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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Balancing the HOME in Homeschool

**This post was written for submission in the Carnival of Homeschooling.**

As a wife to a full-time college professor, homeschooling mother of three, ministry-minded daughter of God, avid crafter and blogger, and just all-around-busier-than-ever woman, I often find myself struggling to just "keep up"! Many days I feel as if I am barely keeping my head above water, struggling to remember everything, accomplish everything, and be everything to everyone.

During the holiday season of extras (extra activities, extra needs, extra things to accomplish) this feeling often escalates to the point of "stress". And, be it home or homeschool, something suffers.

I find myself asking, "So, how does one 'do' the proverbial 'all'? 

The answer? One doesn't! 

I have found that when I am unable to keep up, it is usually because I have forgotten one or more of these key principles:

1. My priorities need to plan my to-do list.

Have you listed your priorities? What is the most important thing/person in your life? My priority list looks like this:

1. God
2. My husband
3. My children
    a. Their relationship with God
    b. Their character training
    c. Their education
4. My home
5. Ministries I am involved with
6. Friends and Extended Family

Because I have a clear understanding of the order of my priorities, it is usually easier for me to put first things first and not feel guilty about the rest. However, when my priorities are out of order I find myself stressed and focusing on less important things.

2. Sometimes it is best to say NO.

We all know that there are times when we need to say NO! But, knowing it and putting it into practice are two different things! However, with a clear understanding of what is most important, it is easier to say no to those 'extra' things that seem oh-so-important at the time. 
A good friend told me once that, just because there is a need doesn't mean you are supposed to meet that need. Prayer for guidance is key to saying yes or no to each activity or perceived need.

3. Have a long-term plan and look at the big picture. 

When it comes to homeschooling, it is imperative to establish long-term goals. Then, when life gets crazy, I can step back and determine what I can let slide for a short time without jeopardizing the end goal. And this allows us to focus on what is presently most important.

For instance, there have been times that I have had to briefly set schooling aside in order to really concentrate on character training. This, in the long run, is best for our school since unruly children do not learn as well as well-behaved children do.When I neglect to do this, our schooling (and our family unity) suffers.

There are also times when we set schooling aside in order to help someone in need. While this may seem to contradict my priority list, teaching my children to help a friend in need is working toward teaching them godly character (#3) while performing a ministry to others (#5 and #6).

4. Remember Who gives me strength.

A friend of ours recently said that if we are getting burnt out in ministry, it is because we are trying to do things in our own strength.  

Um, Ouch. 

I love the verse Philippians 2:13, which says, "Because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases Him."  While I know this in my head, I sometimes forget to apply it to my daily life. Then I get overtired and stressed, and I begin to question my ability to 'do it all'.

5. Remember to enlist help!

In order to 'do it all' (or at least what is most important), I really need to enlist the help of my family. And, while enlisting my children to help with the household chores may help me to keep the house neat (short-term benefit), it also serves a much more important purpose. It teaches my children important character skills; like good work ethic, putting others first, initiative, dependability, and cleanliness (long-term goals).

Confession time here! There are many days that I would much rather just 'do it myself', because it is much easier than the minor battle that ensues whenever I assign some chores to one or more of my children. But the time accomplishing the task at hand affords many opportunities for character training, cleaning skills and growth in maturity. Which, if I look at the 'big picture', is much more inviting than the immediate reward of ease.

Instead of asking, "So, how does one do it all?",  I ask, "What should I be doing and why?" 

Balancing the home in homeschool is a daily juggling act for me. But, with the key principles mentioned above, I am able to accomplish what is most important and not feel guilty about the rest.

One of the things I love most about homeschooling is the freedom it affords--freedom to be flexible, to teach the most important thing at the right time, to spend precious time with my children. This freedom, when handled properly, leads to lifelong benefits that are so amazing. However, this same freedom, when abused can lead to lifelong regrets. The decisions I make every day affect the outcome of this freedom.

By following a few simple guidelines, I am better able to "balance the home in homeschool" and ensure that the freedoms afforded while homeschooling will lead to giving what is best to my children. And doesn't every parent want what is best for their child?

How do you keep balance in your homeschool? I would love to hear your ideas!

With best wishes for a balanced homeschool,


*All photos courtesy of photobucket.*

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