That afternoon, as a gentle rain fell, I sat down in the living room with my computer and a cup of hot tea. Soft music flowed from the kitchen as my two younger children played a game together. My oldest son was sitting on the couch reading a book, and he said, “Mom, I love days like today. Life is calm and peaceful.” That simple statement spoke volumes to me. Simplicity makes life joyful. Simplicity creates room for reflection and growth.

Learning to Say No

This is where discipline comes in. In order to live a simple life, we must learn to say no! We cannot do it all. Let me amend that statement: It is not an issue of whether we can do it all or not. The issue is that we shouldn’t even try. Mother, what are the most important things in your life? Are you able to focus on those with excellence? I have to ask myself this question often. The truth is that I like saying yes. However, wisdom is often exuded more when we say no than when we say yes to everything.

Steve Jobs understood this concept, and it was his resolute attitude that solidified the successful results in his business life. At an Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 1997, he said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

Did you catch that? He was as proud of the things he did not do as the things he did. Would adopting this line of thinking revolutionize a typical homeschool day?

Striving for Excellence

We can conquer mediocrity by living the simple life and learning to say no, but there is still one more aspect to consider if we are to live in excellence. The key is in the striving. 

Notice how Karen Andreola encourages young ladies to strive for excellence in her book Beautiful Girlhood: “No girl can rise higher than her ideals. It is impossible to attain higher things than we strive for; and few even reach their ideals. So it is imperative that a girl set before her good and pure ideals, that she set her mark high. It is better to aim at the impossible than to be content with the inferior.”

Does the idea of being content with the inferior alarm you? I do not want that for myself or for my children. I want to aim high and teach my children to do the same. Of course, as believers we understand that we are to aim for the highest goal there is. Paul stated, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Just what is the prize of the high calling? It is to be like the perfect Son of God. It was Christ who told us to “Be...therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). This is unattainable this side of heaven, but one day we will reach our goal: “We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Until that day, we keep striving for excellence in all we do.  

This article was originally published in the Sep/Oct 2012 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Learn more at 

Kimberly Williams is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and three precious children. She is the author of the Living Out the Word series, verse-by-verse Bible studies for women. Her most recent book, From the Mouth of Babes, is a compilation of short stories about life, children, faith, and the world we live in. In addition to writing, Kimberly enjoys speaking to women and encouraging them to live out God’s Word. You can learn more at

Publication date: January 2, 2013