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5 Steps to Love Homeschooling Again with Atomic Habits

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Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear is a popular book for adults looking to improve themselves by improving their habits gradually. Applying Atomic Habits to homeschooling is an attractive idea because we all want to teach our kids good habits and most of us would like to improve our homeschooling in one way or another, but how do you do it?

What are the key ideas in Atomic Habits?

Atomic Habits teaches that we need to consider four things when we try to establish a good habit or break a bad habit:

1. Cue: Make it obvious

2. Craving: Make it attractive

3. Response: Make it easy

4. Reward: Make it satisfying.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

In addition, Clear suggests that you have a vision of the kind of person you want to be, and make habit changes to bring you closer to that ideal. How do we apply these ideas to homeschooling?

Creating your Ideal Homeschool with Atomic Habits

1. Decide what your ideal homeschool is

The first step in applying Atomic Habits to homeschooling is deciding what you want your homeschool to be. Envision your dream homeschool and write down a description. Involve your kids– let them draw pictures, or create a collage if they like. Homeschooling works best when it is cooperative, so be sure to keep your kids’ priorities in mind as you move forward.

2. Tie new habits to existing ones

Consider your current routine, and look for places to add new habits immediately after habits you already have. For example, if you always eat lunch together as a family and want to get outside more, you might decide that you will all go outside after lunch. Once that habit is set, you may add another habit after that one (perhaps everyone will have an hour of quiet time in their room). Clear calls this “Habit stacking” – for more information, I’d recommend reading Atomic Habits yourself.

3. Make it fun!

As you apply Atomic Habits to homeschooling, think about how you can make your new habit something you or your kids look forward to. Would your 7 year old be excited to get a sticker every time they finish a page in their math workbook? Would your 10 year old get excited about history if you were getting together with friends for a history book club a couple of times a month? Pro tip: Almost everything is more fun with friends and a snack.

4. Start very very small (this is why he calls them Atomic Habits)

Establishing a new habit is hard– you are fighting the habits you already have. So keep the initial version of the habit very simple and quick. For the goal of getting outside more, you might start with having everyone put on their necessary gear and at least step outside. Once you have established that routine, you could add walking around the block, or spending at least 5 minutes outside. If you’ve been sitting with your child while they work, and you want them to begin to work more independently, start with having them do the last problem on their own, and then gradually get up sooner and sooner.

5. Work at the right level

What you choose shouldn’t be too hard or too easy. If a task is too hard, it’s frustrating. If a task is too easy, it’s dull. A satisfying task is challenging, but possible– you can feel good about achieving it. If you are setting up a book club, choose books in your child’s Lexile range. When you are planning lessons, consult the Learning Statements in your kids’ MAP Growth reports to see what specific skills they are ready to learn. Don’t have MAP Growth results?