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Three Tips for Better Habits

Three Tips for Better Habits

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.

Running shoe and weightsThree key ideas can help build better habits for your homeschool:

  1. Make them small
  2. Realize there will always be an excuse
  3. 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!

Rhiannon Kutzer

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Nice to meet you!

I’m Rhiannon.

You can call me Rhi for short (as in “rejoice”). I’m a fiercely independent homeschooling mom of five, a Navy wife of 13 years, and a creator of various things: articles, a semi-regular newsletter, quilts, furniture, and the occasional knitted scarf. This is the site where I write about our homeschool journey and news and happenings in the homeschool world. more about me.

Rhiannon

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Need a shot in the arm for your homeschool? Get Thrive Together, a monthly email that brings you:

--the best of the homeschool blogosphere,
--current homeschool news,
--and great quotes that will refresh your homeschool mama mind.

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You don’t know the darkness and silence next to the bed of your (beautiful, vulnerable) person, kept alive by a machine. The respiratory therapists making adjustments to help your loved one’s brain get enough oxygen so she can make it to tomorrow.
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You don’t know the holiness of that bedside, where Christ meets you with His peace when everything is out of your hands. That bedside, where literally all you can do is read scripture and pray.
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I am telling you, that is a bedside you do NOT want to be at.
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I have been there and I never want to go back. God and an army of prayer warriors got us through that. Our person is still vulnerable. There are people in your life who are vulnerable.
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We were at that bedside with decades of collective medical experience on our side to develop best practices and treatment plans, and learn from mistakes made on other patients.
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Our loved ones who end up fighting COVID-19 with the help of a humming ventilator will not have that benefit. This disease is just too new.
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If you’re a leader of people, your job right now is to take care of your people. Be honest. Take this seriously. (We can do that without letting fear take control.)
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If you’re an employee, protect yourself, so you can protect your family. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, eat your vegetables, exercise, get good sleep, take some vitamin C.
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Above all #STAYHOME to #flattenthecurve so that you don’t end up by that bedside with not enough resources. Stay home, so that when the vulnerable person in your life needs it, they’ll have access to the ventilators and care they need.
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  • #Homeschooling when you didn’t choose it:
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I would feel totally overwhelmed and underprepared if I were in your shoes. Homeschooling is hard even when you did choose it. We’ve changed a little, too. Every meal is a reading meal these days if the kids want that. (They do🤓.)
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So, please ask me all your questions. I and other HSing mamas in your community have YEARS of experience with this atypical version of education. How can we help you and your specific kids in your specific situation? We have learned a lot of things the hard way and we are happy to help make this time smoother for you.
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What I desperately hope: those of you stuck in a situation you didn’t want AT ALL, might come to see education a little differently. It can be flexible. It can happen over the course of a whole day, with snacks, outside time, screen time, and play interspersed between lessons.
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This type of education is more about LIFE and HOME than you might think. While your students may be doing the same work assigned by the school, the setting change from school to home will change almost everything else about their educational experience this semester.
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Here are my two favorite tips to get you started:
1. Use short lessons. 
2. Alternate between types of work.
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The younger the kids, the shorter the lessons. Ballpark: elementary should be 15-30min/subject max. Middle school 30-45min/subject max.
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How does this look? Have your student read for 15 min, then do something physical for 15, then do handwriting for 15. That kind of a thing. “A change is as good as a rest."
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Don’t expect elementary kids to complete the whole assignment in such a short lesson. Just expect focused attention for that time, no matter how far he gets in the work. That builds the habit of, “when we sit to do school, we focus on school.” If you have to do 5 or 10 minute lessons because that’s all he had the attention for, that’s totally normal. Build up to longer periods, but it’s not really reasonable developmentally to expect hour-long math sessions for very young students. Those lead to tears. Ask me how I know.
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