CM 2: Audioblog: Julie Ross- Finding Your Optimal Homeschooling Pace
Perhaps you have heard the name Charlotte Mason in your homeschool community, but you aren’t sure who this woman was or why folks are so excited about her. In this episode, Julie H Ross gives a biography of Charlotte Mason and discusses why her philosophy is so revolutionary.
Julie H Ross believes that every child needs a feast of living ideas to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. As a former school teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and Assistant Director of a Homeschool Academy, Julie Ross has worked with hundreds of students and parents over the past 20 years. She has also been homeschooling her own five children for over a decade. Julie Ross developed the Charlotte Mason curriculum, A Gentle Feast, to provide parents with the tools and resources needed to provide a rich and abundant educational feast full of books, beauty, and Biblical truth. Julie lives in South Carolina. When she’s not busy homeschooling, reading children’s books, hiking, or writing curriculum, you can find her taking a nap.
Welcome to the Charlotte Mason show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Ms. Mason’s philosophy, principles and methods. It is our hope that each episode will leave you inspired and offer practical wisdom on how to provide this rich, living education in your modern homeschool. So, pull up a chair, we’re glad you’re here.
Today’s episode of the Charlotte Mason should is brought to you by Medi-Share. Find out more about this affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance at medishare.com.
Hello, this is Julie Ross, from the Charlotte Mason podcast and today I’m going to be reading to you a blog post that I actually wrote. You can read this for yourself at agentlefeast.com/blog and the name of this post is Finding Your Optimal Homeschooling Pace. So, whether you’re new and you’re just starting out, or you’re switching to a Charlotte Mason approach, or if you have been homeschooling for a while, and just find yourself kind of losing your groove. This post is for you.
So, I recently started back running again. As I was doing so, I started reflecting back on my years of homeschooling and I started to see some parallels between homeschooling and running. There are significant lessons that I learned that very much relate to lessons learned when I used for training for long distant races. I’m writing these lessons down here to remind myself of these truths, and perhaps encourage you along the way.
One of the most important things you need to learn when you first start racing is how to pace yourself. You need to maintain a sustainable pace in order to utilize your body’s energy stores and finish in your desired time. I think you need to find your pace in homeschooling as well. These homeschooling years are often referred to as a race, even a marathon.
In order to maintain our energy stores, properly refuel ourselves, and finish strong, we need to find our pace. A rhythm to our days that keeps us moving forward. I had good running days when I felt strong and enjoyed. Even one 13 mile run in the pouring, freezing rain. I’ve also had really not so great runs, where I felt sluggish, and then I was putting one foot in front of the other like they were in bricks.
It’s the same with homeschooling. I’m sure you can relate. There are days when you’re enjoying learning, feeling refreshed, keeping some sense of order. Then there are the not so good days, when everyone is cranky, there are meltdowns, and the house looks like a tornado went through it. And all I can think about it how to get to the end of lessons so I can take a nap.
There have been years that I ran myself ragged, constantly reinventing the wheel, continually changing this, tweaking that. I felt like I was running in place and never getting anywhere. It’s hard to find your pace when everything is always new.
After years of homeschooling that way, I finally made the commitment to follow Charlotte Mason’s methods completely. The first months were not easy. It was an adjustment for all of us. I wanted to change things again. I worried that I was the problem and was doing something wrong. I kept thinking, I can’t be doing it right if it feels so hard.
But I kept persevering and one day it changed, and everything started to feel natural. I started looking forward to all the beautiful art and well written books we were going to experience each day. I started keeping a common place book and a nature journal. I started seeing how much I was changing. That day I hit my stride, and I’ve been enjoying the run ever since. And my kids, well, when we started back at school this year it was a natural shift. None of the normal back to school stress or adjustments. A routine of morning time teatime, reading and reading journaling is the atmosphere that now feeds our souls.
When you find your pace, those bad days become less frequent. You feel stronger, encouraged, and even more joyful. There is a peaceful flow to our days, and I find myself thinking I can keep going. So how do you find your optimal pace in homeschooling? Well, I took some running tips from the website, Run to the Finish, and I’ve applied them to homeschooling.
So, tip number 1, stop going too fast and stop trying to speed up later. It’s better to be consistent. When I ran my first 10k, I was so excited that I jumped out of the gate in a full-on sprint. The race was set up for people to either run a 5k, or to repeat the course and run a 10k. But I didn’t realize this at the time. So, when I saw the finish line, I got so excited. But my elation quickly was crushed when I realized I was only halfway done. That last 5k felt like a hundred miles. I had to run so fast the first half that I literally was sick and dragging to the end. And the next 10k, I wasn’t going to make that mistake again, so I kept telling myself to slow down. The problem was, I was going so much slower than normal, that by the time I realized the race was almost over, I needed to sprint in order to make up my time but wasn’t able to do it.
Having a hard time finding a rhythm in your homeschool? You may be going too fast, pushing everyone along through your days. Or you may be going too slow and find yourself having to speed up at the end of the year. There have been many years that I started out too strong out of the gate and I tried to do too much. Pushing my kids to do more than they were ready for, and we were all exhausted by October. There were years I added too much to our schedules, and we were frantically running from one thing to the next, and always felt rushed. Business led to burnout. By the time May rolled around, I felt like I was dragging over the finish line. There were also years that I had to speed up later. We took too many breaks, followed too many rabbit trails, adding in too many extras and I found myself rushing at the end of the year to try and make up time. So, here’s the key – be consistent.
Yikes, consistency? Oh, how hard that is! It’s not thrilling or glamorous. It is the routine, day in and day out, that produces results. It was a hard blow when I realized our homeschooling was lacking rhythm because of my lack of consistency. I needed to build habits in our days.
So, here’s what it looks like in the running world. So, this quote is from, Run to the Finish. Studies have shown that the negative split is less likely to produce PR’s, or personal records, than running a consistent pace throughout the race. In order to do that one must spend a little more time practicing, tuning into the body during training and learning how different paces feel.
First this helps with goal setting and second it leads you from looking at the watch constantly. Additionally, once you get to run by feel, it becomes easier to back off on planned hard days and push forward on planned easy days, because you can trust your body. Running by feel. Trusting your body. More time practicing. Hmm. Consistency in our homeschool days helps us practice. We and our children are working those habit muscles that we can learn to trust ourselves in school by feel.
I talk with many homeschool moms who struggle with doubt, and I use to as well. I was always wondering if I was doing the right thing and not missing out on something better. By consistent practice we can learn to trust ourselves, and to make those necessary pacing decisions to help our children. We can push on, more on somedays, relax on others, because we can feel what is right. We can only learn this though by practice. That means we need to be home during our school week.
I’m not saying you can’t sign up for a co-op or sign up for that art class, but if you are away from home more than you are in it, it will be challenging to learn your pace. You can’t learn your running pace if you stay in bed in your pj’s instead of going out there for your morning run. Well, in the same sense, you can’t find your homeschool rhythm when you’re always in the car and not home.
I once heard a wise homeschool mom say, how would you feel if your child was in school and their teacher was putting in as much consistent effort in their work as you are putting in yours? Ouch. I’m called to consistently lay the feast before them. Not educational cereal, because I was totally too tired or unprepared. But a feast of living ideas. This takes diligence on my part and building the necessary routines into our home to make it happen.
Today’s episode is brought to you by A Gentle Feast. A Gentle Feast is a complete curriculum for grades one through twelve that is family centered, inspired by Ms. Masons programs and philosophy, and rooted in books, beauty, and Biblical truth. You can find out how smooth and easy days are closer than you think at agentlefeast.com.
So, step number one was be consistent. Step number two is pay attention. Turn off the music and head out on at least one solo run per week, without distractions. You are forced to pay attention to how the run feels. Yes, I know this might actually remind you that running is hard. Begin reading each run with the perceived exertion skill from one to ten, with ten being a full-on sprint. So, in order to run by feel we need to tune out the distractions. Hmm. Turn off distractions, ugh! Another hard thing to do. You know the phone calls, the appointment, the computer, all the things that interrupt your daily rhythm. Of course, not all interruptions can be avoided but they can be diminished. I have to leave my phone on the other side of the house. I only schedule appointments for the afternoons. I don’t get on my computer till our school day is finished. This helps me keep focused on the important job of educating my children.
Well, how else do we get distracted? Voices. When running a race, these voices are screaming inside your head: This hurts! You are never going to make it! You aren’t strong enough! Part of long-distance running is the mental battle. When I was running and started to hear those thoughts, I would plan out my meals for the week, which is hilarious since I hate cooking. But it was enough to silence those voices in my head for a while. But what about those homeschooling voices that whisper doubts, fears, and say things like, they are never going to learn this. You are messing your children up. This is too hard for you. Well, I doubt making a grocery list in your head will get rid of those voices. But you can reach out to God and reach out to others and give light to those thoughts and fill your mind with truth.
But we don’t just have voices in our own heads, we have the voices from the others. In running, it’s often people passing you that make you think you’re never going to finish. In homeschooling we often get distracted by what others are doing. Their homeschools look more fun. Their houses look neater. Their children are learning four languages and doing calculus in elementary school and you’re over there saying, now what sound does the A make again? Well tune out the others. If you need to take a break from social media, do it. You can’t pay attention to yourself, your children and how your homeschool is doing with all those distractions.
On the running website, they suggest practicing mindfulness. Start documenting how you feel at the end of your homeschool day. What felt right? What didn’t go as well as you hoped? Were there any surprises? When did your children show interest in what they were learning? Where have you seen growth? Asking yourself these questions will help you find your rhythm and learn to trust yourself.
Step number one was be consistent. Step number two was pay attention. And step number three, treadmill running. According to Race to the Finish, it may not be your cup of tea, but treadmill running helps teach you what maintaining a specific pace feels like. By setting the pace and following it for a duration, you’ll quickly notice, if you’ve been striving for a pace that’s too fast, overall. Or maybe too slow. Or that being consistent feels different from your normal fascinating pace outside. Well, now I’m not gonna tell you to do your homeschooling on a treadmill. But I will say that having a pace set for you does help you find your own rhythm. I know this to be true in my own homeschool because many years I was just winging it. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, this curriculum for this subject. Another system for this kid. Little accountability, nothing to guide me. You know what it felt like after a while? Like I was constantly running on a treadmill and I wasn’t getting anywhere, and I wasn’t in control of the speed or the incline.
I wrote A Gentle Feast for myself, really. It was such an unbelievable difference to have the pace set out for me. I knew we were getting off track. I found myself covering more subjects in less time. My kids were retaining more than they ever did. I found a flow to our days, and I had a guide to set the pace for me. Just like running on a treadmill can help you learn your pace so that you can go outside and maintain it, using a guide like A Gentle Feast, or others, can help you find the pace that fits your particular family. Making it your own and using it as a guide to keep yourself on track.
Tip number four. Set your mind, not your watch. On any given day, a run can feel harder or easier, based on your training and nutrition, the weather. By looking solely at the watch on a run could quickly be deemed good or bad, learning to run by feel means you have the ability to adjust your training. Studies have also shown that often our perceived idea of how well a run went impacts the entire body. Spend a few minutes during each run getting your mind right for the intensity of the speed or the duration. Remind yourself that you can lean into the discomfort to help your body change. And you can really do anything for an hour.
Setting expectations about the run and trying those to feel each pace insures that on race day, you’ll be able to keep pushing when others might fall back, because you know where the discomfort lies, and that you can pass it.
Oh, I just love this. There’s so many good tidbits in this that relate to homeschooling, yes! Your homeschool days, some may feel harder. Some may feel easier, based on a variety of factors. So, what is your measuring stick? Can it absolutely be your feelings? Can it be a watch? Some outside goal that you think you need to measure up to? Is it checking off all those boxes in your lesson planner? I think this brings up a good point. It is often our perceived idea of what we are thinking about our homeschooling that impacts everything. Spend a few minutes before your day starts to set your mind in the right perspective. Pray. Meditate. Read a homeschool encouraging book. Whatever helps you to get your mind set on the right track.
Charlotte Mason talks a lot about the power of thought and the courses we allow them to run in our minds. So, this quote is from Charlotte Mason, taken from Parents and Children. But one custom overcomes another. The watchful mother sets up new tracks in other directions and she sees to it that while she is leading new thoughts through the new way, the old, deeply worn way of thinking is quite disused. Now the cerebrum is in a state of rapid waste and rapid growth. The new growth takes shape from the new thought. The old is lost in the steady waste and the child is reformed, physically as well as morally and mentally. But the nervous tissue of the cerebrum should be thus the instrument of the mind, need not surprise us when we think how the muscles and joints of the tumbler, the vocal organs of the singer, the finger ends of the watchmaker, the palette of the tea taster, grow to use as they are steadily put to. And much more both in the case of the brain and all other organs grow the easier they are used.
Remind yourself that you can lean into discomfort. It has been proven that when we are fearful or anxious during childbirth, we actually feel more pain than if we’re able to breathe and lean into each contraction. It’s okay to have difficult moments in your homeschooling day. Don’t let fear, doubt, or anxiety cripple you and trap you. Breathe. Let yourself feel your feelings. Be honest and be kind to yourself.
Setting expectations about the run. Have you set expectations about your homeschool? A dear friend once told me, unrealistic expectations are premeditated disappointments. Let me say that again cause that’s really good. Unrealistic expectation are premeditated disappointments. Do you have the unrealistic expectation that every day is going to be perfect? Do you have the unrealistic expectation about what your child is able to accomplish based on their abilities? Do you have unrealistic expectations about all you can handle on your plate? Have you let the voices in your head and the others, keep you from setting goals based on the personhood of your own children? Look at your week and day and think about the run. The race that you’re doing is homeschooling. Prepare your mind for what lies ahead. Set expectations and remove distractions. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Pay attention to what you’re seeing in yourself and in your children. And be consistent.
Is it possible to find your pace in homeschooling? Yes. Then you can run the race and finish strong.
Again, if you’d like to read this post, you can go to agentlefeast.com/blog and it’s called Finding Your Optimal Homeschooling Pace. Happy running everyone!
Thank you for joining us today on the Charlotte Mason show. I’m your host, Julie Ross, and I would love to meet you in 2020. I will be at all seven Great Homeschool Conventions, speaking as part of their Charlotte Mason track.
Go to greathomeschoolconventions.com to find one near you.
If you want more information on what was shared in today’s podcast, go to homeschooling.mom for the show notes. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or Google Play so you never miss an episode.
Until next time.
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