As the new year begins, many of us focus on the things we wish to improve. Here are some healthy homeschool habits to help spur you on to a successful year.
The new year is a great time to refocus on our homeschooling goals. It is also a great time to take a fresh look at the things we are doing and focus on healthy habits. Some habits help improve our physical health such as eating well and exercising. These habits along with others can also help improve our mental and emotional health. All these different aspects of health are essential to homeschoolers who are in it for the long haul. By concentrating on healthy habits, we take steps toward a happy and successful homeschooling year.
Healthy Habit: Exercise
When we talk about healthy goals for the new year, exercise is at the top of many people’s list. This is something we should not overlook in our homeschooling families. I have noticed a direct link between exercise and mood in a couple of my kids. One child in particular has experienced some struggles with anxiety. When she starts to get bad feelings we always stop and look at 3 things: Have you been getting good exercise, good food, and good sleep? The benefits of exercise go far beyond heart and lungs. According to this article by Harvard Health, exercise increases memory and thinking skills as well as improving mood and decreasing stress.
It can be challenging to ensure kids are getting enough exercise during the winter months. Since physical education is a “required subject” for homeschoolers in my state, once or twice a week we go to our YMCA during “school time” to swim or play basketball. Organized sports are a good way to ensure kids are getting exercise, but there are other options as well. We have found some fun exercise and dance videos on YouTube and at the library. I also check local coupon sites for great deals on things to do as a family such as ice or roller skating. My family loves to skate and it is really helpful especially in the winter to have something we can do together for both fun and exercise.
Healthy Habit: Nutrition
Now is the time of year to get back on track with good nutrition after consuming way too many sweets over the holidays. I think eating well is especially difficult in a homeschool family because of the availability to have food anytime. We try to eat meals at regular time and not continually snack, but snacks are still necessary at times. I try to make sure and have fruits and vegetables readily available and we do not keep junk food in the house. We also like yogurt, string cheese, pistachios, and cashews for snacks.
One challenge I have faced as a homeschool mom is the pressure I put on myself to cook three meals a day. I found, however, that if I tried to cook a big breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I really couldn’t get all our lessons done in a day because I was spending too much time in the kitchen. We switched to quicker and easier meals, especially lunch. The trade off was that the younger ones don’t eat quite as much for lunch and really need some snacks in the afternoon. My youngest really cannot focus when she is hungry and it greatly affects her mood. Having healthy snacks on hand for her is an absolute necessity if I am going to get school done with the other kids.
Healthy Habit: Sleep
I talked in an earlier post about a recent mental health lecture I attended. One of the topics that mental health professionals shared with parents and students was the importance of sleep. Sleep is how our brain resets and recovers. Much research has gone into determining how much sleep kids need each night in order to stay healthy. I learned in the lecture I attended that adequate sleep guards against depression and anxiety. A good night’s sleep helps us be able to retain and recall things that we have learned. Sleep also helps our immune systems. Personally, I can tell a big difference in my kids when they haven’t been getting enough sleep. (It took several days to recover from New Year’s Eve.) They bounce from grouchy, to sad, to hyper and silly.
A lack of adequate sleep can cause all kinds of behavioral problems. According to an article by National Sleep Foundation, “In general, sleep deprivation is a problem among children in America. According to NSF’s 2004 Sleep in America poll, more than two-thirds of children experience one or more sleep problems at least a few nights a week. For children with ADHD, poor sleep (too little sleep or symptoms of sleep disorders) may profoundly impact ADHD symptoms. In fact, one study found that treating sleep problems may be enough to eliminate attention and hyperactivity issues for some children.”
Although as homeschoolers it seems our kids would just be able to sleep in later if they were overly tired, this never happens. In talking to other moms, it seems like I’m not alone in this. My kids get up at the same time no matter what time they went to sleep the night before. The key to getting more sleep therefore lies in what happens at bedtime. Getting in bed on time and also helping kids wind down so that they can fall asleep when they go to bed are universal parenting challenges. There are great resources available including this article about how to fall asleep at night. Personally, we have found having a period of winding down together as a family helpful. We lower the lights and trade the screen for actual paper books. This has helped our nights to go much smoother.
Healthy Habit: Community
Another healthy habit for homeschoolers involves not just our physical health, but our emotional health. This habit is the practice of finding a good community to be a part of. There was a time in my life where I didn’t realize the importance of having a good community. I experienced a time of really feeling overwhelmed with the weight of responsibility of homeschooling my kids. During that time, I met an amazing homeschool mom. She and I had some great conversations and I was able to gain a little perspective and encouragement. Now I have three or four other moms that I know, trust, and respect that can give me great advice.
I heard a really great quote, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I want to go far, especially when it comes to educating my children. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon. It can really be a challenge to meet and develop relationships with people, but is worth the time and effort! I am so thankful for the creativity and expertise I have been able to glean from other moms out there. I truly believe the key to avoiding and overcoming “burnout” is community.
As we focus on getting “back to school” and back to healthy habits this new year, I hope this leads us to times of great health and happiness. I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2018.