Lesson 1: Changing Your Mindset

Quick Start Guide Menu

What kept me up at night.

What is homeschooling supposed to look like?  Am I doing enough? I can’t give up “fill-in-the-blank” curriculum … what if they miss something important? I want more meaningful and interesting learning experiences for my kids.

How long can I keep doing this?  I’m so inconsistent.  There are too many options!

… and the list goes on. I spent years wrestling with thoughts like these.  I also spent lots of time and money experimenting with methods and curriculum trying to fix my uneasiness.

I tried.

  • A wide variety of curricula. Lots.
  • Multiple attempts with various homeschool methods. Couldn’t find the right fit.
  • Umpteen different schedules supremely organized with color-coded charts.

Finally, something clicked.

Finally, after all of the experimentation, I was introduced to the two tools that would end all of this frustration for me.

Sorry, I’m not the expert who came up with these ideas or tools!  I’m just one of MANY homeschoolers blessed to learn about these gems while still homeschooling.  Now I am their devoted cheerleader. 🙂

Two tools brought an end to homeschool experimentation, overwhelm, and busywork.

  1. Narrations
  2. Notebooking

I am going to note just a few things here about narrations and notebooking.  We will dive deeper into this discussion in the next parts of the series.

Narrations and Notebooking …

  • work with (or without) any curriculum.
  • work with (or without) any specific method.
  • free up time in the schedule by eliminating wasteful time spent on busywork.
  • save us money year after year because we’re no longer curriculum hopping.
  • breathe life into our homeschool.  Bye-bye overwhelm; so long burnout.

How to get started?

We need to work on our homeschool mindset before we get down to the nitty-gritty.

STEP #1 Identify Your Busywork

I got so caught up in the scope and sequence of a curriculum or the different facets of a homeschool method, that I filled the day with busywork.

Busywork = any task that is not producing significant, long-term results.

What was our busywork?

Most of our busywork could be summed up as the activities producing short-term results.

Short-term results = grades

Yes, I am saying it.  Grades are not the full measure of your child’s success.  Grades are a short-term result.  And this short-term result rarely had anything profound to say come dinner time.

Dad asks … What did you learn today?
Child responds … (blank stare) I don’t know, but I did it.  Oh, and I got an A.

At the end of the year, this busywork amounted to a pile of paperwork that either ended up in a tote under the stairs (for proof of schooling in case someone came asking) or in a trash can.

No long-term results. A paper trail at best.

Bored Boy Workbook
Your turn … What is your busywork?

STEP #2 Identify Your Square Pegs

Have you ever forced your family through various activities for the sake of following a method, a lesson plan, or a scope and sequence … as if the curriculum/method police were going to visit your home and catch you doing something wrong?

This is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole!

Just because something works great for another family (or even a whole community of homeschoolers) does NOT mean it’s a good fit for your UNIQUE family.Forcing your family to fit into a particular curriculum, learning style, or method leads to frustration, guilt, and burnout.

Instead, find what resonates or fits your family.

Square Peg Round Hole
Your turn … What are your square pegs?

STEP #3 Make the necessary cuts

As you identify busywork and square pegs, the next step is to cut these things from your day.

For me, this meant taking resources and putting them under my bed. This was a nice way to mentally “ease into” this change I wanted in our homeschool. I felt like I had a safety net in place just in case things didn’t work out (…but they did).

You only have so much time in the day.

When you waste it on busywork, you cannot get it back.

This accumulation of “wasted time” leads to feelings of guilt, overwhelm, and burnout.

  • Busywork and square pegs => wasting time
  • Wasting time => unmet goals, dreams, aspirations
  • Unmet goals, dreams, aspirations => guilt
  • Daily guilt => overwhelm
  • Daily overwhelm => burnout

Frustrated girl books
Your turn … What are you going to cut?


Over the years, I’ve ruthlessly cut busywork from many areas of my life, not just homeschool.

Busywork is like household clutter.

You’re forever dusting it and moving it around until eventually you do one of three things.

  1. You store it.
  2. You give it away.
  3. You throw it away.

It may look pretty sitting on a shelf (and boy do homeschoolers love shelves!), but really it’s just adding more work and frustration to our day without adding long-term fulfillment.

Time to let it go!

Quick Start Homework

___ Pick ONE subject.

___ Decide what part of that subject is busywork.

___ Let it go.

___ Does something need to go under the bed?

___ Do it now.

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