It is springtime and the usual panic calls and emails will start any day. They will sound like this:
“We are just so far behind this year.”
“We will be going all summer just to finish.”
“My mother got sick and I ended up letting school slide, and we are hopelessly behind.”
“Everything was going fine until we had the baby, and now nothing is on schedule.”
“My child is (fill in the blank): lazy, special needs, strong-willed, stubborn – and we are nowhere near as far as we should be.”
“I am just not organized like you. I don’t know how you do it.”
Do you recognize yourself in any of these statements? Just in case you are wondering, it’s normal. You and I and every homeschool mother has had these same thoughts or issues year after year. The names and issues may change, but the result is the same. We enter the last couple months of our planned end-of-the-year in a panic and begin heaping coals of shame on ourselves and our children.
Now it is springtime and you are panicked. You are not going to meet all the deadlines you set months ago before “life” happened. That is quite all right. Just realize that in home education, there is no “behind” or even “ahead” but instead, it is just wherever you happen to be right now. And my dear home-educating mother, that is just where God intended you to be.
God knew the challenges you would face this year. He knew the struggles and the successes. He knows each of your children and how He wants them to grow in their love and pursuit of Him. So, rather than focusing on where you should be, look at what you need to do to complete this school year and move ahead with a Godward focus.
Start by praying. Then for each child get together the books, notes, planners, and supplies, and get a true grip on where you stand in each subject. Usually this is a process I do in December of each year – the time we consider our halfway point. Then I repeat this exercise each month until we complete school. But if you have not been focusing on this for the past few months, you may be in for some surprises of both the pleasant and unpleasant varieties.
What Do You Need to Do?
Consider what you need to complete this year and what you can carry over into the summer or into the next school year. As you examine each subject, determine if you need to eliminate some of the busywork, or if more diligence is needed to complete it. Then mark out the weeks remaining in your school year. Approximately how many days per week do you want to be doing school? And in those days, how many hours will be devoted to academics? Does the amount of work you desire to complete match the days you have remaining? Is it a balanced schedule, or are you going to have to get crazy to get it finished?
If you are far behind what you had hoped, now is the time to determine whether your expectations were appropriate. It is also time to look over all activities both inside and outside the home. It’s nearly impossible to homeschool when you are running out of the house every day of the week. Are there areas where you could use some outside help? Would it be better to extend your school year into the summer or would it be better to stop for an extended summer break?
Now is also the time to consider all the character issues in the house to see where they have helped or hindered in your homeschool progress. Some of my favorite things about homeschooling are the ample opportunities for sanctification. You will never be short of chances for you and your children to grow in virtues like diligence, consideration, good use of resources and time, honesty, obedience, love, patience, and perseverance. Where these areas need to be built up, go ahead and factor that time in as well. Then, dear mother, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Do Not Compare; Seek Wisdom
One area I caution highly against is to compare yourself with other families and how they homeschool.
When I began home educating 15 years ago, I was very interested in how other women ran their homes. I wanted to know all the details. Did they keep a schedule? Did they use chore charts and curriculum? Did their children have little school desks and say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning? Did they even get dressed each day (I had heard rumors of school in pajamas)? How did they handle multiple ages or even babies and toddlers? Did they test their children?
If you are struggling in a particular area, it can be a benefit to speak to a mom who has more wisdom and experience than you. To the extent that getting ideas from wise women benefits you, go for it! Seeking wisdom and godly counsel can help you overcome difficult areas. But as a seasoned home educator of many children, I caution you not to get into the habit of continually comparing yourself to others. When we continually compare ourselves to other people, we are not using a real measuring stick. In our sin nature, we want to compare ourselves to another person’s best or another person’s worst. When we see things we wish we could do, our opinion of ourselves will diminish. When we hear stories of other people’s failures, somehow this falsely elevates us in our own minds.
Resist this urge, dear mother. With your husband, pray over your decisions regarding your home and school, and trust God to give you wisdom that is unique for your situation. No one else has your children, your resources, your dynamics or your issues. And finally, extend the same grace to yourself and your own children as you would to another mother in your same shoes. God’s grace is so wide, so far-reaching, and so deep, you will never reach the end of it.
Keeping a gentle and a gracious spirit will benefit your family far more than finishing your school year by a certain date or finishing the last few chapters in a math book.
Copyright 2015, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.
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