Episode 313 | Guard Your Schedule (Jeannie Fulbright)
In this chaotic world, our first duty as mothers should be to make our home a sanctuary—a tranquil place where learning and creativity thrive. That's why it's vital that we guard our schedule. It's such a blessing that there are so many wonderful activities, opportunities, and curricula to choose from. But with so many choices, we are at risk of adding things that are not God's best for us. In this talk, Jeannie Fulbright will share the mistakes that taught her to guard her schedule, and how God shows us when we should say yes and when we should say no.
Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.
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Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to today's podcast, focusing on your schedule. I'm calling this episode Guard Your Schedule because it really does determine your homeschool atmosphere. You could say guard your schedule for from it flows the wellspring of your homeschool peace and joy. Your homeschool year, week, month. I'm Jeannie Fulbright, and I'm a veteran homeschool mom of 24 years. My kids have all graduated and gone on to college and career and are starting families. I'm also the author of Apologia's award winning elementary science series, and I also author a new preschool science series, historical fiction. And I have a time travel action packed adventure story that takes kids into Bible times. And I also have a lot of Charlotte Mason resources which are on my web— you can go to my website. It's in the show notes.
But, you know, I really learned the hard way. Don't we all learned our lessons the hard way? Well, I learned the lessons that I could make or break my entire homeschool atmosphere, my family atmosphere by what I added to my schedule. I mean, I could really break the atmosphere if I said yes to an opportunity or to something that sounded so great and looked like it was going to be such a wonderful thing. If it was not God's best for me, it really would break the atmosphere. Oh, I just regret some of the things, some of the choices I made without seeking the Lord, without really getting his peace. And maybe I was anxious and concerned and worried that I wasn't doing a good enough job, so I needed to add this thing. Or my children were going to really be better off if this activity or this curriculum was added to our schedule. And oftentimes it was quite the opposite.
You know, we have a lot of opportunities open to us. Homeschool football, there were co-ops, there were music and dance and gymnastics and hybrid schools that met once a week or hybrid schools that met three times a week, there were clubs and organizations and competition teams of all sorts. In fact, my husband and I were the coaches of a mock trial competition team. My husband's a lawyer, and an attorney who's a judge who was a homeschool dad, they coached this team and it was wonderful, but it was very time consuming. And so if you were not in there because you really felt the Lord leading you to be there, it was going to be too hard to be on that competition team.
We had one family that I was so excited to join us because she had a lot of really amazing kids. But after a few weeks, she came to me and she said, "I just do not feel God's peace about this. The children are more stressed. I feel like we're rushing through things and trying to memorize the stuff for the competition." I mean, we had a lot of laws and rules and procedures we had them memorize, and it was a lot of work. And so they pulled back, they pulled out, and I was sad to see them go, but I definitely didn't want them to be doing something in their lives that were going to add to stress and worry in their schedule.
And that's what happens when we add something into our schedule that's not God's best for us. It causes a lot of anxiety, it causes stress. It causes us to walk not in the peace that Jesus has promised to leave with us, but in a state of constant worry and fear and feeling overscheduled and hurry, hurry, busy, busy and never feeling just the joy and the peace of being where God has you and where God wants you to be. He called us to homeschool, and he does not want us to homeschool in a state of anxiety or fear or worry. He wants us to have peace and tranquility and contentment in our lives.
And when we add things to our schedule, which is not what God had for us, we find ourselves having to strive in our own efforts. Because you see, God has given us everything we need to fulfill His purposes for us. But if we are adding things to our lives that are not God's best, then we find ourselves trying to accomplish things in our own strength and our own energy rather than in Colossians 1:29, it says we toil according to his energy working powerfully within us.
One of my earliest memories of being led not by God is when my children were small. Everybody I knew was teaching their children Latin, and we had all become convinced that you have to teach Latin to give your children a proper education. And anybody who was not teaching their children Latin was neglecting their duty as a homeschool mom. And they might not have said it in those words, but that was essentially the message that was going out to everybody all the time. And so I would buy a Latin curriculum. This happened over and over again. I'd buy a Latin curriculum. And I'm really excited to start teaching Latin and it's going gung-ho. My kids were all eager to learn. They thought it was fun. But for some reason, I didn't enjoy it.
And so I would— when real life happened and we were falling behind in those or we needed to go here and we needed to do that, I would push Latin off to the side. And every time I did that, I never picked it up again because I didn't enjoy it. I didn't want to teach my children Latin. I guess I did want to, but not for the right reasons. Not because God was calling me to. I wanted to do it because of peer pressure and this anxiety that I would feel about not being the best homeschool mom in the world if I didn't teach my kids Latin. And also, there was a little bit of pride in telling my mother that I was teaching my kids Latin. You know, my little tiny children were learning Latin. That was impressive to her. So there was a little pride in there. There was a lot of fear in there. There was a lot of the wrong reasons for choosing to teach Latin. So adding that to my schedule.
And then I would push the Latin off to the side, and every time I saw it I would feel like a failure. And then I would immediately start thinking, maybe it's the curriculum, I just need to buy a different Latin curriculum. And of course, what would I do? I'd spend hundreds of dollars on a new Latin curriculum and we'd start off again with a bang, and then we'd fizzle again. And this happened over and over again, because at that point I didn't realize that God did not have that for me. That was not His will for me. And when I totally gave up the idea of teaching Latin completely, my children, my life, my homeschool felt easier. It felt like I could breathe and I was operating in God's will.
And you can know if things are part of your schedule that are right for you based on that feeling that you have all the energy you need to complete what God has given you to do, and you feel excited about it and you feel a sense of freedom and not oppression. And I think sometimes we tie up these heavy bundles and we put them on our back and we do these things that everybody's doing because everybody's doing it, or because we somehow got convinced that we're not good enough if we don't do it, or we don't want our children to miss out or we don't want to miss out. And with all the other homeschool moms, whatever it is they're doing, and then we choose things based on that rather than on seeking God's perfect peace and seeking his perfect will for us.
When you are within God's will, and you're doing His will, you will have joy. It is our job to seek God's perfect will, and you have to ask the question, how will this benefit my family? How will this benefit my child? How will it affect my homeschooling days? Is that benefit—whatever the benefit is to our child—is it worth the sacrifice of peaceful days at home? And one question I always ask is, will this class increase my child's love for learning?
When my daughter just hit seventh grade, and all of the moms— we'd been involved in these little history classes were really fun. And we had a teacher come and she always dressed up in the time period. And it was just a beautiful, wonderful time that we had together as homeschool group and homeschool families. But when they got into seventh grade, these moms decided that they needed to sign their child up for science classes to be taught by a science teacher that was coming out of the public school and she was going to be teaching these classes.
Now I write science books and science is just one of those subjects that we as a family did quite well. I just knew it wasn't worth the money, and I didn't know how this lady was going to be teaching science, if it was going to breathe life into science. Because all my memories of science in middle school and high school were not as fun as teaching science and homeschool atmosphere. My daughter was disappointed because of course she wanted to be with her friends, but I just determined that we would make time to see her friends in a nonacademic atmosphere. So I didn't sign her up.
And by the middle of that semester, all of these moms were so burned out, their children were burned out. They were burned out by the work their kids had to do at home, and their children lost their love for learning. In fact, they all concluded that they were very bad at science and that—as we all feel about things we're bad at—they hated science. And this persisted through high school and college for all of these girls. I want to just take this moment to warn you against putting your children under another teacher who you think is more qualified in a subject who may actually do harm to your children's love for learning, not because they're a bad person or they're mean or harsh, but because of the way they teach the subject.
And we know that American schoolchildren are failing on an international level. We are failing our students. We are scoring at the bottom on international assessments. And it's not because we don't have wonderful teachers in our public and private schools. It's because of the methodology that they are required to use in teaching every subject. And it is really hard for people to get out of that, to break free from that cocoon, that mold that has been used for over a hundred years in our country and has been harming our children's feelings of confidence and their love for learning and damaging your child's understanding of their ability in a subject.
Because when school is taught in a way that robs it of life, it extinguishes their natural curiosity and their natural love of learning. And that's what happened to all these girls. I was really glad that I did not sign my daughter up for that. But I was also very sad that all these other girls suddenly felt like they were incompetent in science. So that is what happened when all of these girls signed up for this science teacher from public school who was much more qualified than all the rest of these women, who felt that they had no ability to teach science in their own home. And so they needed this teacher. So I was glad we didn't sign up, but it was really hard. There was a lot of FOMO going on in that decision, but I was really glad I did because my children weren't exposed to the type of teaching that makes the subject burdensome and boring.
And so as a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, that was a very important decision for me to make. We really need to ask, is this God's perfect will for my family? Does the thought of adding this to my schedule bring peace to my life? Will it bring joy to my life? Will it add benefits to my homeschooling journey or will it only bring more stress? The fact is, God has a will for your family. He has a will for your days, for life. And he wants to show you with that will is.
Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me." We need to be seeking God. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is. His good, pleasing, and perfect will." I absolutely love Colossians 1:9 where Paul tells the Colossians, "We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will, with all spiritual wisdom and understanding." God's will is for us to know His will. He has a plan for our children. He has a plan for their future. "For I know the plans I have for them," says the Lord. Plans for a future, for a hope and a future. He has a vision for your children's lives, and he wants to show you that vision. He wants to give you the vision for your homeschool, for your family, and you can lean on him to show you and guide you each step of the way.
Then you can ask yourself, does this activity, does this curriculum, does this course line up with that vision? What is the reason that I am adding this? Are there reasons that are not from the Lord? Because God does. He gives us everything we need to fulfill His purposes for us. But if we are looking at somebody else's race that they're running and we jump off of our track, we're not running the race marked out for us. Instead, we're trying to run the race marked out for our friend or another homeschooling family or with somebody at a conference told us we had to do. We jump off the track that God has for us and we begin running the wrong race. And we don't want to do that. We want to be running the race that's marked out for us because God will give us joy and peace when we are living the life He's called us to live.
And so how do we determine whether something is from the Lord? How do we know God's will for us? Well, I believe it's very clear. God does want us to know his will. And I believe he's called you to homeschool and didn't expect you to have to figure it all out on your own. He called you to homeschool and also wants to be your guide. He wants to lead you. Psalm 48:14 says, "For this God is our God forever and ever, he will be our guide even to the end." I love Isaiah 30:21, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it.'" And once again, Jesus confirms this: "My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me." John 10:27.
I love that. It is so true. God is our God. He wants to be our guide. We are His sheep and we can hear his voice. If we seek him, he will reveal to us the right things to add to our schedule, what to remove from our schedule, and to truly be able to walk in the peace that Jesus wants us to walk in. We need to seek Him. And we need to follow him. And we need to not allow other factors to make us make decisions that are not God's best for us.
So in addition to asking yourself whether this curriculum or activity or whatever it is you're thinking about adding to your schedule aligns with the vision that you have for your family. You also need to ask yourself questions about how is this going to affect my school day? How is this going to affect my family and all the people in the family? What kind of interruption or disruption or what is this going to look like for every member of the family? And is this going to bring joy? Is this going to bring a better experience, a homeschool experience? Am I going to have to drive very far? Is this going to be a huge interruption to my homeschool day? Because we only have enough energy to run the race that God has chosen for us.
The peace that God promises comes when we are walking in his will. He just wants us to seek him. Seek His confidence. God gives us confidence and peace. One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 32:17, "The fruit of righteousness will be peace and its effect will be quietness and confidence forever." God wants us to feel confident in the decisions we make as homeschool moms. And so as we seek him, we hear his voice. He leads us through peace. We will have quietness and confidence as we homeschool our children when we guard our schedules and not allow things to come in that are not from him, that are based in fear, that are based in trying to be a part of what everybody else is doing.
We know that God called you to homeschool. He called all of us to homeschool. And he did not just leave us to figure it out on our own. He didn't decide, "I want them to homeschool, but they're going to have to figure out what to do and how to do it." He wants to lead us every step of the way, and he will if we seek him. So we really want to consider when we're guarding our schedule, when we're considering what we're going to add to the school year, we need to think about margin, allowing margin. Giving free time during the day in our home. I call this the art of leisure. When our children have time for leisure, their imaginations will begin to work and grow. They'll begin to develop new interests and can pursue those interests on their own. They can decide they were going to be involved in something else. They want to try something else. They want to learn something else if they have the margin to do so.
I remember when my daughter was about nine years old, my oldest, she decided that she wanted to teach a history class like the kind that she had been involved in, but she wanted to do it for little homeschool kids and do it during the summer as a summer camp. And so she and a friend of hers, they got together, they went to the library. They started out with the American Girl books. My daughter got the Kaya books and they went to the library and researched all about American Indians. And then they sewed these little costumes. We invited all our little homeschool friends, and they had spent so much time creating activities, and they made this a wonderful one week summer camp based on Kaya. And all these little girls came, tey were mostly kindergarten, first, second graders, and it was just a beautiful, precious time.
And I realized—we were friends with a lot of girls in the neighborhood—and I realized that those little girls, the nine year old girls in our neighborhood would never have done this because it would have required more work. And they were already overscheduled. And I was so happy just knowing that my daughter could pursue something interesting and valid and really give her a lot of growing opportunities and leadership because she had margin. She had time to go to the library. She had time to dream up this idea of putting on a summer camp for other homeschoolers because we were not always getting in the car and getting dressed and go, go, go, go, go. We got to hurry. We got to hurry. And we hadn't made our schedule into something that perhaps Martha would have made it into. We had more of a Mary schedule.
And it took a lot of years for me to realize that less is more, so much more. If we spend all our days in a hurry and scurrying about and always having to get ready and go to do this and go do that, we lose that preciousness of the relationships that homeschooling allows your family to build. And more importantly, we lose that precious time sitting at the feet of Jesus. Instead of rushing about like Martha, we should show our children how to linger over the Lord in prayer and devotions. I always found that if my schedule was too jam packed, not only did devotions get quick and hurried, sometimes they got neglected altogether. And that's what happens when we aren't guarding our schedule and making sure that we have margin. Margin allows us to focus on the things that are truly important. And that is our children's relationship with the Lord.
There was a time in our lives when we got so busy and I felt so far behind on all these academic achievements and classes and all these other things we were doing and just keeping up with this schedule I had created that we had neglected— I had neglected their spiritual life. I had really neglected teaching my children anything of value in the Lord because we were so busy running after the things of this world.
I remember one day things had just gotten so out of control. My life felt out of control, my children were out of control. Everybody was unhappy and crying and every subject brought tears. And my boys were— you know what they do; they're boys. They just fall on the floor every time they don't like what they're being told to do. And they're putting holes in their paper, drawing pictures on them. They're spilling their— they're hungry every 10 minutes. And I just felt like I couldn't do this anymore. And so I decided, you know what? I'm done. I'm done. I cannot do this anymore. I think I'm going to— maybe I'm going to put them in school. Maybe that would be the right thing to do. I'm obviously not— I'm doing nothing. I'm doing nothing good. And these children are miserable. I'm miserable. We're all miserable.
So I just I went to the Lord and I said, "Lord, I'm just I think done. I think I'm done homeschooling." I felt this nudging in my spirit: go back to devotions, make that what you're about. And I said, okay. I said to myself, I'm just going to make it all about devotions. We're just going to— like we used to do back when I felt like things were going well, we used to sit down on the couch in the living room, all of us together, and we used to read stories, Bible stories or devotions from some of our favorite devotional books and then talk about it. And then we would all pray for each other. And it was just a precious time. How did I let that go? How did I get off track so easily? What happened? I just got super anxious. I got super anxious about our schedule. I got super anxious about how behind we were in every subject. And so I let it go.
And so when I decided, okay, we're just going to do devotionals, I thought, we're just going to do devotionals. That's all we're doing. I'm not homeschooling anymore. So the next morning I said, after breakfast, "Okay, time for school." And the kids all trotted over to our little school room and I said, "No, no, no, we're going to do devotions." And so we sat down and we probably spent an hour and a half reading, talking, reading Scripture, reading our little devotional, praying. We had a little—I remember because it was right after Christmas—we still had a basket of all the Christmas cards, pictures that all our friends had sent us. And I said, okay, we've got this basket of all our friends' Christmas cards. Everybody go pick out family that you want be in charge of praying for. And we went around the room. Each child prayed for a specific family.
I mean, it took probably an hour and a half, two hours, this devotional. And that was really— that was all I was planning to do. I finished up devotions, and I was like, "Okay, that was great, kids. That was really wonderful. Okay, we're done now," and then all four children including my three-year-old at the time got up and started trotting towards the schoolroom and they all sat down. And because I always put my children in charge of their own schedule, they all started working on their schoolwork without a word from me. I didn't even say, "Time to do school." They did it on their own. And I realized something really important then, that academic performance does not produce spiritual maturity, but spiritual maturity does produce academic performance. Academic excellence.
Our children, when they have hearts softened towards God, they're able to accomplish so much more in their lives because God leads them and guides them into what He wants them to do. And guess what? If our children have spiritual maturity, we will leave no gaps because God will fill in every gap. And we don't have to fear and worry about their future or about their present or about what we're doing and not doing what everybody else is doing and how we're doing it. If they know the Lord and are walking with the Lord, that's all they need because God will fill in the rest.
During that time period in my life when I have all my kids signed up for, I mean, a lot of different things. And we had all these co-ops we were in and all these other things we were doing, and I thought it was the right thing to do, but I was always hurrying and rushing around and we were always— we needed to finish this because we've got to get here. And then when we were there, we still had stuff we needed to do when we got home. It was just a hurried, harried schedule.
And I remember pulling into the parking lot of my church. And I saw another homeschool mom, a mom that I knew, but I never saw her at anything. And when I saw her in the car, she was driving and she was laughing hysterically. I could see all her children in the car laughing and I thought, when was the last time I felt so free to laugh like that? And at that point, I realized she doesn't do any of the activities I do. Her children are not signed up for any of the things that I'm signed up for. She must have so much more margin in her life that she can laugh with her children. Her relationship with her children was more intimate, more joy-filled, because she was not rushing and rushing around to try to get to the next activity, to get to the next thing.
It is so easy to let all the wonderful opportunities take over our schedule and all the times and the things we want to do. But we really need to be purposeful in planning our schedule because these years are fleeting. And I know everybody always tells younger moms these things: "This is going to go by so quickly." But even more important than that is how easy it is for our days to be wasted on things that are not benefiting our children and our family— our unity with our family, our children's intimacy with us, their kindness to each other. All of these things get neglected when we're rushing about so much.
And I would recommend choosing activities that build family unity: nature walks, and doing stuff together. Not always one child signed up for this, another child signed up for this, which is fine if the Lord is leading you to that, and I'm not saying that's bad. But we want to make sure that we are building fun, sweet, precious memories in to our weekly schedule. Things that you truly will look back on and think, "Oh, wasn't that fun?" I love when my children talk about things we did together as homeschooling families, and they're all young adults and married. And it's a wonderful thing that they can look back on their homeschool years and look back with fondness at the times that I actually did protect our schedule and guarded our time with one another.
The more margin we have in our homeschool schedule, the more laughter we will be able to have with our children. So when making a choice about your schedule, ask yourself, what is my vision for my family? I recommend writing it down. What is your vision for your family? What is your end goal? What do you want your days to look like? What kind of homeschool family, homeschool mother do you envision for your life? What is your vision for each child? What do you hope for them as a person? And does adding this activity or this class, this curriculum, does it support your vision? Will it help and support and nurture your vision for your child or for your homeschool family, your homeschool atmosphere? Or will it hinder your vision?
And you know the Word says, "Without a vision, my people cast off restraint," or "my people perish." And we want to make sure that we are following, that we have marked what our vision is. God will give you that vision if you ask him. Let your imagination roll with it. Imagine what it's like in your mind as a homeschool family. And if what you are looking at considering adding to your homeschool schedule, make sure it is something that will bring that peace, that quietness and confidence forever.
Perhaps Charlotte Mason said it best: "In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social"— and of course, she's talking about the turn of the century. I think even more now so in this time period of human history, it's extraordinary pressure for our children. She says, "Perhaps the mother's first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet, growing time spent for the most part, in the fresh air." And so I just want to leave you with a little bit of encouragement to consider looking carefully at what your weeks look like, what your days look like, and make sure that you have margin, that you have space for a quiet growing time. And as Charlotte Mason says, "spent, for the most part, in the outdoors, in the fresh air."
Now, if we can look at our schedule and consider this a priority, this quiet growing time, this time outdoors, this time together, that is not hurried and rushed, we will be building for our children memories that will be a source of comfort to them in the stressful days ahead for them. In their college years and times when they might feel lonely or afraid, they will call upon these times, these homeschooling years, and remember the joy, the peace, the sanctuary of your home, the sanctuary of the environment that you created in your home. And that will sustain them in the difficult times ahead. And it will sustain them to remember that you did focus on the Lord, that you did have lingering devotions and wonderful days, and that those are what they can look forward to when they have families of their own.
So thank you so much for listening and I look forward to hearing from you. Please read the show notes and you can see where to contact me on my website JeannieFulbright.com or my social media places of activity. And I would love to hear from you. Contact me if you have any questions, and I would love to be a blessing to you at any time. You need some encouragement or advice. I hope to talk to you soon. Thank you. And God bless.