I love getting your letters. Recently I received a fantastic one from a reader in Montana. She has six children and wanted to talk about how to keep up with everything and have joy in all that we do.
Those are certainly relatable questions for moms who have been in the trenches for a few years, right? And while I plan to do another nitty-gritty what is working for us for curriculum and independent work post, I want to talk a little about joy. Or finding joy when life is less than "Pinterest Perfect" which is just about always. :)
Let's face it, tears over math, crumbs on the floor and a pile of laundry may not be exactly what we pictured when we signed up for the job of homeschool mom, but they are things that every homeschool mom tackles. And real life can wear on us. It can be hard.
I wish I could tell you that things are just sunnier over here in CA and we don't deal with those types of problems, but-- Spoiler Alert-- I get it and I don't keep up on everything.
In fact, just over Christmas break- when we were not even doing school work- we spent an entire day cleaning, cooking and doing laundry. As we sat down to eat, I told my husband that I dream of a day when the entire house would be clean all at the same time. His response?
He knows that it's a silly dream right now. The old "shoveling the walk while it is still snowing" scenario. And while the day will likely come for that dream to be a reality, the truth is it will be a sad day when it does. It will mean no more silly giggles as children run through the family room being chased by their daddy. No more little ones running up just to get a hug that I didn't know I needed too. No more forts in the family room that use up every single chair or shampoo shortages in the bathroom because someone was doing a science experiment in the shower before me. Yes. The house will be clean one day. And orderly. But for some reason the older I get, the less in a rush I am for that day...
I'll be the first to tell you that I do NOT keep up on everything. But it's ok. We can have joy in spite of not having things perfect. How?
1. Focus on goals that last. Clean floors are marvelous (maybe miraculous?), but unfortunately they just don't last. A strong school day is wonderful, but without a focus on Christ and growth in grace, it is worse than meaningless. The single most helpful thing I have done for myself is to frame our family goals and hang them on the wall. They help me both to navigate and to be satisfied on a daily basis in a less than "Pinterest Perfect" world. These are the goals I keep before me:
That each member would have a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That we would teach God's commands diligently to our children.
That we would love the Lord and love others.
That we would be kind.
That we would be obedient.
That we would work hard.
That we would be self-disciplined.
That we would pursue holiness and cast off sin.
That we would remain physically and emotionally pure.
That we would seek wisdom.
REAL LIFE: What does it look like to apply this principle in real life? My posted goals might remind me one day to ignore a load of clean laundry on the couch in order to read a character building story to my little ones (I love books like Happy Hearts by Christian Light). Or they might cause me to halt the morning chore time that seems to be taking forever to move forward with Bible and Scripture memory first. It may impact our movie and book choices, reminding us to chose something that champions biblical principles over something that is more popular. It may cause us to decline an outside invitation (even for something really, really good) to focus on something far more important like loving and serving one another. Yes, it is up to the Lord to work in the hearts of our children, but these eternal goals remind me to do my diligence not to get in the way. I try to make sure that nothing trumps these goals. And even when other things are not Pinterest perfect, I can feel really good about that.
2. Refuel yourself. We are a model of how we want our children to behave when they are adults. Are we teaching them to refuel themselves so they have the longevity to love and serve others? I often hear people speak poorly of "me time." Of course, they mean being only self focused and ignoring the needs of our families. That is not what I am saying here. But in the same way we'd never think it was selfish of a car to need gas, it is not selfish for us to refuel either!
REAL LIFE: What does it look like to apply this principle in real life? For me, it means that I try to exercise (even if it is only 15 minutes) daily. I take time to be in the Word. One day a week I throw something in the crockpot and go to Weight Watchers (alone). I allow myself to do what I love. I take photos. I decorate. I enjoy my friendships. This isn't selfish. It is showing our children how to have balance and puts a fresh joy into all you do. We give so much as moms, that it is easy to forget to fuel back up. What fuels you? Are you an introvert and need a little alone time to recharge? Do you love to journal or scrapbook? Maybe it is time to do that again. Does music move you? Buy a new CD and play it! Are you an extrovert and need a monthly coffee date with a girlfriend? Do it! Do you love to pour over lovely magazines and read encouraging books? It's worth the time. Maybe you need a good laugh. Why not find a Christian comedian (I love Tim Hawkins) and crack up! These things are not just ok to do, they are necessary. They are fuel and help us to serve long term.
2. Recruit help. Don't try to do everything yourself. Some moms I know hire in a teen from church temporarily to help with cooking and cleaning during especially difficult family times so they can remain focused on their children. I recruit help too, only I use my in house team. Yes, in the form of my own children. I figure I do them no favors to act like their maid, so if I am getting stressed about the mess, I recruit them to help!
REAL LIFE: What does it look like to apply this principle in real life? When things are fraying, I may cut the school day short, grab the whiteboard and list out all the jobs we need to knock out together. People can volunteer for the jobs they want, then we'll just turn on the tunes (my kids love Carman) or a Lamplighter audio book and we get moving together. I really need them and they feel good about that. And they have learned to work hard (which is on my list of goals) so I can feel good about that too.
Life is just not going to be "Pinterest Perfect," but if we focus on the goals that last; refuel ourselves and recruit help we can have joy in the journey.