3 Ways to Maintain Beginning-of-Year Stamina Throughout the Homeschool Year

3 Ways to Maintain Beginning-of-Year Stamina throughout the Homeschool Year


Let’s face it. That beginning-of-year excitement doesn’t last very long. Despite all of our best intentions, despite the new books and materials, several weeks into it and we begin to lose our momentum.

That’s because it’s human nature.

Remez Sasson, founder of SuccessConsciousness.com, cites overwhelm and stress as two common reasons for lack of motivation. Homeschoolers can easily fall into these two categories.

However, there are concrete things you can do to keep that pendulum swinging.

This post isn’t about what healthy food to eat, how to exercise, nor what to pray. Hopefully, you are doing all of those things already as they certainly do help with motivation levels. Instead, this post shares three strategies to encourage you to maintain staying power in your homeschool.

3 Ways to Maintain Beginning-of Year Stamina throughout the Homeschool Year

1- Plan in chunks. If you think of homeschool in terms of an entire year, it’s too overwhelming to manage. Instead, break the year into quarters (3-month periods) and then into months. Smaller chunks make it more feasible and more motivating for parents as you work toward the greater goals of the full year. On your calendar, block in time to plan 3-month increments, and also a set time when you’ll sit to plan for the month. When those items are scheduled, you’ll know they’re coming, and you’ll be more likely to follow-through.

2- Schedule quarterly assessments. Even if you’ll have an external evaluator, be sure to block in assessment weeks on your calendar that you’ll do yourself. I like to block in a week. That doesn’t mean I give exams on that week. It’s just a reminder for me to assess what we’ve been working on and what developmental level my little guy is at based on the skills we exercised during that quarter.

There are several benefits to blocking in those assessment weeks:

  • It permits you to be in the moment with your child on a daily basis, rather than continuously testing and evaluating. Because you know there is a designated week at the end of three months to assess progress, you can focus on teaching, guiding, and exploring instead. Record observations on a daily/ weekly basis, but don’t provide judgement until that assessment week.
  • When assessment week comes around, you can interpret observations and adjust your goals based on your child’s body of work, in addition to your observations from that quarter.

Charting progress helps you stay focused to keep going because you’ll have strides you’ll want to celebrate!

stamina in homeschooling stay the course

3- Schedule homeschooling breaks. Everyone needs a break. Block them into your yearly calendar. Be sure to have several days in a row each quarter. If you can, make it a week. Don’t feel like you are wasting time. Remember that homeschoolers have more hours than public-schoolers, so, you can afford it! A mental break refreshes parents and children alike. Besides, a solid, scheduled-in break allows you to be more productive both before and after the break. According to Rebecca Berreca, Ph.D. in Psychology Today, “dividing yourself from routine, you learn new habits.”

Here’s to longevity in your homeschool year!

What do you do maintain endurance throughout the homeschool year?

If you would like help with planning the homeschool year, I have a new planning eWorkshop specifically for parents of children with special needs. You’ll learn how to break the year into quarters while planning for an entire year. You can find out more here (+ instantly download the first module FREE).

Higher Hopes

Higher Hopes

I bet my 2013 new year’s resolutions didn’t look like yours. I’ve always been a little fluffy, so instead of focusing on the weight room, I trained my sights on our classroom. Since the “new year” I had in mind was our new school year, I kicked off the semester promising things like

  • opening with circle time every day by 8:00 a.m., bright eyed and bushy tailed.
  • working through every item in my teacher’s planner.
  • arriving at co op, appointments, and lessons early.
  • grading in red ink.
  • reading only the classics.
  • taking one field trip a month.
  • practicing what I “teach” (using correct grammar ain’t easy).
  • convening class outside more often, being more “Charlotte Mason.”

It was easy enough to jot down my plans, even with M&M on my hip and my eyes crossed from sleep deprivation. But like all resolutions and promises, these were mere words, whether I wrote them in indelible red ink or with my favorite yellow Papermate pencil. For just like Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the LORD’S counsel—that will stand.”

Nope, my plans didn’t stand, or sit, or even crouch low to the ground. They were pulverized. By the year’s end my planner was covered in red X’s, its pages splattered by all my spilled blood, sweat, and tears. Before we’d tucked into any holiday turkey I’d resorted to

  • leaving my planner opened to the right day so that if I wasn’t awake the little people could get started without me.
  • relying on Sesame Street—and not circle time—to teach the alphabet and counting and the difference between “far” and “near.”
  • finding creative ways (e.g., crying, pleading) to get my little people to read one more line, do one more math problem, or wash one more dish.
  • including shopping at Costco as a field trip.
  • considering the works of Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boynton, and Jeff Kinney as classics.
  • struggling to explain abstract math concepts with a straight face, knowing they’d never use them.
  • accepting I wouldn’t arrive on time, let alone early, and being satisfied to just get anywhere at all.
  • enjoying the occasional recess even if we didn’t picnic during history, trying to be more “Mommy” and less “General Patton.”

Okay, fast forward to the present day, to the official start of the 2014-2015 school year for many (we tend to work year-round, completing the old stuff and beginning the new simultaneously). I still try to capture our life in my black, faux leather-bound planner, though it’s hard to fully describe our seeming pell-mell, headlong, shotgun approach to anything called “schoolwork.” My seventh-born straw didn’t break this camel, but M&M’s arrival did teach me that it doesn’t matter what I’ve planned or promised or resolved to do. God will order my steps and laugh at my vain attempts to have my own way. (Psalm 2:4)

It all boils down to discipline.

No, not the knee-jerk “Go to your room!” and “I’m going to tell your Daddy” type of discipline. That’s just an external reaction to a cause; with might and right on my side I give the direction and the little people respond accordingly. And no, not the eat-fewer-sweets, walk-three-days-a-week kind. Losing a few pounds before visiting Mama provides its own motivation and gratification. Believe it or not, it’s not even the umpff that got me through childbirth seven times. Then, I didn’t really have a choice; my body took over, told me to shut up, suffer, and push.

The discipline I’m talking about is the pray-before-my-feet-hit-the-floor kind. The read-my-Bible-daily-no-matter-how-busy-I-think-I-am and ask-God-then-commit type of resolve. While it was easy to ask God’s help when I was in a jam, it was the seek-God-first daily bread that I struggled to sink my teeth into.

Don’t we all choke on that at times? It’s why I hear my friends complaining, “I don’t know how I’m going to get this all done!” This meaning the cleaning and the teaching and the loving and the hand-holding and the hand-wringing and the nose blowing and the Facebooking and the blogging and…and…and. AND we’re passing these habits down to our children because we’re not focused on the one main objective, first and foremost. How can we expect them to turn off their cell phones and tune in to God’s voice if we’re focused first on grammar and not on God? Economics isn’t the only thing that trickles down; so does a life of faithful discipline.

Disciplining myself to put God first doesn’t really involve my teacher planner. It’s a heart thing, so it’s not when I do it; it more about how and why I do everything. I’m learning “Commit [my] way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5) Yes, I still have to potty train a toddler, take thrill rides with a teenage driver, and live in a house filled to the brim with high-octane estrogen. But loving God enough to study Him more diligently than English literature helps me teach and lead when I

  • remind the Crusader, “Have you done your Bible study?” even if he’s hunched over his college applications.
  • lovingly dust off crying children and force them back on their feet, bicycle, or Wordly Wise vocabulary book.
  • make way for Holy Spirit intercession instead of refereeing, jumping into, and monitoring every argument among my little people.
  • remember that it’s not whether it’s the first part of the school day or the last coherent thought before bedtime; it’s whether I give Him my all in it all.

And I can only hope that after all, maybe I will lose a few pounds.

Big Mistake You Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year-Pt 1

Big Mistake Your Homeschool Family Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year - Part 1 by Donna Marie @ ChristianHomeschoolMoms.com
Big Mistake Your Homeschool Family Can Avoid For A Healthier Happier Year – Part 1 by Donna Marie @ ChristianHomeschoolMoms.com

Becoming isolated in your journey as a Christ-focused Homeschool Family is a big mistake. However, you can understand and avoid it for a healthier and happier year.

Isolation, intentional or not, is a big mistake that has a negative and unhealthy impact on you and on your children. Let’s take a look at how it happens.

____________SEE POLL QUESTION AT THE END____________

Will You Answer The Quick Poll Before You Go?



For many of you, even though isolation is a big mistake, it is not intentional. It may occur after relocation, as it did with us. It can also happen when there is a major shift in your life, like unplugging from toxic relationships.

For others, you may be perfectly intentional about staying unplugged. This could be because you already have a habit of being a loner. It could also be due to past bad experiences that make you much more cautious.


Father God has used the Holy Bible to tell you the story of his relationships. Throughout His Good Book from Genesis to Revelations, the Lord makes it very clear how important relationships are to Him. And, through Jesus, He teaches you to love Him AND other people. His teachings can help you understand what love looks like when you apply it to real life.

Here is what Jesus instructed very clearly and simply in His Holy Written Word:

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

~ Matthew 22:36-40 KJV

The two most important commandments that Christ Jesus gave you under the New Covenant of Grace are about relationship. His emphasis has always been right there on relationships. He made it clear to the Pharisees who persecuted Him that he did not care about divisive legal and moral debates. He demonstrated that he cared most about relationships. He taught that you also need to care most about relationships.


One big mistake you and many other parents may often make is being totally unaware of how your relationships and relationship skills impact your children. Awareness is your first step. Next you can make the effort to learn more about this topic.

As you grow and mature in the Lord, building healthier relationships is something that you may learn by default. It is taught heavily in church and in Christian media, as it should be. I strongly urge you to also learn more in this area on purpose, instead of waiting for the next sermon or tv show on this topic.

In the Holy Bible, relationships are especially emphasized in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. These scriptures discuss unity of the body of Christ and godly love. Use these scriptures and others to help you pray, study and seek the Lord for his mighty help with relationships. As you keep learning and growing, it will also help your children learn and mature.


In our family and homeschool, we return to those scriptures on a regular basis. This also helps us get along better as a family every day. God’s Word helps our family and home to stay peaceful most of the time – except for just having naturally loud children!

Our home has not always been as peaceful and happy as it is now. My husband and I made the decision to allow God to transform our parenting and our home with His Love and Grace. He has done that and more, by His Holy Spirit. We are thankful and trusting God’s promise to keep our family and homeschool in peace.


If you are feeling isolated, know that God has promised that His Holy Spirit is your comfort and friend. He promised to never leave or forsake you. He cares about you. He cares about your relationships, too. Trust Him to help you avoid this big mistake of isolation. Your family will be healthier and happier in all of your relationships more than ever before.

Will you share about your own journey by answering our quick poll in the comments?


Please share your poll answer in the comments.

____________POLL QUESTION____________

Do you have a community that your family stays plugged in with regularly?


☆A Yes, We Stay Plugged In.

If you said yes in the poll, wonderful! Now, if you haven’t already been inviting others, then take the time to invite other homeschoolers who may be in your area to join your group / community and encourage them with your own story of hope about the value you have gotten out of staying community-connected.

☆B No, But Searching For Ways To Plug In.

If you answered no but would like to find a local group, please share your story and what region or city you are in so that other CHM community members can invite you, if they are nearby. 

☆C No, And Not Searching

If you answered no and want to share why you are not connecting or don’t want to connect, please feel free to share your story in the comments, also.

Lets build community right here and support each other in the comments area below.


In part 2 of this series, I will share the story of our family’s journey through isolation. Many of you may be able to relate to the shifts and transitions that we have gone through over the years.


Getting Ready to Homeschool a Child with Special Needs (without a Teaching Degree): Tips for First-Year Homeschoolers

Getting Ready to Homeschool a Child with Special Needs without a Teaching DegreeFor whatever reason, you’ve decided that you’re going to homeschool. You are both excited and nervous, but you know this is the best option for your child at this time. Yet, you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. You’re not a teacher by profession. You never worked in a daycare. You never even attended summer camp to know enough about working with children — much less about teaching a child with special needs.

Where do you start? What do you need? Who should you contact?

This article will show you that you don’t need a degree in education to know how to be your child’s teacher, even if he has special needs.

How to get started homeschooling a child with special needs:

1- Paperwork. You will need to gather all of the most recent reports on your child. The best piece is the evaluation drawn up by a psychologist. If you have a service plan or an IEP in place from your child’s rehabilitation center or from your child’s previous school, then have these handy as well. From these reports, you can devise educational goals for your child.

2- Supplies. If your child has physical limitations, he may require adapted school supplies that you won’t easily find at your local office supply store. Look online for shops that sell equipment for children with special needs. They often have a section of the catalog dedicated to materials to help develop fine motor skills. Some items, however, you will be able to find at any supply store. You just need to be creative about how you use them.

Some supplies you should have on your list:

  • adapted scissors and cutters (ex.: left-handed scissors, stable tabletop scissors, scrapbook punches, scrapbook circle cutters, etc.)
  • a variety of glue bottles or glue sticks (ex.: twist top glue bottles, all-purpose glue with a fine tip, two-sided tape, colored stick glue, etc.) You can find examples of cut and paste supplies here.
  • a variety of drawing tools (magnetic drawing board and corresponding pen, chalk, rectangular-shaped crayons, markers, etc.) Find details about drawing tools here.
  • a variety of painting tools (recycled items such as egg cartons, but also scrapers, paint brushes of various widths, a painting board, etc.) Find more painting tips here.
  • flannel board and flannel pieces
  • playdough or clay
  • technology (especially if your child uses AAC or a tablet for communication)
  • a large-buttoned calculator
  • Velcro (dots and strips – you will use these often!)
  • laminating machine (a super investment!)

3- Furniture or Equipment. Your child with special needs may require special seating or worktops to be comfortable enough to work on activities. When looking for furniture, keep in mind where you will place it in your home but also where you can sit or stand so that you, too, can comfortably work with your child. If you plan to work across from your child at a desk for instance, avoid a desk with a backboard. Find more about adapted furniture and equipment here.

4- Space. Where will you homeschool your child? In the living room? In the dining room? Anywhere around the house? It’s important to think about spaces in your home that will work best for your child. If your child is highly distracted, avoid a place where the rest of the family might be listening to music or watching television. Also, think about noises such as electrical buzzing from your nearby computer or the refrigerator in the kitchen. Sometimes, slight noises and bright lights can be a huge distraction for a child with sensory sensitivities.

5- People. Will your child continue with therapy throughout the year? Do you need additional professionals to help you with homeschooling your child?

Some professionals to think about hiring/ consulting are:

  • a music therapist or a music teacher if your child wants to take on an instrument
  • art therapist or art teacher
  • dance/ movement teacher
  • drama specialist (can also teach puppetry and storytelling)
  • photographer, woodworker, craftsman (any specialist with skills your child shows an interest in learning)
  • an OT (at your local rehabilitation center)
  • a PT (also at your local rehab center)
  • speech and language pathologist
  • and ASL specialist
  • a tutor (for a subject you are unsure about teaching)
  • an educational consultant (to help you plan an individualized educational program for your child)

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on specialists. Sometimes, your local homeschool co-op will be able to offer music or art lessons in a group setting. Also, there are college students often looking to volunteer. Check your local post-secondary schools for ideas.

6- Additional Resources. Homeschooling was not meant to be done in isolation, even if your child has special needs that require special attention. Do a little research in your area, but call ahead to be sure that their facility is adapted if your child uses special equipment (this includes having a proper place to change your child, should the need arise).

Look for activities happening in your community in places such as:

  • your local YMCA
  • your homeschool co-op
  • community youth or sports center
  • local library
  • the rehabilitation center your child attends
  • a nature center
  • learning center
  • local farm

The first year of homeschooling may be daunting at first, but know that you don’t have to have it all figured out in August. Take it one day at a time and you will see your confidence grow as you get to know your child in this academic relationship.

Have a success school year!

What questions/ concerns might you have regarding homeschooling a child with special needs? What is causing you some hesitation in getting started?

Taking This Show on the Road

CHMShow Have you ever traveled with seven kids, two dogs, and a spouse who dares to set up a conference call during a 10-hour trip? Believe me, it’s just as much fun as it sounds.

On one such adventure, Brown Sugar had to go potty so Songbird took her to the rest area bathroom. Next we stopped at McDonald’s because the Lone Ranger didn’t like the nuggets from Chik-Fil-A. Then Eddie had to buy ice for the cooler where he took another twenty minutes to gather the other seven things I’d forgotten. As the Crusader crawled over the back seat to get an apple for Maven and Doritos for Think Tank, he disturbed the poodles in their crate, and their whimpering roused a dozing M&M. I nursed him back to sleep for the second time when we stopped for gas; we decided it was cheaper to refuel near home. That’s right: almost two hours into the trip, we’d crept a mere five miles away from our own driveway.

Sound familiar?

I dread packing for a trip more than I hate eating okra. To feel productive without actually doing anything, I create mental lists before our departure: Bring both types of soap. Leave the portable baby bed, but grab a crib sheet and blanket. Pack lightweight pajamas for the first, warmer location and robes for the second, cooler one. Take paper, crayons, and board games to fend off boredom and a television overdose at the grandparents’.

The lists go on and on, but the actual packing doesn’t get started until the night before. That’s when the pedal hits the metal. Then I’m arranging seven piles of clothes—at least three additional days of underwear; bathing suits or sweaters, depending on the season; matching outfits for the girls, caps and sneakers for the boys; extra diapers for the little one, more jeans for the big ones. It’s a “no” to the stuffed animals, a nod to the graphic novels, and a “maybe” to the craft supplies. More than likely, they’ll stash these gems under the seats beside the textbooks that never make it out of the car. I trip over Eddie’s suitcase that’s ready to go and mutter, “Who knows?” when Eddie asks when he can load the car.

Actually, getting our show on the road is more a Ringling Brothers than a Cirque de Soleil production. There’s a method to our madness, but it’s still maddening. Departure day is all about minimizing how late we’ll leave and of course, how much later we’ll arrive. Cranky and tired, we’re going in every direction but the one that leads to the car: grabbing toothbrushes I couldn’t pack the night before; stopping the newspaper and the mail; turning on extra lights. The dogs get underfoot so we don’t forget them and the baby wails so we can hear him. It’s all carefully unorchestrated, as painfully necessary as a measles shot.

By the time we finally throw ourselves into the car we’re too tired to drive around the corner, let alone hundreds of miles. We finally make it out of the state, but a few hours, three Wee Sing CDs, and two movies later, we’re still on the road. By our journey’s end Brown Sugar has nosed me out for best traveler. All Eddie and I want to do is push the kids into our host’s waiting arms and head to the nearest hotel to regroup for a day or two.

So, why do we do it?

For scientific study. Why mimic ocean movement in plastic bottles when we can experience the waves breaking on the rocks below Pemaquid Lighthouse? We’d rather paddle to lobster traps than just read about lake ecosystems. Checking out the bird’s nest Grandpa found in the blueberry bush trumps studying animal habitats in the safety of the schoolroom. What’s more entertaining: watching mama run from spiders or climbing giant bugs in Nashville’s botanical garden? (Okay, that’s a draw.)


For art appreciation. I can hum “You Are My Sunshine” for twenty-five miles to hear my mom sing spirituals to M&M. The Lone Ranger’s colored-pencil renditions of New York’s skyscrapers, Blue Ridge mountains, and Pisgah National Forest cascades are works of art. Maven wears out her pencils, retelling her siblings’ escapades in her journal. Our a cappella remix of the “ABC Song,” “Bah, Bah, Black Sheep,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Traffic Light,” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” lulls M&M to sleep as we cross yet another county line.

For math application. Ever compare the drive from New Jersey to Maryland with the time spent crawling through Virginia alone? What about calculating the hours spent in line for a 90-second rollercoaster ride? Teaching the Crusader about gas mileage has more life application than doing inverse functions.

For Bible study. When someone screeches, “He touched me!” she’s not talking about Jesus. But that only inspires me to focus on God’s creation whizzing by the car, and meditate on His Word:

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens…When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:1, 3-4)

Since God can “draw out Leviathan with a hook, or snare his tongue with a line…” surely He can reel in the two battling it out behind me. (Job 41:1).

The family road trip…what better way to study God’s Word, geography, psychology, and sociology than watching my little people trample, chew on, argue with, explore, and evaluate everything from the tiniest ant at the rest stop to the hapless diner “lucky enough” to sit beside us at Cracker Barrel? Every fight, traffic jam, sore back, and pit stop draws us closer together; getting to the lighthouse, grandma’s house, the beach house, and our own house is the icing on the upside down cake. Have car, Google Maps, and Bible – will travel.

Now, if I just didn’t have to pack…