By Deborah Wuehler, Crosswalk.com
Are We Ready for This? How to Prepare Your Heart and Home for the School Year:
I am a procrastinator. Not because I am lazy, but because I am highly occupied with family, ministry, and work. So getting ready for a new school year often becomes a last-minute endeavor. Not that my children’s education is my last priority, because it most certainly is not, but because we are learning year-round, so it is hard to put a defining line on when to start "back to school." So whether you feel ready or not for this season, let’s go ahead and get our hearts and homes set up for the best success for this new school year. Let’s prepare our hearts first, and then our homes.
Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore, in The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook,1 say, "Before you even think about lesson plans, know why you want to educate your own children (your philosophy), where you are headed (your goals), what you have to teach with (your resources), and how you want to teach your children (your methods)."
In the beginning of our own homeschool journey, we prayed about our why, and found this truth from the book of Proverbs: if we wanted our children to grow in knowledge, they needed to study wisdom; and wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 4:7, and Proverbs 9:10). We tend to think we have to be knowledgeable first and foremost, or that we have to at least impart earthly knowledge to our children, and then we will be successful in our home education. But instead of fearing man and his dictates about knowledge, we really need to fear the Lord and receive His wisdom—then knowledge will follow.
Prepare Your Heart by Loving God
Deuteronomy 6:4–7 tells us what we are to be teaching our children: God is the One true God and we are to love Him with all we are. In order to teach this to our children, our own hearts need to be there first. Practically speaking, that may look like us walking and talking with Him all day long and bringing our children with us. It may look like posting Scripture on our "doors and gates" and keeping it in front of our eyes. It’s definitely something to make a priority in our daily schedule.
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."
Prepare Your Heart by Believing God
As we begin to "possess the land" of this homeschooling year, we need to have a heart that trusts God. We can’t see the future, so we have to "trust fall" into His will, knowing He knows what is ahead and will catch us when we fall. When the children of Israel were going in to possess the Promised Land in Joshua 1:8–9, this is what God commanded:
Be strong (not wavering, resolute)
- Of a good courage (courageous, brave, confident)
- Do not be afraid or fearful (rather, trust God)
- Do not be dismayed (discouraged, disappointed)
Why these commands for strength and courage? Because it can get difficult and rocky. But, we don’t have to fear because, "The Lord your God is with you wherever you go!" Do we believe He is with us in this journey? He most certainly is, and He said our way will be prosperous and successful if we know His Word and walk in His ways.
"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
Prepare Your Heart by Remembering the Vision
I like to call Psalm chapter 1 the "Homeschool Psalm"2 because it talks about our children who no longer have to walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful! They get to be home and free to learn and grow under our direction and God’s wisdom. Again, this Psalm reiterates that what we are teaching them is the law of God and not the laws of man, and then they will succeed in this life.
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish."
The vision we must remember is that wisdom is the principal thing, and though it costs all that we have, we are to get wisdom and understanding. Practically speaking, make sure all your academics are God-centered.
Proverbs 4:7 "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding."
For more biblical and practical support, watch the free video Home Education: Am I Really Qualified? After preparing our hearts, let’s now take a turn and look at how to prepare our homes.
Prepare Your Home by Prioritizing Your Values
What is most important for your homeschool life? Place it on the calendar. If it is important for eternity, put it on the schedule. Here are some ways to do that:
Big Calendar: How can you meet your priorities this month? On your main family calendar, schedule in all of your priorities like dates with God, your husband, and your children; ministry areas; helping neighbors, etc. You may have to resist requests that do not fit your priorities to keep room for those that do.
Daily Schedule: Schedule the priority areas you would like to teach each day. Plan in what is important for you to teach this year, this month, or this week. For example, if you see the need for certain things to be prioritized—cursive writing, history, report writing, character training (e.g., whining), preschool activities, chores, etc.,—then they need to be scheduled in. That means some other less-important things can be scheduled later.
Interruptions: When heart issues arise, stop everything to deal with them. Always bring your children back to the Word of God and the throne of God. This will have an eternal impact and is more important than getting that math lesson finished.
Keep Priority Lists: Keep a list of character issues that arise that you can discuss in your next Bible time together. List prayer requests for prayer time. Keep a list of extra projects that match your priorities. List needs in the church, neighborhood, family, or community. Then, as extra time comes up for a child, put them on the task of drawing pictures, making cards, baking cookies, making blankets, etc., for those in need.
Preparing Your Home: Routines, Recordkeeping, and Storage
Decide if you prefer a loose or rigid schedule, and what areas you would like to become routines. It is important to have routines, but also to remain flexible for those fun, teachable moments that weren’t planned for.
Routines help a family and a child to stay grounded, create good memory pathways, and learn independence and self-discipline. Routines allow everyone to know what to expect and when. A daily checklist helps create/cement routines.
Daily Student Checklist: Create a master daily schedule of times, chores, and schoolwork that the child checks off each day as part of his or her routine. It helps motivate the child to check things off, serves as a record of what was accomplished each day, and keeps you from nagging while, at the same time, keeps the child from always asking what is next. A simple schedule could look like a checklist of Bible, math, and history before lunch, and language arts (reading, writing, spelling, or grammar), science/nature studies, and music/art after lunch. You can also slot in their regular chores between subjects, and other important routines. When the list is completely checked off, then the child may have (guided) free time.
Try to schedule all your routine appointments, errands, and outside events on the same day each week/month whenever possible. This routine helps cut down on the days you are out of the house and feel like you didn’t get any academics done. If it is unavoidable that you have to be out often for a season, make travel bags of academic items your kids can grab and take with them. This would not include their regular schoolwork (we don’t want that to get lost!) but other educational books to explore while out of the house.
Recordkeeping could be as easy as writing down what was accomplished at the end of each day, or could be keeping track of courses and curriculum on a computer spreadsheet, or keeping those daily student checklists in a file folder. You could place all the completed schoolwork in a plastic tub and go through it periodically to file away what is important.
Storage of homeschool materials should be easily accessible, whether each child has his or her own bookshelf near your homeschool table, or whether they each have their own crate of books stored in a closet or schoolroom. Things should be put back in the same place every day. Listen to this short tip on keeping things tidy and in their proper places.
Preparing Your Home: 5 Tips for Tackling what Is Nagging You
1. Make a list of the things around the house that are stealing your peace. Plan time for working on these things or put them on the daily schedule for the kids. This could be done on a whiteboard each morning with things being erased as they are done.
2. Take a half day a week and tackle that one project that is nagging you. Or give yourself a time slot on your own schedule for de-cluttering or catching up every day.
3. Make a permanent spot in a closet, garage, or by the front door for things to give away. Get rid of what is destroying your peace. If you have too much stuff, purpose to scale down and at the same time bless others.
4. "Be prepared and keep it simple." This goes for schedules, curriculum, meals, devotions, chores—it applies to practically anything! If you are feeling over-committed, spouses or friends are good at helping us gain new perspective and see what to remove or how to simplify our schedules.
5. Modify your standards. The house doesn’t have to look perfect, as you all live there 24/7. Meals can be simple. Give yourself grace.
Preparing Your Home: Chaos vs. Perfectionism
Our homeschool personalities tend to fall somewhere between complete chaos to total perfectionism. Different seasons may find you on one spectrum or the other.
Chaos produces a paralyzing overwhelm where you don’t feel you have a handle on anything. Clear the chaos in the home by getting rid of as much as possible. Clear the panic in the mind by writing things down and creating manageable small steps. Stop, pray, and get rid of or fix that chaotic thing (attitude or activity) that is paralyzing you.
Perfectionism: We can become paralyzed by perfectionism and never start unless we think we are perfectly ready. We might need to adjust our high standards and stop procrastinating. We need to let go of unrealistic expectations and the heavy burden of perfectionism and give ourselves grace to begin.
For either personality: to press through the paralyzed feelings, take time to research or prepare one thing at a time. Slowly add new subjects into the daily schedule. Keep it very simple at the beginning of the school year, then continue to add in new subjects one at a time and not all at once. Homeschool teachers need teacher preparation days to plan, prepare, and pray—but you need to schedule them in. Daily ask God for wisdom, direction, and strength. You will find these in His presence.
Preparing Your Heart and Home for Whatever Comes Your Way
"... In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Hard life events happen in the middle of homeschooling. Chaos comes. Tears come. So how do we overcome what threatens to overcome us? Jesus overcame all things for us; as we believe in Him, we also overcome (1 John 5:5). We overcome by the Word of God (2 Peter 3) and as the Spirit of God comforts and guides us in all things. We overcome by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
How do we prepare for whatever tribulation comes our way? As Jesus knocks, we open the door daily and allow Him to come into our hearts and even our homes and live with us there. He wants to be part of the family; part of the conversation; part of the schedule, part of the solution. He wants to show you how to overcome.
Prepare your heart and your home for Him, and He will be with you through the storms and navigate you through to success as you keep His children Home. Where They Belong.
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelation 3:20, 21).
Copyright 2021, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms. Read The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com, or download the free reader apps at www.TOSApps.com for mobile devices. Read the STORY of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and how it came to be.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Johner Images
Deborah Wuehler is Senior Editor for TOS, wife to Richard, and has eight children ages 13 to 30. She writes for The Homeschool Minute and appears on YouTube with Schoolhouse Devotions (bit.ly/2MrF8Sn), helping to point homeschool families to Christ as they keep their children Home. Where They Belong! You can contact Deb at [email protected]