October 31, 2020

Taking Care Of Yourself Is Not Selfish; It’s Necessary

Homeschooling requires a life of self-sacrifice in order to work, but in that truth lies the temptation to be proud of our “humility.” The Lord taught me an incredibly difficult lesson last year by revealing how much I had idolized my act of serving, which had really become nothing more than a practical application of works righteousness, and in it, I found no Jesus and no joy.

I learned what others had been trying to tell me, and what I had largely ignored all in the name of motherhood: burnout is not a mark of godliness, and taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s necessary. 

I want to be careful not to encourage an entitlement attitude, in which any kind and any number of luxuries become a prescription for self-care. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I simply mean that if you are a child of God, your body, mind, and soul belong to the Lord and need to be taken care of so that you can be used mightily in His service. You are human – the temple of the Holy Spirit, not the Holy Spirit; and therefore, you need refreshing!

Paul alludes to the fact that caring for ourselves is a basic need of humanity in his exhortation to married couples: “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.” (Ephesians 5:29)

Apart from daily immersion in God’s Word, and a heart that is fixated on Him for sustenance,  one of the best ways homeschooling moms can take care of themselves is by simplifying their lives. 

Keeping things simple reduces the amount of clutter that can clog our minds and hurl us into overwhelm. Don’t go insane. Don’t think you can do it all.  Simplify your homeschool and see if you have a more peaceful and productive year in which you are acutely aware of the beauty and blessing of the Lord’s presence.

7 Areas To Simplify For Homeschool Sanity

1. Simplify your curriculum. By simple, I don’t mean stupid or dumbed down; I’m referring to the curriculum that is self-paced and not labor intensive for mom. Choosing a simple program is especially important if you have many young children that need your help.

Some curriculum methods require ridiculous amounts of prep-work to teach a concept that could be easily taught without all the printing, cutting, pasting and laminating. Work smarter, not harder, as the saying goes.

I really struggled with finding the energy to teach last year and felt like I was ripping our children off on their education, but the Lord graciously blessed my feeble efforts and by God’s grace alone, they soared! They learned so much more than I ever imagined possible and I learned that simplicity can be more effective than complexity.

I hope to expound a bit more about our curriculum choices for this year in a future post, but our simplified selection involves just Bible, math, reading, copy work (covering handwriting, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary), art, and unit studies (covering science, geography, music, and several other skills).

2. Simplify your schedule. Commit to not over-committing! It’s possible to be involved in so many extra-curricular actives that you’re never home. And when you’re never home, the housework gets behind, the laundry piles up, and the gardens don’t weed themselves.

Teaching your children how to run a smooth and efficient household by your own example is an extraordinarily valuable feature homeschooling allows for that we too often under-estimate! Take advantage of the opportunity you have to teach your children life skills at home.

3. Simplify your meal planning. Supper time: it rolls around every day, whether we’re prepared for it or not. Last year, we ate far too much take-out and sandwiches than I’d like to admit. I know eating well is critical to feeling well, but menu planning is my nemesis at the best of times, and it was non-existent when I burned out. Even though the world wide web is full of recipes we can enjoy, I had no time or energy to siphon them all into a different set of meals for each week.

Back in May, I signed up for Build A Menu’s Done-4-U plan that comes free with their Classic Plan. It’s a $29.95 value and it comes in so handy for weeks you don’t have time to build your own menu! Every Friday, I get a complete Trim Healthy Mama menu with recipes for 7 days (you can also choose from other options including Low Carb, Gluten-Free, Paleo, and Clean Eating), and a well-organized, budget-friendly grocery list that usually runs around $75-$85 for all the ingredients.

All I have to do is click “Print” and I’m done.

P.S. Build A Menu is having their bi-annual sale this week, which means you can get a 1-year subscription for $35. The Done 4-U Plans ($29.95 value) comes FREE with their Classic Plan. I have both, but prefer the Done-4-U plan because it requires no work at all, except opening an email and printing the attachment!

4. Simplify activities. Pinterest is a good place to avoid if you’re already feeling maxed out. It’s full of inspiring ideas, yes, but it can also induce needless feelings of “Mommy-guilt.”

Crafts and projects that require three dozen supplies and ingredients (none of which you regularly carry in the house), parental supervision, aftermath cleanup, and take the entire morning to complete, are not necessary components of a good homeschool. They can be great fun, but just as fun and educational is watching a child’s creativity soar when supplies are kept to a minimum.

I pared down our craft supplies to the basics and discovered that the kids wanted to do these activities more often, simply because they could easily find what they needed. I let them have free reign over the recycle bin (stored in the garage, out of my sight) and the projects they’ve come up with on their own using empty yogurt containers, tin cans, and newspaper have required more imagination, independent discovery, and fine motor skills than I ever could have structured.

5. Simplify with routine. Children thrive on routine! When you both know what to expect and are able to anticipate the next thing, they feel secure and motivated, and your burden of coming up with ideas to keep them busy is removed. Find a routine that works for your family and stick with it (allowing for flexibility, of course!). See if you don’t notice better behavior and increased presence of peace in your home.

6. Simplify your toys. See #4. The fewer toys you have, the more creative your children are encouraged to be. Clean up is less daunting, and you’ll have more time and space for other things.

Invest in a few timeless, durable, classic toys that have a proven track record instead of wasting your money and square footage on cheaply made clutter that breaks after a few uses, the latest trends that get old fast, and toys that require a thousand teeny tiny parts which easily get lost.

I purge our toy room twice a year and it amazes me how much we find to give away. We don’t even buy our children toys (unless it’s Lego!), but somehow they have a way of accumulating! Anything that is broken, missing parts, or isn’t played with regularly enough to justify the space it takes up, gets thrown out or donated.

I always end up paring back down to the basics: Lego, wooden blocks, dolls, play kitchen accessories, miniature tractors and construction vehicles, dress-up clothes, puzzles, plastic animals, balls, pails, shovels, and skipping ropes.

7. Simplify your wardrobes. Does it feel like you’re constantly behind on laundry, that no one has anything to wear, and yet when you walk into their bedrooms, you find yourself knee-deep in clothes? There’s an easy solution to this epidemic problem! Get rid of the excess.

Our family of six has gone from 6-8 loads of laundry a week to four after I finally realized that no one needs thirteen long-sleeve shirts and twenty-seven pairs of pants. If you want less laundry, a cleaner house, and children who can find a complete, matching, clean outfit in seconds, try this strategy; it has made a huge difference in our home:

  • Grab three large garbage bags or boxes for each bedroom in the house and label them “Sell,” “Donate,” and “Throw out.”
  • Go through all the clothes and find 3-5 complete, matching outfits for each child for each season (I split their clothes into two seasons, warm weather and cold weather).
  • Make sure each season includes at least one dressy outfit, two play outfits, and a “going away” outfit. Three pairs of pajamas and a week’s worth of socks and underwear are sufficient.
  • Divide anything left over between the three garbage bags. I sell as much as I can online in Facebook groups or to commission-based thrift stores in our area and donate the rest. If an item is truly worn out, I trash it.

To enforce our minimalist wardrobes, I’ve found it helpful to remove any extra hangers from our closets so only the things that are “allowed” to be in the closet have a place to hang. We also removed a dresser from the girls’ bedroom and have them sharing one instead. It’s harder to accumulate stuff when there’s no room for it!

If our children get something new, something old has to go. I keep a donation bag on the go at all times and so we have a place to file away the excess. Clothes that are too small for one child but still too big for the next, are stored in a clearly labeled tote box in the closet of the next recipient.

Simplifying these areas of our lifestyle has drastically improved my physical and mental stamina because it’s left me with time for important things. If busyness brings forth bitterness and stuff is stimulating stress, clear the clutter; find satisfaction and purpose in making time and space to pursue the God of beauty and order our hearts crave to know.

There’s nothing redeeming about running yourself ragged. A spiritually, physically, and emotionally happy and healthy mother dedicated to God’s service is a gift to the whole family.

No, rather, the whole world.

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