July has been the month of planning our homeschool year (for all my Aussie peeps, the American school year usually begins around Aug/Sept). For the last week or two, I have been locked in our study surrounded by school books, spreadsheets, and checklists. I always begin the process hoping to get the majority of our year mapped out, checklists filled in, and lesson plans written for the entire year so that I have less to do from week to week. I am yet to achieve this hope, but I will have the first term completed, which is a good start. This year was different. I began the process with something that I have never done before: I wrote a homeschool vision statement. Pam Barnhill has encouraged moms for many years to begin planning with a vision statement. She even gave a webinar once about it, and I believe she teaches about it in her planning courses. This year, I finally did it.
So often, planning can become mechanical. Find the curriculum. Fill in the timeslots in your planner. Begin pre-reading the books. Make a list of materials needed. Get the materials. Familiarize yourself with the lessons. Make a note of any discussion questions, science LABS, note-booking etc. etc and put those in the lesson plans/checklists. Do all of these x4 students. The process of planning can overshadow the reason why you began to homeschool in the first place.
The planning we do at the beginning of the year can also leave us disappointed at the end of the year. The hopes we had at the beginning are barely recognizable as we limp over the finish line. The end of the last three school years have left me anxious and overwhelmed. My school year never finishes as perfectly as I want it to. My children struggled in certain areas so that they didn’t make as much progress as I had planned. There were areas where our homeschool did not reflect the ideal atmosphere and philosophy that I so often write about here. We didn’t check all of the boxes. I dropped the ball on dictation, memory work, and (fill-in-the-blank). My kids didn’t do all the extra-curricular activities that I see my friends’ kids doing. I must have failed them. Somewhere in the middle of the year I lose sight of my reasons and hopes for homeschool and become overwhelmed with all the things. Maybe this is just a reflection of my own personality and the tension I feel between the ideal and the real, but this is how it has gone for me every year.
I knew that to begin planning this coming school year in this state of mind was not a good place to start. I needed to remember why I chose to homeschool before I even thought about filling in checklists. This drove me to prayer. I have prayed for specific areas of my children’s education before, mostly the areas of struggle, as well as my own keenly felt limitations in teaching my kids, but I have never prayed for our homeschool generally, or planning, itself. I have never begun my planning with prayer. Let me tell you, prayer changes everything. It is an acknowledgment that you have limitations and that you need help from our omnipotent, ever-present God. It is an acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty over all things, including our well-laid plans. As I have come to realize, my well-laid plans do not always turn out the way I want them to. But our year has been exactly what God intended. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) God’s plans always work out. And they are for our good and His glory. This month, I have prayed constantly for every child, every subject, every checklist. Not because prayer is a magic potion that will make our homeschool perfect, but because I need God. None of it is meaningful without acknowledging Him as being at the center of it all and that He is trustworthy and faithful to do His will in our homeschool.
After much prayer, I wrote my vision statement. I printed this out and put it in the front of my homeschool binder. I want to always have it right in front of me. Every time I open my binder to do the next lesson, my vision is before me. When difficulties come along, when a shiny new curriculum makes me doubt what we are currently doing and tempt me to throw it all away and start again, when my plans seem to fall apart at the seams, I can remember why we are doing what we are doing. I can hold fast to these principles that will withstand all the bends and curves of life, trust God, and press on. In addition to my vision statement, I also took the time to write specific goals for each of my kids that I keep in front of me as I make plans for their school year. These include specific subjects and skills, weaknesses and strengths that I want to focus on for each child this coming year. This meant taking a reality check on what was the priority for each child this year. Even though I wish I were, I am not Wonder Woman, and I cannot give focused attention on every area, for every child, all the time. Writing goals for each of my children helped me to see where my time is best spent with each child. I will not share my goals for my children with you since they are personal, but here is my homeschool vision statement for 2019/2020. I encourage you to think about writing one for yourself. If you already have one, what has been the benefit to you? What have you learned from it? Has it changed? I’d love to hear from you.
I want my children to love and worship the one true God, pursue holiness, dwell on what is true, seek what is good, love what is lovely, and do what is right with all diligence and perseverance in order that they may glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
I want my children to desire wisdom and knowledge and develop the skills to pursue knowledge and wisdom for themselves.
The knowledge that I desire my children to know, delight in, and pursue is the knowledge of God, the knowledge of man, and the knowledge of the universe. The delight for this knowledge is most readily cultivated through living books. The supreme living book being the Bible.
I want my children to learn to think for themselves and be able to articulate their thoughts and ideas clearly in both oral and written forms.
I want them to learn the reading, writing, math, and thinking skills necessary to participate and contribute in society as godly, patriotic, and useful citizens.