by Julianna Dotten
It’s a few weeks into the school year for most of us, and at some point, reality hits that our perfectly scheduled 15-minute increments aren’t working. Life happens, and sometimes lunch takes longer because we’re talking about a recent event or we had to deal with tears (again!) about math. And of course, that means we’re behind on schedule and have to spend the rest of the day catching up …
So what should we expect out of another year of homeschool? Whether you’ve already crossed out your schedule a few times or are still running on adrenaline to try to keep up, taking a moment to step back and reconsider your goals can be key in making it over the long-haul.
Here are a few thoughts as you contemplate what’s really important this school year:1. The goal of homeschooling is to teach our children to teach themselves (and love it!), not to learn everything they’ll need to know in life. The truth is, there’s no way we can teach everything our students will ever need to know. They’ll inevitably accept a new job, decide to pursue a different career path, or pick up a hobby that they know nothing about. And the single best tool we can impart during their years at home is the ability to teach themselves.
One key way to do this is to give them responsibility over their own schooling. I am incredibly thankful that my parents coached me and my siblings into gradually working toward our own educational goals. Of course, in our elementary years, we needed my mom to remind us to do math every day or give us “assignment charts” for the week that we could check off and ensure we’d accomplished our schooling. But as we entered our high school years, they let us in on the academic planning. Together, we sat down and researched what credits we needed and then put together a plan to accomplish them. We were so much more motivated when we had helped set our own goals and therefore were more eager to teach ourselves.
My mom always saw herself as more of a facilitator than a teacher once we hit our high school years, and I am incredibly thankful for the way that attitude prepared me to be able to delve into a new subject and figure out how to learn it on my own. Not only did this force me to learn to teach myself but it also grew my appetite for learning as I discovered that the world was before me: I could learn anything I was interested in!
2. Margin is key. As a wife, mother, housekeeper, teacher … you have a lot on your plate. But as I’ve been reminded recently (the hard way, of course), I just can’t survive without margin in my schedule. If you’re feeling burned out going into this school year, I would suggest Shona and David Murray’s incredibly practical book, Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands. Even if your applications are slightly different than theirs (the book is not necessarily written for homeschoolers so I would add that homeschooling your children does need to stay a top priority), her step-by-step unpacking of how to achieve a proper balance is invaluable. Whatever you’ve planned this school year, keep in mind that your family will be much happier, healthier, and able to enjoy learning if your schedule is not over-packed.
3. And most importantly, the goal is discipleship. Sometimes, discipleship occurs best when doing Bible lessons. But more often, it pops up unexpectedly in the day-to-day. A few weeks ago, I was babysitting for a family when the four-year-old asked, “How much do people cost?” (That took me aback! I always wonder what goes through children’s minds!) That one question opened up a good opportunity to talk about our infinite value as God’s creation. Definitely not a topic I would have planned to cover in a lesson!
Ultimately, it is these daily opportunities for discipleship that make homeschooling such a jewel. After all, you have the incredible opportunity of being the one to answer such questions — and through it, lead your children to Christ.
As you settle into the routine of your school year, I pray that God abundantly blesses your investment in your children and enables you to find the right schedule that best reflects His goals for you this year.