I have always been a list-maker person, a doer, a planner, and a “coffee achiever.” (Please raise your hand if you are old enough to understand that reference). But this summer I want to–strike that–desperately need to do something different.
We just completed our 14th year of homeschool. Our oldest has graduated from high school, so just three children to go. I’m still in the thick of it with one finishing up college online, another coming up on his senior year, with a 7th grader and 2nd grader tagging along. I feel weary and worn-out some days, even when things are going relatively well.
Generally, I use summer to catch up on my to-do list so I can do it all over again starting in September. And frankly, that feeling of exhaustion and over-loaded-ness has made me less than a stellar homeschool mother. In many ways, it is my own fault for not adequately tending to my physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.
I try too hard to have educational experiences for the kids all summer: reading programs, continued family read-alouds, swim lessons, museum visits, etc. The irony of this is that I grew up with astonishingly simple summers, and I never felt deprived. My mother was a stay-at-home mother who never even had a driver’s license. So summer in my memory was church, climbing the apple tree in the backyard, riding my bike around the neighborhood, lemonade, sprinkler-running, and general peace and happiness. I never went to Disneyland until I was 19 and in college (and have never felt the need to go again!)
Somehow I have gotten caught up in the self-imposed stress of needing to make everything educational instead of taking a much-needed rest.
So this summer, in order to navigate successfully around another school year, I’m tossing the ambitious summer list I started. Instead of that enormous over-achiever list, I’m going to make a list (can’t break that habit entirely) of things that won’t make anyone’s Bucket List for the Educational Summer Homeschool. However, I suspect these will likely make my family atmosphere more peaceful and blessed. I invite you to join me.
1. Take at least one week off from all forms of media: TV, Netflix, Pinterest, Facebook, e-mail. Let your brain think instead of just responding or being distracted.
2. Plant something you love (I planted a tomato and a hydrangea), water it, and watch it grow.
3. Walk peacefully with your spouse, your children, or by yourself. Go on a hike. Walk around a lake or on a beach. Look around your neighborhood with new eyes. Many Americans are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder.
4. Pray for your spouse and family instead of planning, fretting, and worrying over them. (Read Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung)
5. Eliminate or distance yourself from at least one obligation, activity, or friend that saps out your life’s blood, even if it’s a good and noble cause or a long-term friendship. Don’t replace it with anything unless it is something that fills and encourages you. (See The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst)
6. Read a book just to read it instead of pre-reading all the kids’ curriculum or history or the teacher’s guides all summer—I’ve done this too many times.
7. Spend an entire day by yourself somewhere (museum, bookstore, beach, whatever renews you) other than your house where all those never-ending tasks await you.
8. Make a list of everything in your life you’re thankful for. See One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.
9. Excuse yourself from any guilt feelings for not returning texts, e-mails, Facebook friend requests, or voice mails for awhile. God told us to take a Sabbath for a reason. Give yourself a teacher’s sabbatical.
10. Don’t look at Pinterest or people’s Facebook vacation posts if they make you feel inadequate or envious. See number 1.
11. Spend time visiting or talking with your parents (if you’re fortunate to still have them) or others who are important in your life. Many days in the past few years I have wanted to talk to my mom, but she’s gone, so I can’t.
12. Write each person in your household a letter with a list of things you appreciate or love about them.
13. Pray that God will provide you with a mentor if you don’t have one, and/or provide someone for you to mentor who is younger or beginning a homeschool journey.
14. Run through the sprinkler at least once.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30 NIV).
Karen D. Koch has served as CHEA’s Communications Assistant for the past five years. Her favorite peaceful places include libraries, bookstores, and beaches. She is blessed to be Mom to four children, ages 7-19. She took a nap after writing this. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.