Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Simplify Your Lifestyle

Simplify. That's the theme our family life has adopted over the past couple years. Why? We are homeschoolers, but a couple of years ago, we found that we were rarely home, especially during the evening hours which meant that my kids rarely got any of that extremely essential, always coveted time with Daddy. Since being a "van-schooler" didn't really appeal to me and my kids needed Daddy, simplifying our lifestyle became a must!

Within this post, I will give you some easy ideas that we use to keep our life from getting too busy, but I want to give you an explanation for my passion before doing so. I've had many parents try to convince me that never being home is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle, but I gently disagree with this. Our American society is too busy. Our kids need to be grounded. They need a safe haven. They need down time and a place where they can relax. They need us to set boundaries for them because they don't know how to set them for themselves. They need to learn to do chores and be part of a functioning family and to know that doing chores is not the only thing you do at home.

When we were never home, our children weren't learning valuable life skills. They were eating too much processed restaurant food, spending too much time arguing in a car and getting too tired from doing too many things away from the home. This is an American problem. We want to do it all because that's what everyone else is doing, but having healthy boundaries means that we're not doing it all. Choosing to have unhealthy boundaries in this area often leads to a fractured family that rarely spends time with one another. If we don't make sure our kids have opportunities to be with us at home now when it is most important, then we can't expect them to want to return home once they're out of the nest down the road. That's food for thought, isn't it?

The task of simplifying our lifestyle seemed like it would be easy, but we quickly realized that it was not. So many things factored into it including the fact that we would have to say no to some "good" activities. There was an endless stream of outside pressure telling us that our kids needed to do it all in order to function well in society. The reality is that peer pressure plays a tragic role in destroying the American family. Simplifying our lifestyle is an on-going task, but the rewards it has offered to our family have far outweighed the difficulties we encountered along the way.

Simple steps can lead you to a more rewarding lifestyle. Start by paring down everyone's schedule(Yes, even yours!). Children, for example, do not need to play a sport every season. We have missed soccer season twice because we allowed our son to choose only one activity in which to participate that season. Kids don't need to do it all. Adults can't do it all, so why are we teaching our kids that this is an acceptable expectation? Learning to make simple choices like whether or not to be in the church play or on the basketball team offer our kids valuable life skills.

I also try to stack activities onto the same day of the week if it is possible. For example, right now, my son has his piano lesson on Monday afternoon while my daughter takes dance class on Monday evening. I can run errands between the lessons if I time everything right and plan ahead. Since both lessons are on the same day, it means that we have freed another evening for our family to be home together.This, in my opinion, is one of the easiest ways to simplify your lifestyle. I would rather have one rather hectic day and be rewarded with 2 days when we can focus on school and family life than to spread activities throughout the entire week.

Another way that families often don't think about simplifying their schedule is to have the whole family do the same activity. I know some families who take this to an extreme and only choose to participate in activities that involve the entire family. For our family, this works to a certain extent, but we do want to give our children the freedom to explore their own interests as long as it isn't too taxing on the family. This past fall, my husband and I co-directed a children's musical in which both of our children performed. This was an interest that we all shared, and it meant that we were combining ministry, schooling and so much more into one event!

Another step toward simplicity involves meal planning. I love to cook, but it isn't reasonable that I'm going to be able to cook a gourmet, from-scratch meal every single night. To avoid an evening out or a take-out meal of processed food, I plan ahead to either make a crock-pot meal, one or two of our favorite quick meals or I make double batches of things like soups and casseroles and freeze them for evenings when I have less time or don't feel like spending too much time in the kitchen. This may sound like a lot of work, but this easy step of planning ahead simplifies our lifestyle so much!

Remember always that God designed the family to be together and to function as a unit. Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters are going to always be a part of their lives. By teaching this early, your kids and your family can only benefit! Simplicity has brought our family closer and helped our children to realize this simple truth. The Lord designed us to enjoy a simple lifestyle in harmony with those we love. Take the effort to make it happen for your family. Soon you'll be enjoying relaxing evenings at home playing board games, going on family walks, reading together and so much more! You're going to love it!

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