by Katie Julius

At a recent park day, a fellow homeschooling mom and I were sharing some of the challenges we had been having with our children. As we talked, it became apparent that while our children do need character building and correction, we, ourselves, needed to examine the way we were responding and reacting to them–and make some changes.

I’m sure we’ve all been there. We’ve had moments when we immediately regretted the way we spoke to one of our kids and needed to apologize. As homeschooling parents, we are with our kids a lot. For many of us, this is actually one of the reasons we chose to homeschool. We want to have the time to invest in the lives of our kids and to instill in them the values and godly traits we desire for them.

However, usually around November or December, a bit of cabin fever can set it. We’ve been schooling for two to four months without much of a break. The holidays are approaching and the kids are excited for Christmas. Everyone is tired and ready for that much-needed Christmas break. I have found that in our home, late October through early December have some of the most challenging days. And while I certainly do not have it all figured out–I struggle regularly–I have have been recently reminded of a few things that have helped me be a better mom and a better teacher.

My six-year-old daughter is an extremely extroverted, only child who has never met someone she hasn’t made her new friend in a matter of minutes. This can be challenging at home when I have tasks to complete and she is desiring my attention or a playmate. I feel bad when I tell her that “I’m busy” or that I can help her “in a minute.” I know my primary role as a stay-at-home-mom and homeschooling parent is her. However, there are some household jobs that can’t really involve her yet and my part-time, work-from-home, job sometimes requires some of my time during the day.

What I find helps is to carve out time to spend specifically with just her – not doing school or other regular activities. One of our regular “escapes” has been Disneyland. We have annual passes and try to go for a few hours a couple times a month. As long as we end up going on a ride or two and get a snack along the way, she often comments on the tram ride back to the car, “This was the best day ever.” You may have a place that’s special to your family that you can head to–a park, children’s museum, or indoor play area are some suggestions.

An excursion out of the house can sometimes be a bit more time consuming than our schedule will allow. On such days, cuddling up with a book or getting a special treat together often fills up enough of her “attention tank” so that she can find something to do independently when necessary. Some other ideas include doing a puzzle, building a Lego creation, playing a game, coloring, or making Playdoh cupcakes for a stuffed animal tea party. As long as your child is receiving your undivided attention, it can be anything that your child will enjoy doing with you that’s low-prep and low-mess.

So many of us try to burn the candle at both ends. We sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our children. How many times do the kids get the last few pieces of YOUR lunch because they’re so hungry? How often do we stay up late after the kids are asleep to accomplish one thing or another?

I have often found the days that are most challenging for us are the ones that follow a late night for me, or when I forget to grab breakfast heading out the door. Hunger and fatigue most certainly can impact our emotions, especially our patience levels.

Kids can also have the same struggles. When I forget to bring a snack to the park or the library and we end up staying later than we planned, we can be in full meltdown mode. This behavior can often be attributed to being tired and hungry. I’ve started stashing a handful of non-perishable and non-melting snacks in my car for those days when our plans change and we end up hungry away from home.

Sometimes, even our best ideas and tips and techniques just don’t seem to work. We’ve all had those days. The ones where nothing seems to be going right. Every lesson or activity is a struggle. As mom, we snap easily as our patience wears thin. At the end of the day, we are exhausted and once the kids have (finally) made it into bed, we look back on the day and sometimes think, “That was a failure.”

While we should not be pleased when we don’t handle rough days well, God promises us forgiveness if we ask for it and a renewed beginning every day. We get to wake up in the morning and try again.

The same mom, who I had the conversation with at the park, gave me the travel mug pictured above as a reminder of this. Every day is a new day; a new chance to start fresh.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23