Welcome with me today won't you? Kym from Homeschool Coffee Break. Did you know that Kym is a fellow Canadian who just happens to be living stateside. :) She's a dear heart and is an encouragement to me. She has walked the path before for a good long time and is worth listening to. Welcome KYM! :)
Thinking back to when I was a new mom (a long time ago now!), I remember hearing one piece of advice quite regularly. It was some variation on the theme of "Enjoy your children while they are young, because they grow so quickly". And it's very true - children do grow quickly, and when we moms are overwhelmed with changing diapers and chasing down rambunctious toddlers, it doesn't seem possible that one day they'll be teenagers. When we're in the trenches of homeschooling, it's hard to imagine what life will be like someday when they are grown and graduated. If you're that mom, let me encourage you to follow that advice of enjoying your young children, but also to take a long view of your mission of mothering, especially homeschooling and mothering. We all know that our job as moms is to eventually work ourselves out of a job. We want our kids to be able to carry on and look after themselves as successful adults. Sometimes we forget that goal and hover or hold on too long, and sometimes we forget that our own lives will carry on when the kids are grown. The end of my own family's homeschooling journey is in sight for me, with only my youngest still a student, the oldest already starting his own family, and the middle two moving ever closer to their own independence. These are some things that I've been learning and trying to put into practice as a mom, and I hope they'll encourage you as well. Delight in your children at every age. People sometimes ask me what age in my kids I liked best. Um, all of them?! No matter what age your child is, make that your favorite! In general, that's pretty easy when they're little and cute. If you're not there yet, let me reassure you that the teen years are not something to be feared! I have loved being the mother of teens. Most teens have bigger dreams and deeper thoughts and more ability than we adults give them credit for. I'm finding out that adult kids can be a delight as well. No matter what their age, but especially as they enter the teen years, your goals as a parent should be:
- Maintain a good relationship, as much as you can. Kids of all ages need to know that Mom and Dad love them unconditionally. Take an active interest in the things that interest them, have conversations over family meals, and spend time with them.
- Set boundaries. Obviously. Remember that until they are adults, you are the adult in charge.
- Coach them in wise decision-making, and ease them towards independence. Teach them life skills, and let them take age-appropriate responsibility. By the time they graduate, they should be able to run a simple household, and be trustworthy workers and citizens that understand that the world doesn't revolve around them.
- Train them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). Lead them constantly to God and to his word. Live out your faith and encourage your children to own faith for themselves, rather than ride on yours. Pray for them. If you're homeschooling, remember that your goal is far more than just academics. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are only part of a bigger picture as we raise up a godly generation of healthy, mature, responsible adults. Teaching them to honor God, to maintain positive relationships, and to be able to lead and influence with integrity are the ultimate goals.
Make worthwhile memories. When you're delighting in your family and building relationship with your children, those day-to-day experiences will become a tapestry of good memories. It's surprising what little things make huge impressions, and some of those you just can't plan! But definitely go ahead and do plan the special occasions that add richness to the memories, and think about what you want your kids to remember about growing up in your house. Be intentional about giving your whole family many positive things to build memories on.
Keep a balanced perspective. Yes, you'll always be their mother, but your own life is bigger than only that role! Find your strength for today as well as your vision for the future by seeking God. Spend time in prayer and in the Word to gain wisdom for every area of your life. There are seasons when your focus may seem to be on simply keeping your fearless toddler out of danger or finding the curriculum that will finally help your student make sense of math, but they are just seasons. In the long run, your life will continue beyond the borders of raising and homeschooling children. To keep your balance, remember to:
- make your relationship with your husband your high priority - the highest after your relationship with the Lord. You'll still be with your spouse after the kids have graduated and moved out, so don't neglect that relationship.
- take time for yourself. It's okay to take time out to do the things YOU enjoy doing, and to rest and recharge. Think ahead to what you might want to do with your time when you're not homeschooling full time. Maybe you'll want to stay connected somehow to the career you were in before kids so you can return to it. Maybe you'll want to develop new skills for a different career. Maybe there are volunteer opportunities you could be involved with. Find time to pursue your own personal interests and passions.
Let me leave you with some words from the Apostle Paul, who knew a thing or two about working whole-heartedly at the today's tasks while keeping his long-term vision in sight.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 3:13-14
Kym will soon be starting her 19th year of homeschooling her four kids, three of whom have graduated. She and her husband of 29 years are Canadians transplanted to Maryland. Kym loves coffee, history, and homeschooling, and you can join her for coffee break at her blog, Homeschool Coffee Break.