Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Just Say No!

Has it really been six weeks since we started our school year? A quick look at my "year-at-a-glance" schedule in my planbook says it has. Wow. I look at how infrequently I have blogged lately and I can see evidence of how school has "taken over" for now. But, it's as it should be, and we are really clicking along. Everything that needs to get done is getting done, and look at me... even having time to blog after all!

A piece of advice I read a few years ago in a homeschooling book has struck a new chord with me this year. (Actually, it started resonating with me last year.) It was honestly a new thought to me when I read it. It was this: "Stay home." Hm. "Well, that must be for people who don't really have many involvements or who can't handle too many outside commitments," I thought at the time. I went along, continuing our fully-scheduled, frequently-mobile, gone-most-days life for a couple more years. At the beginning of last year I realized that God was impressing on my heart that WE needed to "stay home." As in HOMEschooling. At home. We have, over the years, enjoyed various co-ops, frequent field trips, and getting together with friends at a moment's notice. Mostly, if I am honest with myself, because of the "s" word. (Homeschoolers know this is the word "socialization." As in, "are they getting enough.") Last school year I took every single one of our organizations, co-ops, teams, social commitments, etc. off of our plate. Then I prayed for the Lord's guidance as to what to put back on. No co-ops went back on. That was a hard one, and I made difficult phone calls to some friends with whom I had enjoyed several years of "co-op"ing. (And who totally understood our decision!) We opted to not do sports teams for a time. (Note that we didn't opt not to play sports or enjoy physical activity-- just no organized teams and all that they entail.) Those were the two biggies. No Girl Scouts. (Okay, that was a big "whew" for me. Just being honest here.) Then I decided not to sign up for too many field trips. As I reflect back on last year, I realize that although I felt behind, mostly because of traveling, we were academically on our way back on track, and covered more ground than I could've dreamed. And the kids both had full social lives and plenty of outside experiences. It worked! Imagine!

This year is much the same story. We've been at it about six weeks, and I have closely guarded our days at home. It struck me this week that each day we spend at home is a "no" to something else. Literally. Every single day there is something else we have been invited to do, or an outside opportunity or class is offered somewhere. Even when we are at home, the phone will ring. There is an opportunity right there for at least one of us (usually me) to become involved, at least momentarily, in something other than school. That's not to say that we spend our days chained to our desks. In fact, time on task actually affords us some margin to say "yes" when I feel like it or have a lighter day. It reminds me of Psalm 16:6, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places." It's nice. There's freedom.

It's hard, though! I remember reading a few years ago in Genesis 15 about when God was about to make His covenant with Abraham. Abraham carefully prepared his sacrifice according to God's instructions, exactly the animals God had specified, cut exactly the way God had said, laid out just as God had directed... and then "birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away." (Gen. 15:11) It wasn't the birds' fault, they were just doing what birds of prey do, looking for a meal! But it was Abram's job to carefully guard what he had set before the Lord. It reminded me of my life, in a way. So often I can be seen, flailing away (usually figuratively, but sometimes literally!) at the "birds of prey." God has directed me to set aside this time with my children. Like Abram, I was asked to leave the familiar. I have left the familiar territory of a career and of public school life, and ventured into this land of stay-at-home-momhood and homeschooling. In preparation I have meticulously prepared our days, to the best of my understanding, according to God's instructions. But I must carefully guard what I have brought before the Lord. If someone plans a park day or a field trip, that's great! For someone. But not necessarily for me. Or not necessarily today. If my phone rings I am certainly free to talk to that person, but maybe not right now. Today's technology actually affords me the opportunity to find out who it was, what they needed, and call them back at a more opportune time. The co-ops, classes and teams that are available are wonderful opportunities for many families, but maybe not for our family. None of it is inherently bad or wrong, most of it is good, in fact. But not all of it is best. My "birds of prey" are not necessarily someone else's "birds of prey." What might be a distraction now might be a welcome diversion another time.

So, we have our school days at home. We have 2 days per week when we do have outside involvements- afternoons only. Currently if we are gone one day, we stay home the next. If I'm out one night (for a meeting or whatever) I'm home the next night. We spend more days home each week than out. The subjects that I feel are "key" are touched on every single day. There is much more consistency and predictablilty, and I am... calmer (though frequently flailing and flapping at those birds!) The kids are thriving, social, learning, and happy.

A "no" to something good is often a "yes" to something better. Don't be afraid to say "Just say no!"

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