In my earliest days of homeschooling, I had ideas about what our homeschool would actually look like. You know what I mean… right?
- kids who don’t squabble with one another
- kids who LOVE learning
- days that run smoothly, with lots of “free time” for our family members to pursue their interests
And then we actually started homeschooling. And it just never looked quite like that initial vision.
I’m not totally sure why I thought we could always be right up in each other’s business without going crazy. But somehow I overlooked the possibility that maybe I wouldn’t always enjoy this lifestyle.
In fact, there would be days when I barely liked this lifestyle at all.
Ten or twenty years down the road, if someone asks my kids what I was like when they were young, they may not answer the way I want them to.
Do my kids feel liked by me? Would they say that I love being around them?
I’m beet red right now, pondering the honest answer to those questions.
Recently I was talking to my friend’s grown kids. All of the kids in her family were homeschooled through high school and are now pursuing their adult lives. I’ve asked those grown kids what their favorite memories were.
Now ages 21-24, they started rattling off all kinds of things:
- the day we went bowling when we were supposed to be doing math
- the afternoon we spent at the nature preserve
- that time mom surprised us with a hiking day in the middle of a school week
- mom reading aloud while we ate popcorn on the back porch
- the movie marathon, watching Lord of the Rings on a snowy January afternoon
Not one of them mentioned curriculum. Not one of them mentioned academic lessons. In fact, not one of them mentioned anything schoolish at all.
They all remembered, rather, memories that were focused on relationships.
This should come as no surprise, really. The relationships we forge with our children matter more than our homeschool curriculum, whether we studied history in 3- or 4-year cycles, or how far ahead (or behind) our child is in their math book.
Our relationships matter more than the books read, the test scores achieved, the tasks we checked off our lists.
See, a child who feels loved and delighted in will carry that with him long past his homeschooling years.
My friend was a rigorous homeschooler with high expectations for her kids. But sprinkled intermittently throughout each year were what they called Just Because We Can Days. That is: days they did something other than school, just because they could.
See, she knew that we have to be intentional about enjoying our kids. Otherwise, those relationships that we say are the most important factor in our lives fall by the wayside as we militantly check off our lists and steamroll our way through curriculum.
Enough is enough.
What we need is a Just Because We Can Day.
Here’s what to do:
Look at the next three months on your calendar. Choose any one day that school is on the docket. Cross it out, and schedule a JBWC Day instead.
See? Wasn’t that easy?
Now look at the following three months. Choose one more. And then the next three months. Choose one more.
Congratulations! You’ve scheduled 3 JBWC Days into your school year.
Now, how do we actually pull this “Just Because We Can” business off?
This is how it works-
- Your kids don’t need to know a JBWC Day is coming– only you do. On the JBWC Day, surprise your kids after breakfast. Instead of telling them to haul out their math books, tell them it’s a Just Because We Can Day, instead. “Today we’re doing something else. Just because we can!”
- The singular goal of a JBWC Day is to enjoy your children. That’s it. If all you do is delight in the presence of your kids, you have succeeded. Keep this top of mind. It’s harder (and more worthwhile) than it seems.
- No squeezing school into the cracks! You don’t get to choose to go to an Oregon Trail exhibit at the local museum on your JBWC Day when you *happen* to be studying the Westward Expansion. Your singular goal, remember, is this: to enjoy your kids.
Ideas for your Just Because We Can Day:
I’ve got a whole list of ideas you can use, if something doesn’t come to mind right away. From hikes and swim days to bowling and picnics, you won’t need to rack your brain for ideas if you grab this list.
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Twenty years from now, your kids may not remember specifics about a history, math, or spelling lesson. They’ll forget a whole lot of the details you’re stressed about right this very minute.
But they won’t forget the wonderful, warm, bonding memories you shared with them during a Just Because We Can Day.
They won’t forget the way they felt, knowing that you delighted in them. They won’t forget they were enjoyed by mama, right in the thick of it all.
They’ll know that you chose them over the to-do list.
You will never look back on these days and say, “I wish we had not taken that day at the beach (or the bowling alley, the skating rink, the hiking trail, etc). I wish we had crammed in more spelling. More math. More anything academic.”
I would bet that 20 years from now, your future self would tell your today self, “Just enjoy them! You’re missing your chance to delight in who they are today. Right now.”
Homeschooling is about relationships, and of all the decisions you make this coming school year, the days you spend making that your top priority are when you get the most important thing right.
(If you share pictures of your JBWC Days on social media, tag it #JBWCday so we can find and be inspired by you!)
P.S. If you’re homeschooling kids 8 and under, make sure you know the six things you’ll never regret making time for.
And above everything else in homeschooling that is vying for our time and attention, I’m pretty convinced there is one question we should ask ourselves before our head hits the pillow each night. This is what it is.
Would you rather listen to this episode, instead of reading it?