Thoughts of failure start closing in on me, choking out reason, and I become panicked at the end of each school year. I have had the same feeling every year for as long as I can remember. I have learned that those thoughts and fears are not about what I remember; they’re about what I forget. I keep asking myself, what have I done? More importantly, what have I not done? Are you feeling it with me? There is good news! I have found ways to finish the year strong, especially when I felt it was a weak year. What helps me finish strong is as easy as asking three questions: What did I do? What can I do now? What will I do? As we answer these questions together, you will begin to see the light at the end of the school year tunnel.
What Did I Do?
Looking back over the school year can appear bleak if I focus on what I didn’t accomplish with my family. What I had hoped to accomplish at the beginning of the year with the new schedule, book, or curriculum, still stares at me in its new unopened form. I realize my propensity to despair as “failure to implement” hits home once again. So, instead of becoming discouraged, I do what really encourages me. I look back over my calendar and make a list of everything. I start at the beginning of the school year and write down every field trip, every class, every co-op, for every child in my family for that year. Then I write down the read-alouds we enjoyed, the nature walks, and the library trips. I make a list of each of the kids’ workbooks, textbooks, computer courses, and reading books that they went through during the year. Every year I discover that we did way more than what I thought.
In my panic, my little brain had only been focusing on what we didn’t do. That’s just where our enemy wants us to focus: on the negative things that distract and discourage. Let’s not give in to that any longer. Start today and write your end-of-the-year journal or start a file on your computer to track all of this.
Some years, though, we may not have accomplished much more than the bare basics due to newborns, moving, illness, or other difficult seasons, but we were learning some important life lessons. Those were the years we had real lessons from an eternal schoolhouse, built in the heavens! Write those things down, too!
Were you helping a neighbor or a relative through a hard time? Did you start a new ministry? Maybe you worked hard with a special needs child, or consistently dealt with a rebellious child. Perhaps there were needs to be met in the homeschool community. Maybe you prioritized your husband’s wishes first or helped him in his business. Did you lead a child to the foot of the cross? We should not consider all of these things wasted school time, rather see them as a different type of schooling – one with character-building lessons. Though there is much to be done academically, we are wise to see and record all of the spiritual things in our year as well.
Instead of looking at everyday life as an “obstacle” between us and what we want to accomplish, we need to look at the obstacles as part of the life God intended for us to live, and teach around those. It’s how we live that life that brings glory to the One Who designed it. Retreat with the LORD and ask Him to show you what you did accomplish, and what eternal lessons you learned.
Action Point: What did you do? Make a detailed list of everything you did this school year and file it with your important papers on your computer.
What Can I Do Now?
There are several things you can do now to make up for anything you feel you have missed. Take this last month, and if you have to, work a bit into the summer and finalize those areas that are nagging you.
Stop doing the subjects that you have been consistent in (you can pick them back up in a few months), and do only those things that you have neglected or wanted to do. Maybe you wanted to teach cursive writing or sewing, or read that history book everyone recommended, or do those science experiments gathering dust. Stop the daily math or language arts or whatever it is you are good at getting done, and do that nagging thing in its place.
You can cover a whole topic or delve into a unit study full-time. Take everything else off of your schedule and just do that history or cursive or copywork that you wanted to do this year. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn and do in just four to eight weeks of concentrated effort.
We have that freedom. We can immerse in one subject for a whole month if we want to. Why not? Immersion is the best way to really learn a subject anyway! And, when you are done, don’t forget to add those things to your list of accomplishments for this year.
What can you do now? You can stop the regular stuff and start those things that have been on the back burner.
Action Point: Take a day off right away and rearrange your current schedule around what you still want to accomplish this year. Take everything else off your schedule, and only do those unfinished things.
What Will I Do?
I will take the time necessary to plan the next year. I will keep a written list or a computer file of what the children have completed for each grade and a plan for the next year. I will try to incorporate any curriculum I didn’t use the previous year into the next year, or I will find a new home for it. I will print each child’s list out and take that with me to conventions so that I don’t purchase what I don’t need and so that I remember to purchase what I do need. Gather the children together and go over the lists you made. Get their input on what they would like to learn. Pray together and then put into use only those things God shows you for the coming year.
We need to be intentional and take the time needed to organize the end of this school year and the beginning of the next. Homeschooling and organization are both necessary, and both take time. Sometimes we have to put aside one to do the other, and each should be given the time they deserve.
Be intentional about finishing the school year strong in the Lord as well! You’ve wanted to pray more – make fifteen minutes right after lunch to do that. You’ve wanted to memorize more Scripture – pick one passage and give yourself a month to memorize it; take baby steps until you’ve mastered it. You’ve wanted to journal – before you get into bed, write one sentence about the day.
If we take a casual, unintentional approach, our children just may wander off on their own path as adults, whether or not they walked on our paths as children. We must continue to not only walk the walk, but talk the talk, with purpose and intention. It’s the idea that I should not only stop and take that teachable moment, but that I should stop and make that teachable moment.
Action Point: Don’t let today get away without doing something you’ve intended to do, and everything that God intends you to do.
What Will God Do?
Finishing strong will require more than you can give. You will realize you cannot do it all; you need help. God is able and willing to do through you. He is at work in you both to will and to do what He desires. God will be with you. God will perform all things for you and through you. God will reward your obedience.
Remind yourself of these things as you bring your children up for His glory and His purposes – even in the light of his divine interruptions in your life. Don’t grow weary with what you did not accomplish. Continue to do well and stand strong and you will reap the harvest God promises.
Don’t be discouraged with your perception of a lack of progress. Change that perception by looking back and remembering all God has done and has allowed you to do. Trust him. Work hard on the missed areas starting now, and trust God with your tomorrows. He has already gone before you and prepared the way.
Action Point: Remember what God has done. Look forward in faith to what God will do. He is with you.
Why Am I Doing This?
Our duty is to educate our children with design and purpose. What is our greatest goal but to train them up in and for the Lord? We must intentionally design an education for them with such a purpose. We must make it our intention to train them to follow God’s ways; to teach them to follow His commands; to instruct them in righteousness and holiness.
We can have great joy in knowing we are doing exactly what God has called us to do. Take heart – you are the best homeschooling mom/dad for your child. God is not only teaching your children through you, but I happen to know from experience that He is teaching you a thing or two as well.
There may not be a tomorrow for us or any one of our children. We need to take today by the horns and be in God’s eyes like Abraham was. God knew that Abraham would teach his children God’s ways: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD” (Genesis 18:19). I want God to know that of me, too, don’t you?
Action Point: Trust and obey. Hold on to the hearts of your children while you can. The Almighty God is on your side, and wants to also be in your home. Home is where you and your children belong. You CAN finish the year strong; keep them Home Where They Belong.
Copyright 2014, 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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