The shrill chirping of the alarm clock shatters the peaceful oblivion of sleep and I am jolted into the day called “today”. Today is the first day of our new homeschool year!
In all honesty, however, my first reaction is a sigh. Today, the normal schedule starts all over again, and I am slightly afraid that my wonderful plans won’t work out as well as I had hoped. In fact, if the truth be known, I pretty much know they won’t work out as well as I had hoped. You see, I’m an optimistic, energetic, efficient, diligent worker, planner and organizer - sometimes! Before closing this magazine in disgust at someone seeming to have it “so together” (!?!), please remember that we all have different blessings and trials. Sometimes we can’t tell which is which! Stick with me here, hopefully we’ll all be encouraged!
Don’t get me wrong, the qualities of efficiency, diligence, organization, and energy, are good character qualities, and I’m thankful for them. These qualities have truly been an un-merited blessing from the Lord. I have been this way as far back into my childhood as I can remember. However, I have another trait I didn’t mention above. That is the trait of perfectionism. Herein lies my current predicament. Suffice it to say that “life” normally doesn’t seem to fit very neatly into my neatly arranged, planned schedule. Seldom, if ever, (OK, it has never totally happened!) can I get my entire family as fired up as I am about “getting it all done”! It’s not that they aren’t motivated, they just don’t see the absolute beauty of a schedule all neatly laid out, with all the bases covered, if you just drive yourself (and everyone around you) as hard as necessary to do it all.
Anyway, back to our first day back to homeschool . . . I lay thinking for a moment. I really wish that we lived in the country, away from so many prying eyes. So many people seem to be watching to make sure we homeschoolers are raising our children as THEY see fit. They are watching to see if our children are outside at the wrong times, if they are outside at the right times, if we are making them work more than other children, if we are making them work as much as other children, if our children fit into today’s society. The list goes on and on and on. If we lived in the country, we’d be free of some of that pressure. We’d have a bit of school five to six days a week, all year long. Of course, we’d take short breaks here and there, too. It would be far more like real life. After all, unless you are a teacher (in a paid position, I mean), you simply don’t get three months off from your normal work every summer!
Yes, a year-round schedule would be great. In fact, it may be safer as well. If I was schooling all year, I may not have the time to come up with such elaborate plans. It’s probably downright dangerous to leave me alone to plan for very long!
But, what’s done is done. I have been thinking, researching, planning and gathering all summer. I am prepared, armed with the materials we will use, an overall plan for the year as a whole, as well as a daily schedule! This is supposed to be a great year. I am full of plans for a totally successful, learning-rich, spiritually and emotionally rewarding school year. We’re going to enjoy learning together in all the neat, enriching ways I’ve been dreaming about all summer. Our boys will be begging for more “school” at the end of the day and chomping at the bit for Mondays.
OK, maybe my perfect schedule doesn’t allow as much time for bathroom breaks, meals and transition time as we all usually take—we’ll just have to hurry a bit more. And yes, free time to imagine, explore and learn something of personal interest is at a premium. But after all, those things aren’t nearly as important as all the really great classes and learning experiences I have planned, are they?
This year I even have another base covered! Housework. Yep, it’s a class this year—Home Ec. It’s printed right on the schedule everyday. Our boys will learn to help run a home this year, and we have 180 school days to learn it all. Now I won’t have to deal with a less than spotless home and hastily thrown together, non-creative meals. Nope, cooking and housework will be times where we’ll all be learning together. Now I won’t feel guilty about the house, or our children’s education. This year it’s a class, and it’s right there on my schedule!
Back to reality. The alarm clock just rang and I am filled with dread. I know ahead of time it will be hard to motivate everyone to keep up with my energetic, optimistic plans. In fact, right now, even I don’t feel energetic or optimistic, I feel drained. I just want to curl up and sleep more. I want summer vacation to continue. The boys have had some really neat times this summer. They have had lots of time to read some really good books, they have built up their bodies through long hours of the strenuous “work/play” of building bridges and forts in the woods behind our apartment. They used part of their savings and purchased mountain bikes, which they have used extensively at a nearby wilderness park with lots of really tough trails. They have built up far more strength and endurance than the neighborhood children who mostly sit inside in air conditioning playing video games. They are strong and tan, healthy and happy.
But now school has to start. I know that the plans I have are good plans, but in my heart of hearts, I know that the year will not go as I want it to. I have again, simply and plainly, over-planned, over-expected . . . over-hoped. There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day, week or year to accomplish all that I think needs to be accomplished. Here is where my perfectionism really rears its ugly head. I know that I will have to make allowances. I will have to settle for less than perfect.
I know that there will be days that we will focus on the “three R’s,” but probably not much more. There will even be days we don’t even accomplish that much! There will be days I will not get my hair combed until 3:00 P.M.! I know that we will hit snags or outright brick walls where we just can’t seem to learn a needed concept. I know that some meals will be un-imaginative and thrown together at the last minute. (“Lord, I just don’t want to do this anymore! I want a nice neat little life. Please HELP me.”)
Suddenly, I also know there will be those days when something will “click” and a tough concept will be conquered. There will be days when we will take time to read aloud for hours just because the book is too good to stop. There will be days that beautiful, special meals will be made with the help of our sons. There will be times we just make a cup of cocoa and enjoy being together for a bit. And there will be long conversations here and there about the truly important things of life. All the days will be squished together, mixed up and sandwiched in, the good with the seemingly bad.
It is time to get up. The Lord has spoken to my heart, He has encouraged my soul, again. Through Him I can do what He has called me to do. I can raise and teach the children He has given us. I can apply Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Just think of the torment I could have saved myself by seeking His face more completely before making my plans . . . before getting my expectations up!
“Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow…For that ye ought to say, if the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” James 4:13-15
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13
Wherever you are in your walk with the Lord, your family relationships, your school year or in your planning/organizational skills, now is a great time to pray about your plans, your children and your life. Yes, by all means, have a plan, but always, above all, remember to say (and mean) “if the Lord will, we shall . . .”
May God bless each and every family as we strive to honor and obey Him!
P.S. This article is a composite of some of the thoughts and feelings we had at different times during our homeschooling years. Our sons have grown up and graduated from our homeschool and we all work together here at Home School Enrichment. We all survived my high expectations and rigid schedules, and actually learned more about our God and each other. Not only did we survive, but through the grace of God, we thrived!
Did I get to do all the neat things I wanted to do? No. But one day, Lord willing, our sons will get married and have families of their own. Then, maybe “Grandma” can help out sometimes and try some of my great learning ideas on the grandkids!
Kari Lewis is one of the founders of Home School Enrichment, Inc. She and her husband, Frank, homeschooled their two sons from first and third grade through their high school graduation.
Kari Lewis is the "mom" here at Home School Enrichment. She and Frank have been married since 1977 and homeschooled their two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, from their early elementary years through their high school graduations. Together, the four of them started Home School Enrichment Magazine in late 2002. More recently, she's been enjoying her new role of mother-in-law and grandma! You can reach her at kari@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.