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Practical Homeschooling® :

It’s OK to Relax

By Mary Pride
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #88, 2009.

Mary Pride reminds us that not everything urgent is important.
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Mary Pride


Do you sometimes work too hard?

Let me explain what I’m talking about.

If you feel guilty when you’re cleaning the house, because you should be teaching the kids . . .

If you feel guilty when you’re teaching the kids, because you should be cleaning the house . . .

If you find yourself grinding away dawn to dusk at tasks that must be done . . . but the list never seems to get any smaller . . .

If you can’t even remember the last time you just sat there “doing nothing,” simply enjoying the company of your family . . .

Then you are working too hard.

The Tyranny of the Urgent

Back in 1967 a man named Charles Hummel wrote a little book called The Tyranny of the Urgent. In it, he pointed out that all the tasks plucking at our coat sleeves, demanding we do them right now, can actually distract us from accomplishing what is really important in life.

A man can peck away at his mail, neaten up his desk, call a couple of co-workers, get a cup of coffee, and feel “busy.” “But did any of that really accomplish much?” asked Hummel.

Today, thanks to modern computers and communications technology, we homeschool moms have all the time-wasting potential of globe-trotting international businessmen, combined with the classic busywork options of both moms and schoolteachers.

What to do? What to do?

  • Check the email
  • Read the news
  • Make the beds
  • Sharpen the pencils
  • Water the plants
  • Scan a photo and email it to Grandma
  • Check out some library books online
  • Post to friends on Facebook
  • Update our Netflix queue
  • Chat with a few friends
  • Organize the kids’ summer clothes
  • Window-shop for curriculum online
  • Check email again

The list is endless. Literally endless. We could be “busy” 24 hours a day, if we had the energy.

A Grave Question

I am one of those people who very easily get into the habit of feeling like I should be working all the time. Even when we’ve just finished an issue of Practical Homeschooling, it takes a while to remind myself that I won’t have to lay out an issue for another month or two.

In a way, getting older and more tired has actually helped me. When I was younger, I never felt like I was doing enough. When it became clear that I finally had reached my physical limits, this was a bit of a relief. Now I only had to do what I could do, and it was up to God to make it all work (if He so desired!).

I don’t want you to think I’m particularly morbid, but one popular saying has helped me a lot:

“I never met anyone who, on their deathbed, said they wished they had spent more time at the office.”

Ever since I came across this saying, I frequently stop and ask myself, “Am I doing something I’ll be happy to remember on my deathbed, or just wasting time being busy?”

Judged by this standard, the following activities make the most sense:

  • Listening to the kids
  • Hugging my husband
  • Admiring a sunset

When someone dies, often nobody takes over their vital work and it turns out not to be so vital after all. But time spent loving God and others is never wasted. So take a breath and look around. It’s OK to relax.

Mary Pride is the publisher of Practical Homeschooling and the mother of nine totally homeschooled children, who finally have ALL graduated from homeschool!

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