Thursday January 25, 2007

     (Originally posted August 10, 2006)

     So many homeschooling moms I meet seem so stressed, worried, burned out, anxious and just plain ol’ tired!  Some even seem near to emotional overload. We’ve all been there at some point in time. If, as I firmly believe, God has called us to be the primary educators of our children, why are we so stressed?  I’ll give you a hint – the stress is not coming from Him!  We bring

the stress into our own lives.  Now that I’m entering my 18th year of educating my own children at home, I can tell you that there is a better way!

     Over the years, as I’ve struggled with stress and burn-out myself, and as I’ve talked to other moms who’ve struggled, I’ve been able to see that most of the stress comes from one or more of the areas listed below.  Please read through this list carefully, and with an open mind.  Too often we see a beloved thing in a list like this and automatically dismiss it. Keep your mind open to the fact that our most beloved “things” might be causing us the most stress.

  1. Priorities.  Where are your priorities?  If they are not in the proper order, then the stress in your life will reflect that. When I was younger, a wise older woman told me that the priorities of my life should be as follows – God, Husband, Children, Home, Church/Ministry, Anything Else.  Where’s your walk with the Lord?  Are you praying and studying His Word?  Daily?  Are you remembering to meet the needs of your husband? All of them?  Next would be your child training and homeschooling.  If homeschooling has taken precedence over your relationship with the Lord and with your husband, then things need to change.
  2. Curriculum – Yes, curriculum!!!  Is your curriculum causing you to spend hours and hours of preparation time? Does the pace seem too grueling for your children.  For you?  Are your children depressed and burnt out under the load?  Are you?  Curriculum should be a tool to aid you in joyfully educating your children. Your curriculum should not be a wicked task master.
  3. Too many subjects.  This isn’t the same thing as curriculum.  Does your lesson plan journal have space for twelve different subjects and you’re using them all?  Are you sub-dividing to make room for even more?  While I think it is quite possible to give our children a good education just using the 3 R’s, most of us want to do more with our kids.  On the other hand, it’s tempting to want to teach it ALL and all at the SAME TIME – phonics, reading, history, spelling, science, grammar, math, critical thinking, art, music, character studies, domestic arts.  The list goes on and on.  Let’s be realistic.  If you determine that your elementary-age children really do need a science program, go ahead and do it. However, you might consider doing the science program one semester and waiting to use that really terrific art program the second semester, rather than doing both at the same time.  Evaluate what is really necessary for your children and what best meets their needs, and yours.
  4. Extra activities.  Baseball.  Ballet.  Voice Lessons.  Karate. Gymnastics.  Piano Lessons.  Debate.  Co-op Classes.  Swim Team.  Soccer.  Choir.  None of these activities are bad.  Some are quite good and some are probably very enjoyable to your children.  However, how many hours per week are these activities taking you away from your home and from family time?  I used to have a neighbor who “home” schooled.  Every day we would watch her little car drive by, first with one child and then another, on their way to co-op classes or soccer.  Then back again for a short while, then off to music lessons or co-op French class. Every day this went on!!!  I was tired just watching her drive by my house!  Extra activities can quickly make life hectic and stressful.  Carefully evaluate how many extra activities you and your children are involved in and weigh their benefit to your family.
  5. Mom’s stuff.  Uh-oh!   How much time do you spend on the phone every day?  How many Bible studies, or women’s fellowships are you involved with?  Taking any classes? How about hobbies and crafts?  Oh, and how many blogs do you visit every day?  Ouch???  As moms, it’s important that we keep our own tanks filled, but sometimes we overfill and take on far more than we need, or can handle.  In doing what we think we “need” we bring added stress into our lives.  You might need to give up that weekly Bible study if the time away from home and the homework are taking too much of your time. Adding up the minutes spent, just a few here and there, on the phone or computer can add up quickly in a day. Again, we all love our stuff, but we’re only given 24 hours in day and how we manage those hours makes all the difference.  I had the privilege, a few years ago, to hear Elizabeth Smith, wife of HSLDA President J. Michael Smith, speak at a homeschool conference.  Mrs. Smith talked about the seasons in a woman’s life.  As an older woman now whose children are all grown, she has all the time in the world for Bible studies, and ladies retreats, and to speak at conferences. She does not, however, regret forgoing all of those things during her season of homeschooling her children.
  6. Our homes.  First of all, you need to know that I think keeping a clean, orderly and attractive home is important.  I believe it is one of our duties as wives and homemakers, though without the same eternal rewards that come from homeschooling.  Our homes follow in importance just behind our children. However, some women seem to make the keeping of their homes their first priority. Before anything else. (Scroll up to #1 above!!).  If cleaning, maintaining and/or decorating your home take an inordinate amount of time in your day or week, perhaps it’s time to take a second look.
  7. Comparison, and her ugly cousin Envy.  Are you worried because you think that your children don’t quite match up to your best friend’s?  Are you fretting because all the kids at church are learning Latin and French and your kids are still struggling to be fluent in English?  Is the fact that the pastor’s daughter is two grades ahead of her grade level in math causing you to panic?  Are you finding yourself wondering if you should take a part time job so that you can afford that great, new, wonderful curriculum that everyone is raving about?  The beauty of homeschooling is that we can choose what works for OUR family and let our children proceed at THEIR OWN pace. We don’t need to worry about keeping up with the Joneses or Smiths or the family next door.  And we don’t need to spend a fortune on the newest, latest and greatest curriculum. We can function within our family budget.
  8. Lack of faith.  Ah, hard one.  Do we lack faith in God?  No, you say?  Then why do you think that you cannot homeschool your children?  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – even homeschooling.  Lack faith in yourself?  God did not place your children in your home mistakenly.  Your children were entrusted to you because no one else – no one – can train them up in the way they should go like you can.

     Now what?  Pray and ask God to show you the areas where you need to cut back or eliminate.  Ask your husband the same thing.  It’s always surprising to me, when I think I am evaluating a matter clearly but cannot find a resolution, that my husband can come up with the solution right away.  I think it’s one of those times when we can’t see the forest for the trees!

     Once you’ve found the area (or areas!!) where you have let stress in, what can you do?  Eliminate it!!!  Cut it right out, right now!  Here are some tips.

  • Do what it takes to bring your priorities back into order at once.  God, husband, children, home, church/ministry, everything else.  This doesn’t mean to sign up for a Bible study at church and a marriage seminar with your husband (though that second one might be fun!).  It means to get on your knees and pray.  Ask God’s direction in re-setting your priorities.  Be sure that your husband’s needs are being met for fellowship, companionship, food (are you cooking for him, or the kids?), personal needs, as well as his physical needs.
  • If your curriculum or methods are not working for your family, get rid of them.  It happens all the time.  Trust me. That’s why most homeschool communities have annual used curriculum swaps.  Find what will better meet the needs of your children and will better suit you and start anew.
  • Ditto all the extra subject stuff.  Dump it!  Sell it at the next used book sale.  Or, if you’ve discovered that you cannot teach your children botany, chemistry and astronomy all at the same time but still want to teach it eventually, choose one and shelve the other two.  Or, better yet, let a friend borrow what you’re not using this year.
  • Call the co-op class leader and tell her your family will no longer be able to participate.  If you’re the co-op leader, call that eager-beaver mom in the group and ask her to take over.  She’ll be thrilled and you’ll lose the responsibility and the stress.
  • Call the soccer, little league coach, or swim coach and tell him to remove your children from the roster.  I know your son/daughter is the best first baseman  or back stroker the team’s ever had, but they’ll find a replacement.  We’re talking about the best for your family, not the best for the team.
  • Call the karate school, the dance school, and the piano teacher and let them know your place in the class or time slot can be freed up for someone else.  Never mind that the classes are paid up a month in advance.  The reduction of stress in your home is well worth the price of the lessons.
  • Resign from your position on the church prayer tree. Withdraw from the neighborhood Bible study.  Give up your latch-hook rug making class.  Put away the Teach Yourself tTatting in Five Easy Lessons book. 
  • Use your answering machine to screen your calls during the day.  We’ve had to do this, off and on, over the years; and I would take only calls from my husband during the day, letting the others go to the recorder.  You know what?  90% of the callers hung up.  Easy enough!
  • Set a time limit for your time on line and/or for your hobbies and stick to it.
  • If your home is taking too much of your time every day (or week), see what you can do to make changes.  Can some of your tasks be delegated to your children?  Can some of your tasks be done less frequently?  For example, do your windows really need to be washed every week.  (I have a sliding patio door that needs a weekly cleaning, but none of my other windows really do.)  Check with your husband to see the level of cleanliness that he would like and work to  meet his standards and not your own.
  • There are plenty of good helps available for scheduling home maintenance and chores.  If you need help finding them, leave me a note in the comments.
  • Steer away from conversations where women are busily bragging on their children or “sharing” about their curriculum in a one-up-man-ship manner.  Be careful to not let yourself get carried away in the same manner.  It’s okay to ask someone about their curriculum, of course, or to share what you know if you’re asked.  Otherwise, let’s be careful not to stumble one another in this area.  Let’s keep our speech edifying and gracious.
  • Learn to be content with what you have, especially if it’s working well for you.  Never mind if others don’t agree or are praising the benefits of something different.
  • Pray.  Pray that God would increase your faith like the mustard seed.  Remember that God gave your children to you and your husband, and not to anyone else.  If He has entrusted these wonderful blessings to you, what better vote of confidence can you ask for?

     There really is a light at the end of the tunnel.  You just need to find out what is obstructing your view of it.

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your household!
Proverbs 31:27

Remember to pray for Karen!

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1 comment to Thursday January 25, 2007

  • Thank you for posting this. So much for me to reconsider. We are only in our 14th year of homeschooling.. and with a little guy that turns 4 on Sunday, we have about that many more ahead of us. *smile*