The mountain campsite, nestled in evergreen trees, beckoned. I pulled our forest green van into the designated spot. Friends who arrived before me had already pitched our tent. Nothing was left except to pass out hotdogs and marshmallows, a much-anticipated part of the experience despite its lack of nutritional value.

As we sat underneath a canopy of stars that night, listening to the crackle of the fire and watching the children lick their sticky marshmallow fingers, my soul settled in.

The next day, after a morning of fishing and an afternoon of building villages made of rocks and pine needles, we took a hike. The early evening air was warm enough to be comfortable and cool enough to refresh us. My nephew bounded ahead with my younger boys on his heels. He delighted in identifying the flora and fauna and cautioning us against getting too close to the Poison Oak.

I breathed deeply, enjoying the scent of pine. After a fairly sharp ascent, we turned a corner. I paused, overwhelmed. Wildflowers dressed in lacy whites, bold yellows, and delicate pinks and purples cascaded down the mountainside and a little creek gurgled and danced it way beside the trail, its melody a giggle of the joy flooding me.

Perhaps this particular camping trip stands out in my memory because the lavish beauty of the foliage was a welcome feast after three years of drought. I remember feeling totally refreshed.

Today I'm reminded of the importance of times of renewal. Like the foliage that bursts forth in the mountains after a season of good rain, refreshment allows our souls to blossom and become alive. Periods of hard work and busy schedules act like a drought in our lives. We need renewal if we're going to be fresh and growing instead of stagnant and brittle.

As homeschooling moms we need to pay attention to our personal stress barometer. If we're constantly worn out or irritable, it might mean we need to stop everything and do something that refreshes us.

Sometimes, renewal means taking a break from school. As a homeschooler we are in control of our schedule. Some of us school year round while other prefer a more traditional school year, but in both scenarios, it is important that at some point we provide both our children and ourselves with a sense of closure and freedom. We moms need some time when school isn't a drain on our thought life and emotional energy. Our kids need it, too.

My oldest child had a bit of a difficult school year. She started high school with a bang, but was soon tired and unable to keep her normal schedule. Tests at the doctor's office revealed a virus that had passed, but left her body worn-out. For three months we cut back on her schoolwork and let her get extra rest. She seemed to be recovering when she suffered an injury at gymnastics. The next six months included numerous trips to the physical therapists on top of her other commitments.

Through the summer Sarah and I have been staring with distain at the math and science that we weren't able to complete during our regular homeschool year. We've whittled away at it, feeling the constant tug of its demands. And Sarah has been tired again.

I've wondered where my energetic daughter went and why she never seemed rested no matter how much sleep she got. I finally made a trip to the doctor for another battery of blood work. Nothing was wrong. So why wasn't my daughter her old self?

After some prayer and discussion with a medical friend of mine, I think I discovered the answer: stress.

As homeschoolers it is easy to get caught up in the demands of the academics and miss other important needs of our children. Just we need to monitor ourselves and make time for renewal, we need to watch our children for signs of stress and give them time for the refreshment they need, even if it means occasionally lowering our expectations.

I used to teach public school. We never completed every page in our math book. It didn't bother me back then. I'd chart my days, accomplish what I could in the allotted time, and when the last bell rang, we were done. Here's an interesting fact. Most textbooks are designed to cover more material than can be handled in a school year. Few teachers finish the whole book in a year. In fact, most subjects are considered a complete credit when 75% of the material is covered.

Too often homeschoolers fall into the trap I did with Sarah, letting the curriculum dictate our teaching. Curriculum needs to be what it was designed to be: a helpful tool, not a demanding taskmaster. The book isn't the boss, you are! I forgot and let the curricula dictate our stress level this summer. And it wasn't good for my daughter--or me.

I have a friend whose son is a gifted competitive hockey goalie. He's also perfectionist, strong in academics, and dedicated to earning rank in Boy Scouts. Recently, he struggled with being tired all the time. His mom and the doctors couldn't find a reason for his symptoms. My friend canceled Boy Scout camp, packed away the schoolbooks, and put a moratorium on even talking about hockey. The family focused on renewal. They rode go-carts, rented movies, and played laser tag. After three day of complete rest from responsibilities, their son awoke and said, "wow, Mom. I feel like myself for the first time in weeks!"

As homeschooling moms we need to take into account our children's need for refreshment and times of play. Renewal doesn't have to be as big as my camping trip in the mountains, but it does need to be recognized as a priority in our life and in the lives of our children. Let go of an expectation or two and take time to play!

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A home schooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God's grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website offers home schooling hints, book reviews, and a free weekly devotional, Soul Scents. Subscribe to Soul Scents at www.soulscents.us. You can contact Paula at Paula@soulscents.us.