What a blessing the whole of Educating the Wholehearted Child has been to read – but especially, in this season we are in right now, this particular chapter, which Amanda has asked me to review. Brace yourselves, it’s a long one!
In the words of Sally and Clay: “This chapter is about one thing – subduing your home to create the kind of structure and patterns that will allow you to effectively stay on the path to realizing those larger goals. It’s about defining the purposes, priorities, plans, and principles that will get you where you want to go. The path is there; it’s up to you how you walk it with your family.”
Everyone gets tooting on the horn about how important it is to have goals, set goals, follow goals. Little is accomplished without some kind of a plan or at least a shadow of a goal in your mind. But how does that play out in an incredibly busy homeschool household where your days flash by faster than you can think, and before you know it, another semester is finished, and you’re still discouraged and unsure what direction you’re taking, or even what (if anything) you are accomplishing with your children.
Sally and Clay liken our homes to a garden – “if a garden is cultivated, tended and cared for with love and commitment, it will all be healthy, fruitful, and delightful.” It takes work – blood, sweat and tears. It takes prayer, wisdom which can only come from God, and preparation – lots of it.
There are a number of specific areas that were covered which we need to be prepared in and set goals.
We need to identify our purpose and know our principles.
This is something we have done once or twice, but not really on a regular basis as we should. It is important as husband and wife to encourage each other in reminding ourselves of why we are homeschooling. God graciously opened MY eyes (it was already clear to my husband :D) within our first year of homeschooling that this wasn’t going to be about academics. Rather, it was going to be about spending as much time teaching our children about God, his word, his promises, his creation, his purpose for us, relationships – and then academics would follow along.
It is also important to set standards for our family. If we do this early, our children will, as they mature, hopefully follow and take them on for themselves. Because we are the main influence in our childrens’ lives, this is an area we need to pray over and make a big impact in from the start, in order to teach them how to protect themselves from exposure to things they may encounter. Setting clear, biblically based boundaries for relationships and media will provide protection now, and enable them to make wise decisions as they grow older.
Homeschooling is still quite controversial for many people, so we need to be prepared to lovingly defend our reasons for homeschooling, thus affirming for ourselves what our purpose and principles for our family are. We are so blessed to have this opportunity to pour the heart and soul God has given us into our children – it is overwhelming, yet brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart to have this privilege.
We need to know our priorities.
As homeschooling parents, our priorities are definitely different from the world around us. We don’t focus on academic scores (while still important obviously to be teaching them what they will need to know to honour God in a possible future profession or whatever he has planned for them), sports, extracurricular. We do make time for some of those, but our priority and focus is on pursuing God, doing life together, learning through whatever God gives us, being a blessing to others through our attitudes and servitude. I know from experience, being spread too thin over too many areas leaves you floundering around, not accomplishing much of anything, and definitely not doing a job well.
Everything we do should be for the will and the glory of God. It is important, then, that we weave his word into every aspect of our family life. The Clarksons talk about planning the school year (all 12 months) around a theme for each month – and as there is almost 1 holiday per month, that works out quite well, since most of them have a religious angle. These are great opportunities to spend time talking together about how God has been faithful historically, and also right now in your family.
Something we struggle with, and I know many homeschooling families do, is the family table time. My husband has almost an hour commute home from work, so he is not often home for dinner. And I know there is a lot of time that can be spent during meals together recapping the days’ events, reviewing what we learned, spending time in discipleship, reading God’s word, praying, practicing good manners. Perhaps it is just a season for us right now, but as much as possible, we need to take every opportunity to use the family table to continue to build the kingdom of God into our children’s lives.
Another thing which stood out to me the most in this section was talking about putting personal goals, desires and activities on hold for a later season in life. I definitely have a lot of goals of things I want to accomplish around our home – specifically craft and food wise (baking). But I’ve had to stop in my tracks, and now I need to evaluate whether I NEED to be doing all these things – even if they are to be a blessing to others, if it is taking away from precious time and influence in my family’s life, I don’t think it is worth it.
We need to know our plans.
There it is again – that influence on having a PLAN. Why is it that plans are so good, yet so daunting? I think, perhaps, that it is the requirements we put upon ourselves – things which we would like to achieve, but realistically, at least for the season of life we are in, we won’t be able to. So when we plan to do things we can’t, and fail, then there goes the desire to plan.
A couple of ways suggested to avoid over-committing yourself in your planning are:
- plan with your husband – can someone say accountability?!?
- use flexible year-round schooling – this is something I have absolutely been very seriously considering – 6 weeks on, 1 week off.
- make small adjustments as you go – if you come across something that’s just not working, switch it up!
- keep a long-term perspective – discern your child’s needs and pace – we had to take our son back a grade in math because he just wasn’t strong enough in it to continue.
- lower your expectations – we started this year out with just the basics of 3 subjects for a full month, just to get a groove back and to have the time and flexibility to play around with the schedule to find what worked for us.
- be yourself – everyone homeschools differently! Don’t do that whole comparison thing, you’ll only tear yourself down.
We need to know our personality, provider and path.
I was really blessed by this from the section on personality: “Take it on faith – your personality is suited for homeschooling. Your character may need some work, but there is no such thing as a homeschooling personality that somehow qualifies some to be better homeschooling parents than others.”
There are quite a few AMAZING moms in our co-op group who understand, teach and focus on some areas of study and do a phenomenal job. I am definitely envious of their abilities, but I need to realize that God has given me different abilities and strengths and focus, which are best for our family. I AM capable – but only because HE provides the wisdom, and it is only in my continual trust and faith in him, surrendering all my ambitions, hopes and plans that we can make any progress.
One of my favourite verses has always been Isaiah 40:30-31 –
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
But going back to verses 28 and 29, there is lot of overflow of love and faith that I think I have missed in the past.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Our God has chosen us for this role, as parents, teachers, mentors, encouragers of souls – HE IS FAITHFUL. He is the Great Teacher, he created everything to work as it does, he understands their intricacies, and he can give us wisdom and faith and love to teach and accomplish anything. We need only to be weak before him and to continue in the path that he has shown us – for as we faithfully trust him, we can have assurance that he will faithfully lead us.