You are one step closer to homeschool success when you recognize your limitations.
Words mean things, and I realize the word “limitations” has negative connotations. We think of a limitation as a restriction, a drawback. Our culture places enormous value on ignoring and overcoming limitations; an attitude that has resulted in some amazing discoveries and astonishing progress.
However, this mindset isn’t applicable across the board. Limits are often natural and helpful; they keep us safe from harm, morally, physically, and spiritually.
We are limited by the 24-hour day, our income, the available resources where we live. God is aware of these limits, and beating the air because we are not content with our state is fruitless.
So why do we so often set expectations for ourselves that would render Martha Stewart catatonic?
- our experiences in public school
- seeing everything as a competition
- the amazing number of choices we see in homeschool catalogs
- gorgeous photos in home and garden magazines
- an addiction to Pinterest
- comparing ourselves to other families
that makes us feel like we have to do everything and do it perfectly?
In addition, after we’ve set this incredibly demanding course, we think we have to be the Little Engine That Could, chanting the “I know I can, I know I can” mantra while climbing our self-made mountain. It gets worse when we reach the point when we are no longer sure exactly what it is we are trying to accomplish.
Sure—it’s all about the journey—but the conveyance and the destination are the tools that get us there.
We all have the same number of hours in a day. Some of those hours must be spent resting, eating, exercising, reading the Bible, and praying. These hours are not wasted—they are essential. We also need to care for our spouses and children, and for our homes. Some families care for children with special needs or elderly parents. We endeavor to live out our faith by ministering in our church and community.
Then add homeschooling into the mix. It’s a wonder we all aren’t toast.
We have many wonderful things on our plate. To nurture, be creative, teach our children—it’s all good stuff. When we recognize our limits, we can stop barely accomplishing dozens of things, and do fewer things better. We can use our limitations to help us thoughtfully craft our family and homeschool goals, and manage our priorities. Our boundaries serve to set a clear course for our decision-making, and this keeps circumstances from making our decisions for us.
Checking your motivations
Underlying every decision we make are our fundamental motivations; impulses and ambitions we don’t perceive, or maybe even want to acknowledge. Pride and envy, fear and despair—these can influence us to act from a place of insecurity and weakness instead of confident purpose. Recognizing and dealing with these inclinations can help us develop and maintain healthy priorities.
Some things are just more important than others. We know this. But we are easily distracted by shiny new projects, a minor crisis, or a sticky spot on the kitchen floor.
Most of us are very tactile creatures, and yet we leave our goals and priorities to float around in the ether as abstract concepts. Put it in writing. Create, print, and post a family mission statement. Stick an outline of your homeschool goals on the fridge where everyone will see them (probably several times a day!). This will remind you every month, every week, every day if necessary, to never forget your “Why.” Each time you are faced with a decision—whether it’s changing curriculum, making a major purchase, taking on a new responsibility, attending an activity or class—check in with your family’s goals. If there is a conflict, then you have your answer:
“I’m sorry, but this is not a good fit for our family at this time.”
You may need to practice saying this, possibly in front of a mirror. Get good at it because you are going to need to say it A Lot.
Dividing your time
Schedules aren’t straightjackets; they are excellent tools for eliminating time wasters.
Take your God-given 24 hours and divide it into time slots for all the essentials in our life. Don’t skimp on anything, as Scrooging your schedule will just sabotage everything else.
Then add in the other stuff of life. And while you are establishing priorities and establishing some routines, remember to give yourself and your family the space needed to breathe in between chores, tasks, errands, school, and activities.
Preserving your physical health
Taking care of yourself allows you to better take care of everyone else. Adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise are essential for both your physical and mental well-being. You can’t homeschool effectively if you are falling asleep while reading out loud to your kids (I have actually done this). Neglecting your health and burning yourself out is not the kind of sacrifice God asks of us.
Let’s not forget the most important reason. You need to set a good example for your children. A textbook or chart may help them learn how to take care of their bodies by rote or to earn a gold star sticker, but it’s the environment and home dynamic that will establish lifelong habits and a healthy mindset. These are needed for a life to be fueled by energy and focus.
Assessing your mental ability
A common myth of homeschooling is that the parent must do most, if not all of the instruction. This is not true.
Homeschooling is parent-directed education, and you can direct your child to pick up a book, use an online or independent learning program, or sign up for a workshop.
Be realistic about how much of your own mental energy you can invest in making lesson plans, putting together unit studies, going on field trips, etc. Choose your homeschool methods and resources according to what you can reasonably accomplish each day, and what will minister to your child’s heart, mind, and interests.
It’s OK to ask for assistance or relief when and where you need it. Don’t wait until you fall down to ask for a crutch.
I personally recommend a period of deschooling for every homeschool family. It doesn’t matter if your kids have never been in a traditional school, or you’ve been homeschooling for years. Our experiences in a traditional school have conditioned many of us to accept certain things about education that are simply not conducive to learning. Deschooling gives you and your kids much needed time to adjust to a ‘lifestyle’ of learning instead of read-the-chapter-answer-the-questions from 9am to 3pm.
Inventory your resources
Your budget, the size of your home, friends and family nearby for support, access to the library and internet—these are all resources. Your homeschool inventory should outline how you can use each of these to accomplish your goals.
Don’t get off track by coveting someone else’s resources—this gets you absolutely nowhere, and makes you miserable and ineffective. Instead, factor your available resources in to your homeschool plan.
It may be the beginning of yet another homeschool year, or the first year of your homeschool journey, but now is always a good time to recognize your limitations and guard against the things that drain you of focus, energy, and joy.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things … I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.1 Cor. 9:25-27