I recently read a homeschooling book (The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart) that said that you should focus on routines instead of schedule.
What’s the difference between a routine and a schedule? It’s time for some definitions from Google:
A routine is “a sequence of actions regularly followed”
A schedule is “a plan for carrying out a process or procedure, giving lists of intended events and times.”
This is incredibly helpful for homeschooling, because sometimes we have days off. We can’t really meet deadlines and sometimes we end up doing things before deadlines. When the kids wanted to work on their handwriting books and finish them that day, I let them. There are days we spend reading all the time. And then we drop back into our routine (journals, workbooks, etc.).
Sometimes putting dates on everything makes life a little bit too stressful, especially when those dates and schedules are our own expectations in the first place.
I think there are times for schedules. I’ve made schedules to finish books and classes. But sometimes we put expectations on ourselves that we just don’t need and we forget why we are doing things in favor of keeping our schedule.
Schedules are helpful, but they are a means to an end, not the end itself. If schedules become more important than people, than that’s a problems.
Routines can be helpful too, and at times they can be more helpful than schedules because they are in place when they need to be, and then when life happens, they can be put aside while we deal with things.
And when you are behind schedule, since you can’t change the past, then your schedule has simply changed.
This started with the book 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson. One of his rules is, “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.” He goes on to say that we should discipline our children and teach them social norms. He says:
Because children, like other human beings, are not only good, they cannot simply be left to their own devices, untouched by society, and bloom into perfection.
A child will have many friends, but only two parents—if that—and parents are more, not less, than friends.
Parents need to be parents and help their kids, and kids like limits. They like when their parents set those limits. I have noticed, since reading that book, that after I calmly discipline my daughter, instructing her to do the right thing, there is an increase of love with each other. She loves me more afterwards, not less. It may make her angry for a moment, but she feels safer knowing that I’m watching out for her and teaching her.
This sentiment is echoed The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax. He tells parents to get their kids off screens, have consistent discipline, and teach respect and self-control to my kids.
Command. Don’t ask. Don’t negotiate. Modern American parents are forever rationalizing their decisions to their children. There are many problems with that approach. The mere fact that the parent feels compelled to negotiate already undermines the authority of the parent. When you lay down a rule, and your children ask why, answer, “Because Mommy (or Daddy) says so.
I need to be both supportive and authoritative. Sometimes it’s hard to set those limits and follow through. It’s easy to let kids be on screens for hours at a time. It’s easy to do all the work and not have them help with the chores. It’s easy to say they can do what they want.
But it’s not good for the kids. I’ve been trying to be better: they have to sit down and listen sometimes. We put away the TV for five days a week. We try to do daily chores and dish jobs (still a work in progress). I try not to tolerate it when they back talk and remind them to be respectful.
Growing up, we had a book that was called What to Do When Your Mom or Dad Says “Clean Your Room!” I loved that book growing up because it tells you exactly how to clean your room, and I still use some of this methods to this day. I was searching on the internet to get a copy, and I found that there was a whole series called The Survival Series for Kids, written in the early 1980s.
So I ordered a set of 17 books. When they came, I looked through all of them. Parenting has changed a lot.
We don’t teach manners anymore, partly because adults don’t always have manners either. Do you know what you should do when someone stops by your house? Well, first, no one is going to stop by your house without texting you first. But if they do, do you remember to invite them in, take their coat, and ask if they would like to sit down?
Do you ever say, “It’s nice to meet you?” Do you instruct your kids to call adults by respectful names, like Mrs. and Mr.? Do you have regular expectations for your kids, like the chores they need to do and having them help clean up and cook? Do you do things for your kids that they could do for themselves? Do you tell your kids you can’t afford it? Do your kids know how to hold a conversation with a stranger? Do you kids know when to say thank you? Do your kids know how to behave in public, like holding still and not talking out of turn? Do you tell your kids to put away screens when they talk to other people? Do you do that?
It made me realize that we forget to teach our kids how to behave. We pretend kids are adults and we treat them that way, which leads to a lot of disrespect and even confusion.
So I’m working on it. I want to be a little old-fashioned in some ways.
I don’t have many readers on this blog. I’ve been blogging for a very long time (since around 2007 or earlier), and I never had a big following. Other people would get lots of comments and interaction. My stats have always been rather low or even nonexistent.
I’m very happy about that. I am a more private person than I realized and I find it awkward when strangers know about me and my thoughts.
And I think that even if a few people read this, that’s enough. Even if I’m writing for myself, that’s enough. My influence doesn’t have to be large to be enough.
Most people go through life and they only influence and help a few people, like their family and their neighbors and their friends. But that good influence can be amazing. Sometimes the most influential people are quiet and unassuming and unpopular. They go almost completely unnoticed, but they change people’s lives. Maybe not a lot of people, but a few, and that’s enough.
It doesn’t matter how big your sphere is. It matters that you do the best you can, that you love others, and that you help people, even if it’s simply one person.
The little things matter. We don’t have to serve and help in huge ways. But the little things really do mean a lot, and they are noticed, and they are what the world is really made out of.
I think we can get caught up in trying to find jobs and careers and a life that is perfect for people. There is a myth that you should have a dream and work towards your dream and live happily ever after. That’s not how life works. People fail. Dreams crumble. The real world is messy and complicated.
I feel like a lot of people, maybe most people, simply land in their careers and their life instead of carefully picking everything out. I was supposed to be a writer, but now I’m looking at completely different opportunities and learning about economics and business (and mostly, I’m a full-time mom). My dad was supposed to be an engineer, and then he ended up in college administration. My husband was supposed to be a wildlife biologist, and he ended up in park management. My sister was supposed to be a filmmaker (she still might be), but right now she’s a store manager. I even knew of an anesthesiologist who became a UPS driver after developing allergies.
I think it matters me how hard you work in the opportunities you have than finding the perfect opportunities for you.
I’m currently getting another undergraduate degree in economics and I have rethought my choice quite a lot. Do I really want to do this? Does it fit me? But I don’t have to find the perfect path. Good enough is good enough. I’ve learned about Nobel-prize winning economists that have had strange pathways into their fields: One admitted he was lazy and unmotivated and people didn’t expect much of him. Another had an education in psychology. They didn’t really intend to go into economics and succeed; they just landed there. No one fits exactly into a field, and that’s okay.
Sometimes we follow paths that other people choose for us, like the kid who learned how to play the cello because his parents were both professional cellists. He was really good at it. Sometimes we find our pathway by chance: one person literally pulled a random folder out of a filing cabinet and decided that she would major in engineering because she couldn’t make a decision. She became a successful engineer.
There are going to be times when we are bored and unsatisfied, but the best thing to do is to keep working and trying even when things aren’t working out quite right. Try to help other people. Try to learn new things. Ask questions. Embrace your talents and apply them to whatever opportunities you have.
Don’t worry too much about what field you go into and if you’ve found the perfect job. Just be the best person you can be and things will work out.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the Lord’s hand in our lives, but sometimes that’s because we don’t have the right perspective.
I was thinking of pointillism paintings where you have to look closely to see the paint strokes and you have to look far away to see the picture. You need both perspectives to understand the painting.
We may have to look really closely to see the Lord’s help in our life, because he helps with very small things that are easily dismissed. We have so many blessings that we don’t always even notice: How many times have we prayed to be safe and we have remained safe? How many times have our finances worked out exactly right, like having the right amount of savings or finding good deals right when we need them? I have been given strength and happiness in difficult circumstances. We’ve had really good days when I’ve been able to know what to do and say with my children. I’ve been able to complete school work quickly. I’ve had opportunities at the right time. I’ve had such good friendships. And so many blessings have come from a loving Heavenly Father, if I choose to look at them.
For a long time, I wanted to be able to live in a town and send my kids to school and live a more normal life. It’s not what I have right now: we homeschool and we live far away from a small town and life is different. But it’s not bad either. I’ve prayed and hoped that things would change, and they didn’t change. But I’m okay with that right now, because I’ve been blessed in so many small ways: I found good books and ideas that helps us with homeschool. I’ve been able to think of myself in a new and better way. I never thought I could really teach, but now there are days that I absolutely love it. I’ve had inspiration, like I put the TV away for most of the week and we were so much happier. I’ve been able to complete projects on my computer more quickly so I can spend time with my kids.
I have felt this :
And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen. (Alma 33:23)
While I do ask for specific blessings that don’t happen, there are also so many times I am blessed in better ways that I could have not expected.
I have to look at the details, and sometimes I need to zoom out and see the overall perspective as well. I get too caught up in negative moments, thinking that hard times will last forever (they don’t). I believe in a life after this one, that everything will be made right. I don’t need to have everything right now. I want to progress and grow and change, and that requires patience with myself and trust in the the Lord’s timing.
I love school, but I have to watch myself sometimes. I have always gotten good grades, but those grades are not reflective of my self-worth, my intelligence, how hard I work, or how much I know. I am not better than anyone because of my grades. They don’t really mean much at all.
Learning in school is good, but it’s not the only way to learn and discover truth. People who are not educated can be successful and intelligent. People who are highly educated can make mistakes and do stupid things.
Knowledge can be like a box of colorful beads. Some of these beads look shinier than others, and so we say that they are better. But it’s all knowledge. It’s all truth, and it doesn’t really matter what color the beads are.
I really want to keep learning in lots of different ways. Humility means that I always remember that I have more to learn and I can continually progress. There is so much to learn and do outside of school and outside of careers. The life I have at home with my children is the best learning experience I have ever had.
You may at times feel inadequate because you don’t meet someone else’s standards. But that doesn’t really matter. You are qualified and adequate, mostly because you are still learning.
There is so much knowledge out there. And we never really know much at all, no matter how educated we get.
I was angry with my husband the other day. I really sort of wanted to be angry at him. It didn’t last long, because as I was talking, I realized I was being a complete hypocrite.
I was doing EXACTLY what I was mad at him for doing. I was holding grudges. I was not forgiving. I was picking fights. I was being distant and distracted. And I wanted to blame it on him, but it was totally and completely my fault.
In fact, when I think about it, I often try to blame my own faults on other people. Like thinking that no one invites me anywhere when I don’t invite anyone either. Or thinking that everyone else is cranky, which is a sure sign that I am the cranky one. Whenever I feel tired, it’s okay if I don’t do as much. But if someone else is tired, I get can sometimes get mad at them for being tired. It’s ridiculous.
But it doesn’t seem ridiculous in the moment. Only when I take a step back do I realize that I am being a hypocrite, and I am putting different expectations on others than I am on myself.
I think I hate the faults of others the most when they reflect my own faults. I don’t want to admit my own weakness and so it’s a lot easier to just push the blame elsewhere. But I do have a lot of faults. I’m selfish and proud and distracted and lazy. I stay inside my comfort zone too often and I expect too much from others.
So I’m going to try to be a little bit more humble and try to keep improving my own self instead of blaming the problems of my life on others. It’s hard. But it’s good too: if things are my fault, that means I can fix them.
1. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.
If sleeping is a problem, research good sleep hygiene and do the little things, like not watching television or eating or exercising before bed, having a good routine to wind down, and learning relaxation techniques and thought defusion techniques in order to calm worries and anxieties. I can not compromise sleep or I pay for it. Sometimes if I stay up late, I find that I’m acting like a different person the next day.
2. Eat regular and healthy meals and snacks and drink lots of water.
We all have our bad eating tendences. I tend to not eat enough sometimes, and so I have to remind myself to have snacks, eat more fruits and veggies, and not forget to eat. Some people snack throughout the whole day. Other people eat too much sugar or too much salt. But while bad eating habits are all bad in their own way, good eating habits look alike: more fruits and veggies and whole grains; less sugar; breakfast, lunch, and dinner; concrete snack instead of grazing; mindfulness about what you are eating. And drink water. I’ve lived half my life minorly dehydrated and it’s not healthy.
3. Exercise and regular physical activity.
Exercising for ten or twenty minutes in the morning and then sitting for the rest of the day is really not the best. I’m trying to live a more active lifestyle, and that can be hard. I try to play with my kids and go on walks and resist laziness. And I do like to formally exercise as well. I have a lot of different apps on my phone I switch between, like 7-minute workouts and yoga. I still want to improve on this–I want to feel stronger, and I know vigorous walking is a really good way to clear my mind.
4. Spend time outside.
I find myself incredibly happier when I spend more time outside. But in our modern lives, sometimes there is barely reason to go outside. We make excuses if it is hot or raining or snowing or whatever, but with proper preparation, you can be outside in almost every kind of weather, at least for a minute. Whenever I go camping, I feel this release when I have to be outside to cook and go to the bathroom and live. I wonder why we’ve made our lives so closed out to the outside world sometimes. Kick your kids outside to play and you’ll find that they are way less cranky–and if you go join them, you’re going to be less cranky too.
5. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
You’ve probably heard about this because it’s everywhere right now, and there are so many guides and apps out there. I am not a very mindful person and meditation is incredibly difficult for me, which is why I keep trying anyway. I need it to calm my mind and to remember what I value. And you don’t have to be good at it to be good at doing it. A week of distracted meditation is better than a week of no meditation. Just keep trying.
6. Limit screen time
How many times do you check your phone? How much time do you spend staring at a screen? Even if you do it for work or school, is there a way you can reduce it? I get constantly distracted on my phone and my computer, but I put blocks into place to help me. I usually have my web browser blocked on my phone so I can’t access the entire internet, and I never install games. And on my computer, I have an app called FocusMe (which I paid for, and it was worth it), which helps me block things without easy ways of getting to them again.
There are lots of ways to simplify your life. You can get rid of stuff: when you look in a closet and the only things in there are the things you use and you love, you feel a whole lot calmer. We try to only have toys we really play with. It’s so nice to be have space around you and room to breathe. The joy of having a simpler life is much greater than the joy of having lots of stuff. And you can simplify your time too. What projects can you drop? How can you simplify errands and routines? How can you simplify parenting? How can you simplify your finances? If there is a way to simplify, that way may be a better way.
8. Set regular routines and follow them
You don’t have to have routines for the whole day, just small routines that help you know where you are. I wake up and read my scriptures, say my prayers, meditate, exercise, eat breakfast, read scriptures as a family, get in the shower, and get my kids dressed. If I do that every morning, my days go so much better. In the evening, we put the kids in the tub, brush teeth, and then read stories and say prayers. Kids like routine. Adults like routine. Life should have some stability to it.
9. Serve others and increase social interaction
Isolating yourself is really easy, but it will make you miserable. We need face-to-face interaction with other people. And we need to serve other people too. I’m always much happier when I serve, and sometimes it means that I drop what I’m doing in order to send a message, make a phone call, go visit, say hello, or edit something for someone. Making someone else happy in meaningful ways increases your own happiness.
10. Prayer and Scripture Study
My daily prayer and scripture study is essential to my life and my mental health. I need the Lord’s help in all of this. We all do.
I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)
Sometimes I think I want blessings like these:
Owning my own house that is well-decorated with a beautiful garden
Figuring out a perfect schedule that enables me to always be on task and accomplish everything
More money and better stuff that works and doesn’t break
Being able to see people that are fun to be around
Living where I would like to live, in a convenient place with lots of good people
But instead, throughout my life I have received blessings more like these:
Living in an area that was fairly low-income with people that needed a lot of help and support
Visiting with people that were overwhelmed with their own problems
Living in highly inconvenient places and making friends with people who are not like me at all
Learning hard lessons and then being able to share and help other people because I’ve been there
Becoming really good friends through people I have helped and who have helped me
And looking back on my life, I have had much greater satisfaction when I have been able to give. It’s not very meaningful to get everything you want for your birthday. It’s not very interesting when life is easy and you have everything you ever wanted.
We like to struggle. And we like to help each other in that struggle. The best relationships I have are built through serving and loving–people I have served and people who have helped me. Those relationships are much stronger than sharing common interests. They mean a whole lot more.
And those relationships are the basis of a good and happy life. My greatest blessings in my life have been the opportunities I have been given to help other people. I would always give up an easy and rich and fortunate life if that meant that I could develop meaningful relationships and be in a position to help others.
I didn’t realize that when I was younger–my dreams and goals were more about myself than about helping other people. And I’m so glad life has gone in a very different direction, and the Lord has blessed me so much in unexpected ways.
We all have many brain pathways that make life a lot easier, good habits that help us: brushing our teeth, eating meals, getting dressed, turning the lights off, cleaning up, holding our tongues, smiling and waving, and all of those sorts of things.
But we also have pathways that are not so positive, like checking our phones constantly, yelling, feeling down and depressed, or staying up late.
I have dealt with mood swings and feeling of depression for quite a lot of my life, and it’s really easy to fall back into that again. I’ll do really good for a while, only to have a bad day. Misery can become a habit.
And when bad habits and behaviors keep coming back again and again, it can be really frustrating. We rationally know that we want to stop doing that, but then we keep doing it anyway because it’s so easy.
Change can take a while. And sometimes we need to understand that in order for change to happen, we have to consciously steer our brains away from habitual behavior for quite a long time, longer than we really want to. Deciding that we want to change is not enough; we have to put in the effort to actually make that change happen.
For example, I really like to watch YouTube videos when I am bored or distressed. And it’s really easy just to click on the site and watch video after video. It can be really habitual, and it’s not something I like about myself. I have an app that blocks certain websites, and for a while I flat out blocked YouTube from my life.
I stopped thinking about it. I stopped doing it. It would seem like I conquered my bad habit. But when I re-enabled YouTube again, guess what happened? I started habitually watching videos again. So I blocked it again.
And I’m realized that the longer something has been around, sometimes the longer you have to work on getting rid of it. I don’t know if certain pathways ever really go away all the way–because if you did it once, it’s so much easier to do it again.
But the atonement of Jesus Christ can help strengthen us and become new people. Change can happen. For some people, it happens in an instant, but for most of us, it takes longer. The point is that we don’t give up, that we keep coming back to what we value, and we keep seeking hope and repentance and healing.
And then, maybe years and years later, we can look back and see that we are better and new, and it’s so much easier to do the right thing.