“My kids are cranky. I’m exhausted all the time. We go-go-go from sunup to sundown, but we still don’t get everything done. I’m not sure I can keep at it at this pace. This isn’t what I thought homeschooling would be.”
I have heard comments like these from both new and experienced homeschooling moms. It doesn’t take long for the pressure to become unbearable—just a few weeks into your school-time schedule can be enough time for you to feel the tension. You cannot experience inner peace when your thoughts are centered on the constant pressure to do more and the frustration of unmet goals and aspirations. The relationship between Mom’s inner peace and a peaceful home atmosphere is a balancing act. Does one produce the other? Is one required for the other? Which one should you work on first?
I could give you a super-spiritual response to those questions, but from experience, I know better. Whether or not you have peace of mind or you suffer with Myopic Paralysis (see Part 1), your inner peace and the atmosphere of your home are affected by clutter, confusion, high expectations, and tension. So, starting with the school-time schedule, I’m going to tell you some things we didn’t do when we were home educating our children.
With few exceptions, we didn’t leave the house in the mornings.
Protecting our mornings required a lot of effort. Our morning routine included breakfast, chores, Bible reading, and academics; even with teens studying at the high school level, lesson time was over by 1:30 p.m. or 2:00 at the latest. During elementary and mid-high, the children were finished by noon or earlier. And my first or second grader usually finished around 10:30 a.m. If your family is not the early-to-rise type, then choose the time of day you will stay home to give consistency to their academics.
Honestly, there were some exceptions in regard to our mornings. When my children were young, one school day per month was Game Day. Another family joined us for the day, and the kids played fun table games that encouraged team work or helped build critical thinking skills. The children loved it, and the other mom and I had the chance to talk and glean ideas from each other. When my students were older, we were involved in a co-op with two other families. Every other week we spent a day together reading Shakespeare, enjoying nature study, and participating in an art lesson taught by a local artist.
The important point is the norm was to be home every morning for academic studies.
I learned we couldn’t do it all. If a great opportunity was offered weekly in the mornings, we missed it. In fact, there were many activities provided in the afternoons or evenings which our children could have enjoyed, good things that benefitted many families. But we determined what was best for our family and, therefore, what our priorities were. I tried to be sure our library day was on an afternoon we were planning to be out for music lessons, ballet, or maybe a carving class. I worked hard to ensure that activities requiring us to be out were on the same day. And we saved Friday afternoons for nature hikes and nature observation. Good, better, best are sometimes very difficult to discern. What is best for your family may not be best for mine, and vice versa. I remember discussing differing priorities with a dear friend. We both realized that what was most important to one family might not be as vital to another. And we each agreed to respect the other’s priorities though they differed from our own. The opportunity to think it through together enriched our relationship.
We seldom ate in the car on the way to an activity or event.
I remember times we took a picnic basket and ate with friends at an activity, but family mealtime was a big priority. The challenge to have meals together only increases as your kids mature and are employed or have volunteer opportunities. Sometimes we had to check everyone’s calendar in order to schedule meals together. And some years we made lunchtime our family mealtime because Jerry had to work in the evenings. Eating together nourishes much more than just the body. Souls are enriched through conversation, etiquette and table manners are sometimes caught, and at other times taught, connections and family bonds are strengthened, and ideas are exchanged in the back and forth banter as a family breaks bread together. Take the time to train your family to enjoy mealtimes. Learn to linger at the table after the meal has been consumed. Reject our culture’s idea that food is just fuel for the body.
The things we didn’t do helped foster my peace of mind and a peaceful atmosphere in our home. From experience, though, I can tell you I had to constantly pursue peace in our schedule. Learning when to say “no” played a big part in that pursuit and in finding my road to clarity and peace.