385 | The Importance of Habit Training in Your Homeschool (Sean Allen)
Discipline (or the lack thereof) can make or break your homeschool. Helping your children build good habits cannot help but make your homeschool more enjoyable and successful. In this episode we emphasize the importance of helping your child experience a sense of ownership over their tasks and the transformative feeling of a job well done. If you start with some simple tasks and stick with it, your child will be well on their way to building character qualities that will serve them for a lifetime.
Sean Allen is the founder of The Well Ordered Homeschool, husband to his beautiful bride Caroline and a proud father of eight. He has a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design and is passionate about creating materials to assist parents in the incredibly challenging, yet surpassingly beautiful, work of schooling and training their children at home.
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Sean Allen Hello. Welcome to the Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Sean Allen and I am one of the many hosts here on the podcast. Since you're listening to this, I'm guessing you already know that homeschooling is both incredibly challenging and incredibly beautiful. Every week we're here doing a little guidance, some helpful counsel, and a whole lot of encouragement your way as you navigate this busy, yet blessed journey of educating your children at home. Now, even though the show is called Homeschool Solutions, it should come as no surprise to you that we do not have the answer to every homeschool related question. But if you come away with nothing else, our hope is that today's episode will point you to Jesus Christ and that you will seek His counsel as you train your children in the way they should go.
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Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of The Homeschool Solution Show. Thank you so much for joining me today. Here we are in the middle of summer–it's July–you're probably gearing up for the new school year. We have..oh, my. I'm losing track now. I've gone to so many conventions this year. We're definitely past the halfway point. We have a few more conventions ahead of us. We're going to be in Texas here in just a few days. I'm not exactly sure when this episode will air, but we are in the middle of preparing for a gigantic 4th of July celebration with hundreds of our friends. Literally hundreds. Well, yes, I think last year we had 180. So we're pushing the 200 mark so I can say that honestly. And we have a skit, we have a lecture, we have music, we have food, we have a dunk tank, we have a train, we have a cannon, we have volleyball—we have all kinds of stuff at this celebration. We put a lot of work into it every year. It's exhausting. I'm exhausted right now. There's just too much to do. But I'm in the middle of that, getting ready for that and I'm recording this podcast at a very, very late hour. I will not tell you what time it is right now, but it is late because it's the only time that I could find to record this thing. And then right after the 4th of July celebration, we're going to be hooking up our trailer, hopping in our van and driving down to Texas to go to the GHC convention here. That's just a...please forgive me, folks. It's late, so I might have a little bit of difficulty articulating here tonight, but I'm going to do the best that I can. We're going to be heading down to GHC in Round Rock, Texas, where we would very much like to meet any of you who will be attending that convention.
And let's see, we were just thinking about this here recently—we've traveled this year more than we have ever traveled in our married lives. In my entire life, I have traveled more this year than I've ever traveled. We have literally traveled coast to coast. It's the first time I could...growing up, we didn't travel much at all. We live in Missouri, the Kansas City side, and when I was growing up, our vacations generally consisted of traveling to Saint Louis, which is on the other side of Missouri. That's about how far we got away. We got away a few more...I'm not trying to sell my parents short here, we did get out of the state a few times. But that was just my experience. That was traveling to me growing up. And now, in the early part of convention season, we make our way all the way over to South Carolina, we were down in Florida for a little while, We did have a convention in Saint Louis, we were up in Ohio. Oh, I'm missing some things. I'm losing track. We were in Kansas for a little bit, which is not too far away either. Then we go all the way over to California. So there's our coast to coast trip right there. I cannot believe that I've traveled the full distance of this country in one year, and now we're heading down to Texas. We're going to be in Georgia, and we might be down in Texas again. And then I think we're going to be in Tennessee. And that's all of that has yet, yet to come. And there's 100 other things that are going on in my life right now. So there's a little snapshot of what I'm doing. Here I am recording this podcast for you, but I'm thankful. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be able to speak to you.
But I bet you are preparing for your school year that's just right around the corner. If You're not homeschooling all year round, I hope that you are able to get some rest and to step away from the hustle bustle of homeschooling your children. If you have, I bet you're getting excited for the new school year. That's how it always is in my household. We usually huff and puff and pull ourselves across the finish line. It's rewarding, but exhausting. We get halfway through summer and I can see the little twinkle in my wife's eye. She starts to get excited about the new school year. She's researching curriculum, she's purchasing curriculum, she's lining everything else for each individual child. She's using the well-ordered homeschool planner. Okay, Shameless plug. Shameless plug. Using the well-ordered homeschool planner, which is the planner that we designed. But we use it because we happen to think that it is the best homeschool planner on the market. And I'm just going to go on with this here, why not? You should get one for yourself. If you're a planner kind of a person, it's the best planner to get. We've had such good feedback, such good feedback on it. We're so very thankful for that and we try to make it a little better every single year. And we do believe that next year it will be even better than this year, but right now it's the best that it's ever been. The planner starts in July. If you want to plan for your upcoming school year, now is the time to purchase yours. We've ordered more than we've ever ordered before. A lot more this year. And it really was a gamble for us. But we sold out and now we're on our second printing and that's being prepared. So anyway, you can find us on Etsy at TheWellOrdered. You could find us at our website thewellorderedhomeschool.com and pick up your planner. And I really think you'll enjoy it. If you're not a planner person, if you're one of those people who has purchased planners in the past and it just sits there and you've done that five times in a row and you're never going to do it again, I totally understand. Don't get this planner. It is pretty. If you collect planners, I think you'll enjoy it, but if you're a planner person and you really thrive on planning and lining out your school year, your school week, your school day, this is the planner for you. So shameless plug over. I really wasn't planning...excuse the pun. I really wasn't planning on talking about that. But nevertheless, you're getting ready for the new school year.
Something else that I want to recommend to you is habit training. So you may be thinking to yourself, like, ugh, I can't do habit training. I can't. I just can't engage in that right now. It's the summer. We've got vacations, we've got camps, we've got everything else going on in the summer months and we just can't do that right now. I'll have to wait till the school year starts. Well, let me ask you to reconsider that. Really, now is the time for you to start. You don't have to do it all at once, by the way. You could start very simple. You can start plucking that low hanging fruit. And why I want to recommend this to you now is you are helping your child to acquire a taste for discipline. Okay. And what I mean by discipline is not about consequences. I'm talking about discipline is consistency in any given task. Okay? Our children really need to acquire a taste for this because it doesn't come natural. I don't know if you've noticed that. We still struggle with discipline even as adults. There's just no doubt about it. I know I do. And so your children struggle even more so. The reason is that they just don't have a whole lot of experience with it. We, on the other hand, do. And we have had the wonderful experience of the feeling that comes after a job well done or seeing a task through to the end or showing forth initiative in any given task. You know, doing things, going above and beyond. Doing things that perhaps were not asked of us, but that were actually helpful and beneficial and so on and so forth. And so all of these things have created just a wonderful feeling in us. That doesn't mean we always keep going back to it, but it's there, right? It's there and we can refer to it whenever we want. And it's always now in the back of our minds, like part of our conscience, and it's calling to us and it's saying: live a life of discipline and remember how you felt when you really put in an extra good effort with this thing, you know. And our children need to experience that. And you can begin that today with your child.
And the reason why I'm recommending this is that if you do a good job with this and you're consistent with it and your children acquire that sense of what it feels like to be disciplined or to be diligent or to be kind or to have a servant's heart, your school year is going to go so much more smoothly. It's going to be so much more enjoyable because how enjoyable is it when you're trying to get your child to do something and they just will not comply, they just will not budge. They've dug in their heels and you've tried everything that you know how to try and they will not listen. And you might have one child or two children like this and they're just ruining the whole school experience for that given year for all of the rest of the children. And perhaps you've even come to the place where you're wondering, why am I even homeschooling? What made me think that I could ever do this? This is just miserable. And you don't want that. Do yourself a favor and help your child to build a good habit of good character. And if you're too busy in the summer, I really recommend that you, again, you try to pluck that low hanging fruit. What I mean by that mean by that is to find something that your child is already disciplined in. Or maybe they're just almost there. Because when you praise them and when you applaud them and they sense that you are pleased with their efforts, that is such a balm to their soul. Okay? And maybe there are other areas which are just a terrible struggle for them. Okay? And you see it. There's a character deficiency there, and you know it's going to be a mountain for them to climb and it's not going to change overnight.
Well, your children are really trying to determine at any given moment whether or not you are a friend or foe. They're doing that from, I believe, from almost day one. And it may seem strange to you because here you are, you are their parent and you undoubtedly love them, but they don't always know that. And they're not always able to pick up that communication from your actions or even your words. Now you know it in your head and you know it in your heart, and it's always present with you, but they, on the other hand, are sometimes given reason to doubt. And so because they doubt, they don't know if you're going to be there for them or if you're going to truly be an advocate for them. Now, you need to be the kind of individual that represents and upholds the standards and the expectations that you have for your household, but at the same time, you cannot allow that to injure the reputation that you ought to have as your child's advocate. You need both of those roles in equal abundance. So in other words, you need to be in your child's corner, but you're not here to be their best friend, okay? Maybe a better way to put it would be you don't want friendship to override respect or the respect that your child should have for you, and you don't want the respect that they should have for you to override friendship. You want those things in balance, in perfect tension, okay? When you have these things and your children know that you represent a consistent and reliable standard, and yet you also love them and you always be there for them and you have built a storehouse of trust up in their lives, they're going to be more apt to listen to you. They're going to be more apt to work on those areas of deficiency in their character, okay? Because they know that you're going to be there to help see them through. So you could start on that today.
And so let's just take a very simple example with cleaning their room, okay? You may think cleaning the room? What does that have to do with character? Well it has a lot to do with character. You see, you start very small. You start with the smallest character lessons that they can understand. And it's very likely that they will not understand the lesson that you were trying to teach them, but that's not important. It's not important that they can understand it, It's important that they feel it in their bones, okay? Let me give you a little analogy here, let me give you a little anecdote from our history raising our children. Our sons were naturally averse to doing the dishes, and that was one of the primary chores that we had in our home. We lived in a very, very small house. We've lived in quite a few small houses, but we lived in a very small house. And so one of the things that got out of control the easiest, if I could put it that way, with things that was most often out of control was the dishes, and they're just everywhere. It was a mess. And so Caroline needed a lot of help with the dishes. So we tried to employ our boys in assisting with that chore. Well, they hated it. They absolutely...I don't blame them, I hate it too. I don't like doing dishes. So we had a very difficult time trying to get them to do the dishes and we would just wrestle and wrestle and wrestle. And it was like pulling teeth to get them to do this. And then one summer, my boys, they were probably, I want to say ten and eight, maybe eleven and nine or something like that. So still quite young. They had an opportunity to go out to my mother's house, and she lives on a farm with her father and he's got a very large pond out in front of his property. And he generally would weed eat that pond, I don't know, once or twice a year. Well, it was the middle of summer and it was time for the pond to be weed-eated for the first time. And he asked if the boys would be willing to come out and do that. Now, mind you, again, they're still quite young at that age; a weed eater's pretty heavy. I mean, they can do it, but it's quite a task for them. And it was in July, I want to say, or August or something like this—very hot. And they went out there and they worked at that all day long. And when they came home, you should have seen the pride on their faces. They were just beaming and they couldn't say enough about it. Like, Dad, we ran the weed eater today, Dad, we weed-eated the entire pond. It was so hot, Dad. I can't tell you how much water I drank. I can't tell you how much I sweat. Look at me, Dad. Look at my sunburn on my shoulders and on my arms. And on and on and on they went about this. And I'm listening to this and I'm thinking, you have trouble unloading the dishes? I mean, we have so much trouble getting you to do a ten-minute max task.You were out there for over 4 hours weed eating this pond, and you were so happy about it, you know. And it dawned on me what the difference was—it was ownership. There was something about that task, something about the way it was framed, something about it that just really captured the attention of my sons. And they owned it. You know, they gladly accepted the challenge. And they were so happy that they were able to take on that challenge and that they conquered it, you know, and that really did something to them.
Now, did that mean that they were from that day forward so happy and excited and so engaged in doing the dishes? No, it didn't. That's not what it translated into. But it did help them to acquire a sense of what it feels like to be disciplined, to build a habit. And so then, you know, my challenge was how can we transfer or translate this lesson over into other areas of their life? Because now see, that's the thing, is that our children sometimes don't recognize this as like, we're like, Aha, I have caught you. I know that you can do this. And so when you stand there and you protest, you know, doing the laundry or doing the dishes or cleaning your room, and yet I've seen you before do something that is like ten times, fifteen, twenty times harder. I know that you can do this. So I know that it's just a matter of will. Like you have not yet come to the place where you have allowed yourself to take ownership of this task. You're unwilling to take ownership of it. And that could be for any number of reasons, but you've got to start somewhere. And I'm not saying that to start somewhere is to, you know, throw your sons out into the middle of, you know, the height of July heat to weed eat a pond for over 4 hours. I'm not saying that, but that's why I'm talking about the low hanging fruit. So you've probably already seen something in your child's life where they're doing a pretty good job at it, right? Or maybe they struggle every now and then but for the most part they're successful or they're well adapted to that particular task. Pick that first. Okay? And try to push it a little bit. Try to frame it in such a way or present the task to them in such a way that it will stretch them just a bit, okay? So maybe they're cleaning their room and they're making their bed, but maybe it's just a little, you know, just a little rough around the edges. And you're going to push them a little bit like, I know that you clean your room, but I was hoping that maybe you would wipe down your baseboards and dust your bookshelves. Okay. Or something like that. I'd like for you to clean under your bed at least once a week. Whatever it may be, you know what that would be. Just push them a little bit, okay? They're already there. You're pushing a little further, and suddenly they're beginning to recognize just what it feels like to have a slightly cleaner room. And a lot of times what you'll discover is that they like it. They're beginning to like it because the opposite experience is to have those things left undone and they're coming into their room and they're realizing, You know what, my bookshelf is dusty. You know, I don't like that anymore.
Okay, now how do you get them there? Now, you could push them, but maybe they push back. They're like, Why? Why, Mom? Why do I care? Okay. I don't care if it's dusty. It's all right. I mean, it bothers you, but it doesn't bother me. Can we just leave this alone? You know? No. And you're telling yourself no I think this is important now. A lot of this goes into how you frame this to them, okay? Because if it's important to you and then you make them feel like dirt because they also do not possess that same sense of importance that you do, then that's going to go awry. You're not going to be able to make much progress with that because now you have added this sense of shame to their lack of understanding as to why it's important to dust the bookshelf. I'm just using this as an example. And so not only do they understand the value of a dusted bookshelf, but now there is this shame and this terrible degree of unpleasantness that's associated with that task. Okay. So now I'm only doing it because my mom or my dad get mad, and so I'm doing it so that they don't get mad and that's making me like this even less. Okay. You've got to really be careful of that. It's important that you recognize that and recognize that they don't yet possess this value system that you have or maybe to the same degree that you have it. And you also have to remember that it took you a while to acquire this value system that you have. You know, this sense of cleanliness, this sense of tidiness, this sense of the value of things, this sense of the value of money and sense of the value of time and all of these different things. It took you time. So give your child time, too. Pick the low hanging fruit. Encourage them in doing that thing.
Maybe you set up some kind of a reward system or something. Here's another shameless plug. We offer character badges, which is something that we designed for ourselves first. We did not call it character badges, it was just a series of charts and rewards and consequences and things to help us be more consistent with our children in extending or administering consequences for when they did not comply with our wishes, but more importantly, with encouraging them and thanking them when they did. That was something that was sorely missing in our parenting, in our home. And we recognized that. We said, you know, we got to do something to inspire and encourage our children and to say thank you when they actually comply. And this may be the missing component in your home is that you're not saying thank you. And there's lots of different ways to say thank you, but your children aren't getting the message for some reason. They have to clean their room or they have to do their homework or they have to mow the yard or they have to rake the leaves or whatever because not doing so will make you upset and they don't want to risk your wrath. Now, is that true obedience? You have to ask yourself. There's got to be a better way. There's got to be at least another way. And you could inspire them by saying thank you. Find a way to find a creative way to say thank you, okay? And if you need a system like character badges, again, thewellorderedhomeschool.com, you can go look, check it out. You can email us, ask any questions. Find us at a homeschool convention. We're happy to talk about it. Or use your own system. We talk to all kinds of parents. I mean, I want to say the majority of parents have tried at one point or another, certainly in this modern age it seems like to me, some kind of a system to motivate or to incentivize good behavior in your home. And there's a dirty word— incentivizing good behavior—a dirty phrase, I guess I should say. But I could really explain to you why it's not so dirty. It's not so bad. Can you do it wrong? Yes, absolutely. But because you love your child, I think that you could probably find a way to do it right and use it to good effect. But I don't have time to go into that today.
I'm just saying find a way to motivate your child. Recognize that they don't possess the same values that you do. Help them to build a good habit. If they build good habits, if they build good routines and good character in their life, it's going to make your school year so much easier, right? Let's be honest, so much of school consists of a lot of things that your children probably don't want to do. They don't want to learn about the structure of a cell, they don't want to learn about algebra, they don't want to learn about, I don't know, ancient Middle Eastern history. They don't care. A lot of them don't. Now you're going to find those subjects that really speak to each one of your children. Like, this was good at language, and this one loves math, and this one loves history, but then there's, you know, for the one that loves one subject, they've all got their favorite subject. And the rest of them are like, I could do without these things. Well, they've got to do it anyway, right? So here's an area in which your children are definitely going to come up against things that they don't want to do. They've got to find the discipline to get through it, and they're not going to find it within themselves because it's not there yet. They haven't acquired it yet. And that's our job to help them find it, to acquire that sense of a job well done, of discipline, seeing the job through to the end, showing forth initiative, and going above and beyond the task in all of these various things. How are you going to do that? Do it through habit building. Come up with your own checklist. Go check out character badges. Maybe you already use the system and you haven't used it for a while, you need to dust it off. Try it again. All of these systems require consistency, but when you employ consistency, they can be amazingly effective. And you could start in the summer with things like cleaning their room or walking the dog or washing the car or mowing the lawn or taking out the trash or whatever it is, whatever household responsibilities that you have, help them get into a routine. If this is overwhelming to you, start with one thing. Start with one simple thing that you think will cause your child just to stretch just a little bit. Just a little bit, okay?
And really, it has to do with age appropriateness. We could talk all about that, too. You got to be careful, too, because you could shoot yourself in the foot by not minding the age appropriateness of a task. Like you think to yourself, Well, I could do this. Right? But that doesn't mean that your four-year-old can do it, right? Or your six-year-old or your eight-year-old. You've got to think through these things. So sometimes it's not about the clash of value systems, it's about are they even capable of doing this thing? I've been guilty of that. I've asked my child to do the dishes and they're just not there yet. And my wife's like, What are you doing? Why are you being so hard on him or her? Because they're not old enough yet. Let's maybe start with something simple. Like, let's not do the dishes entirely, let's just unload the silverware. Right? Pull out the little plastic container and walk over and they can unload the silverware and show them, Here's the spoons, here's the forks, here's the knives. Right? You could start with that. Okay. And then you could break it down into little bite sized pieces. So they're not doing all of the dishes, but they're unloaded the silverware and they're doing a good job with that. Good job. You're doing such a good job. Thank you. And you need to say thank you. You really do. And express to them how grateful you are, because now you don't have to unload the silverware and that frees you up to do other things. Does it free you have to do a whole lot of other things? No, it does not. But it frees you up a little bit. You can't deny it. And you're thanking them and suddenly they're feeling this is what a job well done feels like. I mean, before I didn't really care about the dishes, but now I like this. Okay. Now, from there, you don't want to jump into all right, now you have the responsibility of cleaning all of the dishes in our household every single day. You don't want to jump into that. You've got to help them to grow by increments. Okay, so maybe they go from the silverware down to the lower tray of the dishwasher. Now you get to unload the silverware and the pots and the pans that are in the lower level. Start with that. And then eventually they could grow into doing all of the dishes, but all along the way, you're encouraging them, you're uplifting them, you're building this good habit in them. Are you going to have pushback at times? Yes, you will. But how are you going to deal with that? Don't make this task any more unpleasant than it needs to be. I don't know too many people who really enjoy doing the dishes. I'm sure there are those of you who are out there. I'm not one of them. My wife doesn't particularly like doing the dishes, but it's something that's got to be done, right? And when the dishes are done and they're all put away and the dishwashers empty and there's nothing in the sink, you know what? We all kind of have grown to liking that. That's the reward, right? The job well done as a reward in and of itself.
But until they acquire that taste or that sense of a job well done, you're going to have to find another way. You're gonna have to find another way to entice them or to encourage them. And I know that you think that those words may not go together, the enticement and the encouragement, but your approval is the enticement. And it can be artificial, but if it's there, that is one of the most enjoyable things that your child can experience in their young life. It really is. It may be the most enjoyable thing that they can experience. And believe you me, I know they like to play, they like toys, they like their free time, but I really do believe that the most pleasurable thing that they can experience in their young lives is your genuine approval. Okay, So help them grab that low hanging fruit. Help them to reach forth and to grab that low hanging fruit, acquire a sense of a job well done. Start building those habits today. Find one and work on it. Now. If you want them to be consistent, you're going to have to be consistent. And I know that's hard. It's hard for us because we've got a million things to do, but help them be consistent and boy, their life will just light up. And now all of a sudden they know what it means to be disciplined and to be consistent. Even if it is with the most menial task, the simplest of tasks, that will carry over and translate into your homeschool year. You can remind them, Remember how you felt? You know, remember what it was like when you're taking the trash out everyday? You know, it was just so wonderful that I didn't have to take the trash...I didn't have to worry about it. You know why? Because you were always taking it out. Actually, you were doing a better job of it than I was. You know, and that makes them feel so good. It's like you could do this and they know they could do it deep down inside. Will they struggle? Yes. Are you still going to have battles? Yes. But at least you could appeal to that sense because it's there now. It's no longer dormant. It's alive. It's in there. And you know it's there. Right? And so all of the fussing and the complaining and the arguing, you're going to have to be able to look...you could look through that now and you could peer into the darkness and you could see this little light shining deep down inside. And you could even say to yourself, See, this is proving to you also because they're going to do everything in their power to convince you otherwise, but you're proving to yourself also, yes, they can. They can do this. I know they can do this assignment. I know they could finish this book. I know that they could complete this curriculum for the year. Right? So it's so healthy and so good for them. It's also healthy and good for you.
So that's all I have to say to you today. I know I spoke at some generalities and I could really drill down into probably, oh, I don't know, ten different topics that we just grazed today, but the main point is these habits are so important. They're so important for your child later in life. But if you want to bring it a little closer to the here and now, they're so important to the welfare of the school year that is to come. Thank you very much, again, for joining me here on the Homeschool Solutions Podcast. I wish you all the best. I wish you all the rest—I did not intend for that to rhyme by the way—that you need in order to finish out this summer season. And I hope that the Lord is blessing you and preparing you for the school year to come. I know that we're looking forward to it and I also look forward to joining you again sometime in the near future here on the podcast. Goodbye for now.
Thank you for joining us this week on the Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medi-Share. That's GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medi-Share. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @homeschooling.mom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the Homeschooling events of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topic, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I'll be there. I hope to see you there too.