Getting Ready to Go!
This post will soon be dated, but the start of a school year a perennial topic, so I hope that it will bless some of you now, and may even become one that you revisit from year to year.
‘Tis the season to be planning in earnest for the upcoming school year. Summer has been fun and full of both activity and rest, and many of us are savoring these dog days of August as we anticipate fall, while others of us have already begun easing back into teaching lessons. As I watch from the sidelines (having finished my homeschooling journey) I have a hodgepodge of feelings, a few words of advice, and one encouraging thought for you.
My feelings are all about not starting school right now. I know that some of you are weary on the road: may I just say that the season you’re in will not last forever? All too soon, you’ll be like me: remembering only the good about sharpening new pencils, arranging school shelves, getting down and dirty with planning actual lesson content, and growing excited about the new school books you are perusing. You won’t have to do school anymore, but you won’t get to either.
As strange as it may seem, someday you won’t have the choice as to whether or not to sit on the couch and read aloud to your wide-eyed daughter as you snuggle her close, or take nature walks, or struggle shoulder to shoulder through that pesky math lesson with your uninspired son. Someday, this privilege that we call homeschooling–this season of life–will be a memory.
How will you feel? I can’t say for sure, but here are my main feelings as I stand here to cheer you on:
- I feel blessed that I got to homeschool. So many people haven’t been given that joy.
- I feel grateful to God that we made it through, and have no regrets about our choice to homeschool as we look back. I was far from perfect, but God was faithful and looking back fills me with gratitude for all that He did in all of us on our journey.
- I feel happy when I revel in the fact that my adult children are some of my closest friends, and that they love to be with one another as well. What a gift!
- I feel wistful as I remember the in-jokes, laughter, perspiration, and small-but-real triumphs of a typical school day.
- I feel joyful to know that I gave the best years of my life away to my kids, rather than pursuing “the American dream,” or any other dream that might have distracted me from the best use of my time.
So, those are some of my feelings as I watch you all get ready for next year. I share them in an attempt to help the weary travelers among us become freshly aware of the grace of God that goes with you, and the joys you will have when you finish the journey in faithfulness and look back. God will be present to get you through if you ask Him for sustaining grace, and I don’t believe that you’ll regret later the investments you’re making today!
First one: One thing I so clearly remember about getting started each year was a sequence that went like this:
- Work hard at preparing everything before school starts, getting more excited as I went.
- First day! (Exhaustion, but also elation)
- First week: things go okay, but we’re all pretty tired
- Second week: things go okay, but it’s not fresh anymore and there are speed bumps along the way
- Third week: things are still going okay, but I don’t feel like we’ve achieved “lift-off.”
What is “lift-off? It’s that feeling that the wheels have retracted as we rise above the runway of the start of the school year, that we’ve achieved our cruising altitude for the year, that the kids know the routine and are settled into it, and so am I. By the fifth or sixth week, we usually got there, but I remember that, year after year, it always surprised me that it took as long as it did to get airborne.
My advice is to anticipate this sense of delay in achieving lift-off. Don’t allow the Devil to get in amongst you with discouraging thoughts about how dismal the year ahead is going to be. Hang in there, tweak your original plans as needed, pray a lot, and keep going. This plane may be a lumbering cargo jet, but by God’s grace, you should find that you do achieve lift-off. When you do, remember to thank God for that success!
Second piece of advice: If you haven’t already done so, plan in some soul food for yourself as you launch into this year. While you’re busy planning the devotions that you want to use with your kids and when you’ll do them, think about your own quiet times with God.
- When will they regularly occur? Got a time carved out that you can reliably keep open for time with God?
- What Bible readings, or good Christian book, will you be reading for personal encouragement and growth as school starts?
- Are you reading any books (or viewing any videos) that would help you be a better teaching parent?
The homeschooling journey isn’t a sprint: it’s a multi-year marathon! In order to make it, you should plan ways to make sure that your soul is nurtured. It’s just as important for the success of your endeavor as any other feature of homeschooling–and probably more important than most of them, since you are the pillar of your home!
Third piece of advice: As school starts up, take stock. Where are you at, and where do you want to be in, say, six weeks, or by Thanksgiving, or by Christmas? If you don’t know, how will you progress? I advise you to set of specific, measurable personal goals about which you can pray daily and discern progress.
The lives of mothers are so “daily” that often we grow discouraged because we don’t see anything change. The Devil loves to remind us of all the ways that we could have done more. Setting specific, measurable goals helps us to not grow weary in well doing because we can measure progress (or even lack of it) objectively. If progress isn’t being made, we can put our fingers on obstacles more easily if we have specific goals. If progress is being made, we can rejoice, thank God, and more easily silence our Accuser.
Last one: Purpose to pray daily for your husband and children.
For some of us, this is obvious; you are happily dependent on God, talking to Him daily about your tasks as we all should be. For others of us, though–the Marthas among us, mostly, of whom I am one–remembering to ask God’s blessing on our efforts, the efforts of our husbands, and for our children’s growth academically and spiritually, or asking Him to change what only He can in our hearts and the hearts of the ones we love so much, takes work. If you need help, create it! Make prayer lists, or cards, or charts, or bookmarks for your Bible–whatever it takes–to humbly beseech the Father’s help in your homeschool.
Not only will daily prayer position you to receive grace, strength, direction, and gratitude for prayers answered, it will ease those little points of friction that all couples and parents deal with in this fallen world. I have observed that, whenever I am in relational difficulties, praying for the other person both humbles me and softens my heart towards them. I start to look at my part in the difficulties with an eye towards repentance, and also see better the good and growth in others, instead of dwelling on the ugly and static. In the daily grind of mothering and teaching, we can use all the humility and softening we can get!
No matter what terrain you traverse this year on your homeschooling journey–whether up hills, along straight sunny roads, or through deep dark valleys–your path has been determined by a loving, Heavenly Father who knows exactly what you, your husband, your children, and those with whom you do life, need. He, who has promised us sustaining grace and to never leave nor forsake us, has said that all things work together for good to those who love God, and are being conformed to His image (Romans 8:28-29).
We won’t always know why things happen (our minds are too small to contain the knowledge of the infinite possibilities for even the smallest actions), but we can count on this: no one (not even we ourselves) can ever snatch us out of the Father’s hand, once He has called us to Himself (John 10:28-29). He is going with you on your homeschool journey this year, and will always be a heartbeat away. When you feel small and weak, or when you feel exuberant and grateful, you can turn to Him and find Him there, with you and eager to share His love with you.