Today we are beginning our series of small, steady, concrete steps that you can take in order to build a foundation for an improved family life and homeschooling success. In the past, I have often talked about how the foundation for the family begins with you, your attitude, where you are and how to work with personal, internal development. I still think this is true and vitally important, but in this series I actually want to start with some of the outward things. Perhaps having a small taste of success with some of these outward tasks will suit many of you and provide inspiration to tackle more regarding personal development in the future. Having the outward things in order can be a springboard toward honing the internal qualities that make family life successful.
Our one small step for today is to make time to review your commitments outside the home and, if you are not single, to talk about your commitments to your spouse or partner. Work together to form what you will participate in outside of your home.
I want to start here because in order to really improve things around your home and in your life, you will actually have to be at home, to really be present, and not be pulled in fifty thousand directions.
The areas you may want to think about in evaluating your outside commitments include:
Errands – do you have an errand day? Can you consolidate errands? Can you run errands without your children? Can other family members run errands for you? Can you order some things on-line? Exactly how many times a week and a month are you going out for things?
Adult commitments – I find homeschooling mothers in particular often take on many jobs and projects in the community or in their places of worship. Homeschooling mothers know how to get things done, and they often have a passion toward building community for their children. However, they then have to add on the full-time job of teaching their children to this myriad of commitments. I am not saying to not be involved in your community, in your neighborhood, in your place of worship, at all! I am all about community and people and am very outgoing myself! However, I am asking you to think carefully about exactly how many commitments you have and if that is conducive to your family life. Sometimes you can handle one thing, but not ten! Your children are only small once, and pruning may be in order, as hard as that can be. Giving other people a turn to lead things and head things up is really okay!
Children’s commitments – How many activities are your children involved in, and do these activities reflect your priorities for your children and family life? I speak with many families who want their children to be anchored in a spiritual life, yet never seem to have time to attend a place of worship due to other commitments. I ask them if this really matches what they express that they want for their family life. Similarly, I speak with families who really want to be involved in activities in the great outdoors such as camping or hiking, but who cannot seem to find the time to do this on the weekends due to other commitments. So, I think it is important to think carefully about what you wish to see and what your current reality is and how to connect the two. Again, this may involve letting go of commitments that are not serving your great purpose as a family.
How many activities do you think your children need? Many homeschooling families with children in the grades (ages seven and up) pick one to two activities per child at most.
Sports can get very tricky due to all the practices and games and meets. If you think sports are important, consider prudently how many practices and games and meets are involved and if that really does knock out all other activities. Also, does it knock activities out for all the other children who are not involved in the sport as well because they all have to come along? The needs of the entire family need to be considered.
Many families involved with Waldorf homeschooling wait on team sports until the children are around age twelve if they can. This may seem like a long wait to many families and probably wins Waldorf homeschooling no popularity points with many parents. I do have to add here from my viewpoint as a pediatric physical therapist that I am concerned about sports and children of today. Children are starting sports at young ages and training in multiple training sessions in one week (plus many sports are also adding in running or weight training sessions on top of sport-specific practices) AND training almost all year round. This was unheard of even 25 years ago. The number of children my therapist colleagues are seeing with repetitive sports injuries that we used to see mainly at the college level is astounding. And more food for thought, anecdotally I find that the young ladies of about fourteen years of age seem to become injured and then no longer do the competitive sport that they started training for between the ages of six to nine. They are done. Their sporting career peaked too early in a sense. Just food for thought for when you think about sports in your own family. Do think with a long-term vision in mind.
I do find some children have an extremely strong drive to dance or skate or whatnot. Some children do truly seem to be born to do that movement or sport; you may have one of those kinds of children in your family. So, I suggest if you can try to put competitive sports off until at least after the nine year change, that is a decent start. Many nine year olds who are Waldorf homeschooling are in the Third Grade, which is not a bad place to begin a sport.
So, I have gone through these commitments and you might actually be saying, “Okay, but we have no real commitments!” In this case, I might actually ask you to find something of significance for you or your children to commit to and participate in and connect with a community. I feel there must be a balance between the individual family and the community.
All of this is food for thought, so please do take what resonates with you. Look for another small step to be posted later this week. I would love to hear your thoughts, successes and challenges, and discussion around this small step as we use our summer to have a good school year come fall.