I was chatting with a young mom today about habit training, and she asked a great question. We had talked about how important it is to have living examples for our children to see and spend time with as they form good habits. She had also made the connection that parents are, of necessity, one of the first examples our children have. So she asked, “What are the top three habits that you think a homeschool mom should cultivate in her own life?”
Now, if she had asked for the top three habits we should cultivate in our children’s lives, that would have been an easy answer: attention, obedience, and truthfulness. Those are the three traits that Charlotte Mason talked about most for children.
But those aren’t necessarily what I would consider the top habit needs of a homeschool mom herself. And that got me thinking.
Of course, everyone is an individual and may need to focus on certain habits more than others, but in broad strokes, what would be three good habits for a homeschool mom to focus on? Three habits that would help her better carry out this distinct calling that she works in every day, all day. Three character traits that would cut down on the number of Bad Mommy trophies she awards herself. Three daily practices that would reduce stress and encourage peace in her home.
Do you have three in mind? I’ll share the three that came to my mind, then I would love to hear your top picks.
The first Charlotte Mason habit that bubbled to the surface of my thoughts was orderliness. A place for everything and everything in its place—that’s orderliness. Some days it sounds like a dream, but wouldn’t it be great to make that dream come true on most days?Charlotte Mason recommended that we spend six to eight weeks focusing on the new habit we want to install. So here are some practical tips to help you get orderliness up and running in your home over the next couple of months.
- Simplify. Sometimes we can’t put everything in its place because there isn’t room for it all. Take some time to clean out, so everything has a place. Don’t try to do this all in one afternoon. Pace yourself. It may require a couple of days; it may require a week or more. Perhaps you can take a few days off school to focus on getting your house in order. It would be a great investment of time that would benefit both you and your children. Keep in the forefront of your mind a picture of what your home could look like with everything in an assigned spot. Let that image motivate you!
- Handle incoming items once. When the mail arrives, don’t just plop it on a counter to be dealt with later. When it is in your hands, take care of it. Put the junk mail in the recycle bin (or give it to one of the children to put in the recycle bin). Open the bills and schedule them in your online banking service or put them in a designated Bill Paying place and make a note on the calendar to pay each on an appropriate date. Handle it once. It will probably take less time than you think, and you won’t have to deal with the piles that tend to grow when you lay them around the house.The same goes for groceries or library books or whatever you bring into the house. Put them away immediately. The more you leave items laying around, the more you have to pick them up or push them aside throughout the day. They just clutter things up. You have to spend the time to put them where they belong eventually. Why not do that right away, while they are in your hands? Handle items once and enjoy keeping your house in lovely order.
- Schedule three tidy-up sessions each day: one before lunch, one before supper, and one before bedtime. Enlist the children to do it. One mom I know assigns each child a zone in the house each week. During tidy-up times each child is responsible to pick up anything that is out of place in his zone and put it away. One child might be responsible for the living room, one for the dining room, one for the back yard. Each is responsible for his or her bedroom. You might play fun music to signal when it is time to tidy the house. By scheduling several times to tidy up each day, the job won’t seem quite so overwhelming. You will be tidying up only what got out of place during the morning or during the afternoon rather than the entire day.
Remember, you have several weeks to work on getting these tips into place. It will be time well spent.
2. Adhering to a Regular Routine
The second habit that came to mind for a homeschool mom is the habit of adhering to a regular routine each day. Of course, life happens and we have to be ready to flex as needed, but having a regular routine as the default plan for the day can be very freeing. Without a regular routine, you are faced with a myriad of decisions every day. There are 25 or more things you could be doing. Which should you do first? next? But what about that one? And then there’s this that needs to be done…
Charlotte Mason believed that the effort of decision is the greatest effort in life. Relieve yourself of all that effort by setting a standard routine for your day. The children thrive when they know what to expect and can order their lives according to that plan. If they know that every day they have tidy-up time before lunch, before supper, and before bedtime, they can count on that happening and adjust their activities accordingly. The more you make that time an everyday occurrence, the fewer conflicts of interest you will have to deal with. Giving your children a regular routine that they can depend on, shows respect for them. It becomes much easier to respond with a good attitude if they know an expectation is coming than if you suddenly spring an expectation on them out of nowhere.
What kind of routine? Here’s an example from my home. The routine that follows varied a bit, according to the ages of the children, but for many years it formed the skeleton of our days.
- Get up and dressed (Children play in their rooms until mom opens their doors.)
- Breakfast and Scripture Memory
- Children do morning chores (make beds, brush teeth, comb hair) while Mom spends one-on-one time with toddler.
- School work (Toddler joins in or has an older sibling assigned for a few minutes.)
- Lunch (Children tidy up or help with preparing the meal.)
- Children clean up the kitchen.
- Quiet time on bed/nap for younger ones. Older ones have free play or finish school work.
- Snack and Family Read-Aloud
- Free Play or Errands
- Supper (Children tidy up or help with preparing the meal.)
- Children clean up the kitchen.
- Free Play
- Bedtime (Children tidy up then do evening chores: put on pajamas, dirty clothes in hamper, brush teeth.)
Invest a couple of months and focus on setting in place a routine that will work for your family. Then enjoy the wonderful ease of having a plan. You will find yourself exerting less effort on decisions about what to do next and more effort on what really matters: shaping those precious souls who live with you.
3. The Habit of a Sweet, Even Temper
The third habit that nudged its way into the top-three spot for a homeschool mom is the habit of a sweet, even temper. In so many ways mama sets the atmosphere of the home. If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. But if mama can demonstrate a sweet, even temper, that idea will permeate the atmosphere and go a long way toward keeping a pleasant home life and school.
But how do you go about that? Well, there are many, many facets to consider. We can’t delve into all the facets of personality and situations here. But allow me to give four very quick, very practical tips that I think can help all of us become more even-tempered. The first three are directly related to your routine.
- Build into your routine time to recharge your own batteries. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be snappish when I’m tired physically or emotionally. Schedule time in your routine to rest and refresh yourself as an individual. Charlotte told us that it is not a selfish thing to do, because the benefits do not stop with you. That reservoir of energy will spill over to your children, your spouse, your neighbors, and more.
- Build into your routine more margin. If you have an appointment to get to, start preparing to leave ten minutes earlier than you think you need to. And allow five more minutes in traffic than you think you need to. That’s margin. If you are tempted to schedule three time commitments in the same day, pare them down to only one. Leave yourself the margin of time to stop and smell the roses, to deal with the unexpected mess, or to take advantage of a teachable moment along the way. The more margin you leave in your schedule, the less pressured you will feel. And that makes it easier to stay at peace and to demonstrate a sweet spirit.
- Build into your routine time to pray, especially for each child individually. Consider committing to writing down one thing you are thankful for about each child every day. Maybe you will focus on one child each month, or every couple of weeks, or maybe you can keep a Thankful journal for each child every day. The details are up to you, but the heart of the challenge is to remind yourself about each child’s good points. Yes, you will be dealing with areas that need growth in his life, but try not to fixate on his faults. Charlotte said that we need to remember that a person is much more than his faults.
- Focus on what you want to become rather than what you want to stop doing. You move toward what you focus on. If you struggle in this area of keeping a sweet, even temper, monitor your self-talk. Are you telling yourself to stop blowing up? Are you trying to avoid yelling? Rather than focus on those bad habits you want to break, focus on the new good habit you want to instill. Picture what a sweet, even temper looks like in your house. Think about what is good and lovely and praiseworthy instead. You move toward what you focus on.
So there you have it: my top three habits for a homeschool mom. Please don’t feel overwhelmed. That’s a lot to wrap your brain around in just a few moments. But remember that if you focus on just one of those habits for two months, then the next one for two months, and the last one for two months, you can have all three of those habits instilled in your home in six months’ time.
Will they be perfect? No. None of us is perfect. But will you see improvement? Absolutely. In six months those habits will be planted and starting to put down good roots. Keep cultivating them, allow those roots to grow deep, and you will see them bear fruit.
It’s your turn. What do you consider the top three Charlotte Mason habits that a homeschool mom should focus on for herself? Leave a comment and let me know.
More Good Habits for Mom
Laying Down the Rails for Yourself encourages you with vivid word pictures and descriptions from Charlotte Mason, helpful insights from modern research, and practical ideas from life experience. It’s never too late to cultivate good habits! Laying Down the Rails for Yourself will show you how you can successfully instill habits in your own life.