If you are a passionate, driven, serious homeschooler, you may very well recognize your inability to take some time off and put your feet up for a day or longer. We feel so much pressure doing this job, don’t we?
As a homeschooling mom who has perhaps gone before you, may I gently implore you to take some time off? It may be just a few minutes, an hour with a good book, or a weekend alone to take a breath and think, but time off from the 24/7 demands of homeschooling is essential to your physical health, the health of your marriage, and the health of your family as a whole.
I am not the only one who is encouraging you to do so; God commanded a day of rest and indeed, took one himself during that matchless week of creation. Rest, quiet, a change of pace, and time to regain focus and see the forest for the trees are good choices.
Easier said than done, particularly with little people in your home? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
1. If you’re a morning person, plan an extra ten minutes in your routine to pour yourself a cup of whatever-you-like and do something that requires no thought or work. Read a magazine. Take a bubble bath. Watch some television. Stretch. Knit. Whatever works for you.
2. If you’re a night person, all of the above applies but at the end of the day. Whatever works for you.
3. Don’t forget where our true rest and peace come from. Whether part of your morning routine or your bedtime routine, there is nothing that will refresh you like the Word of God. It doesn’t matter how you go about it, how long it is, how much you read, what you read, or who knows it. Whatever works for you.
4. Take a nap. Even a child who has dropped his nap may be coerced into a sleepy afternoon if Mom is cuddled up next to him, rubbing his back. Put some restful music on and pull up the covers. Whatever works for you.
5. Stop. Hang up the dish towel, leave the clothes in the dryer, walk over the crumbs on the floor, and stop. Whatever works for you.
The truth is, you will never be on top of it all. I can remember when I had four children under 6 years old and feeling very much like I was drowning. In addition to homeschooling the older ones and being pregnant with a fifth, I was maintaining my voice studio and spent several afternoons teaching voice students in my home. One of my students was a homeschooling mom herself who had graduated a few of her students already, and when I told her I felt as if I could never stay on top of everything and that the work never ended she said: “It won’t ever end. You’ll never be on top of it. That’s just the way it is.”
Wow. Not really what my type A personality wanted to hear, but I have reminded myself of her words often, even when I’ve given up extra activities on my plate, such as my voice studio. Even as I sit in my comfy chair in my bedroom tonight writing this, I can see the neat piles of sorted laundry and the bags slated to go to the thrift store. I know the family room floor needs to be vacuumed and the girls’ sheets need to be changed. It never ends, and that’s just the way it is.
So, given that reality, you must do whatever works for you to gain some rest. We all have different life situations, so there is no right or wrong way to go about this. You may need to take small rests every evening that allow you to wake up refreshed and ready to start the next day, or you may have the opportunity to take a week or more by yourself. I dream of that, but it isn’t my reality.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh understood the value of rest and quiet moments. As the wife of world-famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and mother of their six children (the first infamously kidnapped and murdered as a baby), her world was filled with childrearing duties, writing, social obligations, and the burden of living a public life.
Ann took two weeks of vacation by herself in a Florida beach house. It was there that she wrote her most enduring work, Gift From the Sea. A contemplative book with her reflections on the lives of twentieth-century women, Gift From the Sea reminds me in its short essays that the care of my soul is an important and worthwhile investment. My soul—and yours—needs rest and time to think.
Anne knew about the life demands that we home educators face:
For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals, and so on. My mind reels in it. What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby-carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now!
Does that sound like your life? Indeed, it’s very much like mine. Anne also understood the value of being alone:
I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.
I find that too. When I take the time to pull back, stop, rest, and not allow those laundry piles to scream at me, I have more to give to my family, and what I give them is truly “richer, more vivid, fuller than before.”
You know who else knew this truth and lived it so well? Jesus. He had harried, full, demanding days and yet he knew the importance of getting away for a quiet time of listening to God’s steady voice. We see one such moment described in Mark 1:21–35:
And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, “Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Hold thy peace, and come out of him.”
And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon's wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.
And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him. And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
What a day! Jesus entered the synagogue and taught, cast out demons, entered Simon’s house and learned of Simon’s mother-in-law’s illness, healed her, and then in the evening, the whole city gathered at Simon’s door, where Jesus healed the sick and demon-possessed.
What did Jesus do the next day? He went to a solitary place and prayed.
Can you figure out a way to go there too? Today? Put down the dish towel, Mama. It’s time to rest.
Kendra Fletcher is the mother of 8, speaker for groups and conferences around the country, columnist for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, author of several books, and podcaster on HomeschoolingIRL. Her articles have appeared in a variety of publications, including Crosswalk.com, Arizona Home Education Journal, and Washington Family Magazine. She blogs at www.kendrafletcher.com, www.homeschoolingIRL.com, and www.preschoolersandpeace.com. Find her on Twitter: @KendraEFletcher
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Publication date: May 9, 2014