Bones. Without them we would be a useless heap on the ground. We would get nowhere fast. Our bones are the structure and foundation of a body in motion.
And using that metaphor I would say the same thing about the homeschool lifestyle. Without bones our days begin to feel like a useless heap of nothing. We suffer from a lack of healthy structure and because of this we just spin our wheels. After a while guilt sets in, then irritability, then panic, then burnout. The only way I have found to avoid burnout and to live a healthy and happy life is to always make sure we are…getting the bones right. This job is never completed, it is the joyous repetition of a life built one moment at a time…one day at a time. What is done today has to be repeated tomorrow, and through the habit of good living we find true fulfillment and happiness. And the homeschool lifestyle makes this process so easy…it is the main reason I have continued to homeschool all these years. I love the lifestyle it affords.
When I find myself in any of the various burnout stages I listed above, it may take me awhile, but eventually I begin again. I recommit to bone health, and before I know it things are running smoothly. (As smooth as things can in a household of seven.) As I begin the very fulfilling process of building healthy bones I have a few principles I try to follow. They are simple, but they are the most important for me as I work because I could very easily succumb to idol fashioning and perfectionism. And those two things give the appearance of health and happiness, but in reality they produce the exact opposites…anxiety, stress, covetousness, envy, and strife. It is a real temptation when things on the homeschool front feel completely out of control and chaotic, to go at our lives in a frenzied panic and try the fix everything. This is not what I am speaking of when I say I begin again, and the principles I follow ensure that I keep my true desires, which are health and happiness, as my goal. They are:
- Do not try to be someone I am not.
- Accept the family personality and natural environment of our home.
- Lower my expectations…less is more.
These three principles were hard fought…it has taken me years to know and accept. I still struggle, but at least now I know what my true enemies are, and they do not include schedules, curriculum, or the lack thereof. As I look at each of these principles I am filled with a wisdom that only personal struggle could produce, and I know I still have so much to learn and work out in my own heart. However, the principles are full of potential and they bring a sense of freedom into my life that can only be characterized as JOY!
When I accept that I do not have to be scared, when I open my arms to the gladsome lights and let the sun set in my heart, I do not fear the dark..the unknown. Because the sun rises in the east, and our days are redeemed because of the resurrection…every morning is a new PASCHA! We live Pascha everyday in our hearts…every day is full of life generating potential.
So how can I refocus and let the principles guide me? Before I begin any real work it is essential for me to center my heart on the principles…then the work is fun and easy!
Do not try to be someone I am not. The first word that warrants considering in that sentence is try. I can try to be someone else, thinking I am the real problem in the home…my tendencies, my weaknesses, my personality, my expectations, my interests, they ALL have to change. I can try to change the core of who I am, but I will fail. And this trying will be like beating my head against a brick wall until it is bloody.
Know thyself, accept thyself, better thyself.
A few things I know and accept about myself.
-I work good under deadlines.
-I need time outside of the home on a weekly basis to interact with people.
-I am not a rule person.
-I do not enjoy schedules, but prefer routines.
-I am slow and contemplative in the morning.
-I like to get up before everyone else is awake.
Accept the personality of my family and the natural environment of the home.
The same guiding principle can be applied to the family. It is fruitless to try and make my family be something we are not, or to fashion the home environment in a way that does not speak to the core of our family style. When I try it is a bit like herding cats. However, when I settle in and find the natural rhythm and energy of our family lifestyle everyone in the home flourishes.
A few things I know about my family.
-We like good, wholesome, tasty food.
-We like to relax in the evenings with uninterrupted free time.
-We are social, but value time alone as well.
-We are not black and white rule people.
-We like to watch movies together.
-We love to be spontaneous and explore.
-Our core belief system is found in finding the middle way. We believe that virtue is in the center of two extremes.
-We like to work together.
-We live at a slower pace…but we are steadfast and consistent.
-Nobody in this house likes schedules…but thrive on routine.
-We get burned out and irritable if there are no groceries in the house, if the calendar gets too full, or there is too much drama in the house.
Lower my expectations…less is more. I am not advocating mediocrity. However, I have come to realize that the plan in my head is a plan on steroids. In reality the plan for our family, including our homeschool day, needs to be brought down about three or four notches before I try to implement any requirements or routines. The guiding principle is…less is more. And this cliche is popular because IT WORKS! I would rather do small simple things with full attention and heart, than fail at big things because they were just too big! When I consider the first two principles, my personality…my family’s personality, I know that there are some things that are just TOO BIG for us.
-A 5 AM wake time…or even 6, maybe 7…8 AM is more doable.
-Scheduled school that lasts past 2 PM.
-Educational activities in the evenings. We like to relax and do leisure activities.
-A schedule that has time blocked off in thirty minute intervals or even hourly.
-Scheduled activities in the evenings more than one or two nights a week. Two is pushing it.
-Family read aloud.
You get the idea. Before I begin any real work, ordering books, making plans, arranging schedules, making commitments I have to remind myself of my three guiding principles. And I have to hold myself accountable to what I know and accept about real life in this family. What is interesting about this exercise is that it almost eliminates fear and control. Instead of living our lives in blocks of time, measuring success by the accomplishments of the hour, our life takes on a more fluid and peaceful feeling of being REAL. And that feels good.