At the end of 2020, we almost gave up homeschooling. It had been a rough year and the final few months had been just hard. Drained, constant friction, and weariness painted our days. I had lost my vision, I felt defeated by my son’s behaviour and didn’t know how to work with him. We spent a month away visiting family for Christmas. In that month we made a lot of progress with issues, as well as having much needed rest. Most importantly, the Lord gave me comfort, direction, and encouragement as I have sought Him for this year of home education.
At my lowest, as I was preparing for the year, I thought inwardly, “I’m not sure I can do this.” My heart felt faint and my knees trembled. But, oh how good God is. He answered my prayers and gave me clear words of hope and admonition.
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths of your feet, and be steadfast in all your ways.” ~ Proverbs 4:25-26
This is the way, keep walking in it. In my heart, I have always known not to give up and that sending the children to school is not the answer for us. But weariness, trials, and family dynamics can really get you down. And, as my mother reminded me helpfully (as I tend to forget), if this is the path that God wants us on, the enemy will do anything he can to get us off it.
“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame will not be disabled, but rather healed.” ~ Hebrews 12:12-13
Be obedient, be faithful, trust the Lord’s hand of healing on this path (for us all). God is so very good, and faithful to lift us up when we need it. He never lets us down, and is with us to the end of the age. I continued, therefore, to forge ahead with planning and preparing our home for a new year. In fact, for the first time ever, we have our very own schoolroom! It feels good to have everything all in one room, rather than spread out throughout the house, creating clutter.
Through careful thought and deliberation about where we are at and what I think will benefit the children (and myself), we are going to do a 4-day school schedule, in the Sabbath schooling style (that is, 6 weeks schooling, 1 week off). We will have three blocks and then a two week holiday in July, with three more blocks before Christmas.
Bringing in a Biblical mentality of work and rest to our homeschool makes sense to me. And I know that this will keep us from burn out, knowing we have a time to breathe after a good chunk of learning. I decided on a 4-day schedule because my children are still young – 6.5 and almost 8 – and we have homeschool co-op on the Friday afternoon. We also have a home to manage, dogs to walk, libraries to visit, and friends to see. It’s a full life during the week (and winter will have rugby for Josiah thrown in).
I have been reading through Charlotte Mason’s Toward a Philosophy of Education which has been something the Lord has been using to confirm in me the two main things I want to focus on this year with the children – ideas and good habits.
Both ideas and habits are crucial to the formation of a child’s character and I see that so clearly now in our children, but especially our boy. I have written about our move from unschooling-style to a more structured way of homeschooling here, so I won’t go into depth here. But, suffice to say, we have been reaping the consequences of not working on habits and helping the children rise up to higher ideas.
Through regular schooling, help around the home, and being exposed to rich literature, my prayer for the children that they will grow abundently in character this year and that peace will be a staple of our home because of the work Christ is doing in all of us.
There are four main focuses I have for our homeschool this year:
- Read Alouds: We read about six chapter books last year which is the most we have ever read together. Our favourite, hands down, was Heidi. I was impressed that my children listened through such a big book, and that I committed to reading it over 5-6 weeks! This year I would love us to read more than ten chapter books. The ones I definitely want to read to them are:
- Treasures in the Snow
- The Trumpet and the Swan
- The Railway Children
- The Secret Garden
- The One Hundred and One Dalmations
- and The Animals of Farthing Wood.
- Math: Last year, math took a back burner, especially for our son. He did lots of natural learning in math, especially through his passion with rugby (learning all the statistics, years, players, goal counts of different games etc.) which throughly pleased and impressed me, but this year we definitely need to get into some structured, regular mathematics. We are doing Life of Fred and the worksheets from M.E.P. For our daughter, we are continuing through Horizons, but I have brought her up to Grade 1 even though we didn’t finished K.
- Memory Work: This was a special request of my husband – and I listen to that wise man! We want them to learn some of the ‘classic’ scriptures that are foundational to Christian life and history. I have also added a few poems in there, and some tongue twisters (both our children are lazy speakers, and our son has a lisp).
- ‘Gather Round Homeschool: This curriculum is just such a blessing to us and is definitely what God wants us to continue in. I have reviewed it here and shared how I planned our Oceans unit here. We are working through Year 1 at our own pace, but by the end of the year, I would love to have finished these units:
- Oceans (we’re 1/4 through it)
- North America
- Human Body
- South America
From ending last year almost giving up, and starting this year feeling very fragile, I am now in a much better space. I watched this lovely video by Sodbuster Living today and I appreciated her honesty so much.
Homeschooling, friends, is really hard. We have to be honest about that – not just to other people, but to ourselves. The key to continuing in grace and strength is to completely depend on God for the direction and practice of our days, as well as answering this question, “What do I want our homeschool to be like?” We shouldn’t look to anyone else, or let beautifully taken photos shape some homeschool-in-the-clouds for us. We must be realistic, honest, and faithful to God’s calling on our children and who we are as their mother.
So, this is how we are starting 2021. I am hopeful in the Lord, pleased with the relaxed curriculum, satisfied with the ideas and habits principles, and on board 100% with my husband. Despite the last few months, by God’s grace, I am starting this homeschool year with a restful spirit.