Something had to change
"There will always be more you can do. You will never complete your tasks entirely, because just on the horizon is tomorrow, and tomorrow the to-do list starts anew. It is so exhausting—sometimes even demoralizing—to realize that our work in raising up and teaching our children is never really done. But we must remember that we were never intended to finish it." —Sarah Mackenzie (Teaching from Rest)
This past Fall, I felt like I was constantly hanging on by the skin of my teeth (much like Gwyn in this picture taken last year). I was keeping it together, but barely making it through each day. Getting through school. Getting to music, hockey, church. Not to mention trying to fit in cleaning the house and dinner. I was frequently staying up until midnight to "get it all done" and then waking up at 5:30 am to a 2 year old running into our bedroom saying, "Mom! Get up! I Eat!" I would harshly respond by saying, "Gwyn! Why are you awake! Do not get up until the sun comes up!"
I cringe on the inside every time I re-read that last sentence. TMS (tired mommy syndrome) gets the best of us, and I let it completely take over. So I counted down the days until I got a break from the mundane (and so very amazing) tasks. — I am a total happy mess you all. Complex with all the emotions. I have bad days and even months but I am always thankful for my life and these opportunities God has given us.
I looked forward to our trip to Utah thinking I would come back completely refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to conquer homeschooling and motherhood. Only, that wasn't the case. I was still short with my kids and quick to get angry and quick to regret the things I let come out of my mouth. I lacked focus and the drive to have fun and enjoy my kids. The kids' constant bickering made me want to hide my head under a pillow all day long.
Interestingly, I can relate my ski adventure to this year of homeschooling. In both, I went into the experience with an "I know exactly what I am doing" attitude. However, the moment I started to gain momentum and then felt as though I did not have control of the outcome, I would figuratively and literally find myself on the ground wondering how I would ever make it to the end.
Something had to change.
I stubbornly resisted a formal schedule because I wanted to take advantage of every perk I assumed in the privilege of homeschooling my children. In my mind, we could do what we wanted, when we wanted and in our pajamas.
I have learned this year that it must be more of the exception and not the rule.
If you homeschool, you need a sense of accountability and self-discipline. Everyone should be accountable and homeschooling is no exception. Last semester a friend told me she would love to know what my daily schedule looked like, and I was a bit embarrassed because I had a schedule-ish, but it was nothing like a majority of those schedules you see on Pinterest from the homeschool Moms who have it all together.
Everything in my "determined" spirit resisted a formal schedule. It is so often in those moments for me, that God brings me to the place of realizing that this life is not about me. I am not the one in control, obviously my ways were not the best ways because my way was breaking my spirit and turning me into someone I did not even recognize. The anxiety was overwhelming and I did not know how to make myself better regardless of how I tried to control my thoughts or how much I prayed.
"And I will give you a new heart, and will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." — Ezekiel 36:26
Even in those little moments I can so easily forget that God is patiently waiting for me to turn to Him and ask him to shoulder my burden and to fix the broken parts that I do not have the strength to fix. I desperately needed him to take my stony, stubborn heart and make it new.
I use to get a little panicky (maybe a little angry) when Josh would tell me that I needed to go to bed earlier than midnight. My time to get anything done was when the kids went to bed until about midnight. I fell into a vicious cycle. I would be up late, wake up to a toddler in the early morning hours and that would leave me tired and cranky. I had a hard time focusing, being patient and feeling stretched thin in all areas. Again, thank God for the women in our co-op he has placed in my life. Several other Moms were able to share how they succeed in homeschooling. Do you want to know the resounding answer? A schedule.
So, I decided to give it a try — here is what I have learned: I am better rested, therefore I am more focused, I get more done and I am more patient with my kids (what?!). I never believed it would work out that way, and now? Big time believer over here.
This is the schedule I have laid out for our family. It is not perfect and I have not mastered it just yet, but it has helped tremendously.
- 5:30-6:30 — Quite time (I need time in God's word to function)
- 6:30-8:00 — Unload dishwasher/get dressed/start breakfast
- 8:00-8:30 — Devotion with kids
- 8:30-10:30 — School
- 11:00-1:00 — Errands (grocery shopping/gym/library/play outside)
- 1:00-3:00 — Media time (the kids know they only get 2 hours max and this is when it works best for us to fit in this time, plus it doubles as Gwyn's nap time when I can get her there.)
- 3:00-3:45 — Chores (I tell the kids 1 time that it is time for chores. They know that they have 45 minutes to get them done, and if they are not done when I check, I take away anything that is laying out. In the following days they can earn the toys back when they complete chores the first time right away. If they keep up with their chores, they have the opportunity to earn $1/day.)
- 4:00-5:00 — Make dinner
- 5:00-8:00 — Family time (occasional evening activities-hockey, baseball, church)
- 8:00 — Bedtime for kids!
- 10:00 — Mom and Dad bedtime
Now, this is still a very flexible schedule. You better believe that if it is a beautiful 60 degree day in the middle of Winter, we will be spending all afternoon outside. I do not want to be bound to a schedule, but having a system in place keeps me and my children from meltdowns of every kind.
Not only has a schedule helped me, but the resources I read and listen to are vital to my mental health and in encouraging me in my walk with Christ, motherhood and homeschooling.
I had heard of the book "Teaching From Rest" by Sarah Mackenzie and told myself I needed to read it over and over, and excuse after excuse would pop up. But I am tired of excuses, so I read it, loved it and naturally recognized a handful of tips that would help my current struggles.
I could go on and on about excuses and the choices we choose, but we can talk about that subject another day. That is a post in itself.
In the book, Sarah Mackenzie adequately addressed every struggle I had gone through and properly gave me tools to use to change what needs to be changed. I needed to quit doing what other homeschool moms are trying to do and do the things that flow from passion and my strengths.
Another source is the God Centered Mom podcast, or Heidi St. John. There was a message that could not be more timely where she spoke to Kat Lee. Kat gives insight to her Mom game changer at inspiredtoAction.com. She talks about the importance of waking up for your kids, and not to your kids. GAME CHANGER. I promise, even when it seems like the most impossible task, do not give up because I promise you will be glad you didn't.
It is a constant struggle of fighting selfishness and sacrifice time and time again.
God is giving me glimpses of his vision for our life, what that finish line looks like and He so sweetly and gently encourages me along the way.
Sending my kids to school sounds like a dream a lot of days. Threats have been issued, and words I wish I could take back have been spoken. The issue is not my kids. The issue is my heart and the choices I continue to make and the excuses I try to validate.
The answer however, is always God's grace.
What resources encourage you and speak to you at just the right time? What routines or schedules have changed your outlook on homeschool or home life? What little changes in your every day have made a huge impact in the big picture. I want to know! Please comment or email me with your thoughts and encouragement. I am aware of my ability to persevere and encourage myself (make sure you read last week's post if you missed it) but I love new resources and I would love some encouragement from this community as well!
I pray you have a week full of abundant joy and blessings.