One of the most common questions I get from young mothers is how to find time for personal devotions. We all know how vitally important it is for having the energy we need to do all that we do, but when you’re up multiple times feeding a baby, awakened early by a toddler, and even chased into the bathroom by your kids, how can you find the time?
I’ve been there. But I had very little distress about my devotional life during that particular season of motherhood (my youngest is now six). Here’s why:
I Redefined Personal Devotions
Is devotional time an hour spent in your quiet spot reading the Bible, completing in-depth Bible study assignments, and praying over every need in neatly organized categories? Sure, but devotions can take many different forms.
Having devotions can also mean taking minutes, seconds even, to connect with the Lord. It can mean meditating on just one Scripture throughout the day. It can mean talking to God out loud while your children observe you. “Help me!” may be all you manage to eek out. It can mean forgoing formal Bible study during this season of your life. It can mean reading a brief devotion online while going through email. Devotional time can be praying with your husband at bedtime. It can be singing or playing an instrument. It can even be devotions that you share with your children. Susanna Wesley is said to have found time to pray by sitting amidst her children with her apron thrown over her head: Susanna Wesley (Women of Faith (Bethany House))
The best thing I can say to you tired, time-pressed mom is not to feel bad. The Lord knows you are in a season of your life that requires much of you. He is caring for you and hearing the Spirit groan for you on your behalf even when your lips aren’t moving.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26).
But What if You are Desperate for More Time?
- Ask for help. Ask your husband to give you some time so you can read the Bible and pray alone. I hired our niece to come and help out one afternoon a week. A moms’ Bible study group I was in often hired sitters so we could study and discuss God’s Word without interruption.
- Pray about it. Ask the Lord to give you more time with Him. He may get you up early, but not the littles! I firmly believe that He answers these prayers–just not always the way we expect.
- Be content. I used to be frustrated that I couldn’t do more of the reading and studying I wanted to do. Now I have more time and I wonder what I fussed about. Even now, though, busy as I am, I pray and read one chapter of the Bible per day and then read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on it. This process takes me just half an hour. The rest of my devotional time is spent with my family and church.
Do you have other advice for young moms looking for ways to spend time with the Lord?
I received an email from an unmotivated homeschooler this week and with her permission, I am posting it here in the desire to encourage other home educators who are in the same place and to solicit even more great feedback from you veterans.
I came across your website tonight while doing a google search… yep, I googled, “What if I love the idea of homeschooling, but I’m really not cut out for it?” I’ve been trying to do it for almost 5 school years now. My first son took two years for kindergarten because I got sick (and lazy), my second son is special needs – on the autism spectrum somewhere, and my third school-age child is my first daughter in Kindergarten, and I have a 2 year old.
My point is that I’m at that place where I really think I’m doing an injustice to them by keeping them home. I’m not getting things done, they’re lazy and it’s most likely because they see it in me. There’s a lot that goes into that, but the question remains… how do you DO what you know you need to do? How do you kick yourself in the tuckus so to speak to get the job done? I know what my calling is and what is expected of me, but I’m really struggling in getting it done…thanks for any advice.
An Unmotivated Homeschooler
I had some thoughts, but I took the issue to my Homeschool Homies (HH) and here is what we have to share with her:
- Check your expectations. One of my HHs suggested that if you took two years to do kindergarten, you might be expecting way too much. Kindergarten should be a gentle introduction to math, reading, and learning in general. There are few reasons to hold your child back in kindergarten, though you can continue to work on skills at his level. In other words, are you really lazy, or do you expect to do more than is reasonable? Unreasonable expectations lead to overwhelm which can in turn lead to feeling unable to start.
- Do less. When you feel like you aren’t doing much, this seems like crazy advice, but having less to do helps you do more. One HH swears by taking time to train her children to do household chores like laundry and cooking. When my children were younger, I had a housekeeper come in once every two weeks. Both strategies can free you up to spend more time teaching. Next, simplify your schooling. Set aside time-consuming, activity-heavy curriculums and do the essentials (some Bible, math, reading, and some language arts instruction–maybe some handwriting practice). Subjects like history, science, and geography do not have to be done every day and can be simply reading a great book in that subject area.
- Get accountability. Being a home educator is tough for many reasons, but perhaps the biggest is we have no one overseeing our work and giving us feedback (at least in most states). Ask your husband to hold you accountable, join or start a co-op requiring preparation every week, and/or find an accountability partner. Ask an experienced homeschooler to look over what you hope to accomplish in an average day or week and let her tell you if it’s reasonable. Once you have a reasonable plan, have an accountability check-in each day or week. I use a website called idonethis.com and when I reply to it each evening with a list of accomplishments, I cc my accountability partner. Agree with your partner that if you haven’t met a minimum standard in a certain time period, that you should send your children to school.
- Get support. My HHs agreed that you have a lot to handle at this stage of your homeschooling. If you don’t get together with other homeschoolers in person or online on a regular basis, may I suggest that you do so ASAP? This is a very difficult calling and we need our HHs to cheer us on. I dont know what I would do without the time to talk, laugh, and cry with my HSing pals. I really like the Hip Homeschool Moms FB page for asking questions and getting support. You may also want to consider programs that can support your homeschooling. From enrollment in online schools where all the teaching and grading are done for you to day programs and classes, you will find that you really don’t have to do it all!
I also asked my HHs how they get things done that they’re reluctant to do. Here is what they said:
I just do it. If it has to be done…
That might seem unreasonable, but sometimes we obsess over a task ten times longer than it would take to just do it. Just doing it may be setting a timer and doing it for a minimum time and then being allowed to stop. Your children will respond well to this, too.
I give myself a reward. If we get a lot of school done one day, we might go to the park the next.
One of the biggest reasons we homeschool moms get stuck doing things that aren’t school-focused is we don’t give ourselves guilt-free time. Make sure you have some every single day. Whether your older child plays with the younger while you surf the web for half an hour, you pay a sitter to come give you time away once a week, or your husband takes over at scheduled times, you will find yourself refreshed and ready to homeschool once again.
I pray about it.
Love this one. We are doing something great for the glory of God. Why would we expect it to be easy or to do it alone? God is there to help us and will certainly equip us for the work He has called us to do. My Homeschool Homies and I are praying for you!
for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. – Philippians 2:13
P.S. Treat your homeschooling like a career. Develop habits and a routine (FLYLady is wonderful inspiration) or a schedule (Managers of Their Homes is excellent). Build in break times that coincide with times you’re tired. Give yourself credit for what you DO do, rather than what you don’t.
Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for plenty of motivating ideas.
Do you have any other suggestions for our Unmotivated Homeschooler? Are you an unmotivated homeschooler who needs advice or prayer? Just ask!
Lately I have been struggling to determine how to spend my writing time. I have a limited amount of time and an unlimited number of ideas. I’d love to do it all, but that isn’t reasonable when I have a full-time job homeschooling my six kids.
My writing timeline thus far can be summarized as follows:
- Childhood diary writing, school assignments, and the beginnings of novels never finished
- High school compositions and speech writing for competition
- College compositions and speech writing for competition
- Grad school thesis, dissertation, and professional writing
- Christian periodical and booklet writing when I had children
- Christian speech writing and secular freelance writing for periodicals
- Started blogging
- Wrote and self-published nonfiction book; continued speech writing and blogging occasionally
- Wrote a first draft novel for Christian middle schoolers and families; continued speech writing and occasional blogging
That’s how I got to where I am today. I am now trying to finish my novel, speak more (requiring more speech writing), build a blog following for at least two of my three blogs (what’s the point of blogging if few people read what you write?), and generate more sales for my book. Meanwhile, I am writing what amounts to enormous amounts of material via email to friends–much of it potentially helpful to many people.
So I wonder what I should do. I’m over my phase of wondering if I should be writing at all while trying to homeschool. I’m past the idea that I can’t try to make money selling what I write simply because I don’t need the money. I now know that I can make money to support charities and missions and can make time to write despite my busyness.
But do I drop my blogs completely until I finish my novel? (I do know that I need to finish and publish it.) Do I just blog post haphazardly (which is what has been happening despite my repeated resolve to make my blogs a priority)? Do I spend my writing time on speeches, articles for publication, or even video scripts (which is yet another thing I love writing and developing)? Do I spend my time promoting what I’ve already written? Do I focus on writing more books which I could sell at my speaking engagements? Do I keep trying to do it all?
For today, I’ve decided just to write about where I’m at, like I would to a friend.
The best part of being on a diet is going off. I don't consider eating according to Body for Life principles a "diet" per se, but I do enjoy the permitted free meals. A lot.
I was all set to enjoy a free meal at our favorite BBQ restaurant with the family last week, only to discover that the menus were changed. Oh, the entrees were the same, but with one small, yet painful difference. A calorie count was listed for each meal. My health-conscious husband was exclaiming over the big numbers and righteously made a lower-calorie choice.
Normally, I would have approved that the restaurant made such a great, healthy change. After all, we often unknowingly ingest an entire day's worth of food in one meal when we eat out and then struggle to manage our weight. The problem was, I had been eating clean for several days and I wanted to really let loose and enjoy. Those nasty calorie counts wouldn't let me. I cut back on my order and went home disappointed. What was worse is that I felt unmotivated to eat clean the next day.
The lesson learned is don't go to a restaurant with calorie counts for a free meal. Not really. 🙂 What I really learned is that not having an occasional opportunity to be truly free in what I eat is a hindrance to me. Further, I learned that I have been on a time diet for quite some time with no decent free meals.
Suddenly, I finally understood why 15-minute breaks and a scant hour of free time a day leave me wanting. My recreational time needs to be free of calorie counts and I need a big portion of it. Perpetually pursuing a task management approach that leaves me with no guilt-free days is a recipe for a binge. No wonder after having pushed myself hard or having been pulled in multiple directions, I often sit like a slug, web surfing for hours on end. I want to eat my time like a plate of fries with ketchup without anyone telling me what a waste it is. If I can slurp up the hours without guilt, I can easily get back to work the next day.
Body for Life's free day is Sunday. As Christians, that's our free day, too. My goal is to take full advantage of it so I can get things done next week. Care to pull up a chair and share my fries? I've got a Sharpie to take care of the menu.
“Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the LORD. (Exodus 16:25)
A key to successful homeschooling is managing how you spend your time. After twelve years of teaching my children at home, I am still working to better manage my time.
I began using Managers of Their Homes years ago which enabled me to think of time in terms of half-hour increments. This scheduling approach also helped me to see that every subject and activity didn’t have to be done every day. I still have a schedule that I follow loosely as follows:
6:00 a.m. Up and workout while listening to sermons on iPhone
7:00 a.m. Devotional time
7:30 a.m. Set out breakfast and get kids up while I shower
8:00 a.m. Family devotions; morning chores
8:30 a.m. School time
12:00 p.m. Lunch and break
1:00 – 3:00 p.m. School subjects not completed; outside classes; mom’s to do’s; weekly chores
3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. Snack and continue with previous
5:00 p.m. Dinner preparation
6:00 p.m. Dinner
7:00 p.m. Evening chores and family time
9:00 p.m. Bedtime routines
10:00 p.m. Reading, time with husband
11:00 p.m. Lights out
The foregoing is our schedule on a VERY good day. We tend to be night owls here, so if we don’t get to bed on time, everything is pushed back in the morning. I have found that I resist regimented schedules and that routines work even better for me. I began establishing good routines years ago when I started getting FLYLady‘s emails. Today I use the well-designed HomeRoutines app on my iPhone. It helps me tremendously to have a reminder of all the subjects I want to teach. My goal, though, is not to complete every single step of every routine I have. If it were, I would be disappointed every day. My goal is to get an A for the day and to get most (90%) of those routines completed on most days.
I have also had periods in my homeschooling when I didn’t have much of a schedule. One advantage was not feeling obligated, but free to enjoy teaching. Another was that I was better able to work around my work-at-home husband’s more spontaneous style. A disadvantage was making less progress in important subjects, and finding myself spending too much time online.
As you determine the scheduling approach that will work best for you and your family, consider what you believe about time in general. After reading this excellent article on a Christian approach to time management, I was motivated to ask myself some important questions about how I am spending my time–schooling or otherwise. The article advises tracking how you spend your time. After having done this numerous times on paper and via a variety of iPhone apps, I already know how I spend my time. I quickly made a list of all my activities. Then I answered these questions for each of them:
“What would happen if this were not done at all?” And if the answer is, “Nothing would happen,” then obviously the conclusion is to stop doing it.
Which of the activities on my time log could be done by someone else just as well, if not better?
What do I do that wastes your time without contributing to your effectiveness?
The answers were very revealing. Now I will explain why I have a picture of Dr. Phil at the top of this post. Were you wondering? Dr. Phil, in discussing dysfunctional behaviors with guests, is fond of asking, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” I understand what he’s getting at. He is trying to help people recognize that they are experiencing negative effects of bad choices. But here’s the problem with that question. If you have to ask the question, it must still be working for them. They’re still getting something out of overeating, the procrastination, and the refusal to communicate or they wouldn’t keep doing it.
You may still be confused. The last question I asked myself about each activity I invest time in really brought me up short. “What do I do that wastes your time without contributing to your effectiveness?” This question was obviously designed for people in a traditional workplace. But as homeschoolers, we don’t have bosses or administrations. Or do we? I realized that all that I have, including my children and my time, are God’s. He has given me the job of educating His children. I had to answer the difficult question of what I am doing to waste His time without contributing to His overall effectiveness. It became clear to me that I couldn’t figure out a good schedule for our homeschool without reflecting on God’s goals for my children.
Here’s the connection. I might think that web surfing for hours while my children play video games is workin’ just fine for me, but there is no way I can think it’s workin’ well for His purposes for me and my family. As you seek to create or recreate your homeschool schedule, pray about how God would use your family to increase His effectiveness.
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, (2 Tim. 1:9)