Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful and blessed Christmas season! One thing I love about a New Year is that it is a time for fresh starts. Each day is also a fresh start, especially when it begins with a peaceful morning routine. Why wait until the end of the day to decompress? Begin the day with stillness and prayer. And so I thought I’d share this post, written by Melissa Atlee, a dear friend and homeschooling mama: How My New Morning Routine is Giving Me Peace.
A few months ago, I hit rock bottom. After eight years of doing this homeschooling gig, you think I would have figured out how to prevent burnout. But no. Every single year, many times a year, I crash and burn. My patient husband then proceeds to pick up the broken pieces and put me back together. Somehow, by the time June rolls around, we decide to give homeschooling another go.
This year, however, the burnout reached a new low. I suppose it was a combination of factors which gathered together to make the perfect storm. I suffered a miscarriage over the summer so I didn’t start the school year with a full emotional tank. Also, while I had previously hired someone to help me, this year I decided to forgo that help. And to top it all off, I had decided to try a new curriculum which is more intense than what we had done before. Even though this wannabe tiger mamma loves the idea of demanding academic excellence, my children didn’t exactly jump onto that bandwagon.
There were many tears as I tried with all my might to make the kids fit into the curriculum instead of the other way around. One of my children, who up until this year had been my “easy” student, found the program too difficult. By the time October rolled around, he had basically given up on doing school work. Which made me dig in my claws, er, heels, even deeper. So on and so forth.
As the homeschooling fell off the rails, I did too. I was angry at the kids, angry at myself, and felt like a failure. One bad night I unraveled into a crying mess on my shower floor. My increasingly concerned husband decided to put homeschooling on hold until I could get my bearings. But this isn’t a post about how I fixed homeschooling. I’ll write about that once I actually fix the darn thing.
I realized that even though this was a new low, burnouts and lacking peace and joy in my daily life is a pattern. And thinking about it some more, it’s not about homeschooling or my state in life. When I worked outside the home, I experienced similar burnouts. I wasn’t working on my inner peace, my inner joy. I was just reacting to external stimuli and trying miserably to stay afloat.
But how to go about changing? There are so many areas in need of improvement. I recently heard that the best way to erase old bad habits and acquire new better ones is to make a 1% change every day. So I decided to start with my morning routine. I have committed to waking up at least one hour before the kids and dedicate the first hour of my day to prayer. And coffee. I know this isn’t earth shattering knowledge to many souls out there. There are thousands of people who have conquered the morning like a boss. But for me, someone who has staunchly resisted waking up early since 1977, it’s life-changing. I have tried, at various points of my life, to wake up early, but it took a scary breakdown to finally take it seriously.
I’m easing into it (no 2:30 am wake up calls a la Mark Wahlberg , as amaaaazing as it sounds), setting my alarm clock 10 minutes earlier every day. Now, it’s still dark when I wake up! I’m loving the silence, cuddling under the blankets in my favorite sofa chair, and drinking my coffee while it’s still hot. I say my Morning Offering and proceed to read my daily meditation from In Conversation with God. I’ve had these books for ages and I’ve probably read them all throughout the years, but every day I learn something new. I’m also currently reading He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Cizsek, a first-hand account of a priest’s life in the labor camps of Siberia. There’s nothing like this book to drive home the importance of putting God first. I highly recommend it!
Let me point out that my kids are older (my youngest is 3.5 years old), which means that I now enjoy a full night’s sleep. I firmly believe that a mom needs her sleep more than she needs to wake up before the kids. There is no way I could have done this while I was pregnant or nursing during the night. I make sure that I get my 8 hours of sleep or else my inner dragon rears her ugly head the next day, and that is not pretty. There is a time and a season for everything, and this is something that I am able to do now. For the moms with little ones underfoot, check out this post.
I’ve only been doing this for a month so I’m not giving myself a medal yet, but I am already seeing great results. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a long way to go. But by the time the kids stumble loudly down the stairs, I am awake, recollected, and ready to be their mom. I am less frazzled and less anxious about homeschooling. I’m yelling less at the kids, which is downright miraculous. I’m taking the time to sit down and enjoy (enjoy! what a novel idea) teaching my kids. If one of them is struggling with a particular lesson, I don’t take it as a personal affront or a failure on my part. I have the same number of hours that I did before, but somehow, I am less rushed and less frantic. This must be what peace is like. And I am grateful.
Melissa AtLee is a homeschooling mom to three energetic boys and one sweet princess. She’s passionate about marriage, family life, and reading good books. Melissa holds a masters degree in Marriage and Family Sciences from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. You can find her musings at www.theinsideoflife.com.