Balancing Your Own Goals and Dreams
(an excerpt from Homeschool Basics)
It’s easy to think about focusing on relationships with others. It’s harder to remember that we also need to nurture our relationships with ourselves. It’s very easy to convince yourself that you to give up all your goals and dreams to homeschool your kids. But by watching you follow your dreams, your kids will learn more about how to follow God and the reams He lays upon their hearts as they see you do it.
When I first started homeschooling my three kids (ages six, three, and one) in 1995, I thought my life from that moment on would always be about homeschooling. I pictured all of my time (or at least most of it) would be spent shaping my children’s education. I scheduled my day in fifteen-minute increments and did my best to stick to it. What I didn’t know was that over the years, God would call me to follow my own dreams. What I also didn’t realize was that my kids would benefit from my obedience.
It all started when I attended the Mr. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference with a friend. Being with industry professionals made writing for publication seem possible. Classes taught me how to get published. The love, prayers, and support of published authors and editors brought people into my life who believed in me and prodded me to follow God’s dreams. It didn’t matter to them that I was a young homeschooling mom who hadn’t even finished college.
At first, I felt guilty for pursuing my dreams. I’d homeschool in the morning, and then in the afternoon, I’d set aside a few hours to write while my children played. In those early years, I wrote articles and ideas for novels as Barney the Dinosaur entertained my kids from the television. Every day, at least a dozen times during those two hours, my kids would ask me for milk, a snack, or for me to play with them. I’d offer what I could but then remind them, “This is Mommy’s writing time.”
Guilt weighed me down as if Barney the dinosaur were sitting on my shoulders. I was sure I was the worst homeschooling mother there was. To combat my guilt, I swung the other way and became overcommitted, making frequent library trips, and signing my daughter up for dance lessons and my boys up for sports. It was my husband who urged me to stop the madness. Over the months to come, we figured out our priorities:
- To provide a godly education for our kids
- To sign up each child for one extracurricular activity a year
- To have dinner as a family
- To train our children how to be part of the family unit and do chores
- To connect and serve in our local church
- To have reading time together as a family at night
- To see what God was doing in our lives and follow Him
For me, this last one included following my writing dreams, and as the years passed, I started getting published—first with articles and later with books. When the kids were eleven, eight, and six, God called me to help start a crisis pregnancy center, too, and start mentioning teen moms. During that time, my husband started a dynamic children’s ministry at our church. (I talk about how God opened the doors to all these areas in my book Walk It Out: The Radical Result of Living God’s Word One Step at a Time.)
With each call from God, I argued. Lord, what about this homeschooling thing? Shouldn’t I focus more on that? Yes, I was still spending three to four hours homeschooling every day, but I’d look around and see my friends pouring one hundred percent of their lives into their kids. I felt I was giving my kids less than I should.
Instead of sitting outside working on nature journals, my kids were with me at the pregnancy center, folding baby clothes or babysitting for the teen moms. Instead of taking those art classes at the museum, my kids were reading or building Lego forts while I worked at my computer. The more success I had in both arenas, the more I felt torn. Yet the more I prayed about the activities, the more I saw God opening doors. Soon I was traveling out of town to research books and attend conferences, and sometimes I had to drag my kids along. (Poor kids!)
I can’t say there was an ah-ha moment, but over time, I began to see how following my dreams benefited my children.
For them, they’d say they realized having a mom who wrote books was cool when we got free tickets and backstage passes to a Newsboys concert through a writing friends. For me, I’d say it was when I saw my daughter’s compassion for teenage mothers or when I overheard my son telling someone he wanted to write screenplays. They met WWII veterans I was interviewing and traveled all over the US as I researched.
As a mom, I didn’t need to teach my kids that we should follow God’s dreams for us and work hard to share His truth with others. They saw that lived out on a daily basis. Being a servant of God was modeled. And here I’d thought I was being a slacker for not doing science projects or having them memorize enough spelling words! As time passed, I realized God asked me to follow my dreams not only for the people I served, but also for my kids.
My biological kids are twenty-eight, twenty-five, and twenty-three now. Cory is married with two children. He has graduated from college and is serving as a children’s pastor. He’s also a homeschooling dad. Leslie is married and is a missionary in the Czech Republic. She’s also a professor at a university there, teaching English. Natan is writing his second novel and is a huge help to me. Still living a home, he’s an amazing big brother to our seven adopted children. He’s also actively involved in children’s ministry with his dad and older brother.
As I mentioned we’ve adopted seven kids who are ages six to seventeen, and I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in their lives. Even though I have seven kids at home, I plan on doing many things the same, including homeschooling, serving teen moms, and writing . . . but this time I’m doing it without the guilt. I trust God more now. I trust that if He’s called me to something for Him, He understands how it’ll impact my kids. I trust He sees their futures, about serving and following God with everything we have.
What about you? Has God placed a dream in your heart or your spouse’s heart? Maybe like me you’re thinking, “I’ll do that after these homeschooling years have passed.” I’d encourage you to go to God in prayer. After all, kids learn far more from our lives than from books. You are your child’s teacher . . . teach them with your life, not just your lesson plans.
Do you need balance in your homeschool? Pick up a copy of Homeschool Basics. Receive tried-and-true homeschool advice from veteran homeschooling moms Tricia Goyer and Kristi Clover. We dish out practical help on getting started and staying the course. Homeschool Basics will remind you that the best homeschooling starts with the heart. Packed with ideas to help you push aside your fears and raise kids who will grow to be lifelong learners.
Kristi and I believe that homeschooling can transform your life, your home, and your family. Mostly, we believe homeschooling can truly prepare your children for the life God’s called them to live.
Don’t let doubts hold you back any longer. Hope and refreshment await.
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