by guest author Katrina Watson
Editor’s note: While many of us are enjoying a summer break from homeschooling, now may be the perfect time to think about simplifying your home. The goal of simplifying is not only to enjoy our homes but most importantly to create an environment free of distractions where we can focus our hearts on God and love our families — teaching our children to do the same.
You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You. –Isaiah 26:3
Providing a smooth and peaceful homeschool experience for our families is an ideal for many of us. Whether you are the ultra-organized mom with color-coded file folders or the “let’s read together at our favorite park” style of educator, we are all in search of our ideal.
In my mind’s eye, I can envision a particularly lovely ideal. I rise early enough to have my daily devotion, throw in a load of laundry, and spruce up the kitchen before stirring in the last ingredient of my morning pumpkin loaf. My children joyfully greet me, and off they go to get ready for the neat and tidy lessons I have prepared for them. To me, that sounds wonderful, like a ship sailing through the glassy waters — non-turbulent.
But just like the glossy magazine covers, this is not always a reality. Some days are closer to my ideal than others. But we all know that obstacles get thrown into the mix. They drive us off track. We get out of sync and begin to wonder why we aren’t more organized and prepared — or more calm and patient.
Whether we are well-seasoned homeschoolers or just beginning, most of us struggle with our ideal colliding with reality.
Over the years of homeschooling, I have uncovered a few of life’s treasured lessons that I believe can help all of us create a more peaceful and smooth homeschooling environment, no matter what our ideal might look like.
In order to lay a firm foundation for your homeschooling environment, try implementing these three simplification areas:
1. Simplify Distractions
Distractions in our daily lives can rob us of the true joys of connecting with our children in meaningful ways. When we are honest about the personal distractions that pull us away from focusing on the moments in our days, we can begin to demote those distractions to last place on our list.
These distractions might include our phone that is constantly pulling our attention, our overpowering to-do list, or our computer screen calling our name even as our child is vying for our attention. Whatever your personal distraction might be, quieting the call from it will ease your mind and your soul so that you can focus on your true desires for homeschooling and connecting with your children.
Distraction Challenge: Ask yourself what is pulling your mind from your children during your homeschool day. Even though you are with them physically, do you have something that is continually trying to get your attention away from your desired focus? For your challenge, try to go an entire week with substantially simplifying your technology. Allow yourself two times per day where you check your phone/email/Facebook for only ten minutes or less, and after your time is over, shut it down.
2. Simplify Schedules
Early in my homeschooling journey, I felt the need to make sure that my child was so involved in “social” activities that no one could ever accuse me of not allowing her enough social interaction. Well, after I drove myself and my daughter crazy with all of the play dates, little gym classes, art groups, zoo preschools, and the like, I realized that it was just too much! My focus had swayed trying to convince others of something that I was nervous about.
I finally realized that it was truly a gift to be able to choose the quality of interactions that I wanted my daughter to have, not the quantity. Just like our distractions, our calendars and schedules can begin to dictate our homeschool days instead of us being in charge of our time.
Schedule Challenge: Are you trying to accomplish too much outside of the home? Do you find that you are constantly on the run and finding it hard to accomplish all of your lesson time during the day? Have you compromised the family dinner for the soccer games? Schedules can be overwhelming and create a large amount of stress. Much of the peace and tranquility that we wish for in our homes and school days will fall into place when we are not over-stressed with commitments and outings. Take a “summer break” from outside commitments and spend that time together doing new, fun things at home instead.
3. Simplify Clutter
About a year ago, I learned that clutter can rob us of peace and serenity in our homes. As I began to look around my home, I realized that my clutter was just neatly covered up by extreme organization. I had always thought, “If I just add one more organizing bin in this closet then I am set!” Later, I realized that I didn’t need one more bin, I needed less stuff!
When I was feeling overwhelmed due to my house being in disorder, I knew I had to do something. So, I took an inventory and began to pare down much of our belongings. With my husband’s blessing, I have cut our belongings nearly in half! Even the children have realized that a room overstuffed with toys is not nearly as fun as a room where all the toys are neatly seen and are able to be touched immediately. My spirit felt lighter as I rid our home of so many unwanted and unneeded items. Although we are a family of seven, I had too many kitchen utensils, extra supplies, unwanted toys, decorating items, personal items and clothing.
As the weight of “stuff” was lifted from my heart, so was my desire for consumerism. Not only have we worked at decreasing the amount of items we own, we have also worked at consuming as little as possible. We were able to bless many people with the stuff that we didn’t need and in turn, we were also blessed.
Clutter Challenge: Take a look around your kitchen and family room areas. How much clutter do you see? When you see the counters filled with “stuff,” how does it make you feel? Try clearing one or two counters and keep them clean for the week. Find somewhere to store the items that normally live on your counter. After a week, ask yourself how your clean counters affect you. Do you feel more at ease when you look at them? If so, try eliminating 25 or even 50 items from your kitchen and family rooms. Plan a trip to Goodwill or even the local shelters that are in need of those items.
As we begin to simplify our lives in the areas of personal distractions, overwhelming schedules, and mounds of clutter in our homes, we can more easily reach our ideal of creating a fluid and peaceful homeschooling experience.
Although these foundational changes can be difficult to implement, I know you’ll be glad you did!