PACE Yourself: Plan, Assign, Change, Execute
By Marilyn Rockett
A new homeschooling year! Excitement is in the air as you open packages of materials and prepare for the best year you have ever had! At least, you told yourself that you and the children would do that this year. That is what you want to do—have the best year yet.
The myth circulating is that a homeschool mom is supposed to teach her children (all academic subjects, all day long), keep her home immaculate, bake bread twice a week, chauffeur the children to two activities per day, and still have time for her husband and her church. Right? A homeschool mother certainly didn’t start that rumor!
Regardless of false expectations from others and even from ourselves, a homeschooling mother does have more to do on most days than almost any other human on the planet. Disorganization adds stress and frustration to her day. Can she teach two children—or ten—and survive? Is it hard work? Yes, to both of those questions. However, when you PACE yourself, your job is much easier and less stressful.
Planning well does take time. However, it takes much less time to plan than to try to recover from the consequences of not planning. Each morning stop a moment to review the day’s plans, or each evening take ten minutes to plan the following day. Take a larger block of time once a week to review the coming week. Ecclesiastes 8:5b-6a tells us that a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure for everything. That is only true when you take time to reflect on wise plans.
Begin with your (not someone else’s) priorities. The most difficult part of getting organized is making choices. When your priorities are firmly established, you are able to fill your time with the best choices, maintaining a sense of direction. Personal and family priorities keep you on track and help you say no to activities that do not fit your established priorities.
Conscious choices are better than choices by default. Talk about what is important to your family to gain better direction and keep balance in your home. Fill in the blanks for these statements: Our family purpose is _____. Does _____ [a specific activity] fit our purpose? Your list helps bring the family together for common purposes and keeps you on track when you are tempted to do too much.
Establishing a simple, basic routine built on a predictable sequence of events rather than a schedule of things to do at certain times affords freedom and flexibility to enjoy the important things. It allows balance for family, school time, and household duties, and it enables you to accomplish the essential things first, while you do things further down the priority list later. A simple, skeleton routine is much easier than a painful marathon and incessant struggle to catch up with the essentials.
Don’t over plan trying to accomplish too many things at once. Work on the things that bother you most or the things that are out of control before tackling other problems. When you prioritize a problem and set out to change it, you put the problem on track for a remedy. Your feeling of accomplishment when you see progress in areas in which you struggle motivates you to solve other problems.
A good manager knows how to delegate, and a homeschool mom will not try to do everything herself. You are a family, a team who works together. Your children learn valuable lessons by working with the family and learning responsibility. In fact, the children I have observed who seem to be lacking in academic skills have also been lacking in other skills, such as completing a task, following instructions, not getting distracted while doing a job, obeying the first time you tell them something, and doing a job to the best of their ability.
Find some method to help your children fulfill their responsibilities: chore charts, a calendar, pictures, cards, or anything that seems to work for your family. No matter the method, our lack of implementing the method well often causes it to fail. Proverbs 31:27 tells us that a woman “watches over the activities of her household and is never idle.” Watching over the assignments we give our children, whether home chores or lessons, is a very important part of that supervision.
Yes, children are children. That’s why God gives parents to train them. And that is the hardest part of parenting—loving, patient, consistent yet firm instruction. If we do not follow through with teaching them simple habits, we fall short in good parenting. Perfectionist Moms, relax a bit while still teaching your children to do a good job. More Casual Moms, you may need to tighten the reins on yourself to make sure your children follow through with what you ask them to do.
If we walk away from jobs, put chores off indefinitely, or act as though keeping our home is unimportant, our children will establish the same habits. If we complain (ouch) about household duties, they will catch our attitudes quickly. Conversely, if we display a cheerful spirit, we convey that these tasks are vital to a happy household, that a family works together to accomplish these tasks, and that family members are to serve one another with a kind and cheerful spirit.
The lessons our children need to master are greater than how to make a bed, vacuum a floor, clean a toilet, or consistently feed a pet. They need to develop perseverance, stewardship of possessions, cheerful service to others, teamwork, unselfishness, completing a job they start, and working with excellence as unto the Lord. Family chores are one of the most effective ways to teach these lessons.
I can almost guarantee that if you deal with bad habits in your family, you will see your children’s academic skills improve. Work together. Allow your children to see that you are working on your own bad habits, and help them overcome theirs. You will give them one of the greatest gifts possible for their future.
Have your plans gone awry? Does your plan not work well? Are you falling short in some areas and feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be afraid to change and try something different.
I homeschooled for fifteen years, and I ran out of sons to teach just when I was getting it all figured out! Adapting doesn’t equal failure. It means you are still working to do the very best for your family, for your children, and for yourself.
Henry Ford once said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” So evaluate the problem and begin again. We all desire balance for the many things that happen in our home and life so that nothing is out of kilter. No two homes will look exactly the same, and balance will be a bit different in every home. But some principles are common to all.
Balance is to know your priorities and stick to them. That may mean staying off the computer except for designated times so you can get your housework done or, conversely, leaving plans you had for the day because you and the children have an unexpected opportunity to do something fun and rewarding that perfectly fits what you are studying.
Balance is weighing choices about people against choices about mundane tasks, keeping both in perspective. Either choice (with people or tasks) taken to an extreme will send your balance flying.
Some love to work in their homes and others run from those duties. Simplify in any way you can. Perfectionists, relax! Focus more on people and know that you will get to the mess later.
You will; you can’t let it go for long. Messies, lean the other direction and get your work done. It won’t magically disappear! You both will feel better and accomplish more.
Ask yourself these questions to get a sense of changes needed: What makes you feel off balance? Are those feelings based on reality (i.e., a temporary crisis making you feel off track for the moment or not dealing with a real problem so you truly are off track)? What choices do you need to make to bring any part of your life back under better control? Is chaos in your life temporary or is it your way of life? Do you have overall balance when you look at the long term?
Seek God to know the truly important things. He is the perfect scale with which to measure balance and show us where we need to change. Confess quickly any imbalance He reveals, and seek to change that imbalance. Don’t berate yourself; just work on changes with His strength.
Plans don’t work just sitting in a planner or in a calendar. You have to implement them. You will not get it all done, but you will be able to end the year having accomplished a lot if you try, regroup, try, regroup.
Learn from others, sift out the chaff that isn’t fruitful for your family, and work on your plans based on where you are now at this season in your life. You, your particular children, and your particular situation are not mistakes. God is growing you along with your children.
Home education is not a project; it is a lifestyle, and we are here for the long haul. It is easy to forget that idea in the daily routine. By pacing ourselves within our own schedule, we will more often be able to stay with our plans. No one is perfect, so refuse to entertain negative thoughts when your plans don’t work out exactly as you thought they would (Philippians 4:8-9).
Enjoy your family and your children now, right where you are. Laugh a lot and know that many who have gone before you have succeeded.
These verses in Jeremiah encourage me to know that in spite of my plans, God has better ones for my family and me. He does for you as well. Executing His plans will give you the best year you have ever had.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13, NIV).
Marilyn Rockett is a veteran homeschool mom of four grown sons, and she is Mimi to six grandsons, one granddaughter, and three great-grandsons. She has worked in local, state, and national homeschool efforts for over thirty years and is formerly Editor in Chief for Homeschooling Today magazine. Her book, Homeschooling at the Speed of Life, provides organizational helps and encouragement, and she has contributed to several other books and written numerous articles.
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