by Tyler Hogan

If you’re anything like my wife and me, the past couple of months have left you feeling somewhat besieged. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed—especially in seasons of unpredictable craziness like we’re enduring now. Frankly, that feeling can suck the joy out of homeschooling (and life for that matter). It’s time to add a bit of zest to your day.

What do I mean by “zest”? I enjoy synonyms so let me share these beauties with you:

  • Gusto
  • Relish
  • Appetite
  • Passion
  • Tang
  • Piquancy
  • Spice

I love how zest brings to mind a gusto and a taste for something good! How do we bring back our appetite, our gusto, our passion for learning? Here are several principles to consider:

All of us started homeschooling for a reason. It helps to remind ourselves what those reasons were and why we found them compelling. Were your kids getting bullied at school and now they’re safe? Did you have a problem with the school district’s curriculum or programming that you now have freedom to do your way? Did you want to build your relationship with your kids, or provide opportunities that couldn’t be pursued otherwise? There are as many reasons for homeschooling as there are homeschoolers. My parents started homeschooling us because my brother’s terrible school experience was sucking the love of learning out of him. They brought him home—just for a year, they said—to try to reignite that fire of curiosity. It worked so well he never went back. Reviewing those reasons, and considering the consequences of the alternatives, helps put the hard days in perspective.

Nothing sucks us dry like having more on our plates than can reasonably fit. My wife and I must reappraise and readjust as our kids grow. Are they now interested in different activities? Has a new ministry opportunity arisen? Have they entered a new developmental phase (like potty training or driver’s education)? If we fill our schedules to the brim, we don’t leave time for margin, time to just be, or flexibility when life inevitably takes a detour. Sometimes, we must cancel, step down, reschedule, or just say “no” to preserve our sanity. When we have the right amount of margin, we might feel lazy, but we must remind ourselves that we left space in our day planners empty on purpose. Most importantly, leaving margin means we can truly enjoy to the fullest the things that we commit to, without fretting over the other activities that clamor for our attention.

Even if we aren’t nominated for “Best Homeschooling Parent,” we still have moments when we see the beautiful fruit of our labors. The lightbulb moments when our kids finally understand something they’ve been struggling with; an unexpected act of kindness; a compliment or commendation; or even just a day where nobody screamed at anyone. (It could happen, right?) No matter how big or small, take time to savor these victories. You’re doing something right. Allow yourself to smile and be proud

There’s something particularly satisfying about seeing your offspring learn something simply because they are curious. Pay attention to their questions and notice teachable moments. The other day, my seven-year-old asked to go with me on my morning walk. While walking, she chatted with me about various things on her mind. She launched us into a great discussion on personality types, especially introverts and extroverts, and how we can show love to different people. It was a neat moment; not in the curriculum plan, but something she noticed within our family and wanted to understand better. Whether it’s heartfelt talks, watching YouTube videos about Antarctica together, or going on a treasure hunt set up by your treasure-map-obsessed five-year-old, following their interest can yield delightful dividends.

My mom always said, “If it’s fun, we’re motivated to do it again.” She knew what she was talking about, because she made learning enjoyable, and kept my brother and me wanting more. My best memories of homeschooling involved hands-on projects, like making a 3D model of a cell out of Jell-O™ in biology class; putting on a Greek feast and Olympic games in history; making cookie-dough relief maps for geography; and following all kinds of recipes for math and home-economics. Come to think of it, it seems my best homeschool memories involved yummy food… In any case, having fun while building memories fosters stronger relationships, enquiring minds, and life-long learning. The icing on the cake is that a positive experience enables kids to remember material better, too. Now that is motivating!

Yes, hard days (weeks, months, even years) happen. And yes, homeschooling is a lot of work. However, we can keep our zest for education by following these principles. I’ve found that they don’t take much time and they can bring perspective or help me find my second wind.  Soak all this in prayer, and you’ve set yourself up for success.

Tyler Hogan is the president of Bright Ideas Press. He and his wife, Helen, are both homeschool graduates and now homeschool their five children. Tyler is the author of North Star Geography and Demystifying Learning Styles, head cartographer of WonderMaps, and game designer of Civitas. He speaks and teaches about homeschooling, geography, the arts, worldview, entrepreneurship, and other topics. He holds a BA in theatre ministries from Belhaven University.

We are excited to welcome Tyler as one of our Featured Speakers at CHEA’s 37th Annual Homeschool Convention at the Anaheim Convention Center May 27-29, 2021.