Have you ever started off your day by watching a movie, turning on the television, mindlessly clicking around Facebook, or skimming your online news feed? It happens. Does it affect your mood?
We’re fooling ourselves if we say it doesn’t.
I know I am tempted – and often give in to the temptation – of checking my email and “catching up” online first thing in the morning. Even if I get up before the kids and take a walk and read my Bible, if I then open up the laptop and lose myself online while the kids are getting up and having their breakfast, it does not help my mindset. It does not help me get the day rolling.
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How we begin our days sets the tone for the whole day. What we put first communicates most to our kids and to ourselves, even unconsciously.
No matter what we say our priorities are, what we actually put first is our priority.
Do I want to have a focused homeschool day? Then I can’t start off on a distracted path.
Do I want to be consistent in our homeschool? Then I have to be committed to starting, every day, and not letting my own ennui or the kids’ pleas pull us off course before the day has even begun.
Homeschooling consistently is no hidden secret or magic bullet. It is simply showing up to do the work, no matter what we’d rather be doing. Isn’t that what we ask of our kids every time we pull out the math book? What we ask of them, we must require of ourselves.
Habits of independent learning, self-motivated studies, and enthusiastic conversations are grown in the soil of day in and day out consistency. If we don’t start our days well and keep ourselves and everyone else on track, our kids will not wake up automatically at age 10 being able to keep themselves on track without us. That is the fruit of long years of learning consistency from us.
What is Homeschooling Consistently?
Consistency is repetition.
The dictionary says that consistency is “the achievement of a level of performance that does not vary greatly in quality over time.”
Consistency is the opposite of boom and bust cycles. It is putting in the time as scheduled. It is being willing to put aside our issues and show our kids what it means to cheerfully perform our duties.
Consistency is an atmosphere.
Another meaning of consistency speaks to viscosity, or “the way in which a substance, typically a liquid, holds together.”
What is the consistency of our homes and our days? How do they hold together? If we’re haphazard or hit-and-miss, if whether or not we do our work depends on our mood or the weather, we do not have an atmosphere of learning. When we open the book and just start, quieting our doubts and demons, we’re creating a home consistency that speaks volumes and that will grow independent, self-motivated students over time.
Self-motivation begins with us, every morning.
Homeschooling Consistently Is Diligence.
Too much of the classical education conversation relies on the word rigor. Sure, modern education is pretty much a joke and we want more than that. But rigor is the wrong emphasis. We don’t want hard work for the sake of hard work. We want diligence – a willingness to do what must be done, whether it’s hard or easy, regardless of how we feel in the moment.
Diligence is repetition.
Diligence is “careful and persistent work or effort.” It keeps going until the job is done. It doesn’t slack off or procrastinate. Diligence turns our attentions off our emotional responses and our physical whining and puts the spotlight on the job in front of us, reminding us of what’s important.
Diligence is connection.
Diligence comes from a Latin root meaning “attentiveness, carefulness,” and “value highly, esteem, prize, love.” When we prize a thing, we will diligently seek it.
Unfortunately, we most often prize our own convenience and comfort, and it turns out that homeschooling is not very convenient or comfortable. So we self-sooth with coffee and chocolate and outbursts.
However, what we diligently apply ourselves to will become what we love and value highly – habit breeds affection. Or, as C.S. Lewis said:
Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already.
The way to order our affections, to learn to love what must be done, is to simply show up and do it, over and over, until it’s a habit, until it’s normal, until it’s a part of us.
Homeschooling Consistently is Faithfulness
Faithfulness is repetition.
To be faithful is to be “loyal, constant, and steadfast.” That is not a boom-and-bust approach, but regularity.
Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4:2
If we obey one day and not the next, we are not faithful. Faithfulness implies steady effort, continual attention, persistent obedience regardless of personal feeling.
Feeling follows effort. If we wait for the feeling, we will not be faithful. If we put faithfulness first, we will find our feelings fulfilled as well. We are not automatons, simply following orders, but we are faithful servants who love nothing (not even our own convenience) more than doing God’s will, the work He has given us each day to do.
Faithfulness is integrity.
Another meaning of faithfulness is “true to the facts or the original.” When we are faithful, we are being faithful to a Person, to our Lord, following in His footsteps, growing in Christlikeness. Faithfulness is sanctification, not merely “getting things done.” Charlotte Mason put it this way:
Let us do each bit of work as perfectly as we know how, remembering that each thing we turn out is a bit of ourselves, and we must leave it whole and complete, for this is Integrity.
Doing our work to the best of our ability is faithfulness, integrity. Offering up every little act as an act of praise is faithfulness, and reminds us not only that our work matters, but why it matters. It matters because it is how we are glorifying God.
As Holly Pierlot wrote in her book, A Mother’s Rule of Life:
From this point forward, then, every time you move into another scheduled event, offer it up to God and ask him for his help and blessing. Place yourself in a spirit of obedience to God’s will. Tackle every task as a direct response to God, just as if he were asking you, “Will you go do your laundry now?” Just say, “Yes, I will.” And smile at him.
This is faithfulness.
Homeschooling Consistently Means Showing Up Every Morning.
The funny thing about consistency is that starting is the hardest part.
That morning where turning on the television or surfing the internet seems so tempting is only that – a temptation. The more often we give into it, the harder it is to pull ourselves out. Conversely, the more often we resist and simply start, the less often we find ourselves tempted to do otherwise.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit. –Aristotle
If we strategize ways to jump-start our days, to pull ourselves out of our whining heads, and to just get started – and then do them – we’ll find we aren’t as lazy as we feared. We can consistently show up and do the work, and even consistently be excited about it.
We simply have to turn our attention away from our in-the-moment desires and set our minds actively on what really, eternally matters. Then act on those truths.
After all, before we can chide our kids for their dawdling or their whining or their procrastination, we must reform ourselves and lead the way by example.
Gain (Self)Control & Competence
Do you spiral downward or upward? When you start to lose your grip on your situation, do you spin your wheels and devolve into chaos or listlessness? Or do you ratchet up and wind yourself up tight, stressing and lashing out and gripping control? Some of us simply bounce between these two extremes – a controlling tyrant one day to a zoned-out couch potato the next (control is exhausting, after all!).
Walk the narrow path between these two deep ditches with self-control instead of situation-control and purpose instead of panic. Exchange your apathy for liveliness and your sluggishness for stamina.
Get started with a free attitude alignment cheat sheet that will help keep you focused on what matters: