I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Core Values: Giving Your Family Meaning and Motive

Core Values: Giving Your Family Meaning and Motive {The Unlikely Homeschool}

21st-century living is messy.
It's busy.
And with the never-ending barrage of media, it's also very noisy.

The world shouts more. More. MORE! and attempts to pull a family in a million different directions.

The constant stream of pressure poured out on social media has us, all, convinced that we're not doing enough, we're not buying enough, we're not fill-in-the-blank enough.

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And so, we put our kids into multiple extracurricular activities to keep up with the Harvard-bound kids up the street.

And we bake homemade bread with wheat that we've grown and ground ourselves in hopes of getting the approval of all the have-it-all-together mommas.

And we invest in a pricey new boat that we can't afford because we've convinced ourselves that we deserve it.

And we clamor for more. More. MORE.

The 21st century, with its fish-bowl Facebook living, has put an entirely new spin on "keeping up with the Joneses."

The world seeks our attention. But, while we continue to add more to our plates, we divide our time, energy, resources, and talent. We end up with lives defined by average because we haven't carved out room for the things that really matter.

We are overwhelmed people with underwhelmed souls.
But the truth is, a family was made for more than this.
We were knit together with purpose. While the world seeks to pull us apart with its promises of bigger and better, God has meaning and motive for each unique family tapestry He's woven.

No two families are alike.
He's given each different tools and different talents.
So, he doesn't expect us to build the same thing.

Your family can't play our part. And we can't play yours.

That's why, when faced with the tugs of well-meaning friends and family, The Hubs and I sat down one day to determine our part, or rather the part that God would have our family to play.

We set aside some time to determine some core values for our family. We wanted to unify our unit by spelling out exactly what was important to us.

That way, on those days when we would undoubtedly feel the pull of more, we could weigh all of our decisions against our values--filter a "good opportunity", a financial purchase, or even a schedule demand through our values grid in order to make a decision that would add to our family and not divide it.

We wanted to have purpose.
And so, we needed a plan.

Why are core values important for a family?

They unify.

Everyone can be on the same page because "the page" is obvious and well-spelled out.

They establish clear boundaries.

Although I absolutely love getting together with our extended family, I don't feel guilty about not attending their annual Christmas party on December 25th. My husband and I have determined that spending most of the day on the highway for this long-distance gathering just doesn't fit with our core values.

They clarify parenting goals.

The Hubs and I can support each other in parenting decisions knowing that we each have the same filter.

They simplify our time and space.

All of our purchases and time commitments are placed against our core values. Whatever doesn't match up, gets a "NO." While we are not necessarily minimalists, we don't want to fill our lives or our home with stuff that has no value...unnecessaries that just drain us of time and energy...extras that require upkeep and maintenance. 

They encourage stewardship.

I only have one life to live...and live with purpose. I have no desire to squander my days with poor decisions. I've come to realize that everything in this world will cost me something. Sometimes, the cost is larger than I even realize. Sometimes the cost is the number of moments in my life that I've spent and will never get back. At the end of the day, I have to determine whether each decision I have made for my family is worth the high cost that I've paid for it. Our family core values help me to see my stewardship, or lack thereof, more clearly.

They build contentment.

It's all too easy to succumb to "mommy guilt" when I don't think I measure up to the Pinterest-worthy lifestyles of everyone else. Or to allow feelings of discontent to take root when I see the success of others plastered all over Facebook. But, by acknowledging my family core values, I can easily recognize that while those things might be important to some families, they are not necessarily important to mine. I can "rejoice with those who rejoice" much more freely knowing that my family is unique and doesn't have to be the carbon copy of another.

They breed excellence.

While reading this great book, I learned that every time I say "yes", I also say "no". Everything that demands my time, energy, or attention, eats time, energy, and attention away from something or someone else. I would much rather that we, as a family, focus our efforts on doing one or two things with excellence, than doing a whole bunch of things with mediocrity.

How do you determine your core values?

Begin by making a list with your spouse of all the things that are of utmost importance to the two of you. Consider the following questions as you formulate your list.

  • What compels you to be a better spouse, parent, and child of God? 
  • What are your natural passions? Your natural gifts?
  • What are the passions/gifts of your spouse? Your kids?
  • What activities demand your time? Your finances?
  • How do you feel about these time/financial constraints?
  • How would you finish this statement, "I will feel like I have done my job as a parent if my children grow up and _____."?
  • In light of Luke 2:52 and the example of living that Jesus left for us, what motivates you to increase in wisdom, and stature, and favor with God and man?
  • What is your family mission statement and/or house rules?
Collect your answers and determine some common themes. Whittle these themes down to three to five statements that will help define your days. Discuss them with your entire family and resolve to plow ahead with purpose. 

How do you use your core values in everyday life?

While I'm hesitant to divulge the five core values of our family at the risk of influencing you as you make potential plans for your own, I will share some simple decisions that The Hubs and I have made in the last few days which reflect what our family is all about.

We love God and love others.

When faced with the task of unloading my daughter's outgrown wardrobe, we contemplated selling it all on a local online site. Since she is the only girl, most of the items have only been worn a season or two. We certainly could have garnered quite a lot of cash from the still-in-really-good-shape items. But, just up the road from us are some friends and neighbors who have way more family than they have finances. With multiple girls to clothe, we knew they needed our items more than we needed a few fast dollars. The decision was an easy one in light of our core values.

We place relationships before earthly things.

My daughter really wanted to try out for a local girl's baseball team this summer. She's naturally athletic, and so I have no doubt she would've made the team. But, with practice commitments two nights a week and numerous out-of-town games on the horizon, she could easily see that this opportunity would not be a good fit for our family. It would be a strain on our home and consequently a strain on our relationships with each other. Dinner would be spent in the van and family togetherness would be put on pause for much of the summer which is certainly not in line with our family values.

We are lifetime learners with unique passions.

Tonight, I was invited to join a mass of girlfriends at a local art pub. In a few weeks, they are planning to spend an evening painting, and laughing, and relaxing together. I know it will be really fun to go to. And I really don't want to miss out. But, I'm not a painter. I certainly enjoy it, but I enjoy other things more. The decision is a no-brainer for me. The pub fee is a bit steep and my "play" money is limited. While I could splurge and attend the event with my friends, I'd rather use that same amount of money doing something else with them. So, no art pub for me. And that's OK. My core values help me be OK with being me.

We serve God by serving others. 

This morning, while heading to church, we were met with a total downpour. It was raining so hard, I think I may have seen a large ark and a bunch of animals float by. While it would have been easy for my middle son to just dash into the front doors to save himself from drowning, he stood outside in the rain holding the door for me, all his siblings, and many other folks heading in to worship. No one asked him to hold the door. He was just guided by what he values: service to others.

We are good stewards of our stuff--time, bodies, talents, tools, and finances.

The Hubs moonlights as a picker. He loves finding trash and turning it into treasures. He values stuff with a past...with a story. Handcrafted. Solid. Real. He disdains plastic and all-things-mass-produced. Those new, but-made-to-look-old pieces make him itch. He is a steward of stuff and has determined to reuse, repurpose, restore. When I casually mentioned my need for more bookshelf storage, he passed over the IKEA catalog and went to the abandoned barn of a picking contact to purchase an antique hutch which proved to be both pretty and functional. So, while most of our house decor has come from flea markets, garage sales, or ancestors of years gone by, our home reflects us and the value we have given our stuff. 

A final word

Every decision we make as a family gets sifted through our core values.

Homeschooling?...We look to our core values.
Debt-free living?...We look to our core values.
Whole foods diet?...We look to our core values.
Natural lifestyle?...We look to our core values.

It's who we are.
It's what we are about.

In our 21st century world of more. More. MORE, clearly-established family values are a steady voice on a noisy sea. They give us purpose and direction. They help us to live uncluttered lives and show us the part only we can play. They give meaning and motive.


  1. This is really good. Sometimes parents like me who have to say no to extracurricular activities are made to feel like we're somehow stunting our kids' growth by doing so, in spite of the fact I see other families pulled a hundred different directions every night, never moving in the SAME direction together as a family, and I don't see how that could possibly be healthy. I wish there was time enough for involvement in every activity that might be fun for my kids or encourage their learning or offer them some great life experience, but there just isn't time! The things we can do together as a family and the activities we can involve ourselves in in service for Christ have to be the priority.

    Thanks for making that point so well.

    1. I agree, Tanya. While my kids do have some extra curricular activities through some seasons, they are activities that we have chosen thoughtfully and ones which filter through the other values. I think parenting with purpose is so very important. Thanks for reading!

  2. I like how this approach leans towards planning for the family instead of reacting to a social calendar that pops up on social media or via the community. My inbox is full of park n rec announcements for sports, homeschool field trips, meet ups and community events calendars. I love the resources and choices, I'm not complaining at all. Just add some common sense, one family cannot attend every wonderful community or homeschool event. My husband and I go thru most of the items on your list when we discuss an event or class we might be thinking of for one of our children. We just never spelled it out as detailed as you have for us in this post.

    1. Yes! Core values whether specifically written down or just mentally planned help with the every day decisions of life. I, too, get lots of invites and opportunities. Some are great and are good fits for our family, but some we have to pass. But, I can pass them guilt free.

  3. Excellent post! I'm a firm believer that every choice involves a sacrifice of some sort. Kuddos for having a plan in place for those times when the "going gets tough". I'm down to 2 at home from 6 and we made very similar choices. Not always easy, and frankly some of my grown kids have lamented that we didn't let them be involved in more, but hubby and I were doing the best we could with God's help.

    1. Don't get down on yourself, Kendy. Hindsight is always full of "coulda, shoulda, woulda." I love the fact that you can acknowledge that you were doing the very best you could with God as your guide. No mommy guilt.