I came across this article in the Nov/Dec 2008 Homeschool Enrichment Magazine. It was very encouraging to me, and I had a hunch it would be for most moms I know, regardless of school choice. It is a universal piece, I hope you enjoy. Mrs. Lange graciously agreed to let me reprint it here…
Recently, a friend and I were discussing home education. She has three children, ages 3-7 and they are in their third year of homeschooling. Many days, she says, she feels like she is just keeping her head above water. I, on the other hand, have finished homeschooling my three kids, who are 24, 27, and 29. I never felt like I was keeping my head above water – it felt more like I was walking in oatmeal. I remember those days, looking forward to tucking the kids into bed and having a few quiet minutes after a long day. It was a wonderful time, but oh, was it busy!
We discussed some of the ins and outs of teaching the kids at home, this friend and I. She said she’s heard us homeschool veterans say how quickly the time goes. Then she asked, “What can I do now to make the most of this time?”
In some ways that was an easy question to answer, but in other ways it was not. How do you make the most of the time you have with the kids? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that lately. I guess I’ve been reflective, as our family has undergone changes over the past few years. Our oldest son got married last year and recently had a baby. Our other son bought a house and moved out. Our daughter, the youngest, is the only child at home now.
Looking back, the time did fly by! I didn’t know that it would go so fast. You just ‘do’ every day, trying to maintain, or keeping your head above water as my friend says. You know you are preparing the kids for the future, and you know that they will grow and change. But you don’t always expect those days to end. Before you know it, it is time for them to go out on their own.
So, what were my answers to this sweet friend of mine? I offered a few right away, but am still contemplating many more. Every family is different, every child is different, and no one size fits all. But there are a few general ideas that I think might be helpful.
My first thought was to say, “Relax!” The kids are this big for about two seconds in the big picture. I know; it seems longer when they are up in the middle of the night, or when the drive to hockey practice takes 65 minutes. But those endless minutes really do end. And you can never get them back.
Relax. Savor this time as much as you can. It is such a blessed season in your family’s album of memories. Enjoy the giggles and the story times. Enjoy the corny jokes and their innocent sense of humor. Enjoy watching them learn and discover the world around them. Enjoy and appreciate the milestones as they move into their teens. Pray for the balance between parenting and letting them have reasonable freedom in growing.
Make time to listen, to talk, and to really get to know them. Don’t force it, but be there. And be attentive when you are there. Start early and create opportunities that foster this. Start a quiet bedtime routine, for example, where you talk about their day. Or, make it a point to have some alone time with each child every week – even while folding laundry (us moms are great at multi-tasking!). Even if your kids are older, it’s not too late to start. Grab a cup of hot chocolate with them later in the evening, after the little ones are in bed. Hiking or biking with kids of any age is another great way to spend time together. Try reading aloud an evening or two a week; this activity has no age limits. Whenever you can, make allowances for real quality time for your whole family.
Even if your schedule is crazy, designate a family dinner night, and don’t let anything other than an emergency or family vacation preempt it. Family dinner night continues once a week at our house. It is now a time to visit and continue to get to know each other and the new additions to our family. It is a time to reminisce and be together. You can be sure I savor each and every family night these days.
Relax. Enjoy their personalities. Each one of your kids is special, like I have to tell you that! View the ups and downs through the day with an appreciation of who they are and what they are meant to be – how awesome is that! Aren’t you blessed that God chose to send them to you?
It hit me one Saturday afternoon after a hockey game when we were eating out. (When our oldest son was in his teens, he played on a traveling ice hockey team, so we spent a lot of time together on the road.) As I sat listening to my husband and kids talking, something inside told me to savor this time, for it wouldn’t last forever. I looked at each of the kids, and thought about their personalities and how they interacted together. It was sobering to realize that I needed to more seriously treasure the time, and a blessing to see who they were growing into.
Relax and keep it simple. We can all be too busy, trying to go too many places. Are you stressed? Maybe it’s time to assess your families’ activities. Examine them and decide what your priorities should be. There are so many great activities, so many worthy causes, but you can’t do them all and remain sane. What really will benefit your children in the long run, numerous lessons, events, and team sports? Or quality time with parents that love them?
Relax. If you don’t find the absolute perfect curriculum for each child, they’ll still make it through. At least you’ve learned what doesn’t work for them. I promise you won’t wreck them! My oldest, especially, endured a lot of stuff that looked so good at the curriculum fairs or in the catalogs, but didn’t really suit our needs. My two youngest reaped the benefits from these mistakes. (Please note that I’ve apologized to my oldest for having to be the practice child!)
The kids managed just fine though, despite my misjudgments. All three can all read, write, and do everything they need to do as adults. If they need to know something now, they have the skills to learn as necessary.
Relax. The housework will get done. Eventually. Assess the necessary items that need to get done for the sake of order and cleanliness. Things can be neat and organized, but don’t always have to be immaculate. Enlist the kids’ help with chores. It teaches them responsibility and gives you a hand. Take a few days throughout the year and have the kids help you organize closets, etc. to help you feel more in control. Or, swap babysitting with a friend for time for projects that you need to do yourself
Relax. Be spontaneous. Throw something at the kids that they aren’t expecting. Plan a surprise picnic lunch in the backyard. Grab some snacks and read a chapter of a story on the front porch. Make up a treasure hunt with some dollar store goodies in a treasure chest at the end. Take an afternoon and go roller-skating at the rink, go to the park, or catch a family friendly matinee. Why not surprise the kids with a ‘game day’? Instead of doing regular schoolwork, play games together. There are so many valuable skills to be learned through games, among them cooperation and good sportsmanship.
My kids have many memories of things like this, things that went outside of “Mom’s routine.” They thought I was pretty predictable, so I liked to surprise them and do something unusual sometimes just for fun. Use your imagination to suit your family’s personality.
As with anything, trust the Lord for wisdom. He is gracious and will supply your every need. Psalm 138:8 is one of my favorites. It says, “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me, Your mercy O Lord, endures forever; do not forsake the work of Your hands.” (NKJV) This scripture carried me through many parenting and homeschooling decisions. Feel free to apply it to your situation.
Relax and appreciate this time together. Take it from me, the time will pass more quickly than you ever thought possible. Just remember that the hard stuff will pass and will pale in comparison to the benefits and memories you and your family will carry with you.
I’ll keep you posted as I continue to contemplate making the most of time with the kids. I am now enjoying a grandson and am looking forward to offering homeschooling help if needed. So, let’s make a deal and relax together.
Karen Lange homeschooled her three children K-12. She is a freelance writer, homeschool consultant, and creator of the Homeschool Online Creative Writing Co-op for teens. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com.