It’s so simple, and seems obvious, but that was one of the keys to her now over year-long running streak. When I started thinking this way about my reading habit, the excuses held less power over me. I could recognize the excuse for what it was and move on.
Third, never allow failure.
In her first volume, Charlotte Mason recognizes that decision fatigue is real. Kids struggle for lack of a strength of will and they should be spared decisions as much as possible. I think adults struggle, too! She gives the example of a mom trying to teach her child to shut the door. So whatever habit you’re trying to form for yourself or in your homeschool, think about it in nonnegotiable terms like shutting the door: “This is just something we do.” Or think about it as part of your nature: “We’re the type of people who shut doors.” Just like we’re the type of people who wear clothes, so we’d never consider going to the grocery store in our birthday suit, it’s similarly simply not an option to leave the door open.
Note: this only works when you’ve chosen an appropriately miniature habit. Mason says on page 160:
“No work should be given to a child that he cannot execute perfectly, and then perfection should be required as of him as a matter of course.”
So, whether you’re working on homeschool habits for yourself or your students, use these three principles of habit-formation and you should start seeing more of the changes you want!