Homeschooling & Why Willpower Doesn’t Work

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March 13, 2023

“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may be. For I have learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”

 ~MARTHA WASHINGTON~ 

When I try to think about when I was first introduced to this quote, I actually can’t remember not knowing it.  (Yes, I know that’s a double negative, but I think you get the point.)  You see, for as long as I can remember, this quote was taped to the side of my grandma’s fridge.  


As I write this, I think fondly of how often Grandma would refer to it and how grateful I am that she taught me the value of cultivating a good attitude, regardless of what’s happening around you.  It’s with this in mind that I’d like to discuss the subject of willpower, why it actually doesn’t work, and what strategies you can use instead to help your homeschool be successful.

It All Starts With “Environmental Design”


So if willpower doesn’t work, then what is the first step to having a successful homeschool?  Benjamin Hardy, author of Willpower Doesn’t Work, says that it must begin with choosing and shaping your environment.  In his introduction he states that “rather than adapting to a negative environment, as the majority of the global population is doing, you can adapt to whatever environment you choose.” (p. xviii)  


How does this apply to your homeschool?  Well, one of the awesome benefits about homeschooling is that it happens mostly at home…  And one of the drawbacks of homeschooling is that… it happens mostly at home.  Let me explain— In observing homeschooling families over the years, I’ve noticed that it can be hard for some kids to distinguish the difference between “school time” and “home time.”  


One successful practice I’ve seen to help these kids focus is to have a designated study area somewhere in the house.  This area should be a welcoming, comfortable spot (definitely not in a dark corner!) have minimal distractions, and probably include at least a chair and a table.  


It works best when this space is not purposely used for any activity other than studying, unless the child initiates it, which is awesome, because that means they enjoy being there!  Designing this environment will go a long way to help a less than focused child get more motivated about their studies.

“Nearly all of your behaviors are outsourced by your environment.  When you do something enough and in the same places, it becomes subconscious.”

benjamin hardy

(To get your own copy of the book CLICK HERE.)

Creating Your Circumstances


Chapter One, titled, “Every Hero is the Product of a Situation,” presents the premise that we are the product of the situations we put ourselves in.  For example, “if you want to feel more confident, dress better.  Wear a little cologne or perfume.  Do your hair differently.  Small external tweaks have the power to create enormous internal shifts.” (p. 17) 


(Squirrel moment:  This reminds me of a conversation I once had with a hairstylist who had noticed over the years that when one of her clients, usually a woman, was undergoing a big life change, two things often happened together— she would significantly change her hairstyle and she would buy new furniture.  Don’t ask me why these two things are related, but it’s still fascinating, nonetheless!  Just an example of how changing one or two things can have such a big overall impact.  Okay, end of my squirrel moment…)


If you or your kids have a hard time getting school started each morning, ask yourself what part of your morning routine does not support the transition from morning time to study time. 


Maybe it’s turning on a show that catches everyone’s attention and becomes a distraction.  Maybe it’s not having a certain time when schoolwork should start each day.  Or it maybe it’s as simple as everyone needing to getting out of their PJs and into clothes that help send signals to the brain that it’s time to work and not just lounge around.  Paying attention to these details could make all the difference.

Relative, Not Absolute Value


Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you acted a certain way because the other people you were with were acting that way, too?  To quote Benjamin Hardy, “Who you are on Tuesday in one room is not the same as who you are on Wednesday in a different room.  Around some people, you feel on top of the world.  Around others, you can’t think straight.” (p. 32)  


To paraphrase from the book, your identity, abilities, and opportunities are a reflection of the context you find yourself in. (see p. 35)  


In other words, you are the product of the company you keep.

“People mistakenly believe they must be fully qualified to take on a particular role.  But this is false.  You actually become qualified through the role itself.”

benjamin hardy

(To get your own copy of the book CLICK HERE.)

You might be asking how this applies in your homeschool.  After all, it’s just you and your kids most of time, right?  Actually, this is exactly my point.  Maybe it’s time to think of things in terms of relative, and not absolute value…


Sometimes a homeschooling family’s dynamic can be challenging when one of the children seems to not want to “play nice” with his or her siblings or even just with the idea of homeschooling in general.  So what do you do if you find yourself in this situation?


Maybe the solution is to change up the roles that each of your children play within your family dynamic.  For example, if your oldest child resists doing their school work, maybe they need to become a mentor to a younger sibling for a while. 


Or if you have a child who is developing a prideful attitude and constantly feels the need to criticize their siblings’ work, maybe it’s time to find some outside learning opportunities for them to participate in where they will be one of the less experienced learners in the group.  


Changing things up in your homeschool can sometimes be just exactly what’s needed because experiences like these can help your children realize that with new situations come new opportunities to discover who they are.  And with your guidance as their parent, these opportunities can ultimately help your children grow into capable, compassionate, and well-rounded adults.

See It To Believe It


In Chapter 5, titled “Designate a Sacred Space,” Benjamin Hardy discusses the importance of regularly reconnecting with yourself in a space that allows you to be quiet and fully present.  It doesn’t need to be fancy or overly formal— Benjamin does it quietly in his car every morning before going to the gym.  What’s important is not so much where you do it, but that you just do it as best you can on a regular basis.


As a homeschooling mom, you have a lot on your plate, which is why it is so important for you to “sharpen your saw” through quiet thought and reflection.  Taking the time for personal study and journal writing can pay great dividends and help you give the best of yourself to your children.


I once heard Ray Edwards, a very successful and well-known copywriter, remind his students that “Routine = Momentum.”  This influenced me so deeply that later during one of my journaling sessions, I found myself expanding upon it.  What resulted was a list of progressive steps that are now stuck to the side of my computer monitor, helping me remember why I do what I do.  After much thought, this is what I wrote:

Routine = Momentum

Momentum = Progress

Progress = Growth

Growth = Greater Capacity

Greater Capacity = Contribution

Contribution = Impact

Impact = Influence

Influence = Success

Sometimes it can be hard to stick to a routine.  (Okay, let’s be real— most of the time it’s hard to stick to a routine!)  However… when you realize that routine ultimately leads to success, you can suddenly find deep, abiding purpose in even the most mundane of tasks, knowing that what you do with your children today does make a difference.


Suddenly going over those blended phonics sounds one more time seems like a privilege.  Driving across town to see a special exhibit seems like a treat.  And resolving yet another childish disagreement seems like a cherished opportunity for everyone to learn once again what’s most important…


(And what’s so great about all of this is that things don’t have to be perfect for it to make a difference with your kids!)


When you designate a sacred space to first visualize what you want for your children in your homeschool, you open yourself to genius ideas that will help you achieve success.  Ideas that may not have presented themselves had you not taken the time to be still and think.  Taking the time to see it so you can believe it can change not just your day, but your entire homeschooling experience…


For a printable version of my Success Formula, type your email in the box below and I’ll send it to you right away…

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About the Author...

Leah Stallard

Leah Stallard is the creator of Playing2Learn.com and HomeschoolMomsHub.com and is a teacher, entrepreneur, performer, and speaker. She helps homeschool parents teach more effectively by showing them how to discover and support their children's natural learning abilities. This eliminates contention, whining, and complaining, leading to a love of learning and their children's desire to become self-motivated, mission driven adults with a world class education.

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