Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lessons in Letting it Go

I suppose the biggest reason that homeschooling families have the mythological image they have, is due to the media. Like you, I'm sure, the first time I ever saw any pictures of homeschooling families it was in the media. I saw neat and tidy kitchens with big tables loaded with textbooks. I saw large families with children wearing matching outfits (often the mother in such family portraits is wearing a denim jumper), and everyone smiling happily. Essentially, these were the images I had in my head about what it actually looks like to be a homeschooler.

Well, that may be what other homeschooling families and their homes look like, but it sure isn't what mine looks like. When the kids were all younger (I mean the older ones), as soon as they were off to public school, I'd get about the business of housework. Bathrooms, breakfast dishes, vacuuming and all that good stuff. Generally by 9:30 every morning I had a neat and tidy house. It stayed that way until dinner time, and that was partly because there was no one there to mess it up, and if I made any kind of mess during the day doing something, I'd clean as I went along. Fast forward 10 years and it's a different scene completely.

No one is being hurried out the door at 8:30 to get to school on time. Half of them are still upstairs getting dressed and the other half are usually fooling around when they're supposed to be getting ready to sit down and do lessons for the day. Eventually everyone is rounded up for morning prayer. It's a sort of non-schedule/loose schedule and we generally begin our lessons around 9:30 in the morning, regardless of whether we're neat and tidy, household wise.

For the longest time, it has bothered me to to no end, that my house tends to be out of order, every day. I've tried hard to just let it go and not let it bother me - to make up chore schedules - to strictly enforce rules, etc. It's more or less a losing battle but I'm still in the war! (The chore schedules do work fairly well, however).

life being lived You're probably wondering what the point of this picture is (maybe even what the point of this post is). Well, it's a lesson for me, and it's a turning point. That is a picture of what my bathroom counter looked like yesterday. Most of the items are obvious, but if you can't make them out, the counter contained among other items, a molded plastic boulder, 2 broken robots, a giant bubble wand, the trailer portion of a Hot Wheels big rig, a canon ball from the Lego Black Pearl, a used face cloth and a scrap of paper. Normally when I see a mess like this in the bathroom (apparently Captain Jack Sparrow was in a battle in there and didn't collect his canon ball), I get annoyed and can't leave the room without cleaning it up. Yesterday however, I looked over all the items sitting there and actually smiled. Yes, I smiled at the mess.

For whatever reason, when I looked at items all over the counter, the first thing I thought was "some times, I just have to let these things go". I noticed the canon ball and had to laugh. How many families have canon balls in their bathrooms? Not many I'm sure. But this messy little scene would have to wait until later to be taken care of because I had somewhere to be and had to be out the door, right then. With no time to stop to clean it up, I did have a few seconds to take this snapshot to remind myself that some times, there are just some things we have to let go.

I thought a little more about this through the day, and the application to practical Christian living was so obvious to me. Each of us run across all kinds of things each day (online and offline) that might grab our attention for a second and we might be tempted to stop and make it our priority. But in the larger picture, that might not be so prudent. While a clean countertop upon arriving home would have been nice, had I stopped and made that my priority I would have been late getting out the door and that would have thrown the rest of the day's plans into a mess. In other words, "learning how to pick your battles" isn't just a cliche, it's a reality.

I'm going to keep this picture handy and let it remind me that letting certain things go, is a really good way to stay focused on the bigger things that matter so much more.