Checking Off Boxes Can Steal Your Joy

By Holly Giles | homeschooling

rocky mountain national park finding joy

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In the beginning

I began the adventure of homeschooling with joy in my heart for what was to come. Preschool was such fun and being outside was a delight every day full of new discoveries.  It was when Grayson began first grade that I felt the pressure of a schedule and all the subjects that were listed in our curriculum.

First, a lesson planner came with the curriculum. And it had a list of boxes to check that filled a whole page. It was quite daunting at first. Why on earth does a first grader need to do ALL of this in one day? I had Grayson start off slow, thinking we would add other subjects in as we went along. Being outdoors was still a big part of our day.

Getting behind

All of a sudden, it seemed we were so behind that there was no way for us to catch up. I was already ruining Grayson’s education and we hadn’t even gotten started! To remedy the situation, I cut out our morning walks because that seemed to take too much time. We often stopped to marvel at many creatures along the way and pretty flowers. However, we would have to put that off for a while.

planning school instead of joy with kids

We spent more time sitting at Grayson’s desk. Of course, going over the tasks in the lesson plan. I felt maybe we could get a handle on our time if we cut back on trips to the park. Also, stop one of our read-aloud times during the day.

Joy disappearing

Over the next few months, more boxes got checked off the list. The pages were being filled in and I was filling my first grader with facts. Although, I still wasn’t convinced he needed it at that age. Our house became quieter because the boys were not running around and playing games like they used to do. For instance, I noticed Grayson wasn’t laughing as much and seemed solemn during our work time.

By this time, doing school at home began to feel cumbersome and was not enjoyable anymore. Then, my feelings about the decision to keep him at home were changing. Had I made a mistake? Did I have what it took to teach him well and keep my relationship with him intact?

Our home had become a formal homeschool during the day. A school that was confining and boxed in. In addition to the lesson plans and checkboxes that were staring at me each day. Taunting me when the work was left undone.

Feeling good

Finally, Grayson asked me why he couldn’t keep learning the way he liked to learn. So, I asked him what that was and he replied “Being outside makes me feel good and I love listening to you read. When you took those away I feel like I can’t learn when I don’t have time to feel good.”

Discover our curriculum

Wow. My heart sank. I had spent so much time with my head down checking off the boxes that I never looked up to see what my boy really needed. He needed me. Our morning walks got him going. He needed that time to soak in stories about people and places that made history come alive. He needed me to look to him for cues on what lessons he was ready for and those he was not. Grayson had become a checkbox in the form of a little boy.

I spent so much time looking down at the boxes that I never looked up to see what my boy really needed.

Precious time

So quickly I had allowed lesson plans and curriculum to steal the joy of precious time with my son. It was not the textbook’s fault, it was my own. Subsequently, it was my own inadequacy to not realize that I was capable of teaching to the heart of my son all on my own.

In keeping my head down at all the paperwork I missed the cardinals that came to “sing the morning in”every day on our porch. Also, I missed the passion vine blooming a brilliant purple. In addition, I even missed the turkey that had started roosting across the lake. They came down in the afternoon to feed. I didn’t realize it until Grayson pointed them out. He had not missed any of it. His joy was still there.

Finding rhythm

It was that year I packed away the pre-made lesson planner that accompanied the all-in-one homeschool curriculum. We began our next year with the basics and brought more subjects in as needed. I understand now,  that our family worked better in a rhythm that included what brought us joy. It included what kept childhood curiosity alive and how to make our family relationships stronger.

enjoying children as a family

Educating our children at home goes far beyond books. It is the highest calling, the most exhausting, yet the most rewarding of all. Each year I look at my children, not down at paperwork, to determine what we will study, what needs a little tweaking, and how we can improve in an area.

Our morning walks are few during this particular season with my boys. As they grow up their interests change. Our read-aloud time has shifted from One Morning in Maine to Chronicles of Narnia, but the joy we all get from that time is the same.

Treasure this journey of homeschool. Look up from the list of to-do’s and look into the eyes of your children. Discover who they are and what you can do to help them see it too.



checking off boxes can steal your joy


About the Author

Holly Giles is a wife, mother, and storyteller. As an author and Florida Master Naturalist, she writes about heritage homemaking skills, motherhood, and why Florida offers the best hidden natural gems to explore as a family.