We officially ended our school year last week. We finished late but I think we did well. I will be having a 1st Grader, a 2ND Grader and another Kindergarten student this year. Yes, my youngest will be entering the K-12 system.
We’ve been homeschooling since the beginning and I’ve learned a lot since we started 3 years ago. This year we had more downs than ups, and through it all, the grace of God sustained me and my family. As I reflected on our year, I realized that we had grown much as a family. Here are the lessons I learned, in random order:
1. The best laid plans will not be executed perfectly
At the beginning of last year, I drew up this pretty neat plan to integrate the different subjects my two children were studying. I was aiming to make the most of our homeschool day. I felt very good about myself after I had edited the plan to perfection and gave myself a pat on the back afterwards. We did okay in the first quarter of the school year and then the plan just about fell apart after that.
For a few weeks I was stressing myself out for not following “the plan” until God reminded me that learning didn’t happen according to “plan”. God well and truly humbled the self-sufficient me in this area and I asked for forgiveness from God and from my family for forcing our homeschool to stick to the plan when it wasn’t working anymore.
Having said that, I still think it’s a good idea to plan your homeschool time if only to help you stay focused on what you need to accomplish for the year. But it shouldn’t dictate the pace of the learning journey.
2. Practice what you preach
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19)
At the beginning of the year this was my key verse. I will be honest with you. There are days when I raise my voice when I shouldn’t and lose my temper when there really is no need to or over the mundane things. So sometimes, my children mimic what they see and hear from me. God is still working on this issue in my life and I am just so grateful for His grace covering my family.
As God teaches me to control my anger I also use it as an opportunity to teach the children about it and about this gracious verse in the Bible that I cling to (whenever I lose my temper):
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgives us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
3. Take care of myself…
I tend to lose myself in work. It’s another area that God is working in me: learning to take a Sabbath rest is difficult for me to do. Even when I’m at rest, I often find myself looking for work to do. After having many sick days this year, which I suspect is due more to fatigue than to whatever seasonal bugs are in the air, my Beloved reminded me that I wasn’t taking care of myself by getting enough rest.
Nick Vujicic, author of “Life without Limits” and “Unstoppable”, preached to our congregation a couple of Sundays ago. He said one of the (best) things a father can do on a Sunday was to take a nap. This was in the context of working too hard because of “worry over the future”. I couldn’t help thinking that afternoon that the message was meant for mothers, too, and that God was reminding me to rest.
4. Trust in God and Pray
I put these two together as they really go hand in hand. Because I have workaholic tendencies, I also tend to take things in my own hands rather than to trust God for my family’s learning journey. It really is hard to let go but that’s what God tells us to do and this is another area where he is working on me.
Jesus said, “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me.” (John 14:1, ERV)
5. Delight in your children
A veteran homeschooling mom once told us “young ‘uns” to delight in our children and to savor this very temporary and fleeting stage in their lives. This year whenever I felt the pressure to “finish our curriculum” I would forget the joy from just being together with my kids. When I saw their sad faces after being pushed to do something because “it’s in the book” I often felt guilty and would be reminded of this advice from that wise momma.
6. The Father is important, too
Feeling that I was the “super-mommy” who had to do it all, I didn’t ask (nor did I want to, really) for Dad’s help early in the year. I realize now that I would have avoided a lot of problems if I had. Secretly, I thought I was the better teacher because I was “mommy” and it was my job to teach them (and his job was to just bring home the bacon).
How wrong I was. On the days I was sick or just plain needed a break, he helped them with “assignments”. When the boys’ energy was just too much for me to handle, he would have “man-to-man” talks with them. I realized how much of a difference his involvement in relating with the boys made to all of us. When he took the kids out for walks so I can have a breather, I saw the delight and security in the children’s eyes and the change in their demeanor that came from their father-and-kids-only- time. Truly, there is a “father-shaped” space in a child’s life that only a father can fill. I’m grateful to God for making me realize that.
7. Set goals
Early last school year, another seasoned mom suggested that we set goals for our children, even simple ones like learning to make their own bed. There were a number of good reasons for this – it trains the child to set a goal and work for it; it focuses energy and resources, and it helps give everyone direction when life gets out of balance.
This year, I set a few simple goals for the kids like keeping their toys when they were done playing and helping clear the dining table after meals. There were days when we missed working towards them but having them written down helped remind us what we were aiming for at the end of year. I would say we were able to hit most of what we set out to do last year.
8. Take plenty of field trips
Last school year we took a lot of field trips. I have young learners in my homeschool, and according to sound educational research, they learn best through hands-on exploration of their surroundings. I learned this from the homeschool convention I attended last year. I realized what a big help those field trips were when it came to talking about the material in the textbooks.
9. Invest in your own professional development
I remember reading from Debra Bell’s “The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling” how she kept herself updated as an Educator to better homeschool her children. Of course, she was a trained public school teacher to begin with before she took on homeschooling. But trained teacher or not, I now see my role as an educator in the same light. And that means that I need to invest in my skills as an educator. I don’t see myself pursuing another degree anytime soon but there is already a lot available out there in the form of books, journals, trainings, seminars, etc that I have been reading and which have helped me be a better teacher to my kids.
To sum up, I mentioned that this year saw us riding more downs than ups. I have to admit there were many days that I was ready to throw in the towel. But as I prayed about our homeschool, God brought to mind the following verse:
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time, we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9 NASB)
I know, from the experiences of other homeschooling moms, that we will reap the rewards of this time of planting and nurturing. I am grateful for the year that has passed and look forward to the new adventures we will have in the coming school year.