Your Questions Answered: Back-to-School Essentials for Mom

This time of year, it seems like no matter which store you go into, there are lists and lists of back-to-school supplies: these are the things the students will need to get into the school days ahead.

But what about the homeschool mama? What will she need for the school days ahead? We’re going to talk about that today and here to join me is my friend and coworker, Laura Pitney.

Sonya: Laura, I’m so glad you could be with us again.

Laura: I’m glad to be here.

Sonya: It seems like a long time since we were able to do this. Let’s talk about what are the essentials for a homeschool mom when she’s going back to school. Some people school year round; some people start a new school year every fall or whenever it is. But as you look at the school year ahead, what are some essentials that a homeschool mama needs to be ready and take with her?

Laura: Coffee, lots of coffee. I’m just kidding. Maybe a little bit. That’s the first thing that came to my mind was coffee. Well, I just feel like this is such a good topic, because so many times when we think about homeschooling, it is all about our preparation— how to best teach our children— which is what it should be. But as I started reflecting on some of my strengths and weaknesses, an essential that came to my mind was What is my heart’s condition? And so to answer part of that question would be to take some time and analyze that. What is the direction of my heart? What motivates me to give my children the best of me? That’s going to be different for every situation and every mom, but it’s important to take that time and truly reflect on what my motivation is, what gives me that excitement to love all my kids and educate them and to create this atmosphere in our home. I think that’s a different point than you were mentioning about how when we go to a store, there are these lists of supplies, but when it overflows into a homeschool situation, the supplies are there and the materials are there, but it’s also the atmosphere and the planning. There’s a whole different layer of dynamic there.

Sonya: It’s easy for us to focus on the supplies and the lesson plans, the tangible things you can see and Do I have my ducks in a row? But I think the more important work, as you mentioned, is within. The atmosphere is going to set the tone. What kinds of things should a mama look at, as you said, about why she’s doing it? I suppose it depends on personality.

Laura: Right. You’re going to have some moms that treat it like a job. They are on their A-game. It is a task that they need to accomplish. They’re goal-oriented. They’re going to start at eight o’clock, and they’re going to finish at three. And that’s their happy place. And that works well for their home. So figuring out your personality type, I think, is a big part of figuring out the direction of your heart towards the homeschooling situation. You have those moms that are goal-oriented: “It’s a job, let’s get it done.” And then you have moms who just are excited about it; they have this opportunity to homeschool their children! We should all feel that way, but sometimes that comes and goes. There are certain situations where that’s there all the time—that it is just overflowing joy to be with their children and to educate them. And so, therefore, that’s their motivation. That’s the goal that they’re focused on: loving their kids, which we should all be that way.

Sonya: But like you said, it can come and go. And sometimes, especially if we’ve had a busy summer or an unusual spring and summer, where you’ve been out of your comfort zone, you’ve been kind of feeling off your game, it can help to revisit that as you prepare to move into fall. It’s like, okay, let’s just stop and take a minute and think about why we’re doing this again and get back to being centered, right where you need to be.

Laura: I think another important part of reflecting for yourself is to troubleshoot your strengths and your weaknesses. It’s easy to come up with our weaknesses, usually, because we’re more than aware of our shortcomings.

Sonya: Yes.

Laura: But that could be as simple as, “Okay, I need to keep my phone plugged in in the bedroom during school hours.” That could be a weakness: your phone, or whatever device it is. So to troubleshoot that, to be aware of it, put your phone in another room. Or meal prep. If your weakness is, “I don’t want to do school because I have to make sure my family’s fed.” If there’s a struggle there, make sure that gets done. Acknowledge that weakness. We’re all going to have those. My weakness—which I’m sure many people could probably relate to—is if it’s a sunny day, if it’s beautiful outside, I do not want to do school. I want to be outside; we were going to be doing something. And there’s a time and place for that. But I also have to recognize that, in some ways, that’s a weakness in relation to our school time, when it takes the place of what I know I should be doing.

If we can be faithful, I think that’s a huge difference from being perfect. And it’s even harder I think, when we compare ourselves with other people who homeschool. It’s easy to just see the good there. They look perfect, so we feel like we have to be perfect too. But nobody is doing the perfect thing.

Sonya: Yes. The things you’ve mentioned can come as a distraction. We have to recognize what distracts us, and then take steps to minimize those things. And also anything that trips us up or prevents us from putting forth the discipline to get things done. One thing that came to mind for me, and it kind of relates to what you were saying, is faithful. Being faithful.

Laura: Yes.

Sonya: It’s easy for us to get in a mind-set of “I have to be perfect.” But I’ve never reached that goal. I don’t know about you.

Laura: Oh, for sure no.

Sonya: When it comes to homeschooling, it’s so easy for us to expect ourselves to be perfect at this. And we can’t be. And it’s so easy to beat ourselves up. As you said, we know our weaknesses.

Laura: Right.

Sonya: But if we can focus instead on just being faithful. We’re going to show up, and we’re going to get that lesson plan done. And for today, we’re going to stay inside and do our lesson, even though the pool’s calling us. But we’re going to stay inside until we get our lessons done, then we can go out. If we can be faithful, I think that’s a huge difference from being perfect. And it’s even harder I think, when we compare ourselves with other people who homeschool. It’s easy to just see the good there. They look perfect, so we feel like we have to be perfect too. But nobody is doing the perfect thing.

Laura: No, not at all.

Sonya: We should all do the faithful thing though.

Laura: Agreed. I think that along those lines, setting high expectations for ourselves and for our homeschooling world is definitely a weakness that we need to be cautious of, because it doesn’t necessarily set us up for success.

Sonya: If they’re too high.

Laura: Right. But along those same lines, understanding our strengths is important too. You may have a mom who thrives with planning, who loves to schedule, who loves to have all the check boxes. And that’s her happy place.

Sonya: I’m raising my hand.

Laura: That’s your strength. You can pour into that, and it’s beautifully laid out and it is there. That is a strength of yours. And to play into that, to where it feeds your homeschool versus it becomes a distraction.

Sonya: Yes, it actually helps prevent distraction for me, because I know what I’m going to do, so my mind doesn’t have to try and wrestle with all that. Just run the plan now. Be faithful to run the plan. But that’s not always the strength for everybody.

Laura: Right, you may have a mom who loves to fly by the seat of her pants. “Oh, this was a great story. Let’s go build this or let’s create this skit.” It may not have been planned, but that’s her strength: seeing the vision of the story and being able to make it real for her children. I think acknowledging our strengths is important. I have a friend who’s a great cook. She loves to cook. And that is one of the strengths that I would say is part of the atmosphere of her home. You go to her house and you’re going to be fed some good food. And it’s such a blessing to participate in that strength of hers.

Sonya: You can feel the love that comes with it.

Laura: Correct. For her, meal planning and the food is an easy part of her school day. So she’s playing to the strength, to where that’s the atmosphere that her family comes around. And so it’s neat to see all the different strengths and friends and different homeschool situations. But I think sometimes it might even be hard for us to see it. So I encourage moms out there to maybe ask their husband or their friends, say, “Can you help me figure out, what’s something you see in me that you would consider a part of the atmosphere in my home that I could say is a strength of mine?” Or “What do you think is a weakness that you see?” And that’s hard, you might not want to know the answer.

Sonya: It’s like, “Tell me one that’s not already on my list.”

Laura: But you may not see it yourself.

Sonya: That’s true, we have blind spots.

Laura: The weakness or the strength.

If we focus on the weaknesses of ourselves and of those around us and our circumstances, all that does is drain the energy out of us. But if we can see those things with gracious eyes, I think that infuses us with energy and motivation to be faithful and keep going.

Sonya: Along with the strengths, I think it’s helpful to focus on the strengths of those around us. I read a blog post that used this term and it just really struck me: they said, see those around you with gracious eyes, eyes that are full of grace. And grace is believing the best about that person. So maybe you have a child who could not write a complete sentence to save her life.

Laura: I’ve got one.

Sonya: You’re raising your hand on that, okay. Well, we can either focus on that or we can focus on, when that child enters the room and one of her siblings has had a hard day, she’s the first one to realize that and go say an encouraging word to that person. So she does know how to use words. She knows how to use language well. It’s just the writing that is the obstacle right now or the challenge. Are we seeing that child only through the lens of that weakness or are we looking at it through gracious eyes? And it’s not just the children too. It can be our circumstances, like our budget that we have to work with. Or the size of our house: “we’re all crammed in here.” Well, we can look at that as a weakness, or we can try and focus on the benefits that can come from it. And it seems like if we focus on the weaknesses of ourselves and of those around us and our circumstances, all that does is drain the energy out of us. But if we can see those things with gracious eyes, I think that infuses us with energy and motivation to be faithful and keep going.

Laura: The word that comes to mind is mother culture. Taking the time to understand that and to be purposeful, but then also to take the time to refuel ourselves so that we can stay on. We can keep our grace-filled eyes, so we can keep the atmosphere the way we want it to be, the culture the way we want it to be.

Sonya: All of these things are so important for the homeschool mom.

How about you? Do you have another idea of what a homeschool mom needs to get ready for back to school? Something that will equip her for the days ahead. Leave a comment and let us know.