by Marilyn Rockett
Now let me get this straight—a homeschool mom is supposed to teach her children (all academic subjects, all day long) while she keeps her home immaculate, bakes bread twice a week, chauffeurs the children to two activities per day―and then still have time for her husband and her church. Right? A homeschool mother certainly didn’t start that rumor!
Regardless of false expectations, 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. Is it possible to homeschool two children—or ten—and survive? Is it hard work? Yes, to both of those questions. However, when you’re organized, your job is much easier and less stressful.
What does organization look like? Let’s eliminate the things that organization is not. It’s not having a perfect home that could go on the cover of a magazine at all times. It is not running a boot camp in your home, never allowing a mess. It certainly isn’t having closets that could pose for the organized closet advertisements.
Organization is a state of mind and heart that desires God’s best for your home and family and the willingness to do whatever you need to do to work toward that best. It is a recognition that little things count. Elisabeth Elliot said it well in her book, Keep a Quiet Heart:
It is not easy to find children or adults who are dependable, careful, thorough, and faithful. So many lives seem honeycombed with small failures, neglectful of the little things that make the difference between order and chaos. Perhaps it is because they are so seldom taught that visible things are signs of an invisible reality; that common duties may be “an immeasurable ministry of love” (Revell, 1995).
If you experience stress due to disorganization, perhaps applying these ten principles will help you “stress less” in your home and homeschool.
S ee God’s Perspective
In the bustle of life, we often are shortsighted and don’t realize how much the little things count. Training your children in the importance of everyday duties is as necessary as training them in academic subjects. God is a God of order; He made us in His image; and Scripture is replete with admonitions to plan well, count our days, and do things decently and in order. God tells us to do those things because they reflect His character. God never calls us to do anything for which He does not provide the means to obey. If you have grown lax in your homekeeping, you need to see your home from God’s perspective.
T ake Time to Plan
Planning well does take time. However, it takes much less time to plan than to try to recover from the consequences of no planning. Each morning, stop a moment to review the day’s plans, or stop each evening for 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.
R eevaluate Your Plans
Your plans don’t always work out as you thought or hoped they would, do they? When you see that a particular plan or method is not working, you need to reevaluate to see where you can make an effective change. Plans are your tools and means to accomplish the important things in life. It is normal for plans to change when they are not serving the intended purpose. An old proverb says, “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” Continual reevaluation will help you reach your intended destination.
E stablish 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 things that do not fit your established priorities. Conscious choices are better than choices by default. A written Family Mission Statement, compiled by the family, gives direction and keeps balance in your home. Sit down together and decide what is most important to the family. Fill in the blanks for these statements: Our family purpose is _______. Does _______ [a specific activity] fit our purpose? Your list allows you to produce a mission statement that brings the family together for common purposes.
S et Goals
Priorities give you direction, but goals are the means that move you in that direction. For success, goals must be simple, specific, measurable, and attainable. State goals in positive rather than negative terms.
“I won’t let the laundry pile up” is not a goal. “
I will keep the laundry current and in the drawers/closets immediately after it is clean each week” is a positive goal.
“I will wash one load of laundry per day, Monday through Friday, will fold the load before lunch, and will have the children put the clean clothes away after lunch” is a plan to reach that goal.
Don’t overplan and try 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 a goal for changing 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 continue setting other goals.
S implify Your System
No matter what method you choose to keep up with your activities, keep it simple. Some people prefer to use only a calendar; others prefer a nice paper planner or electronic means. Don’t tie yourself to a method that seems too complicated for you. Your planner or organizer is your tool, and it should help you get the things done that you need to do. If it doesn’t, examine why that is true. Are you failing to use it properly to help you, or is it the wrong tool for you? Simplify your choices in every area possible—meals, schedule, and housework—and establish a simple, basic routine for your homekeeping. If you stick to a simple household routine, adding extras when possible, you will always have the basics accomplished.
L ist Your Plans
Lists won’t do your work for you, but they do keep you on track and aid your memory as your day squeezes tighter. If you keep one central planner or notebook, you will avoid scattered or lost notes to yourself. A written plan crystallizes your thinking and holds you accountable for what you said you were going to do. It helps you see the bigger picture when you record your plans and activities on a calendar, plan book, or notebook. How you put it in writing isn’t as important as actually doing it in some way. Use what is comfortable for you.
E liminate Clutter
We don’t like to talk about clutter, and it frustrates us in multiple areas of our lives. We are ashamed of the messes (otherwise, why would we try to explain them away), and clutter usually causes more difficulty in our lives than we realize. The truth is that life is messy in all kinds of ways, and we have to face it eventually. Strive for the balance that I call “functional neatness”—neat enough to be peaceful and messy enough to be happy. Deal with the clutter in your life and experience freedom to produce fruit in important things. In the process, you will also teach your children to be good stewards of their possessions and their time.
S low down
Life moves fast. Why do we believe that we can add more and more to our lives and not suffer the consequences? Homeschooling affords the opportunity for us to love and raise our children at a pace that produces real fruit and real life. Place time with the Lord first—He is your source of strength and wisdom. Learn to say no based on your priorities, and take time to rest and refresh yourself to continue in your mission. In Little Things, a book of quotations edited by Louise Bachelder, I came across this wise advice from Josh Billings: “One half the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quick and not saying no soon enough” (The Peter Pauper Press, 1969). Slow down to eternal speed and enjoy your family!
S tay the Course
If you haven’t planned well, evaluate how you failed and plan to do better. God is the one who is able, and His grace is boundless. When you commit to persevere, He will honor that commitment and lift you up to fulfill your mission. The Word of God encourages you to persevere in the most important task the Lord has called you to do—raise godly
children. “Therefore, my beloved [sisters], be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NASB). “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, NASB).
I love what A. A. Milne (creator of Winnie-the-Pooh) said about organization:
“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up” In order to display God’s glory through our homes and families, we don’t want our homes to be “all mixed up.” With God’s strength, you can reverse what could possibly be your most stress-inducing concern—disorganization. You and your family will reap the peaceful rewards of an organized household.
Marilyn Rockett homeschooled for fifteen years before she ran out of sons to teach. Her book, Homeschooling at the Speed of Life, provides organizational helps. Visit her website at www.MarilynRockett.com or contact her at marilyn@MarilynRockett.com to learn more. This article first appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of TVHE.