Do you ever look around at your homeschool and wonder where it all went wrong?
We stand in our kitchen stumped because we know we did this right. We have classical books, hand-lettered planning sheets, tea times, nature hikes and co-op days all slated out. We have market baskets and mini chalk boards. This afternoon from two to four was supposed to be artisan weaving crafts and abacus math lessons, when in reality it looks like a graveyard of broken pencils and everyone laying across the dining room table asking for snacks again.
There’s also a slight possibility we are burnt out. (I’m not burning out, you’re burning out!)
There are a few things that are working, but most of our plans are a relic of daydreams gone by. That thing we thought we would do every day we are actually doing once every other week. We’ve dropped out of the nature meet-up and the picture study curriculum. The baking project that was supposed to be followed by a history lesson ends up just being baking because have you ever spent an afternoon baking with four kids under eight? We are currently hanging on to daily math lessons by a thread.
In fact, we are doing far less than we ever imagined and on the days we are doing it all, we know deep down that it is not sustainable. (Oh, why can’t these people just nature journal a decent bird once in a while?)
Well, what if there was a tool that would allow us to not only create calm in our day, but also help build the homeschool day we envision? There is; and I like to call it a daily anchor.
Turns out it’s not the meticulously organized checklists, but small, intentional habits that carry the power to transform our homes. Research shows that slow habit formation is the most effective way to reach a goal. Once our brain is attuned to these repeated activities, it removes the obstacle of having to muster the willpower to do them. I don’t know about you, but I could use that!
What is a Daily Anchor?
Daily anchors are foundational habits and routines in our day. Having the predictability of a few set activities every day not only helps us to be more productive, but also brings an atmosphere of calm to our home. Children thrive on routines and predictability. (They especially look forward to activities that involve the whole family!)
As mothers we will never be able to control when toddlers melt down or whether people to like watercolors better than glitter glue. But knowing we have some reliable daily routines can help us focus on what is working rather than what is going wrong. We can use anchors as the building blocks of our day, ensuring that if all else fails, the essentials have been done!
An anchor is simply a main point in our day that we know we can always count on. It’s the life raft you can grab when things are breaking down.
Your anchors should not be complicated or difficult to execute. In fact, a daily anchor is always three things: simple, predictable and pleasant. That’s it!
So how can we implement this practice into our homeschool?
Daily Anchors For Things We Need to Do
First, did you know that you can put anchors in place for things you know you already need to do? It’s a great practice and here’s why: When I set daily anchors in place for things I already need to do, it helps me mine the value from those activities rather than looking for ways to avoid tiresome tasks that always seem to re-appear. If I’m going to be doing these things already, why not do them with intention? One of the most wonderful gifts a homemaker can offer to her family is to make pleasant, nourishing routines out of the daily grind.
For example, meal times are always daily anchors for us. I try to have them within the same flexible time frame and I even offer the same types of foods! My family loves this predictability. (You can see our weekly lunch matrix here!) When we gather around the table, whether it’s with paper plates of pizza or steaming bowls of homemade chili, we have the same routine. We pray together and then play a conversation game called Highs and Lows. (Have you ever played this? Its such a simple way to practice verbal and conversational skills.)
We can get bang for our buck by turning a repetitive task or obstacle into an opportunity to educate and nourish the whole person. Sally Clarkson always credits conversation around the family table as the incubator for the great thinkers and writers that her children grew to be!
Daily Anchors for Things We Want to Do
Second, you can set daily anchors for things you want to do. This is a way of prioritizing things that might otherwise be subject to the tyranny of the urgent. For example, one daily anchor that has been the nucleus of our homeschool is the Morning Basket. I recommend this to all homeschooling families! (I talk about that here.) Remember, keep it simple and pleasant! (Pro tip: If Fordyce’s Sermons aren’t working, try Bread and Jam for Frances.)
If you have a desire to shape the culture of your family, setting up daily anchors is the way to begin. I wanted to develop a literature-rich culture in our family, so I established reading aloud as a pillar in our home. For a season of time I wanted to nurture a love for outdoor play, so we committed to going outside together every day. Sometimes we went on nature hikes and sometimes I drank coffee on the porch while kids played with sidewalk chalk. It doesn’t have to be fancy!
We can use purposeful repetition to cultivate hearts and shape minds in our homes. Let’s organize our days for the long-haul rather than over-scheduling and burning out. We can trust that when given enough time, our daily anchors will naturally generate other life-giving habits and pursuits. We do not have to do it all; we just have to do a few things well!
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