Thursday, August 01, 2013
Part 3: So You Want to Homeschool
In Part 2 I discussed the need for conviction, the first of two elements to laying a successful foundation for homeschooling. The second element is a bit more complex, and without it life becomes very messy, and it is difficult at best to educate well in a mess. That critical element is a healthy boundary. If one does not take the time and energy to lay sufficient boundaries in her life, things will get chaotic.
In Part 1 I talked about taking the time to reflect and discern what needs to go. Did you think about it? Are you over-committed with activities for your kids? Church responsibilities? Clubs and charities and volunteer work? Time at the spa? Unhealthy demands from extended family? All of these things appear at the moment to be good and satisfying, but in the end, are they contributing to the life and well-being of your children, whom you are called to raise and educate? I'm not suggesting "helicopter parenting" where you hover over them at all times and everything you do is centered on them, and I'm not talking about "Tiger Mom" mentality where everything in your life revolves around their education. I'm talking about healthy boundaries. Over the years, I have learned for myself that I need "wiggle room." For example, when I clean out a closet or a storage space, I always try to leave some empty space, because inevitably something new will need to be stored there. Next time I clean, something different will get chucked and again, I will leave empty space. It always gets filled. Always. But when it does, I have the space so that the closet doesn't become intolerably messy. Consider in your own life where you need "wiggle room." Here are the things that must go in the closet every time, and must be present in order for us to have a healthy lifestyle and home education environment.
Assuming a Christian audience here, but if you are not spending time in prayer, reading the Word, and reflection, then something has to go. I am not being legalistic--I am speaking from experience, and I'm sure that you know as well that when we are centered spiritually, all other things fall into their proper perspective. It's not something you have to do--it's something you get to do. You have the privilege of meeting with God one-on-one. Why miss it? This is foundational to teaching our children.
Food, Sleep, Exercise
If you are too busy to prepare healthy food for your family and enjoy meals together, then something has to go.
If you are up until the wee hours of the morning getting stuff accomplished because you have so much going on in the day that you can't find time to get it all done, then something has to go. I'm not talking about the mom who has many little ones with great needs who only can catch time at night for sanity--that is a season that will pass in time, and indeed, it is exhausting, and I sympathize. I am talking to the mom who has overextended herself and her kids running around after "good things" to the detriment of her health (see points below).
If you have no time to exercise, then something has to go. Simple. Make the time, but choose your activity well. If you choose an exercise that you really enjoy, it becomes something you get to do, not something you have to do.
In order to have a healthy home and educational environment, the leader of the pack must be strong, healthy and energetic, and be able to model this for the followers. You are Alpha Mom / Dad. If Mom and Dad ain't healthy, then nobody's healthy.
If you do not have time to work on your marriage in every way (spiritually, emotionally, and physically), then it's time to chuck something.
Next there are a few areas where you may need to have less wiggle room and may need to pull the boundaries a little tighter.
Friends and Companions
"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."
Without a doubt, friendships and companions on this journey are vital. However,
not everyone is a friend. Not every homeschooled child in the park is a good playmate for my kids. I use the word "friend" very reverently. I am very cautious about getting together with people for coffee or play dates or whatever. I have a few good friends and these people are in my life because we are like-minded in faith, in child-rearing, and because they have companionable children whose company both I and my kids enjoy. Relationships with these folks have taken time and energy and run deep. They are the friendships in which I really invest and would call on in a time of need. I have a slightly wider circle of people whom I truly enjoy and expect that over time may become "good friends," but I'll leave that to the Lord.
Ask yourself some questions before you invest too much time with someone who is not a fit for you:
1. Is this person a positive influence in my life?
2. Does this person have healthy emotional boundaries?
3. Does this person have children who will positively influence my children? Do my kids enjoy her kids? (Do not force children into relationships with other children because you want to hang out with the mom. That is wrong and selfish and will bear bad fruit in the long run. Do you like to be forced to hang with people you don't like? Don't do it to your kids.)
4. How does this person discipline, correct, teach? (It might not seem like a big deal, but if you spend a lot of time with someone, radically different parenting styles can cause conflict in friendship.)
5. Is God leading me into a relationship with this person?
But, but, but--I think God wants me to minister to this person...wait. If you are just getting started on this journey, you have a calling and ministry. Do not sacrifice it on the altar of playing savior to someone else whose life is a mess. Not yet. There will be plenty of time for ministry, and you cannot have a completely healthy friendship with an unhealthy person.
But, but, but--this woman knows so much about homeschooling and God and cooking, and I need someone to show me the ropes. Stop. Are you looking for a mentor or a friend? Are you on equal footing (kids the same age, common interests, give and take)? If you need someone to teach you and cannot lean on the Lord to guide you, then you need to reevaluate what you are doing in the first place. That is not to say that you will not discover mentors along the way, just don't force it. God knows your need, and he will supply them all.
Church and Ministry
We as Christians are so vulnerable to becoming the go-to-gals when it comes to serving at church. It seems even more so when we homeschool because people catch wind of the "flexible lifestyle" and assume that we can help out in all kinds of ways that other people can't or won't. I have had to learn that my window of service must be wide open for my children and selectively opened for other opportunities. Those opportunities are ones we as a family have discussed and agreed upon. As a result, when we serve we are able to do it with great joy and energy.
When you are approached to serve or are considering an area in which you would like to serve, let your answer always be "I will pray about it," and then do pray about it. More importantly, listen to the answer that God gives you concerning it, especially if the answer is no.
But, but, but--there is such great need! How would God not call us to serve there? Go back to my original point about food, sleep, exercise, and relationships. Are your children going to suffer because you are so drained from service that you are unable to meet their needs? Think about it. Do not think you won't be called to serve, because you will. But first things first--when we have proven faithful with the small things he will give us responsibility over greater things.
Curriculum, Activities and "Learning Experiences"
No, your child does not need to learn violin, 2 languages, Latin, chemistry, and all the core subjects plus go to scouts, play soccer, have his play dates, go to church and sing in the youth choir. No. Not all in the third grade! Just... NO!
I know people who truly have their children in all that and more. I would also make note that those people are not on my list of good friends because a. they don't have time for anything, and b. they stress me out. All that is on that list is good, and all of it can be pursued over a lifetime.
Kids need flex time, time to play, time to be bored. If you have not left them wiggle room, they will be stressed, as will you. Go back to point no. 1 in this part.
Even better, go back to the original point in Part 1. What is your calling, your conviction, your vision for your child? When you consider what learning experiences to give your children, consider them in light of these things. Consider if they will stretch your boundaries, tax your health, conflict with family life.
What Can You Do Well?
The average person can do 3-4 things well simultaneously (I don't mean multi-tasking). Consider what you can do well. For me it is cooking and keeping house, teaching the kids, exercising, and some area of service. Each child is limited in the same way. Each of them has their lessons, 1-2 activities outside the home, and chores to do at home. My husband has a job, home life and honey-do lists, and and at times an area of service. When things become stressful, it is like pain in the body telling us something is wrong--we reevaluate.
It Sounds too Simple...
Much of this article has been information that is really just common sense, but as my dear friend put it, we really can be masters of complication. Simplicity is difficult for us because it seems too, well...simple. We think that in order to succeed it must be more difficult, so we make it that way, but Jesus reminds us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. If we are doing this out of obedience to him and are listening to his guidance it won't be complicated, heavy, burdensome or anxiety-inducing. It will be a light and joyful journey.