Setting Goals, Family Mission Statements, and Lent

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Sometimes you have to take a break from the online world to make things happen in the real world. A balanced life moves in seasons like that, I believe. Seasons of focused intensity should be balanced by seasons of rest and repentance. I’ve been busy homeschooling like a boss, reading a bunch of Chesterton, and writing very little. (However, I did get out an article for a brand new homeschooling magazine I hope to be able to share with you all soon! I got to interview Mystie Winckler for it, and got some great organizing tips.) Finally, it’s time to get back to resting with you, my lovelies. So in this post I’m going to shamelessly pass on some things I’ve learned recently from my real-world people, in hopes you find them helpful.

BHAGs and Habits

This year I didn’t plan any BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals), but am rather working on changing little habits and trying to make small tweaks–maybe they’ll be more sustainable that way. My thinking comes from years of failing at following through on goals and probably has something to do with Stephen Guise’s book, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. In it, he makes the case for making small changes in your life, so small in fact, they’re too small to fail, which is a concept I adore. I’m hoping to get my hands on the new Gretchen Rubin book , Better Than Before, but I have to finish up some other reading first. I’ve heard her on a number of great podcasts (here and here), and can’t wait to dig into the research she did on habit formation.


Now that our shiny new goals for the year have had time to battle the challenges of real life, habit formation and changing behavior—I’m going to ask, how are they going for you? Are you still working out? Reading your Bible everyday? Are you homeschooling like you planned back in January?

Me neither.

Lenten Burnout

Everyone always talks about February being the season of burnout for homeschooling moms. I think it’s because we put so much pressure on ourselves at the beginning of the year. Recently, one mom I know shared her concerns about making the decision of whether to homeschool through high school. She feels inadequate often, like she’s failing her kids. High school homeschooling aside, this is a pressure we all feel in some seasons of parenthood. The minute we start rocking at parenting, something changes right? Our kids grow a little and start facing new emotional challenges, we as parents change in some way, or our circumstances alter and throw new challenges in our path.

We all feel like we’re failing.

I’m sure parents of kids in other schooling situations feel this way too. I think it goes with the territory. Any parent worth their salt, any parent who gives a damn about how their kids turn out feels like they’re failing at some point–if not often.

This has got to be why Lent starts after we’ve had plenty of time to fail at our New Year’s resolutions. We start the year with all this gusto, whether we’re trying to change small habits or we have big, hairy, audacious goals planned for the year. And then, since we’re human, we stink it up. We eat too much chocolate (Valentine’s Day anyone?), we say things we have no business saying, we spend too much time envying others’ lives on Facebook, and we even obsess over our shiny new goals and ignore the very plain needs of our dearest ones. Of course we must repent.

Maybe these ideas will help

Some of my real-world homeschooling friends do awesome things, like planning goals with their kids, or family mission statements to regain some focus during these down seasons.

One amazing mom I know has each kiddo sit down and set a goal with mom, one with dad, and one solo goal each week. They earn points for sticking to their goals and get to redeem points for all sorts of fun stuff: dates with mom or dad, toys from a treasure bin, treats, or fun activities. She says this goal-setting strategy has been the single best replacement for discipline in their house. Their six kids are learning focus and determination. They’re getting accountability and positive reinforcement from each other and their parents along the way.

Another of my friends truly is Super Woman–I swear I’ve glimpsed a cape fluttering behind her. This friend swears by the family mission statement. When things get Februaryish around their house and homeschooling is falling apart, people are stressed out, and household management is crumbling, she rereads her family’s mission statement to regain focus on what really matters and what they’re trying to accomplish through homeschooling.

Reminding our harried selves of what we really value, what we’re striving toward, is so important. Mission statements can actually have a calming effect. Did your kids learn something today? Did they love on each other? If not, stop what you’re doing and go do something together that will help them love one another. If so, then who cares about the pile of dishes or that disastrous art project?

We don’t have to do everything. We only have to do the important things.

Embrace the season you’re in

These strategies aside, we’re still going to have to repent. We might as well just get used to it. Lent is a time when we can revel in the fact that we didn’t make it. We don’t have to pretend to be perfect, we can let all that frustrated striving go and fall at the feet of a Savior who did perfect perfectly.

The brilliant thing is, when we let a spirit of repentance pervade our homeschools, our children are learning the Important Thing. Over and above how great it is for them to learn to stick to goals or refocus on a mission (and these really are good things), when they learn to repent, they’re growing in all sorts of ways we could never micromanage with a curriculum.

Happy repenting. A blessed Lent to you.

P.S. If you’re still looking for resources for yourself this Lent, I recommend this.

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