As I sit cocooned in the ambient sounds of a coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon, I take a deep breath. I have laid the Best Plan Ever for my week (never mind that it took three hours to hammer out) and I just know that this year is going to be the year. Gosh, if I can just do this every week and nail every to-do on this list, everything will work right. (Except don’t pull out even one block or it will all crumble like a Jenga tower.)
I also have on high waisted jeans and make-up. Why don’t I do this more often? I sip my coffee, feeling like a grown-up lady (the kind who wears tortoise shell glasses and writes books in french coffee shops) until the reverie is broken by a text. “Hey where’s the toilet paper?”
Monday rolls around and my “do this, then that” list goes up in flames as one child was up all night with an ear infection and everyone is crying about the knitting tower project I planned. The work out and the organizing project sink to the bottom of the list, never to be seen again. It’s Wednesday and my willpower is already in shreds.
Welcome to January, it’s goal setting, list-making, will-power resolution season!
Listen, goals are awesome and I love them. I love January too. The thing is, sometimes we get in our own way. We start trying to do things without meeting ourselves where we are. Lengthy, sequential checklists and aggressive resolutions don’t always harmonize with the varied and unpredictable needs that come with being a full-time caregiver and homeschooler. In fact, they can be downright dismaying, leaving us wondering why we just cannot get it together (you know, like the real moms on Instagram.)
When it comes to goal setting, homeschool mamas of little ones have a special situation. When we set goals, we are also taking tiny, need-oriented people along with us for eighteen hours a day. And little people have goals too, like collecting seasonal viruses, losing every pair of socks they own within four weeks of purchase, and making sure to demand a good second breakfast every day. By four p.m. we have used up our daily ration of willpower wrangling people through math, meal times and naps.
Yep, I checked your planner: your life is full. Thankfully this doesn’t mean we throw it all away and become martyrs or powerless victims when it comes to our goals. It also doesn’t mean that we have to toughen up and get more hardcore and just “do better.”
It means we have to think and plan differently.
For the past ten years as a mom of little ones, I have learned that I can set goals for myself. I just haven’t always done it like everyone else. My must successful goals did not focus on big outcomes. Instead, I did best when I focused on goals that were progress-oriented. I like to call them seed goals.
A seed goal is a repeatable mini goal that focuses on the process itself, instead of a big end point. As we focus on taking action, we trust something much bigger will grow from it, just like planting a seed. I’ve learned to love them because wherever it takes me is always an adventure! With seed goals we get to ask ourselves the magic question: “What would happen if?”
What would happen if you committed to read a book every time you wanted to pick up your phone and start scrolling? What would happen if you went on a walk every day? What if you committed to eating healthy fat or protein first thing every morning?
My guess (okay, and my experience) is that you’d see ripple effects in multiple areas of your life.
On the flip side, an example of an outcome-oriented goal would be to “Lose X amount of pounds” or “Read X amount of books” this year. Typically you’d work backwards from the end point and calculate what you needed to do to get there. That’s a great way to plot out a goal, but it may not be for you in this season of life. My problem (and maybe yours too) is that in the unpredictable day-to-day where much of what I’m doing is meeting the needs of people around me, outcome oriented goals can leave me feeling overwhelmed and defeated. They are not as fun either, because you can’t ask the magic question, what would happen if?
Seed goals, on the other hand, help me to take action without perfectionism sabotaging me at every turn. It helps me to focus on what I am doing, instead of all that needs to be done before I can arrive at some predetermined destination far away. The wonderful thing about a process-oriented goal is that engaging in the process is the goal and I can pick it right back up any time I fall off.
Another nifty thing about a seed goal is that sometimes it turns itself into a habit! One of my favorite quotes by Atomic Habits author James Clear is “Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.”
A seed goal looks like this: a little bit every day. When we first started homeschooling, reading aloud to my children and having time outside were our two goals. We did a little of both every day. Throughout the years we have set more of these types of goals, which have turned into anchoring family routines.
You can use this method with both personal development and homeschooling. Sometimes a seed goal will last for a season. Other times the goal doesn’t really have an end point, but ends up creating something wonderful that I didn’t necessarily plan. For example, my goal to read a book every time I want to scroll my phone has turned into a monthly newsletter with short book reviews of what I read. (It’s my most opened newsletter! You can get it here.) It’s enabled me to create my curated book list for homeschool mamas with over sixty titles (found here.) And that’s with failing lots of times too!
Our first year of homeschooling we made it a goal to be outside for two hours a day. Not only did my children play and make wonderful memories, but I got bored of sitting in the grass and decided to plant some lavender. One thing led to another and I found myself digging up my lawn and planting a garden in my front yard (I do not recommend this as a best practice). Kids played, I dug. Our garden engaged the whole family and eventually became part of our homeschool.
Did I set out to dig up half of my suburban yard to install raised bed gardens with seasonal vegetables and flowers? Nope. (Also did my husband think he would get wrangled into fashioning seven garden boxes out of wood and corrugated steel while also engineering a drip system controlled by our phones? Also, no.)
Here are some seed goals that I have set during my years of homeschooling and mothering multiple small children:
- Have a book on hand that I can read or listen to whenever I want to scroll.
- Go on a daily walk. (This can be alone or works with kids too!)
- Read through the Bible. I have enjoyed The Bible Recap reading plan on YouVersion Bible app and the accompanying podcast The Bible Recap.
- Learn or create something every day before bed
- Read aloud every day
- Plan a field trip once a month
- Plan one friend activity each week
- Plan one baking or one craft each week
- Visit the library once per week
By the way, sometimes the curriculum was too much to get done in a day along with our homeschool goals. Guess which one got cut? Yep, the activities in the curriculum! (Here’s a post about how we hack our curriculum to stay sustainable and meet our homeschooling goals.)
If you have already fallen off the wagon on your goals this year, you are not done for! You can still accomplish big things this year, both in your personal life and in your homeschool. Do you want to do something big and unexpected this year? You can! All you have to do is start by planting some seeds, a little every day.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d love for you to share it! For more encouraging posts, you can also sign up for my newsletter here!