Episode 308 | Planning Your New Year's Personal Retreat
January is the perfect time for a mom's personal retreat. In this episode Jessica will share tips and tricks of hosting your own personal homeschool mom retreat. With a little bit of creativity, you can benefit from taking the time to rest, pray, plan, and goal-set for the second half of the school year.
Jessica is a wife, homeschool mom of three, author, and blogger. She lives in sunny North Carolina on a big family farm with chickens, goats, cousins, and lots of mud.
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Jessica Smartt [00:01:00] Hello, everybody, this is Jessica Smartt, and I'm glad to have you with me here again today. Today we're talking about how to have a mom retreat for your new year. This is something that I've done for years, and I'm really looking forward to. If you have had this practice in play before or not, I think you'll enjoy thinking about how you can structure that for your upcoming year. I know for me, I love the holiday season, and as I record this, we are getting close to Christmas and New Year's and everything that is exciting about those things. But at the same time, I am also really already looking forward to my New Year's retreat.
[00:01:46] This has been a bumpy homeschool season for us just the last month. I feel like I need to right the ship in more ways than one. Between traveling and sickness and company and events, we are a little bit out of sync. And so I already am looking forward to having some time to step away and think about the shifts that I want to make and where I want to get back into my old routines and where I maybe need to adjust my new routines. This has always been a really great time for me to spend some time listening to God and have time to rest and pray and plan and all of those things.
[00:02:32] So that's what we're going to be talking about today, and I think I'll just start off by saying big picture of how you could do this. And I think the most important thing is, you know, I'm going to give you a lot of ideas, but obviously you are the best judge of you and you know where you're at right now in this season. And so you know what you need most, and maybe it's just you're a very busy and loud season of your motherhood and maybe quiet is a priority to you. And just having the time to actually sit alone with your own thoughts or to open the Bible for a long stretch of time and be uninterrupted. Maybe it's more logistics for you, and right now you need the time to rethink a curriculum or research something. Maybe you need a chore schedule put in place, or, you know, somebody needs some adjustments made to their whole school day, and so you need to rethink that schedule. Maybe you need some time to sit with a spiritual advisor or your mom uninterrupted on a phone call and say, you know, talk through some of the discipline issues you've been having or either with yourself or your kids and just kind of come up with a game plan.
[00:03:56] And I would just encourage you to allow this time to meet your own needs and don't feel like you have to check all of the boxes, but to frame it around whatever you need in this season. My time has looked really different throughout the years, and this year will look even more different than the first time I started it. As far as how to logistically make this happen, I think there are three great options and I've done all of these. So I'm going to just talk through what this could look like for someone on a practical level.
[00:04:32] So I think the best option personally after doing all of these is to get away to someone's home that is not your own home. A nice, clean, quiet house with— don't think I'm terrible when I say no children. But maybe you think of a friend of yours, maybe someone older, an older mom in your world, or just someone who's been a mentor to you. Or maybe it's just somebody in your circle that has a beautiful home and that you're friends with. It certainly doesn't hurt to ask.
[00:05:14] And I know in times when I really needed an uninterrupted chunk, I've done the bed and breakfast option, and I've done the coffee shop option, I've worked at my own home. And I really love being in someone's home. It offers several different benefits. You can just make yourself a little more comfortable and have more options to move around. You're in a home with all of those benefits, but not your own. So maybe someone comes to mind that may let you just kind of camp out in their house for a day. And you know, obviously you can offer to bring your own food and kind of get all of that planned.
[00:05:55] But if there's someone in your church or a mentor— when I think about this, when I am 20 years down the road, I would absolutely love to offer my home for a young mom that I was trying to champion her cause and help her. I believe in the mission of homeschooling, and I have some older women in my life who really do, and this is a way that they would love to be hospitable and support those of us who are in the trenches. So it doesn't hurt to ask and obviously just ask in a really friendly way and give them the freedom to say no or pick a date that works for them and all of that. So that's my first option that I love.
[00:06:36] So second good option is to get away to a Panera Bread or some sort of a coffee shop. This is what I did in the first couple of years of my retreats. And it was a really big treat for me because we were on a very tight budget, and I never was alone by myself, so it was such a special experience to be able to go to Panera, get anything I wanted on the menu, pick my nice cozy chair and just camp out there for a long time. So obviously the negatives of that is, you know, I kind of had a sense of like, people are watching me. I'm not going to like, you know, kneel down and pray or anything. I mean, I guess you could if the Spirit leads, but it's not quite as private and there's just really only one seat. Although I definitely did hop around to all the different chairs. But that is a nice, refreshing change of pace.
[00:07:25] And then finally, if you don't have those options and you don't have childcare, you can make your own house work for an all day retreat. And I actually did this last year because I was in desperate need of a retreat over the January holiday before we jumped back into our home school year. And my husband was gone for a week on a business trip and for a number of reasons, just didn't have a good childcare option. So in desperate need of this time, I basically helped my kids to understand that they were going to help take ownership and that I was trusting them to be kind of on their own for like six hours of the day, and it was actually really invigorating for them. They totally were like excited and took the bull by the horns. At the time, my kids were 11, 9 and 6. And obviously, like, I only recommend this if your kids can be trusted to be, you know, semi-independent for a good long chunk. So, you know your own kids. But here's how I made it work for kids that were like kind of tottering on the edge of it for the first time when we tried it.
[00:08:37] So I set it up as like, this was going to be a really fun day and I was going to be in my room. I had to concentrate and this was really important, and here's how they could help and I needed them and blah blah blah. And then I kind of structured the day out and gave them a schedule, so I broke the day into chunks. I made their breakfast ahead of time and they all told them they had to do their chores and they had 20 minutes of private reading time. Then they had playtime, and I kind of gave them some different options of things they could pick from to do for playtime. And then I let them do Chopped Junior cooking competition. I ended up having to actually come out and supervise this. I was kind of hoping they wouldn't pick things that needed to be cooked, but they did. So I actually came out for a little bit, but it was fine. So they kind of I gave them like one or two ingredients and they had to make a meal and I tried it. So that was actually a big win for them. And I still was able to kind of do some busywork making some copies and things during that chunk of time, but they really enjoyed that. And then I told them they had to have a chunk of quiet time redo the chore, like clean up the house, and then they got to watch a movie and then have special snacks. And so by the time that was all done, it was definitely not as amazing as being somewhere. I totally had to have my ear still kind of out for what was happening, but I did get a lot done. And so in a pinch, that option can work.
[00:10:03] Okay, so you choose where you want to go and then you need to think about what you're going to bring, and I'm an expert on this because I always forget something. So I've made a little list here. And here are some things you definitely want to make sure that you throw in your bag before you head out, or if you are having it in your room, you need to go ahead and have sitting next to your bed or wherever you're going to be in your house because you don't want to be hunting around for things so like the night before, lay out everything you need. So you definitely want to bring headphones, even if you're not going to listen to something to block out noise. And lotion and chapstick because there's nothing more distracting than needing chapstick and you're stuck somewhere. Tissues, same thing. Bring along a water bottle. I always like my own water. I know I'm a diva, but I throw in my own water. And definitely this is not the day to get all dressed up. You want to bring your comfiest outfit and also like different layers, because again, it's super distracting if you're stuck somewhere and it's too hot or too cold. So always throw in a jacket and something comfortable so that you're not going to be distracted by what you're wearing.
[00:11:11] So then obviously you want to bring your homeschool planner or also slash your regular planner. Don't forget a pen. I've definitely had to borrow one from Panera. That's really important. Bring a Bible and definitely some paper or your journal because you'll probably want to be brainstorming and writing things out. And then if you're going to be working specifically on homeschool curriculum, you'll want to bring any of the books that you need. Put those in a pile. Bring your computer or wherever you have your planning documents with like your kids' school day or your reading lists for the year, you may want to edit that. If you have your chore charts online, I have a great system that I'm going to link in the show notes if you want to work on that. And side note, you definitely want to get, make sure that you go somewhere with internet access because unless you're really just wanting to get alone with your Bible and a journal. If you're doing any sort of specific planning, you'll want to get somewhere where you can do internet, and I find it really life-sucking to find that stuff on my phone. It's just a lot easier on the computer. So your computer, your planning documents, and just kind of run through your goals for the day.
[00:12:29] I always like a couple of days before kind of set out not like a schedule, but just kind of a list of here's what I want to accomplish during this time and make sure that I'm as specific as possible. Because, for example, if I want to redo my kid's spelling curriculum, I want to make sure that I have whatever that workbook is to kind of like set out what he's doing each week. Or if you are going to pick more novels for your family to read, bring your old list or, you know, Honey for a Child's Heart or Read Aloud Revival or whatever book you know or research you might use to accomplish that task. So make sure that you throw that in.
[00:13:12] Make sure that you bring your phone charger and your computer charger because that again can be distracting. And if you run out of juice and then you're wondering how everyone is and if they're okay, that can be distracting and we don't want that. So I also would suggest throwing in a pair of walking or running shoes because if you're going to be there for any chunk of time, I like personally getting out and just clearing my head or getting a little exercise. That's really a special thing for me. I'm not able to usually go out by myself and go for a run or a walk, and it really sounds counterproductive, but it's really not because a lot of times I'll get a bunch done. And then when you kind of go out in nature and clear your head, you may have some epiphanies or just the Lord might speak to you during that time. And you may be surprised how refreshing it is and rejuvenating for what your goals are. And then finally, don't forget to throw in your wallet or gift cards that you might want to use up.
[00:14:20] So, all right, you've picked where you're going to go and you've kind of laid out everything that you need in advance, so how do you spend that time? Here are some ideas for that. I definitely recommend starting out with prayer and to allow yourself to read some scripture and then just sit and be quiet. I think that's something that we don't do often as homeschool moms, but it's so essential in a time when we might be wanting to make decisions or make changes, you know, to have that time and say, God, I really need you to show up here. I need help. I need wisdom. Show me how you want me to spend this time and show me the kind of mom that you want me to be. Show me the changes that I need to make in my home and with my children. Open my eyes to what I need to see. And you know, you may just want to jot down what comes to mind during that first quiet hour or so.
[00:15:27] So then there's different ways that you can structure your planning. Now again, if this time to you is going to be more just spiritual or, you know, there's a lot of different options, but for me, I tend to be more type A and planning is really life-giving to me. So these first tips are going to be probably more suited to that sort of mindset. I have done, ever since I was in college, I have kind of structured my year planning in the format of roles and goals. Roles and goals. Because there's a lot of things that we are responsible for. There's a lot of different facets of a mom's life. We are moms, we are homeschooling moms, but there's a lot of other areas in our life that we need to be functioning well in order to be healthy. And a healthy homeschool mom is what our children need more than just cranking out all of the right things. And so I like to kind of take a pull back whole picture, comprehensive look at my whole life and all of the areas that I am responsible for, or that I want to be successful in. All the areas that God has given me to be a good steward of.
[00:16:52] And here are the ones that I kind of group for me. I start with child of God, and so that's my role. And then I under each category, I usually list three. Sometimes it's more, but three or so goals under that. So when I think about being a child of God, some goals that I might have are to restart a Bible reading plan. Or maybe I want to, you know, integrate fasting into my life, or maybe I would set down some books that I wanted to read. Or maybe I want to get up every morning and spend some time in prayer. Or maybe it's find a prayer triad or, you know, who knows? So whatever it is that I kind of think the Lord might be calling me to do in the spiritual area of my life. And so I'll jot that down. And I like doing real pen and real paper for this because I just feel like it's more personal.
[00:17:54] So then I might start with wife and write some goals for my marriage. And here's a novel idea to ask your husband if he has anything that you can do to love him better. It's super interesting what they may say, because sometimes the things we think we need to work on aren't exactly the ones that they would say. I have someone who asked her husband and he asked her to paint her nails regularly. So who even knows? I'm kind of jealous of that person because that was sort of an easy one. Well, not easy, but more fun. But it may be other things in different areas, so you can kind of set those. Sometimes I even just text my husband during that time and ask him.
[00:18:36] So then, yes, we've got child of God, wife, mom, and under motherhood, I usually list each of my kids and think about goals for them. And it, you know, because I am a homeschooling mom, some of them are academic, some of them aren't. So it might just be things that I think they need to work on. And it might say, you know, one child needs to work on patience or pray for this child for this every day. Or, you know, spend some time scratching his back and, you know, more physical touch this child needs, or this child needs to work more on reading. Like, who knows? It may just be things that the Lord brings to mind of where my focus is for each of my kids.
[00:19:16] So then I can specifically line out teacher where, you know, maybe I want to be more focused in one area, or maybe my homeschool needs to add this, that, or the other. So that can kind of file under each child, or maybe there's just different things you want to do in your homeschooling life in general that you want to add there.
[00:19:44] And then there's homemaker, which covers cleaning and cooking, home organization, shopping for things and usually my goals in this area, well, there's always something that's like, you know, an area that I need to clean. Maybe it's an area that I want to decorate. That's not my skill set, and we're living in a house right now that has zero pictures up on the walls because we just moved in. I'm scared to make any holes in the wrong spot, so that's a whole different story of why I have that weird thing. But anyway, so you know it might be decorating, it might be— a lot of times it's like different ways that I want to cook healthy or different ingredients I want to use more. You know, maybe I want to add more greens to our diet and you know, I want to get a juicer and do you know, who knows? Like something under that.
[00:20:39] So, yeah, so homemaker and then friend, and usually the Lord will bring to my mind a couple of people that I maybe need to reach out to or, you know, old friends that I want to dig back with and spend more time with. And then, you know, for me, author, blogger, that's my work life. And I don't know if you have a job that fits under that category, but I'll spend time thinking about that. Church member, maybe there's things that the Lord is calling you to do in your role as a church member and something to start or people to invite over or ways to get involved in your church. And then I also add a goal, a category in there for my physical health. So exercise or vitamins or healthy eating kind of thinking about that, that's a really New Year's resolution kind of thing to do. And you may want to also add a category for financial. I guess that could be under, you know, homemaking. But if there's an area that you want to kind of, you know, become more disciplined and with your finances.
[00:21:50] So hopefully that's not totally overwhelming. It does often feel overwhelming, but also it feels to me empowering because I've basically just taken all of the random angst that I have about things I need to change, and I've just written them down. And a good next step is to become accountable to someone in some of these areas. And maybe just you take a picture and send your husband or if you have a prayer triad group or something like that, you know, you just send it to them. So maybe not. But you know, there's a right and a wrong, I think, with making goals, and obviously we don't want to make them our master, but you also do have to have goals in life. So I do make them, but I also hold them lightly.
[00:22:42] So at that point, I usually say a little prayer again and then I'm ready to get out and take a little walk or read a book that I have wanted to do. My mind needs to kind of just simmer over those plans and see what the Lord tells me to do next. So I usually try to, like, get some lunch at that point. Or, you know, I'm an extrovert. I might make a phone call. Maybe something that I have thought of here, you know, makes me want to ask a friend a question or talk to my mom or something like that. So I might let myself do that if just for a little bit.
[00:23:16] And then I usually get into some more of the specific homeschool planning that I need to get done. Kind of the grunt work. This is a great time to reward yourself with, you know, another little cup of coffee and a bakery treat or something while you're cranking out some of the work. This is more of your teacher work day chunk of the day. I also wrote down, full disclosure, nap because it could be exhausting. And maybe one college professor said sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to actually just take a nap. So if that's how you want to spend your day for a little chunk, this is your permission slip to do that.
[00:23:54] So if you're not into the roles and goals thing and that just feels super overwhelming and non-applicable, here are some other ways you could brainstorm. Or maybe you just for your life stage, you don't need to be more disciplined in the goals. Maybe you are more in need of general rest and just a smaller goal or more specific. So here are some other ideas in lieu of roles and goals. You could make a mission statement for the year for yourself, for your homeschool or for yourself individually. Obviously, you could do a word for the year. That's become really trendy recently. You could do a theme verse for the year and really sit in that for a little bit and think of how it would flesh out in your life. And you could also just use this time to read a specific book. I would only recommend that if it was a book that was going to be really helpful and specifically practical to your day to day life, both inspiring and helpful. So, you know, maybe a book about time management or like a boundaries book or, you know, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, maybe a household management book. You know, something that's going to give you some wheels to implement some change, I think. You know, it's obviously it's amazing to go get away and read a fiction book. But I think for the purposes of a planning retreat, it's good to give something that you know is going to give you some ideas of how you can spark change in your day-to-day life.
[00:25:33] Okay, so a couple variations on this retreat, and I would love to do all of these, although I haven't really done them. You could get several women at the same time. This might be a great idea as a— well it would work in January or August, and maybe you could rent a house or, you know, stay in someone's house together. You could kind of tag team for meals. And I was invited to go on a writing retreat where they had the rule that no one could talk until 6:00 p.m. and I was really intrigued by that idea. And as an extrovert, it's also appealing to me because sometimes the idea— I do need discipline and I do need quiet time and I do crave it. But I like the idea of then being able to kind of debrief at the end of the day. So you could do something like you only talk at meals or something. Obviously, you could go with your husband for a yearly planning retreat. My husband and I have never done that, but I'm— Well, okay, I would like that idea more than he would because planning, it's really weird, but that's not exciting to him. I don't know what's wrong with him, but he doesn't get excited about planning and charts. So kind of weird, but you know, opposites attract.
[00:26:43] So if you can't get away, another twist is— and a friend of mine and her husband did this, to have an at home marriage family planning retreat. And same idea kind of that I have, my friend and I just basically came up with a ton of ideas to keep her kids busy. They were obviously a little bit older and they were okay to be by themselves, but they came up with a ton of ideas to keep them busy. And you know, this is where you're going to be more permissive than you typically maybe are. And so they watched some movies and, you know, I don't know, they maybe played some games that they haven't played and had some snacks that they didn't usually have, and they were able, my husband and her friend were able to get a good four hours of, you know, big planning done. They ordered a pizza or did something easy for dinner. So, you know, desperate times, that's another option.
[00:27:37] But I hope you've enjoyed this little insight into a homeschool mom planning retreat for your new year. I'd love to hear how you do it. Come check me out over on Instagram. Say, Hi, I'm @jessica.smartt over there. I wish you and your family a restful holiday season and a wonderful new year. God bless.