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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
Better Habits for Homeschoolers: A New Year's Project - Christine Smitha

Better Habits for Homeschoolers: A New Year’s Project

5 minutes

Summary

To form good habits, give consideration to these key areas when making family resolutions. The secret is to focus on habits that we are motivated to keep.

People still make resolutions at New Year’s time, but these days, it often seems more like a joke than anything else.

“This year, I’m definitely going to get in shape,” and the gym memberships spike for two weeks until the next Monday night football game, when it’s back to pizza and potato chips on the sofa. It doesn’t have to be that way, though, and for all of us, it shouldn’t be.

The key to having meaningful resolutions is being motivated by a purpose you adhere to with your heart and soul, and having a reasonable plan of attack.

As Catholic homeschooling parents, we recognize three areas of such firm purpose: 1) salvation, 2) education, and 3) family.

Instead of making resolutions based on what everyone around us might be doing, or because it sounds good, give consideration to a resolution your family can take up in one of these key areas.

For each area, consider the problem. Ask yourselves the following questions: What are the real needs in our family? What is the most important need right now? Then envision success.

What would our family look like if we made a change in this area? What is the end goal?

Finally, make a reasonable plan that involves everyone. What is the simplest way we can fulfill this need as a family?

How can everyone participate and contribute? Take time to prayerfully evaluate and answer these questions, and you’ll soon find yourself with a set of resolutions you can stick to.

SALVATION

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Surely, the first priority in all our homes is the salvation of our souls and those of our children.

Sometimes, it may seem as if we’re a far cry from attaining that eternal goal, however. Consider the problem.

What are the biggest challenges right now? Is it a struggle to gather the family for prayer? Is Mass time too chaotic? Is getting to Confession less regular than you think it should be?

Which of these areas might be the simplest to remedy? Perhaps family prayer time would be the easiest since it doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the home. Perhaps a sensible goal would be to have the habit of praying the family rosary this year.

Envision success: What do you expect to gain from instituting the family rosary? Increased devotion to the Blessed Mother is probably part of the goal, as well as comfortability, even joy, at praying and spending time with God.

It would be nice if the children wouldn’t complain so much because they have to stop playing or reading in order to pray or go to church.Growing used to regular extended prayers will probably improve interest in religious activities generally.

Besides, they say that the family that prays together stays together, so a regular family rosary can be expected to call down graces that help t he family be more loving and understanding toward one another.

Make your plan: It isn’t reasonable to expect that your family will suddenly be praying the rosary with perfect attention and joy tomorrow, but you can work up to it. Start slow.

For the first month or two, maybe you’ll just do one decade, perhaps two or three decades for another month or two.

Slowly you can work up to the full five decades every night. Employ tools. Seton Press publishes a lovely book called The Rosary in Art. Use the beautiful art to center the family’s focus on the mysteries.

Let the children handle the book while you pray; it will inspire their interest and pleasure at praying the Rosary.

Get everyone involved: Dad can give notice 15 minutes before the beginning of the rosary each night. Perhaps one of the children can lay out the rosary beads for everyone. An older child can light candles to set a reflective and prayerful atmosphere.

Children of age may take turns reading the appropriate Bible passage for each mystery. Everyone from Dad and Mom down can alternate leading the prayers.

Before you know it, family prayer time will be a time of peace and contentment sought after by everyone.

EDUCATION

The academic development of our children stands just behind the salvation of their souls in our priorities, and no wonder, for when we educate them, we are educating them not just for temporal success, but for eternal success as well.

Well-trained minds and disciplined consciences are their best hope for prudent, virtuous choices that will lead to fulfilling lives and eternal bliss. So consider where there may be gaps or weaknesses in the homeschool right now. Are the kids getting distracted too easily?

Does it seem to be taking forever to get schoolwork finished? Do your children complain because they don’t get enough time for recreation? Maybe better time management is a good goal for your family this year.

Envision success: What would better time management do for your family? How would it benefit your students’ education and improve the homeschool environment? If school were accomplished with fewer interruptions and distractions, the kids might learn more and get better grades.

If school finished sooner because of fewer interruptions and distractions, there would almost certainly be less complaining. If the day ran smoother, you’d probably be less harried at the end of it, and Dad might have to issue fewer lectures and disciplinary actions, leading to a more peaceful and happier environment overall.

Make your plan: First off, how about no phone calls during school hours? Next, how about laying out breakfast items the night before. Wake up calls? They don’t have to be miserable.

Maybe have the kids take turns choosing a fun piece of music or song to play as ‘get-out-of-bed’ music on the family stereo, something to energize everyone and get them excited about getting up.

Get everyone involved: Maybe Dad brings Mom a cup of coffee or tea in bed before he leaves for work. Perhaps after breakfast the oldest sibling places breakfast dishes in a sink full of hot water while one of the younger ones wipes down the table, so that Mom can get the toddlers set up with their activities.

How about each child makes sure his work area and books are organized and ready the night before, and you use a sticker chart or wipe board with stars to keep track. It’s a race to the top. Whoever does the best at staying organized with his or her workspace gets a special treat on Saturday!

Schedule frequent breaks so there is less tendency to self-distraction and overtiring, which leads to poor productivity.

In time, the school day will straighten out, and life and education will look much calmer around your house.

FAMILY

It’s often noted that homeschooling families seem quite a bit closer to one another than other families. That’s not surprising when you spend all day long together every day. Still, kids are kids and we’re all human, so just because we’re homeschooling doesn’t mean we’re perfect.

Perhaps there’s been a bit too much quarreling and yelling lately. Maybe the kids are being recalcitrant about doing chores and putting things away. Have there been problems sharing lately? Maybe some disrespect from the teens?

Envision success. What do you see resulting from a change? Perhaps you imagine a quieter household, or at least a household filled with conversation and laughter instead of complaints and whining. Maybe the older kids will be a little more patient with the younger kids. Perhaps a favorite toy will cease being something to fight over.

Make your plan: Why not take a tip from Advent preparations? Most of you are probably familiar with the tradition of the Secret Santa, or building a manger for Our Lord out of the soft straw of charitable acts. Keep it going.

How about every month, you institute a new cycle of Hidden Helpers or Fairy Godmothers, or Secret Saints, or whatever you’d like to call the project in your family? Draw names from a hat and challenge each other to be as kind, helpful, and generous as possible.

At the end of the month, have a big reveal and some sort of family activity planned like a night out, or a special dinner, a movie night, or game night. Then start it all over again.

Competition usually does wonders for motivation, and what better reason to compete than for family happiness. You might be surprised at the results.

This year, make a resolution and see your family grow toward God, wisdom, and love!

    About Christine Smitha

    Christine Smitha
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