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This was going to be THE year, I just knew it. I had new curriculum ready. I had studied my textbooks. I had planned out our schedule. I had prepared my heart. (I'm quite taken with the concept of preparedness these days.) I had gone to bed early the night before our first day; I had my first agenda laid out neatly on the dining room table; and we had homemade muffins ready for breakfast in the morning.
This was going to be the year where everything came together neatly, where we had deep conversations and meaningful interactions. And I couldn't wait!
I'm sure you all can guess where I'm going with this. Life rarely goes according to our plans.
Between night-time diabetes alarms, too much caffeine before bed (why, oh why did I snarf down that chocolate chip muffin at the last minute???), and the nervous excitement of another school year approaching, I was an exhausted zombie by the time our first morning of school rolled around.
To make matters worse, the spark plugs had accidentally left the camera at Grandma's house - the camera I had planned to take cute first-day-of-school photos with. Not only that, I had completely forgotten to pick up the literature books from my mom that we had planned to borrow for the year. And to top it all off, the spark plugs were less than thrilled to say goodbye to their endless summer freedom.
It was not at all the beautiful, relaxed morning I had envisioned!
So often, this has been the opening scene of our homeschooling efforts. Some years, I'm not as prepared as I should be. Other times, circumstances outside my control have disrupted any hope of a decent start to the year.
One thing I've learned through it all, however, is that no matter how crazy our first days are, there are 4 things I can do to calm the overwhelm that hits every back-to-school season. By following this list, we absolutely can have the best homeschool year yet.
Keep Your Eyes on Christ
This is probably my single greatest struggle in my Christian walk. I'm great at freaking out over the waves of life, forgetting that I only need to look to the Savior instead. But this school year, let's commit to keeping our eyes on Christ no matter what.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) is an excellent verse to keep in mind:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Here are some great ways to help us stay focused on the Savior:
- Read the Word daily
- Be diligent in prayer
- Study the Attributes of God
- Sing songs like Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus or Give Me Jesus
Count Your Blessings
Even on the hard days, we're incredibly blessed to be able to homeschool. I have many friends who wish they could teach their little ones at home, but whether due to illness, a spouse who's not interested in homeschooling, or other factors, they're unable to. Homeschooling is definitely a privilege not to be taken lightly and one we should be thankful for every day!
We should be counting this and other blessings every day. Grab a cheap notebook and start jotting down all the ways in which the Lord has blessed you. You could even turn this into a gratitude journal, if you wish.
When we begin recounting all the gifts we have in life, it almost magically shifts our perspective away from our failures and onto the blessings that the Lord has poured out in great measure.
In addition to keeping our eyes on Christ and counting our blessings, we need to remain faithful. It's not always easy to stay faithful, especially on the hard, frustrating, messy days. But don't we all want to hear "well done, good and faithful servant" from our Heavenly Father one day?
For those of us who are called to homeschool, we must not give up when the going gets rough. We need to persevere, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to do just that.
How do we stay faithful? Let's remember:
- God is faithful and will equip you
- Lean into the Holy Spirit's help
- Let grace be the foundation of all you do
- Focus only on the current week or even the current day
(A special note for those who are weary: If you're considering throwing in the homeschooling towel, are you doing so because you feel the Lord leading you to a different style of education, or are you simply burned out on homeschooling? It's one thing to be lead to an alternate education choice, but it's another simply to give up because you're tired. Determine what you're currently being called to before making a decision.)
Find Joy In Your Journey
I've noticed that many who are ready to quit homeschooling have something in common: they've lost their joy in their homeschooling journey.
A retired homeschool mom once told me, "You should play outside and you should laugh with your children every day." This is some of the BEST homeschooling advice I've ever been given. If you're not enjoying your homeschooling journey, you're truly missing out on one of the best aspects of teaching your little ones at home!
If you need ideas on how to rekindle or increase your joy, various homeschooling families have shared these tips and suggestions:
- Remember to play with your kids in addition to teaching them
- Read Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts Devotional
- Find one or two homeschool blogs that lift your spirits (Finding Joy in the Journey and Confessions of A Homeschooler are two I enjoy)
- Have a weekly dance party in your kitchen (seriously! The kids will love it!)
- Reach out to other homeschooling families who understand the ups and downs of what you're going through
- Celebrate your 100th school day with a tea party
- Join a homeschool co-op to help shoulder the burden of teaching and to add some flair to your learning
Most of all, never forget that the joy of the Lord is your strength (see Nehemiah 8:10)!
Although our first day back to school got off to a rocky start, it eventually smoothed out and ended well. The spark plugs loved the tea party we did in celebration; the excitement of new learning materials boosted their anticipation; and we even got in some crafting time as well. My mama heart was full.
Even if your school year got off to a rocky start like ours did, you can still have an amazing year. If we keep our eyes on Christ, count our blessings, stay faithful, and seek joy in our homeschooling journey, we can have the best homeschool year yet, no matter what!