Drop Thy still dews of quietness
till all our strivings cease;
take from our lives the strain and stress
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of Thy peace.
John Greenleaf Whittier (from the hymn “Dear God and Father of Mankind”)
What home school mom hasn't wished for the “dew of quietness,” ceased strivings, a little less stress, and an ordered life! Daily life can place overwhelming demands on you. You are the family teacher, doctor, police woman, lawyer, judge, psychologist, manager, interior designer, seamstress, chauffeur, maid, chef and playmate all rolled into one. So what in the world is Whittier talking about? It seems that an ordered life is just an elusive fantasy or that we have to be born orderly. Many moms claim they aren't “the organized type.” By birth and rearing, I fall into the “messy” group, so I was in for a shock when I married Mr. Meticulous, had children, and started home schooling. For a while I used the excuse that getting organized would diminish my creativity and spontaneity, but that soon wore thin. I had to do something!
Home school moms cherish flexibility and autonomy, but some of us overdo it to the point of rejecting any structure. We try to wing it, making up our lives and school from scratch as we go along. We end up feeling frazzled, exhausted, unproductive, unfulfilled -- and guilty. We start to wonder if we really need a system after all, and relish the new idea of taking control of our lives with a schedule, routine, budget, and lesson plan. We realize that we don't have to be victims of circumstance anymore.
When I take the extra effort at putting my life in order, I realize that this gives me peace from the storm. Life makes sense when I follow a plan, and an added bonus is that I now have more liberty to focus my newfound spare time and energy on creative pursuits. My brain is less cluttered by loose ends. Order and organization allow us to live “on purpose,” to see our dreams and goals come to fulfillment. We can make a plan and make it happen. To be honest, there are months and even years when I am better at this than other times. My success ebbs and flows with how much of a priority I make it, as well as what’s going on in the family, such as a new baby. If I’ve let it slide for a while, it’s hard to get going again. Just a word to the wise!
Let me clarify what I mean by order. I am not talking about a regimented minute-by-minute schedule, a white-glove-clean house, robot children, strictly structured classroom-style school, or lesson plans written on stone tablets. Life with children is unpredictable, so we must be flexible. There will be down days when we only accomplish the bare basics. Even on good days, we all need room to live and breathe. If we set ourselves up with unrealistic expectations, we will be bitterly disappointed. There is plenty of room for different personality styles and comfort levels. Some people can't function well with any amount of disorder; others are comfortable with a relaxed loose-ends lifestyle. For all practical purposes, my working definition of an ordered life is:
♥ I will have specific goals and plans in various areas of life. I will accomplish the most important ones, plus some of the optional ones. I will not go off on tangents.
♥ I will not create extra work through neglect of details. An ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure.
♥ In my schedule and home atmosphere, I will enable my husband to be both productive and relaxed. When he gets home, I will have sufficient emotional reserves to cheerfully attend to his needs.
♥ My children will know what to expect in the general sequence of the day. They will gain productive habits and self-discipline to launch them into future careers and family life. I will be able to give instructions, knowing they will obey without undue fussing or delay. They will be successful in school work because I will tailor it to their needs and make sure they do it.
♥ I will be able to confidently invite people into my home. Since I will prepare ahead, I won't be so frazzled with the details that I can't pay attention to my guests. This will make them feel comfortable and welcome.
♥ I will be able to find what I am looking for quickly without disrupting the household. I will also recall information from the “memory banks” of my brain without getting overly confused.
♥ When I am sick or otherwise prevented from actively pursuing order, my system will not automatically fall apart. It will have sufficient momentum to function for a while without me.
These are definitions to which we can all aspire! We can personalize these basic facets of order to our own family situations and know that we are taking positive steps in the right direction toward success.
I believe that this reasonable level of order is the prerequisite to true productive creativity. A world-class composer must have a handle on the “laws” of music theory before writing a symphony. The orchestra members must have the self-discipline to practice their instruments, read the music as it is written, and follow the conductor's cues, or the symphony will be a cacophony instead! Our Creator is “the God of order, not chaos” (1 Corinthians 14:33). He designed a gloriously exquisite universe, quite systematically, day by day. He is the same God who gave intricate instructions to the creative craftsmen who fashioned the tabernacle, and he is the same God who can put your life back in order if you will follow his directions!
The order in our lives starts from the center; for Christians, this focus is that “Jesus is Lord.” Everything else in our lives must flow from that, or nothing will make sense. But beyond that universal focus, God has a specific plan for each of us. Our job is to discern our individual mission in life and report for duty. Our approach to this will profoundly influence how we manage our daily lives.
This article is an excerpt from my book The Real Life Home School Mom. You can find the next section of the "Life Management 101" chapter on one of my other blogs, www.StartWellHomeSchool.blogspot.com, in the post Motherhood Management in Your Home School: http://startwellhomeschool.blogspot.com/2010/05/motherhood-management-in-your-home.html