Its that time of year again. Target is filled with frazzled parents clutching back-to-school lists – scavenging the picked over shelves for the correct brand of marker. Facebook has blown up with pictures of shiny happy kids on front steps or climbing busses. And moms everywhere are alternating between celebration and tears as another school year commences.
I tend to get a little jealous of back to school fuss. Because every September it seems everyone else’s kids are leaving and mine are still here raiding the fridge, making messes, and lounging like frat boys.
I realize neither working or at-home moms’ lives are as glamorous as my back to school envy suggests. No mom feels like she has enough time to get anything done – regardless of her work-life-school-home balance. But reality doesn’t matter when you are marinating in a little jealousy.
Last year I hit rock bottom and laid face down on my floor sobbing at the unfairness of it all.
But something strange happened this year. I’m not sad. I’m not jealous. Ok fine, I still drool over the thought of a quiet house. But for the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to this school year. It’s as if a seismic shift happened in my soul and I rediscovered the joy of homeschooling.
Disclaimer: School hasn’t started yet. I reserve the right to be a little miserable once reality hits and I resume the ritual of nailing Jello to the homeschool tree. For now I get to be Pollyanna. Ok? Thank you.
Maybe its because the kids keep getting older and I see the light at the end of this tunnel.
Maybe its because for the first time ever in my homeschooling career I won’t be simultaneously parenting a toddler and teaching algebra.
Maybe its because the grandparents ponied up for ski passes so there’s hope for the long winter.
Maybe its because I have finally cracked and fully dissociated from reality.
I can’t figure out what happened but believe me, I’ll take it.
Along with my renewed warm fuzzy about homeschooling came some general goals I set for our school year. I decided to share them here to hold me accountable. After all, telling the whole world about my yoga pant New Years resolution worked pretty well to keep me honest. And though I might homeschool and you might regular school – we ALL have to make it through, right? Maybe reading my goals will inspire you to set some of your own.
1) My kids will talk with me and I won’t be too distracted to listen.
I read somewhere that American parents, on average, spend 3.5 minutes per day in meaningful conversation with their kids. I don’t know where that statistic comes from and I hope it is wrong. But it haunts me. Think about how subtly real conversations get sidelined by schoolwork, sports, music, and activities. Without realizing it, dialogue can become a series of task-based short answer questions: What time do I pick you up? Did you finish your homework? What permission slip?
Even when the kids are home, I’m easily distracted by tasks, deadlines, work, iPhones, and the demon Internet. I don’t want to miss hearing my kids’ hearts. I want them to chatter about their day knowing I won’t brush them aside. This requires me to be intentional about the questions I ask and give them my full attention.
2) We will participate in activities – not become slaves to them.
Margin is necessary in life and its worth protecting. I want the freedom of spending time with friends or downtime at home at a relaxed pace – not screeching in on two wheels between swim practice and music lessons. I try to guard at least two to three nights each week with NOTHING on the schedule. I have four kids so sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. But I’m learning to say no. A lot.
My kids do participate in sports but I am up front with coaches about our priorities. We have been known to miss practice for church events, decline invitations to fun activities, and last year I said no to all swim meets in December. Period. If this means I am a C-minus sports/activity parent then so be it.
3) We will remain prayerful, joyful, & grateful.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Every September it feels as if a tsunami is coming my way. The battle for balance, priorities, and margin can be wearisome. I can’t do this without the right frame of mind and attitude. I don’t want tension or tasks to trump joy in our home. I’m creating room for fun and laughter – rejoicing in this season of life God has placed us in. And this year I plan to be more intentional about praying with and for my children every day. Knowing the Lord is the source of my strength, my joy, and any hope I have of making it through another school year in one piece.