Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home
If you’re reading here, you probably homeschool or are considering homeschooling. So of course, you’re someone who always puts family first. Right? I mean, don’t we, as homeschoolers, just naturally put our family life before everything else?
Gulp. Raise your hand if you’ve ever wondered what happened to those quiet family evenings spent together, if your car is full of wrappers from fast-food restaurants, or if you look at your calendar and try not to hyperventilate.
The truth is, homeschoolers can be just as overextended as everyone else, and like everyone else, we can fall into the trap of replacing family time with other activities.
I am not here to chastise you for the time your family spends at outside activities. Some families function best on an activity-packed schedule. Some couples enjoy connecting while they watch their kids practice soccer in the evenings. But some of us feel overwhelmed when we look at our calendar and think, “I just have to get through two weeks, and then we’ll have a free day.”
How did we get from eating supper together six nights a week to me kissing my husband hello/goodbye and saying “Fix yourself a frozen pizza” as I head out to take a kid to Bible study? (I mean, it’s Bible study, after all. It has to be the right thing to do. Right?)
How do we get back to that place of simplicity?
1. First of all, step back and assess.
What are your goals? Are you happy with the activity level in your family? Does it feel balanced? If so, stick with whatever you are doing!
On the other hand, are you and your kids grumpy and stressed out? Do you sometimes have a nagging feeling that maybe you’re doing too much?
2. Reassess if you’re stressed.
What can you eliminate? Do your kids really have to be doing two sports, Scouts, Bible Bowl, and book club? Which activities line up with your family’s goals? Keep in mind that “to everything there is a season.” Sometimes this is quite literal: soccer season, basketball season.
Consider, before you commit to an activity, whether this is something that will take 10 weeks or 52 weeks of your family time. Ten weeks is a season; 52 weeks becomes your life.
My friend tells how her family became disrupted with her daughter’s demanding gymnastic schedule. What began as a fun hour of lessons at age four led to three hours of practice, three evenings each week, and eventually to weekend competitions. When her daughter was 13, she came home and said, “Can I please stop? I just want to be a kid for awhile.”
At first my friend was reluctant to let go of the time and money they had invested, but ultimately they listened to their daughter’s request. “I thought we were doing it all for her,” my friend explains. “But really, we were doing it because we thought we should. Everyone kept telling us that she was so good—she needed to keep adding more practice and more competitions.”
3. Convince yourself that it really is okay to say no.
I had a friend in college who summed up an aspect of my personality quite well. He said: “You don’t like to miss out on anything, do you?” I really don’t. I want to go to every field trip, Bible study, book club, and exercise class, and I want my kids to have the opportunity to participate in whatever they want to do.
But you know what I want more than an activity-filled life? I want to have supper together as a family. I want to sit around the table and talk without having to rush off. It’s simple, I know, but these are the things we lose in our compulsion to do it all. There are so many good things to do, but doing them all isn’t necessarily what’s best. Your child’s future won’t likely be ruined if you opt out of karate lessons.
It is easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of activities and let the good stuff slip by.
We homeschoolers tend to justify our busyness by saying, “But I’m home with them all day!” For my husband and me, it’s a matter of reevaluating where we are in life (i.e., having teenagers is completely different that having preschoolers) and where we want to be as a family. Sometimes we need to do a little tweaking, such as deciding to go bike riding instead of vegging out on the computer. Sometimes the decision is major, like pondering a new leadership position.
Just like everyone homeschools in a different way, every family works in a different way. My husband and I have a goal of giving our children a spacious childhood with room to breathe.
When we find ourselves struggling to stand under the weight of an urgent need to be somewhere else, we know it’s time to reassess and reclaim our family time.
How do you balance outside activities and your family life? How do you decide when your family is doing too much?