One of my favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 40v31: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. As for many other homeschooling mothers, these last few days of summer vacation are crazy busy for me as I put finishing touches to lesson plans, daily schedules, fall menu plans and monthly calendars. My learning room is reorganized, the bookcases are neatly stacked with books and curriculum, and school supplies are replenished on desks and tables. Although I have been doing this for years, I feel some trepidation as Monday approaches. I will be teaching pre-kindergarten through ninth grade this year. Many kids, different learning styles, varied needs. I feel a little daunted as I look at our family calendar, color coded for each child, with no blank spaces until Thanksgiving.
Each year I give myself the luxury of a few hours mini-retreat at home, to prepare mentally and spiritually for the task of educating the children for the next year. I pray and think and write, and fill my mind with inspirational thoughts. Each year my wish is to be peaceful and joyful and intentional, rather than stressed and rushed. I want to soar rather than flutter about. Here are ten thoughts from my journal:
- Seek God’s will and ask Him for His wisdom. Unless the Lord builds the house the workers labor in vain… (Psalm 127v1). The Holy Spirit will guide me as to the best plan for each child. Trust in the Lord and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3 v 5-6)
- The principal goal of education is the same as our principal goal in life – to know, love and serve God in this world and be happy with Him in Heaven. We are raising saints. Our homeschool motto is “the true, the good, the beautiful.” We have Philippians 4v8 on the wall. The first thing I have to teach my children is virtue and goodness – without these all other learning is pointless.
- Put prayer and the sacraments at the center our home and homeschool. To start each day well I have to set that alarm and wake up much earlier than the children, so that I can pray and read before anyone is awake. Our school day is pegged upon our prayer times – Morning Prayer with daddy at breakfast, Angelus at lunchtime, Divine Mercy Chaplet at teatime, family Rosary and Night prayer before bed. Weekly adoration, and weekday Mass at least on Fridays. Without me you can do nothing. (John 15 v5)
- Andrew Kern from the Circe Institute says one of the most profoundly inspirational things I have heard – “teach from a state of rest.” Stop running around in circles, just relax. I thought about this today as I was reading the book “Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove” to my younger children. I was struck by the quiet peace and wisdom of the older monks who would be still and smile and say to the anxious younger monks “God will provide. He always does.”
- Preserve margin. We should not be so busy and over-committed that we have no time to stop and take a meal to a sick person, open our home to someone lonely or just take time to gaze at the stars.
- Keep it simple. Multum non multa. Focus on the good things. Don’t try to do everything. Remember to stay HOME and SCHOOL the children.
- Teach with joy. Homeschooling is sacrificial and often hard. Remember the quote from the Exhortation Before Marriage Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy.
- Do not be Gradgrind and teach only Facts. Include creativity and beauty and imagination. I have the Johann von Goethe quote on my learning room wall: A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.
- Spend time outside in nature with the children. Nature turns our eyes towards the Creator. I lift my eyes to the hills.. Nature is healing and rejuvenating. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recognized this when he said, “… teach your children to see nature, respect and protect it as a magnificent gift that presents to us the grandeur of the Creator!”
- Remember that homeschooling is about relationship. Strong family relationships will help children become confident and peaceful teens and adults. I need to not sweat the small stuff. My oldest just left for college – she was ready and confident and faith-filled. But it seems like yesterday that I was holding that little bundle of pink. Before I know it we will be driving back alone from my current preschooler’s move-in day, and wondering where time went. I want my children to remember their home as a place of love and laughter and peace, a safe haven, and somewhere they will always want to return.
So as I sit here with my planner, and contemplate the weeks and months ahead, I try to remember that whilst academic rigor and the pursuit of excellence are necessary and good goals, these are worthless without virtue and love. My husband and I are called to make our family something beautiful for God. We are called to educate these children so that they know and love God, and so that they can spread their wings and go out into the world to “restore all things in Christ.”