As another school year winds down, homeschooling moms begin to think ahead to the upcoming academic year. The new homeschool catalogs arrive in the mail, homeschool conventions are available, and decision time is upon us! Perhaps there are some lessons the Lord has taught me through sixteen years of homeschooling that I could share with you to help this time be more peaceful and more fruitful for you.
First, I had to learn the hard way to bathe all of my school plans and curriculum decisions in prayer. I can mull a school purchase over and over in my mind for weeks, not coming to any conclusion and gradually becoming more anxious simply because I cannot make a decision. I will think about the pros for the decision going one way and then the cons. However, it is balanced by the pros and cons associated with making the decision a different way.
I remember needing a different phonics program than I had been using because of the unique needs of a particular child. Each program I looked at had strengths and weaknesses. None seemed to offer exactly what I wanted. Rather than resting in the Lord and praying about the decision, I let it pressure me. I felt I had to make the decision simply to relieve my anxiety over it, while at the same time having no idea what to decide! This was not productive for my spirit toward my homeschooling nor toward my decision.
When prayer over school decisions is the basis of my thoughts, then I can have a peaceful heart as I wait for the Lord’s direction rather than forcing myself to make a choice simply to have it done. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
If I will follow the truth of Philippians 4:6-7 not to be anxious about anything but to present my requests to God, then I can set my thoughts about it aside. Usually, when I come back to the decision, I don’t have the same level of frustration over it. If you begin to feel yourself becoming tense, worried, or fearful about any of the decisions, stop thinking and begin praying.
Next, I have needed to learn to be content. Philippians 4:11 says, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Here is what would happen to me during a school year. Things would be going well in our school, but I would hear about this new spelling program “everyone” just loved. I would see it advertised in the homeschool magazines and look at the program’s website. It sounded so perfect! Very quickly I found myself discontent with our spelling program and thinking about all of its weaknesses. In reality, I had invested time learning the spelling program we were using, and it was working. I had no leading from the Lord to change our spelling. All I had was a desire not to be left behind the rest of the homeschooling crowd.
If you have a curriculum that has been working for your family, don’t change it. You have invested time learning the material and are now experienced with it. This is such a time saver for you as a homeschool mom! Even if others are raving about what they are using, be grateful for the experience and success the Lord has given you with your curriculum. Unless the Lord is clearly directing you to something else, stick with what you already know.
I discovered I was a wise woman to seek my husband’s input. I try to type out information for Steve so that he can help me make upcoming school decisions. I include what has been problematic for us in the current school year. I write out the pros and cons of a new curriculum I am considering and how I believe it will impact our school. With this background, Steve is often able to help give needed direction on the decisions.
My schedule was another tool that was instrumental in helping me make curriculum decisions. When I had completed a school year where I could have comfortably devoted more time to school, I would expand and add more subjects or extras in. I could also consider a curriculum that was more teacher intensive. However, when I was completing a school year where I felt extremely busy with school and where we were barely accomplishing the essentials, I looked for ways to streamline my curriculum.
You, too, can use your schedule to help you with school choices for next year. If you are pushed for time this year, pray for curricula that will be less time intensive for you or the children. Please consider the importance of your curricula truly reflecting the available time you have. So often I see moms who are struggling with homeschooling because they don’t have time for it. They have not been willing to trade off a time-intensive curriculum for one that takes less teacher time in order to maintain their own peace of mind and the overall integrity of their homeschool.
Whatever challenges you are facing as you start your preparations for the next homeschool year, may you be realistic about what you can do and content with what the Lord has already provided. Step out boldly in a new direction the Lord is leading, but only if He is leading! Don’t think you have to follow the crowd. Perhaps you will be given the chance to honor your husband by following, without questioning, his suggestions. My prayer for you through the school decisions you are making as a homeschooling mom is that this becomes an enjoyable season for you. I encourage you to use each choice you must make as an opportunity to pray and then rest in the Lord.
(After this Corner was written, we wrote a book called Managers of Their Schools: A Practical Guide to Homeschooling. The book shares our experience gained from over 23 years of homeschooling, including what has worked for our family, homeschooling how-to’s, planning the school year, what curriculum we use, and how we manage homeschooling).