As beginning homeschoolers, we tend to be way more focused on our homeschool space and curriculum then we are on relationships. But just as engaged couples should be focused more on the marriage then the wedding, we have to be intentional about developing our relationships. That's what I will cover in this episode of the Homeschool Sanity Show.
Before I do, however, I want to tell you about The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner. I had good intentions of spending time with God, my husband, and my children one-on-one. But it was amazing how quickly my daily responsibilities got in the way of that. I still face temptations to make other things a priority. That's why I added space for my time with God and my relationships on the daily page of The Organized Homeschool Life Planner. We make note of what God is saying to us in His Word each day–something that is so important at this time. Then we choose a person or a character quality we want to focus on throughout the day. Keeping relationships in focus is one reason you will come to look forward to your daily planning time. You'll know that your life and homeschooling are in balance. Try a free sample of The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner at psychowith6.com/tohlplanner.
When it comes to keeping relationships a priority, there are five relationships that are deserving of special attention: God, spouse, children, extended family, and friends.
#1 Relationship with God
The first relationship we have that has to be a priority is our relationship with God. I could not do any of the things I do without the Holy Spirit strengthening and renewing me. I need God's word each and every day. That's because I hear other words that run counter to His in abundance. I hear them from the news, the radio, and social media. I even hear them from well-meaning people I talk with. I quickly become confused about what truth is.
As our students need drills on math facts, we need drills on God's word so we achieve mastery. Reading directly from the Bible each day, even a single page, will be a layer of protection for our vulnerable minds. Audio Bibles are wonderful for busy moms. We can listen while we walk, fold laundry, or cook. Devotionals are another way of reflecting on God's word that can be enjoyable for us as homeschooling moms. Listening to worship music can also keep us meditating on His word. I have been successful in memorizing God's word with my kids by using the app MEMLOK just five minutes a day.
Prayer is a vital part of our relationship with God. Rather than turning to others first with a concern, we can train ourselves to go to God. I enjoy writing out prayers each day. When I'm really struggling, I use truth journaling. I write out what I'm thinking and feeling and then respond to myself with the truth. We can pray throughout the day, using waiting, driving, nursing, and sleepless times for connecting with God.
Using the time boundaries we've established, we can ensure that we are spending adequate time with God. We can also experiment to find the best time to be consistent in our prayer and Bible time. We could plan it for the morning, the evening before bed, or during kids' free time. Whenever you plan it, you will be richly rewarded for having time devoted to the Lord.
#2 Relationship with Spouse
The second relationship we must prioritize is with our spouse. If you are not married, I encourage you to prioritize time with your main support person. The number one reason our homeschooling records will be demanded is because our spouse is protesting the validity of our homeschooling in divorce court. A happy marriage is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. As far as it depends on us, we must seek a healthy relationship.
That healthy relationship begins with time. In a podcast episode I did with my husband, I was struck by his saying that men want to know that homeschooling isn't going to take all of the time and energy we have, leaving nothing for them. Homeschooling can become another lover if you will, trying to steal us away. We should not allow that to happen. If we are too tired to engage in activities that our husband enjoys, especially if that's physical intimacy, we need to adjust our time boundaries once again.
Be intentional about reserving time for your spouse or support person. Put it on the calendar and make it part of your daily routine. Then treat that time with respect, and don't let just anything crowd it out. How we treat that time speaks volumes about how we feel about the relationship.
#3 Relationships with Children
The third relationship we must prioritize is with our children. I don't think it's appropriate to say that we have to separate our roles as parent and teacher. I honestly don't know how to do that because those roles have been blended in my life for over two decades. But it is appropriate to have a separate focus in your time with your children. The teacher in you may be focus on helping your child improve his handwriting, master multiplication facts, or become more adept at grammar. For many of us the parent role is like the law. Our children must learn by the rules and do well.
But if we work from law alone, we will lose our children's hearts. If you consider your favorite teachers as a child, my guess is they were not strict legalists who loved the law. Instead they were likely teachers who could laugh and clearly loved you as a person. This is what our children want to see in us. Yes we expect them to work hard and learn a lot. But we want to enjoy life with them, too.
We can know if we have become too legalistic in our homeschooling by our children's reaction. If mild complaining about starting the school day has turned into sullen and angry pupils, we need to take a look at what we're doing. Have we been allowing violations of our time boundaries? Are we more concerned that our children do their work then grow as people? If you really aren't sure, ask your children what they think your primary goal is. In The Organized Homeschool Life book and planner, I have an assessment your children can take that will give you great insights into your parenting and teaching.
The easiest way to make sure you are keeping relationships with children at the forefront of your homeschooling is to schedule time with them. Scheduling time for fun activities with all of your children is an easy way to do this. Have a fun Friday in which you do educational activities that don't seem educational. These can include field trips, videos, and games. You can also plan family activities to fulfill this purpose. A board game night is one example of something to put into your weekly routine.
But one of the most powerful ways of connecting with your children is to plan individual time with them. Depending on how many children you have, you will have to adjust this plan accordingly. With six children, it was impossible for me to do this daily. But many weeks, I could devote time to each child once a week. I gave my children the option of choosing our activities. Their choices told me a lot about them. I had a child who wanted his feet rubbed. His love language is physical touch. I had a child who liked going to a restaurant for a treat with me. Others requestded time to watch a show or play a game with me. Because children often fight to get our attention, spending individual time with them can help decrease sibling rivalry. And as children mature, I would argue that the relationships become even more important to nurture.
#4 Relationships with Extended Family
The fourth relationship we must prioritize is with extended family. You may have relatives who aren't supportive of homeschooling. Depending on how negative these relatives are, you may have to limit time with them. But in most cases, we do well to help extended family feel important. Relatives, like husbands, may feel sidelined by a busy homeschooling schedule–explaining at least in part a negative attitude. There are many ways to make family members feel a part of what we're doing–whether that's regular calls, letters, or visits. Family should be incorporated into the regular schedule if possible. You may be surprised by how flattered a relative is by being asked to teach your children a skill or even to be regularly involved in teaching.
If you have family members who don't know much about homeschooling, invite them to watch a video or to talk to a local support group leader who can answer their questions. Some negativity may be coming from homeschooling myths they've heard. You can also share what you've been learning, even showing family members the materials you plan on using.
#5 Relationships with Friends
If you're prioritizing relationships with God, your spouse, your children, and extended family, you may conclude you have no time left for friends. You may even believe that spending time outside of the home with friends isn't appropriate for a homeschooling mom. I believe that even that most introverted home body can benefit from friendships. Without friends to talk with, to pray for us, and to advise us, we can quickly become overwhelmed and depressed.
I don't know what I would have done without friends when my children struggled with a school subject, character qualities, and even faith. I needed friends to help me see that I was expecting way too much of myself. I've needed friends for practical help, too. I still need friends to encourage me.
With busy schedules, participating in an activity where the moms stick around makes socializing easy. If that isn't possible because of social distancing restrictions, consider joining a virtual Bible study or small support group for moms. But also pursue face-to-face interactions outside or in an environment you are comfortable in.
Time with friends can make the difference between staying the course in homeschooling and giving up.
Choosing curriculum and how to organize more materials can be more complicated than focusing on relationships. But relationships do require a commitment of time. I hope I've convinced you to make your relationship with God, your spouse, your children, your extended family, and your friends a priority. If you do, all the other aspects of homeschooling become more manageable.
Join me next time as I discuss how to find curriculum that will give you homeschool sanity.
Have a happy homeschool week!