My mind began to drift on yesterday as I listened to Pastor—not the normal sundry thoughts from what’s for lunch to why is it always so cold in here, but purposeful drifting. I would almost call it life application thoughts. You see, our pastor has been speaking for months now from Psalms 1, about the blessing of being planted. He has been talking to us about how to flourish in life. So as I pondered the life application of yesterday’s particular message, I could not help but reflect on how quickly we are approaching the beginning of our new school year. Honestly, I am so far behind where I want to be in many areas of life (including blog updates—can you tell?), but strangely at peace with it all. I thought about my earliest days of preparing for the next homeschool year, and how my process differs radically from what I do now. I thought about this photo, sent to me by one of my homeschool friends who, in one of life’s many ironies, no longer homeschools, but she saw it and thought of me:
I have thought for weeks about what has the Lord has done—not in the children, but in me—over our years of homeschooling. One of the many things he has done for me is to teach me grace. And perhaps that is why I am not pulling my hair out about what is not in place, and what is different than I want it to be, and that always looming gap between my perfectionist vision for our family and where we truly are. So, in the midst of all the “your best homeschool year ever” and “how to plan” posts that are and will continue to flood the homeschool community during this time, I thought to write about a few realities. I pen this not as a flirt with pessimism, but because my heart is that we would all have our best year ever, and we should speak these things—but that only comes, at least in part, by covering all of your plans and promises with a gentle grace. Here, from my perspective, is the reality of those early days/ months/ years:
The first year is an adjustment—for everyone. One of the best nuggets of advice I received from a veteran homeschooler is to look at the first year as an experiment. Chances are you have not stepped into the role of parent and home educator before. Also, your children are learning to deal with you in this dual role. There are approaches, books, and a host of tools that you will learn about as you go, as well as understanding your children and yourself. Even for the veteran, a new baby is an adjustment for everyone. A debilitating sickness is an adjustment for everyone. Show your family the grace they-and you–deserve.
It will not go as planned. I laugh when I occasionally reflect on my vision for homeschooling before we actually put pen to paper. I romanticized a Charlotte Mason homeschool in which we spent hours outdoors finding rare animals and laying on blankets. Then, as the actual first day arrived, I had a revelation: Charlotte Mason doesn’t school in the Texas heat. Charlotte Mason’s students are probably not running from bees, wasps, and dragonflies while their pencils are moving, or trying to avoid ant beds. After trying for a number of years to fit our square peg into a round hole, I am totally at peace in saying that we have a Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool. By the way, we also finally bought an outdoor patio table this year. After days of getting it set up, the youngest might be the only one to actually use it for school!
Here is another thought, while I am on the subject of plans. I do keep a planner for each child, fully completed with their daily assignments. But I have backed away from yearly or even quarterly plans. I work month-to-month. Am I suggesting that you don’t plan? Of course not. I am suggesting, if only for myself, that I don’t want to be so married to a plan until I can’t hop in the car with hubby on a work-turned-field-trip outing. I want to visit a friend in the hospital if I choose to; I want to help my aging in-laws as my husband needs. And I want to teach my children something about life and priorities as I make those calls.
You will buy something you cannot use. I thought about this particular truth because it saddens me to meet moms who will get so excited about homeschooling and then grow even more discouraged because they picked the “wrong” curriculum. Sometimes curriculum won’t be a good fit for your family, or its changing needs and dynamics of living. That is why it is critical that you partner the curriculum that interest you with the realities of your life—time needed to teach it, doctor’s appointments, scouting, dance lessons, traveling husband, school-on-the-road, etc. And consider that “wrong” purchase your homeschooling baptism; welcome to the family. Tweak that curriculum, sell it, bless someone with it, and keep it moving. No time for beating yourself up—you have too much to do.
God is doing something in you. This is where I began. If we embrace homeschooling as the life-changing journey that it is, school becomes a tangible offshoot of what the Lord is doing intangibly. Do I sinfully worry about my children, and take on the care that the Lord told me is His? Yes. Am I afraid for what they learned—and concerned for what they didn’t get? Absolutely. Do I take it personally when their stars don’t shine to everyone around them as I think they should? No doubt. But the Lord is doing a work in me, and allowing me to see something: as Pastor stated so directly, what keeps us from showing more grace and mercy is the turmoil within us. What I’m most worried about, truth be told, are my failures, my shortcomings, and my supernatural ability to get in the way of any plan I lay before Him if it doesn’t go as I think it should. The more I learn to give Him my cares, the more peace I have that, when I see “me” in my children, He saw it first, and He has it under control.
Your first day/month/year might not be perfect. Looking back, the days and seasons that I thought were perfect had everything to do with me, and the way I like to run the house and school. As one example, there was a time when we held school from July to April, so that I could garden and enjoy the coolness of the spring mornings. I’m not as confident in saying that the kids enjoyed giving up half of what the children around them considered summer vacation. This year, we’ll begin in late, late August after we drop off two for college. We will start with a field trip—right after I started listing a few items in my planner. Oy. But, we will have a good year—perhaps our best year ever.
The final challenge from Pastor: Infuse.
As one whose Facebook timeline is ripe with pictures of my herb and fruit combos in pitchers of water, this mandate immediately resonated with me. The point of infusion is to allow your subtle presence to slowly change the environment, and then to take over everything. When I speak of “your presence” here, I am really speaking of Christ in you, which is another thing God used homeschooling to teach me: humility. It’s okay to say to our children, “We’re learning this together.” It lets me off the hook, so to speak, from perfection, and allows me to learn alongside the kids.
Hmmm… maybe I paid more attention than I thought I did (lol). Let us allow God to do His work, and let us infuse the best that we can—whatever that looks like in this moment. Wishing you your best homeschool year. Ever.