Just hearing the word Valentine's Day melts me on the inside! I love all the hearts, flowers, chocolate, and of course, the romantic dates. For those of you as busy as my family, your first reaction was probably, "What dates?" I know it gets hard to carve out the time and money to go on a date, but I want to encourage you to take some time this Valentine's Day to energize your marriage. Not only is this important for your marriage relationship, it is good for your children to see their mother and father spending time together. 

Since we, like most homeschool families, are on a budget, my husband and I started a tradition where we plan a really creative date in lieu of gifts to each other. We take turns from year to year planning the evening. When it is my year to decide what we will do, I plan something fun that my husband would enjoy doing but doesn't ever have a chance to do. For example, he really loves hockey games; so one year I took him to see the Dallas Stars since we rarely enjoy such outings. A couple of years ago we even started double dating with our close friends who also homeschool. It is one of the highlights of my year when we get together to plan the date. It's almost become a competition between the guys and the girls to see who can be the most creative with their part of the planning! This tradition makes me feel young and giddy again, and reminds me of some of the dating fun we use to have before we got married.

If you do not have a lot of money, there are numerous dates that you can go on that will not cost a lot of money. You can have someone watch the kids at a different place and cook a meal together at home. You can also take a picnic to the park or go walking on a nature trail. Many cities have cheap or free museums that you can find out about through the paper or your homeschool connections. Something my husband and I enjoy doing is getting a cup of coffee or an ice cream cone and just visiting together while we enjoy our treats. Even something this simple is a treat because we rarely have time to be by ourselves without the children. Since the main focus of a date is spending alone time together, you can be as creative or as simple as you like. 

Now you may be thinking, "If we go out, who will watch the kids?" There are several ways to do this if you do not have family close by that you trust to watch your kids. If you have a close friend that you trust, your two families can swap date nights and take turns watching each other's children. If you belong to a co-op, see if there are other families in the co-op who would like to exchange babysitting. If you go to a church with an active youth group, ask one of the teenagers to watch the kids for a donation to their camp or mission trip fund. I have even asked my youngest daughter's Sunday School teacher at church to baby-sit since I know that she felt comfortable staying with her. Another thing we have tried is getting two teenagers to watch our kids and our close friends that we like to double date with so that the kids think it is fun night of being together and don't mind being left behind so much. Your older children may even volunteer if you promise them something in return for watching the younger siblings.

Something else my husband has started doing with my daughters is promising them a date a few days after we go on our date. I love for him to do this because they see him treating me with respect by taking me out and then he shows them how they should be treated on dates by taking them out, too. If there are boys in the family, the mother could take them out and let them practice how to treat a lady on a date. This life lesson is a great way to model how to treat and be treated by the opposite sex.

Working on your relationship is important to keeping your marriage exciting and vibrant. There is no better investment of your time and money than cultivating your relationship with your spouse and I encourage you to spend time this Valentine's Day doing just that!

Andrea Chevalier is a worship pastor's wife and mother of two beautiful daughters. A former public school teacher, she's now focusing her gifts on educating her children and helping others to do the same. She is also a freelance author and website manager for www.educationappreciation.com.