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  • Chill Out! Six Things to Keep in Mind. . . Before Losing Yours.

    So, you've bought all your curriculum for the next five years; you've signed your children up for Frisbee golf, accordion lessons, and oh, yes, beginning scrimshaw; you've scheduled every hour from sunup to sundown for teaching the essentials, not to mention a few. . . or a dozen. . . extracurricular subjects (they must know a minimum of four languages to be successful in life, after all). And about now, you are well on your way to sleeping a maximum of three hours a night and looking older than your grandmother (you know, the one who passed away 10 years ago) by the time your frazzled child hits middle school.

    Before traveling this route, maybe it would be a good idea to first consider the cost and effectiveness of a post-burnout makeover and after this little reality-check (let's face it, it's going to take copious amounts of makeup and plastic surgery), perhaps shift focus instead. Maybe it's time to make a to-do list of another sort. . . a “chill out” list.

    Here are six things to keep in mind when you need to take a homeschooling “chill pill”:

    1. Your children do not have to try everything.

    The above example is a classic case of the mom who wants her children to experience everything. As homeschoolers, we have wonderful flexibility in that we are able to expose our children to many things they would not otherwise have an opportunity to experience. However, just because opportunities exist does not mean they are necessarily meant to be experienced! And just because your child shows an interest in a dozen or so hobbies does not mean they are all to be pursued with intensity.

    Learn to simplify and learn to say no. Years ago, after a year of over-commitment and too much time driving from one end of the city to another for various activities and classes, I learned to think differently about my yearly planning. I now take a “what can I skip” approach rather than a “what can I fit in” approach. If a seemingly beneficial opportunity arises, I literally force myself to think of what our lives would be like if we didn't do it. I trick myself into thinking I don't want to do it and then I evaluate what our lives would look like without it. I try not to fit it in, rather than the other way around.

    Doing so has allowed us to fit in the most important pursuits and cut out the fluff. It's a mentality that is not always easy to practice (let alone explain), but will save you from much stress if you can learn it!

    2. Testing is not a measure of your child's intelligence.

    If you live in a state that requires yearly testing, it can be easy to become test-obsessed. But don't stress the tests! If testing were an accurate picture of your child's intelligence, then the test results would be conclusive proof that homeschooled children are simply more intelligent and that public schooled children are inferior in their brain capacity. Of course, we know that this is not the case.

    True, testing may give us a basic glimpse of what a child has learned. But ultimately, testing can really only tell us how well our children take tests. Children all think differently and bring those preconceptions with them. And do you really need a test to tell you what your children have learned anyway? Chances are, if you didn't get through the math book this year, you already know of their weakness in certain math concepts. And if your children spent the entire year devouring book after book, you can expect their reading skills have excelled. Personally, I have always found the tests to confirm what I already know, not tell me something I don't know.

    So, let the test results be what they are and don't stress. Feel good about the high scores and give yourself a break if some are a bit lower.

    3. Housework will always be with you, but your children won't.

    Let's be realistic here. There will be days. . . or weeks. . . when household chores just don't get done, especially when your children are younger and unable to help out as much. It is great to involve your children in the tasks of keeping a house in order. And in fact, it is another important homeschooling lesson that needs to be taught so that your children will be well-prepared to take care of their own homes some day. However, is having a clean home preferable to having clean hearts and sharp minds? We are undertaking an eternally important task every day in our homeschools.

    So, here is your permission to slack off a bit. Learn to overlook the laundry! Ditch the dishes! Forget the folding! Vacation from the vacuuming! You will be glad you did. . . if not now, then years from now when your children are successful adults. It's good to keep a neat house when possible, of course, but some things are more important. While your children are still in need of your instruction and attention, give yourself a break and make a point to prioritize those needs. And every time you walk past that counter full of dishes remind yourself of the fact that you are choosing what is best for your family. . . and that someday all the dishes will, in fact, be done!

    4. There is no magic age at which children should graduate.

    I'm not sure who decided that 18 was the magic age when all children are adequately prepared for the world, be it college or life in general. But let's be realistic. Some children would do well to spend a couple more years building a firm foundation for the future. Of course, on the opposite side, there are those who speed through their education and are already well on their way to self-sufficiency by the time they are “official” adults. Why should all children be the same? Or rather, the better question is why should all children be expected to be the same when they clearly are not!

    So Stephanie is still trudging through Algebra at 18? And Jessica has completed high school and is an entrepreneur with a thriving business at 16? Let it go. Give each child what he or she needs for whatever length of time they need it and you will feel much more relaxed! And so will your children.

    5. Last I checked, it was
    God's plan for our children's futures that mattered, not the state's.

    That little illustration about Stephanie and Jessica brings me to my next point. It is not the state that determines our children's futures. God has a unique, individual plan for each one and He will work it out in His time and in His way. There is no magic age for graduation, just as there is no magic age for any other academic milestone or achievement.

    So, does your child really have to learn about Indians in the first grade? Is it required that he memorize all his multiplication facts at age ten? And does global warming even need to be taught at all? Each year on this homeschooling journey brings with it two choices: the state's path about what is best for your child to learn this year or God's path. Being bound to the dictates of others is not true educational freedom. It is slavery. And when we are slaves to another's expectations rather than God's, we experience stress. We must learn to let go of the stress of trying to fit into the mold the state has created for our children and rather allow God to pour us into His mold. Pray and seek God's direction for each year, not the direction of another. True, your direction may look very similar to the state's in some ways, but if you are seeking God first, you can use the scope and sequence as a mere guide without it becoming your slave master.

    6. In the end, the heart is more important than the mind.

    As homeschooling parents, we often tie much of our “success” into the academic achievements of our children. We take our role as teacher very seriously. And certainly academics are an important part of this process. We want to equip our children with all the tools they will need to provide for and support a family someday. We want them to represent Christ well in how they act and speak.

    Take heart in knowing that homeschooled children have an automatic advantage when it comes to academics: They have one-on-one tutoring available 24 hours a day. And statistics prove that this is a great advantage. However, we need to remember that despite the fact that our children are likely to achieve higher rates of success, as defined by the world, the greatest success for a Christian is rearing a child who loves God with all his heart, mind, and soul. And as the parent of your child, God has equipped you perfectly for this task! Remember, that is the ultimate goal. As Mark 8:36 states, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” The answer is, obviously, nothing. If we raise academically superior children, capable of solving the most complex problems plaguing our society today, but devoid of character and godliness, we have failed miserably.

    So Peter flunked out of the online high school chemistry course? So Gary can't tell a preposition from an adverb? So. . . so what. If Peter loves the Lord with all his heart, mind, and soul, he is a success in the eyes of God. If Gary has kept his faith, he has profited. Peter and Gary can (and should) study harder and get more help, but in the end, if they are doing their best, they are successful in the eyes of God. They should be successful in the eyes of their parents and other Christians, as well! Let's not judge more harshly than God Himself judges.

    So, enjoy this homeschool journey! Do your best. Chill out. And let it go. When we diligently work to train our children in godliness, God fills in the gaps where we fail. He will honor those who honor Him.

    . . . those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed.” 1 Samuel 2:30
    If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:26b
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