It never ceases to amaze me the number of practical life lessons I’ve learned because of the challenges I’ve worked through in homeschooling. For instance, in the homeschool community, record-keeping discussions are common. What do I keep? How much do I keep? What information is needed? How do I gather, organize, and maintain the necessary information?
The needs vary from state to state, depending on local homeschooling laws. Some states, like Arkansas, are very lax. I fill out a form every year stating my intent to homeschool. That’s it. In other states, parents have to have regular meetings with education officials, showing not only intentions but also progress. Samples of work, grades, test results, etc.
Now, on the one hand, I am thankful that Arkansas does not require such things. On the other hand, that makes it easy to lose track of where the kids actually are and what progress they have made. I have had to be intentional from the beginning about choosing curricula designed to help me keep them on track, knowing that my husband and I are accountable for the progress of our children – if not to a state education representative, then definitely to ourselves and to their future needs.
This intentionality in homeschooling serves as a continual reminder that there’s not always someone else to keep me accountable and on track in life any more than there is in homeschooling! I have to be intentional and diligent about finding ways to hold myself accountable in every aspect of life.
Keep in mind that just because I know I should find ways to hold myself accountable doesn’t mean I always do it. But, when I am diligent, here are some of the things that work:
Recognize the Trouble Spots
Like with homeschool record-keeping, there are areas where we know we will face problems if we do not keep ourselves accountable. So, the first step is to recognize those trouble areas. One for our family comes at meal-time. I hate to decide what to cook. So, menu planning is critical for me. If I don’t plan, we don’t eat well. We either eat less healthily or more expensively or both. So, the first step is recognizing the trouble spot that mealtime can be for me.
Make a Plan
Once the problem is identified, a plan has to be made. I can say I’m going to cook well or teach my kids well or make progress in any other area of life. But unless I actually create an avenue to accomplish this, it will never get done! So, a plan is critical. I have a list of what needs to be done each year to prepare for and progress through a school year. I know each month when I need to menu plan. (And before you think I’m always on top of this, realize that last year I failed in this area much more often than I succeeded. I’m a work in progress.) I have plans for other areas of life as well, including trying to get back to regular writing. It doesn’t have to be anything rigid, but having a plan keeps the need right in front of me.
My job is the best example of this. Every Monday, each employee in the small company I work for gives our boss a list of priorities for the week, talking through them with her and with one another for clarification. At the end of each week, we send her a record of how we spent our time. This is not because she doesn’t trust us or is trying to micromanage and nitpick. In fact, it is just the opposite. These lists help her know where our energy is going, allowing her to keep track of whether or not the limited time, energy, and resources of our company are being used effectively. But, this also allows me to clearly see where I am using my time and gives me a measure of accountability for my work days.
By using the same principle in other areas of life, I don’t have to handle the full weight of responsibility all on my own. I can have others help hold me accountable.
As is obvious with the confessed menu plan failures, implementation is the final key. We can know what to do, plan to do it, and even have others remind us. But, ultimately, it’s up to us to take action. And when we do, the pay-off is more than worth the effort.