Whether it is the freshly sharpened pencils or the pile of new notebooks, everyone feels a rush of excitement and anticipation during back to school. The year ahead is filled with possibilities and opportunities with which we fill our calendars. Unfortunately parents often overestimate what their family can handle during the school year. So how do we set realistic back to school goals?
Leave Margin in Your Schedule
The biggest mistake people make is failing to factor in margin. Margin is the extra time in our daily and weekly schedules that allows for the unexpected. Margin isn’t a luxury. It is a necessity.
It is a fact of life that illnesses, broken appliances, car repairs, and extended family emergencies are going to happen. If we don’t plan our year with that reality in mind, we far overestimate what our family can handle in an average week. If one unplanned event will send your family schedule into a tailspin or cause excessive stress, you are stretched too thin. You need to schedule in margin.
Factor in Downtime
Families also neglect to factor in downtime when setting goals. Every person in the family needs unscheduled time. Rest and a good night’s sleep are not luxuries. They are necessities. If you and your family regularly skimp on sleep and downtime in order to maintain a hectic schedule, you should seriously reconsider your commitments and family goals. Neglecting sleep and rest over time contributes to a host of physical, emotional and mental health problems.
You Cannot Do It All
The opportunities available to our families seem nearly limitless. Our children feel pressure to join groups and participate in activities in order to enhance their college application or opportunities in the future. Homeschool co-ops, schools and churches will try to involve parents in meeting as many organizational needs as possible. It takes a great deal of resolve to turn down the many requests that will be made of us and our children.
The reality is that no one can do it all. We can’t do it all. Our children cannot do it all. We must be thoughtful and deliberate about the choices we make. As we set back to school goals for our families, we should consider the best ways to give our children the opportunities that will benefit them individually.
At the same time, we need to be ready to decline others that will be too much for our families. That sweet spot of “not too much and not too little” will be different for each family. It will even change from year-to-year as our children grow and mature. But maintaining margin and downtime as we set realistic back to school goals will always be important for everyone’s well-being.