Everyone loves a good surprise, and one of the best surprises I’ve had in life was when having less turned out to be more. This tactic is not simply a clever home decorating trick–it is one of the hidden treasures I have discovered that has enriched my life.
When I was a child, my mother had a cookbook with a very intriguing title. The More-with-Less cookbook contained “recipes and suggestions…on how to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources.” Over the years, I have realized how valuable that concept was when it came to life in general. As it turns out, it is also very applicable to homeschooling.
We all have limited resources, whether it is time, finances, or our emotional energy that is being taxed. Learning to safeguard those resources and manage them carefully will lead to a more peaceful and joyous experience in our homeschool. In addition, it helps prevent burnout and the drive to compare ourselves to others.
Use What You Have in Your Hand
As a homeschool alumnus, I have seen the immense growth in homeschool resources available to families today compared to what my mother had back in the early 90s. I can vividly remember the feeling of amazement mixed with a dash of being overwhelmed by all the curriculum displayed in the vendor hall at my first state homeschool conference several years ago.
When I related the experience to my mother later, she remarked that while it is nice to have so many choices, she didn’t necessarily wish that she’d had them. She had used what she had, adapting it as she needed for each child. As a result, there was less stress to find the perfect curriculum.
And you know what else was missing back then? The Internet! We spent no hours scouring the Internet for the best deal, posting questions on a Facebook forum, or signing up for online classes. Yet, the homeschools from that period thrived and produced well-educated, resilient graduates, many of whom have gone on to homeschool a second generation of home scholars.
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do
good as long as they live. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:12
There have been many years when my finances were very limited. It is easy in that situation to start to feel despair that I couldn’t afford to get the school books I had put on my wishlist. However, after praying and turning my needs over to the Lord, I regained a sense of peace. I felt encouraged to make the best use of what I DID have instead of focusing on what I DIDN’T have. Surprisingly, those years ended up being some of our best school days.
Find Joy where You Are
The key to those years being the best is that I learned to find joy in where I was. In my Bible study time, I discovered that Jesus offers us the priceless gift of joy. He wants us to be filled up with it!
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you,
and that your joy may be full. ~ John 15:11
We will always see more THINGS that we want or think we need. Today’s society constantly tells us that we need the new and improved version of things that we have been perfectly satisfied with. We see what someone else has or does and start to believe that we need to keep up with them. For homeschoolers, keeping up with the Jones can have more to do with music lessons and dual-enrollment classes than with swimming pools and sports cars.
When we shift our focus from things that we could fill our homes (and schoolrooms) with to the people that already fill our lives, we often find that we already have all we really want. Homeschooling gives us a wonderful advantage in spending more of each day with our loved ones. We can take the time to nurture our relationships with our children, even as we are working on a math lesson or doing a science project.
For many families, choosing to homeschool means sacrificing a second income they had grown accustomed to. Substantial budget cuts resulting in drastic lifestyle changes may cause them to second guess their decision, but the dividends they gain will prove to be worth far more.
The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing
the capacity to enjoy less. ~ Socrates
Take Time to Nurture–Ourselves and Others
When the covid pandemic caused the shutdown of businesses–and life as we know it–many people faced an unexpected break from the forces that tug on our attention and time. Since we couldn’t go anywhere, families began playing games and working puzzles together. Closets were organized, gardens were dug, and the old-fashioned art of bread baking became a new trend. Although many aspects of the pandemic have not been good, the season of rest and refreshment that many families experienced were the very thing needed.
In my own life, I have been greatly impacted by the effects of covid, as I have previously written about. I have had a long recovery from the damage that covid caused to my lungs. For many weeks after I was discharged from the hospital, I was able to do little more than light activity. Our typical school routine was out of the question since talking for any length of time led to coughing fits and an asthma attack. However, this was a season of nurture for my children and me. Often we would sit outside and paint with watercolors while trying to identify the bird calls we heard. Our days were emptied of busyness, but filled with the appreciation of being together and finding delight in simple things.
Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and striving after wind.
~ Ecclesiastes 3:12
Finding delight in simple things is a child’s specialty, as any parent knows who has given their child a gift in a box. Regardless of how exciting and captivating the contents were envisioned to be, it is the box from which the child often gets the most enjoyment.
Our world is filled with exquisite treasures that lay in wait for us to discover. The intricacies of a seashell, spider web, or butterfly rival the most incredible artwork or engineering feat accomplished by any human. The dance of a dragonfly over a marsh pool, the ripple of cornfields in the summer breeze, the wonder on a child’s face as the ladybug he held lifted its shell to reveal translucent wings…the beauty in these simple moments leaves a soothing balm on one’s soul. When we begin to place more value on simplicity, we see that our lives are filled with rich treasures that we had not noticed before.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is
fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
~ Psalm 16:11
Applying the principle that less is more has enriched my life in many ways. Using what I have in my hand instead of grasping for more utilizes better stewardship and is more rewarding. Finding joy in the midst of my circumstances brings gratification and fulfillment. Investing in relationships has proven to be far more profitable than tangible items. Cutting back on outside distractions in order to take time to nurture our spirits has been, ironically, very productive. We are “eating better” while consuming less of our limited resources. I can’t say that I have made a meal with a recipe from that old cookbook, but it revealed a hidden treasure that has been very valuable to my life.
Jessica Frierson is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling her ten children since 2000. She serves as the secretary for NCHE, writes for GREENHOUSE, and is the lead blogger for the NCHE blog.