Maximizing Your Efficiency
By Skeet Savage
God sets the solitary in families for a reason (Psalm 68:6). Every member of the family should bear a measure of responsibility appropriate to their age or ability. When the load becomes imbalanced, it will surely result in a responsibility overload that is sure to topple even the most willing servant.
For the child, this can mean requiring the child to make adult decisions that he is not capable of making, or for which he should not shoulder the burden and responsibility.
For example, have you ever observed a parent asking a toddler to express preferences such as which balloon he wants—the red one or the blue one? Or, asking a young child which clothes he wants to wear or whether he wants eggs or cereal for breakfast? (Frankly, this was never a problem at our house because we were so poor when the children were little that they really never had more than two choices at any given meal—take it or leave it!)
Early exposure to unlimited choices will engender selfishness and ingratitude (“but, I wanted a blue bike, not a red one!”) rather than an appreciation for the basic provisions of the Lord. It can leave the child with the impression that all the world is just waiting for his will to be expressed or imposed.
A child’s legitimate need is simply to know that there is food for him to eat and clothing for him to wear. To train him in the direction of his wants and desires (beyond genuine need) is to feed and cultivate his carnal nature and to nurture a willful spirit that will ultimately hinder him later in life.
Young children have a deep need to feel covered and cared-for—not independent and self-sufficient. There will be plenty of time, when they are older, for them to decide every manner of issues for the rest of their lives. For now, why not do the merciful thing and just allow them to be children?
In order to avoid responsibility overload in your children, make every effort to establish and enforce specific patterns, rules, and guidelines for your home and the members of your household. Set up a schedule. It can, and should, be flexible, but it should be resolutely in place and adhered to as much as possible, nonetheless.
Even if you have a child who seems self-confident and acts like he wishes independence, it is not in the child’s best interest to give it to him. If you are faithful to provide a peaceful, quiet, ordered, secure, controlled atmosphere, once the child is confident of its consistency, he or she will come to rest in it. Children feel more secure when they know their boundaries and limits, and the guidelines and rules are consistently enforced.
The serenity that these simple principles will bring to your home is a lasting blessing that you can give to your child.
When folks ask, “How do you manage to do it all? I mean, you’re a single parent, and you homeschool, and you have this publishing-speaking-writing ministry to keep up with—how do you ever manage to do it all?” I tell them the truth. I can’t do it all—and, neither can you. The Bible tells us that apart from God, we can do nothing. To believe anything other than that is just arrogance.
So, what is the answer? One sure way for a homeschooling parent to effectively manage their homeschool and avoid responsibility overload is to demonstrate and delegate! Stop trying to do everything for everyone and, instead, start teaching and training them to do things for themselves.
Hopefully, you know how to do math (or at least how to run a calculator!) and read and write, and spell (or at least you know how to run the spell-checker on your computer). You know how to cook, clean, do laundry, keep the house in order, balance a checkbook, and countless other skills which you’ve acquired over the years. Children, obviously, are not born with this knowledge. Once your children reach a teachable age, your job description changes just a bit. Rather than continuing to single-handedly do all these things for your family—like you did when they were helpless babies—your job, at this stage, is to teach and train your children to do these things to the point that, eventually, they can do everything that you know how to do without your prompting or oversight. Before you know it, they’ll be teaching you a thing or two!
Learn to perform mutually compatible tasks simultaneously. For example, you can easily fold a load of clothes while talking on the phone. Another multi-tasking opportunity that presents itself daily is the time spent washing and drying the dishes (or loading the dishwasher, as the case may be). While applying yourself to this mindless task, try coaching children on memorization of facts, or quizzing children on their work, or orally grading papers. This is a much better approach as children learn immediately not only that they gave the wrong answer, but they’ll learn why the answer was wrong which is much less discouraging to a child.
We’ve all heard the health enthusiasts’ rally cry, “No pain, no gain.” While in many countries women walk several miles a day just to fetch and tote a day’s provision of water for their families, here in America comfort and ease are the norm and the general philosophy is more along the lines of, “no pain, no pain.”
In this day of modern conveniences, it is well worth the effort to look for ways to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone. Rather than arranging your house with an eye toward ease and comfort, consider setting up your house so that you are getting good, natural exercise as you go about normal daily tasks.
Not only can we learn to make our work even more profitable by combining tasks (and, therefore, benefits) we can also make our daily routine more enjoyable.
Play inspirational or educational tapes or CDs while showering or taking a bath or while driving to and from appointments. (Pilgrim’s Progress audio series is a family favorite that we’ve also carried in our product line for years.) Make sure that you’re getting positive input to recharge your batteries on a daily basis.
Pray while hanging the laundry or driving your car (I would strongly suggest learning to pray with your eyes open for these activities—especially while driving!).
You may fellowship with family members, memorize Scripture, or sing together while doing the dishes. Make sure that, when you are interacting with your children you give them your undivided attention. I’ll be honest with you—for me, that is a constant battle. Sometimes, my children would come in while I was working (usually while trying to do several things at once) and they’d be talking away to me before I realized that I hadn’t even looked at them. I was just there staring intently at my work going, “UmHm. Yeah. UmHm. Okay...” and acting like I’d really heard them. Sometimes, I approved things that I never would have approved had I really been paying full attention! They’d just say, “Thanks, Mom!” and they’d run with it! If you’re daydreaming nothing will wake you up faster than when your child goes skipping off hollering, “She said, YES!” while you’re standing there asking yourself, “What did I say YES to?” I guarantee you, I’d quickly come to attention and go find out exactly what I said YES to and make sure I really meant YES!!
To this day I’m still learning to stop what I’m doing, turn toward them, look them in the eye and say, “I’m sorry. I was distracted here with all this stuff. Tell me again. What was it you said?” Speak their name. Let them know you’re really with them. They appreciate that. Just that little bit of common courtesy says, “I care about you. You are my priority.” You love them and they know it.
Team up with friends, family members or neighbors when it comes to big jobs such as gardening, canning, Once-A-Month Cooking, etc. If you are working together with Christians, this provides a welcome opportunity for fellowship and makes time pass quickly. If you are working with unbelievers, you’ll have an excellent opportunity to shine your light as you work together.
Don’t be too proud to ask for or receive help when necessary. Face the fact that you are naturally restricted by our common human limitations and content yourself to live within those normal boundaries that our God has established. Be satisfied to allow Him to get all the glory for everything you do in His Name. If you make it your ambition to do only what He has for you to do in any day’s time, life will never become an unbearable burden and your efforts will not go unrewarded. As you faithfully homeschool your children for His glory, He will daily receive your sacrifice as a sweet-smelling offering of praise to Him. When all is said and done, it will have been worth all the effort!
Skeet Savage is the founder of Wisdom’s Gate Publishing and the editor of Home School Digest, An Encouraging Word and Brush Arbor Quarterly magazines. She is the author of the book, Homeschooling for Eternity and is a frequent conference and seminar speaker. She began homeschooling the first of her six children in 1978 and now enjoys being a grandmother of children who are homeschooled. www.WisdomsGate.org