Essentialism The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less
When a home teaching mother takes some time to invigorate her soul, Karen Andreola calls it Mother Culture.
This is what Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism did for me. I loved it! Even though it was written with a business person in mind there was a great deal of application that I could draw from this as a homeschool mother.
Whilst I highly encourage you to get this New York Times best seller for yourself here are a few treasures that I gleaned while reading.
The Essence of Essentialism
“The Way of the Essentialist Means Living by Design and Not Default.” G McKeown
The essence of this book lies in the above statement. It encourages us to take stock of our time and work out what we really want to be doing. Often homeschool days take on the path of least resistance, however the essentialists path attempts to streamline this process in order to make intentional progress in the areas that matter.
I find this particularly relevant as I prepare for my children’s graduation from homeschool high school. I find I need to make sure we cut out the clutter and cover the essentials so that my kids can sore in the areas that they need to. Greg encourages us to expend our energy (rather than a little bit of energy in all directions) in concentrated way to get better results, like this picture shows.
It’s not about just teaching the Three R’s. It’s about working out what you really want to do and focusing on those things. Two of my children have chosen their paths and have excelled in their areas of expertise. Now we are working on the next two. For example I really want to teach one of my daughters to sew well – I can tell she has the aptitude for it. A barrier to this was the fact I didn’t have a space in the home for the machine to be set up permanently. So now we do.
Trade Offs – Choices and Sacrifice
Realising that we have a choice with our time can be hard when you’re a mother. We can’t just decide that we are not attending to our toddler who just broke a plate on the floor, or refuse to help our child with math because we think they should know how to do it by now. However we do have a choice with how we spend other parts of our day. Greg encourages us to be wise with our time; over estimating the time it takes for achieving our tasks and then eliminating non-essential activities.
What really helped me in the early years of homeschooling was looking at homeschooling as a full-time job.
I think it took me a few years to come to this conclusion. Because I never actually sent my kids to preschool or school I found that my focus had really just been on keeping the kids safe and helping them to be nice kids. Teaching was incidental. I read the Bible, read picture books, let the kids make mess and we just had the goal of getting through the week. I had church commitments and friends over (with their children) and it was all very social.
Then when I started homeschooling I still continued on with my social unstructured way of doing things. I saw the activities to do in the weeks (like Bible studies, coffee with friends, visiting relatives) as the things I did. I saw homeschooling as something that I had to find time to do but I was home a lot so it shouldn’t have been that hard.
However I felt inadequate a lot of he time because homeschooling never really got done in the timeframe I had hoped so I was always cutting school but never cutting out the other social events I had planned.
Then I read how I needed to treat home schooling like a full-time job. It changed my whole attitude. I reassessed everything. Pulled out of almost all things. No more weekly Bible studies, no more friends over for 3 hour coffees, no more long conversations on the phone for an hour in the morning, no more volunteering for the church cooking roster, no more morning shopping trips that were supposed to take 1 hour (that really took 3). I cut it all out. I pulled the phone out of the hook.
Next step was to set up good routines. This took even longer but basically the morning was school time. We had no TV (no playschool, no news) in the day, no computer games, no shopping trips and no visitors. I had this 3-4 days a week. I established for my children, myself and my family and friends a school time zone. I then decided what could come back in to my life. Things I let back in were social engagements after 1pm that were mutually beneficial for the kids and I set them at a time I knew we wouldn’t be working. This school zone remains even after 13 years of homeschooling.
Setting these boundaries was essential for me. Eliminating the other activities was a disappointment for some of the people in my life that wanted me to do more for them (work for the church, listen to their stories, help them entertain their toddlers). And I know that some thought I was selfish or a weakling because I couldn’t “cope”. However my new boundaries allowed me to focus and do homeschooling well. Now that my kids are older these boundaries also gives me the freedom to run my business.
Motivating Us To The Pursuit Of Less
Greg gives many more tips for how to look at our choices and mindsets. His tactful suggestions for how we can: say “no”, uncommit, correct, remove obstacles and focus, are practical and doable.
I highly recommend this book for homeschool mothers looking for some clarity.
This is not a Christian book but there are some pearls of wisdom clothed with these pages. I borrowed mine from the library but you can also get Essentialism at Amazon.
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