When Moses encouraged his people to build a tabernacle, they were eager to show their willingness. “And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering to the work of the tabernacle” (Exodus 35:21) Their hearts were willing, and their generosity was felt. Moses appointed leaders to collect the donations, and these leaders reported, “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make.” (Exodus 36:5)
So Moses called for a halt on the donations, “Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing.” (Exodus 36:6) Already, the amount collected exceeded the need. “For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.” (Exodus 36:7)
Like the children of Israel, sometimes we go a little overboard when we implement our grand ideas. The idea is valid, and important, but it doesn’t actually necessitate as much energy, commitment, or sacrifice as we give it. We may need to be restrained.
Learning to temper means learning to control. We need temperance, even when we are excited, even when we are sacrificing for good things. Alma’s counsel to his son ties diligence with temperance. “And now, as ye have begun to teach the word even so I would that ye should continue to teach; and I would that ye would be diligent and temperate in all things.” (Alma 38:10) Diligence feels familiar and necessary to homeschooling families. We feel required to be diligent, just to stay on top of the ceaseless demands. But here, we are taught that diligence goes hand-in-hand with temperance. You need to know when to stop, you need to know when you have “sufficient.” Temperance may be the virtue we need most.
Though at times our priorities may need to shift to meet an unusually monumental goal, like the children of Israel building the tabernacle, we need to strive to live with a measured pace and a steady stride. Here are three suggestions for increasing our temperance:
- Simplify: Do the minimum; make it the simplest expression of the idea. Focus on the basics. Lay the groundwork, but don’t do all the work. Structure time for your children to learn deeply.
- Shadow: When more is needed, let the child drive. Help them recognize their curiosity, or their boredom, or their readiness to move on. Allow them space for their own creative implementation.
- Assess: Reserve time to consider progress. Ask questions, with honest interest, and a loving tone. Prevent excesses (both yours and your children’s) by providing accountability for the use of time.