There’s no question that one of the biggest perks to homeschooling is having a flexible schedule that allows you to take advantage of life’s opportunities during traditional school hours:
- Going to a local park on a sunny weekday morning in the middle of winter.
- Visiting a museum discounted admission on the slow days.
- Taking a family vacation to a theme park in the off season.
- Scrapping math and science for the day in favor of baking cookies and watching a movie together.
You get the idea.
I used to be really good at flexing. Then our littles became bigs, more littles came along, and my box-checking tendencies kicked into high gear. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do those fun things anymore, but the combination of an increased workload for my older kids, nap schedules for my younger ones, and my own responsibilities made doing the fun things feel somewhere between impossible and irresponsible.
We had things to get done, after all.
Choosing to Enjoy Life and Education
The problem was that we lost the joy of homeschooling. I have no expectation that school of any kind will be all sunshine and roses, and there are definitely times in life where we just need to put our nose to the grindstone and do what needs to be done. However, I knew that ten years down the road I’d regret having not made the most of this relatively short window of time if I didn’t make some changes.
So, what exactly does a Type-A, box-checking, rule-following mom of four do when she realizes she needs to live a little? She makes living a little a box to check on her to do list.
How a Type-A Mom Learns to Be Flexible and Say Yes
One thing I love to do and think is valuable, but never make time for, is hiking. There was always some reason we couldn’t go—school work needed to be done, it was the day we deep clean our home, not everyone in the family was available to come. Good excuses, but excuses nonetheless.
In an attempt to say yes more often, I decided at the beginning of the year to do our own version of the 52 Hike Challenge:
- One hike per week.
- Minimum of one mile.
- Paved urban trail or dirt path on a remote mountain.
- Any family member who’s available.
- Freedom from guilt if a week came along where it truly couldn’t be done.
Do you know what has happened? We’ve hiked every single week this year. Some weeks we’ve used the term hike loosely. But the bottom line is this fun thing which we kept putting off in favor of academics and other "responsible things" is now something we’re in the habit of saying yes to.
Saying Yes and Overcoming the Excuses
Do you know what else? Our home isn’t getting any dirtier while we’re gone (and is actually staying cleaner), school work is still getting done, and no one’s losing sleep over being left out if they happen to miss a particular hike. In other words, our previous excuses for not hiking weren’t good ones at all.
That’s been a big yes in our world—one we’ve had to be intentional about, but sometimes it’s the smaller or unplanned yeses that are hard to put into practice:
- Telling everyone to put their books down, then cranking the music for a fifteen minute dance party.
- Choosing to do school only four days a week so you can keep one day free for planned field trips or spontaneous activities.
- Dropping your plans for the day in order to volunteer your time helping someone out.
- Realizing everyone’s falling apart and letting your kids decide how to spend the day.
- Accepting a last minute invitation for a day at the zoo.
- Extending an invitation for a last minute game of ultimate frisbee and picnic in the park at lunch.
The options are endless, but the years are not.
There are times the answer obviously needs to be no, but I usually say it as my default, lazy, knee-jerk response. What I want to do, and what I encourage you to do, is to say yes as much as possible. Someday we’ll look back on this season of life, this relatively brief span of years when homeschooling afforded us the opportunity, and be glad we did.