We start our school year next week, and my emotions are all over the place as I prepare for our 13th official year of home education. The anticipation of a new academic year has always been appealing to me. I love brand new notebooks and pencils (only Ticonderoga) and books! New books are like an invitation to new adventures!
But this is always a stressful time, as I scramble to get everything in order in time for homeschooling to start back up after our summer break that has been both too short and too long at the same time. (How does that happen?) In fact, there are four emotions I experience consistently every school year as the first day gets close.
I’m not ready, and I don’t have all my books. The lesson plans are a jumble. Our schoolroom is an explosion of books, paper, and supplies. I don’t know if I’m going to get it all done in time.
Regardless of when we start planning, it is rare to feel completely ready. And classroom teachers feel this way, too. There are supplies to purchase and a room to organize. We need to create systems and procedures for a new year. Basically, we are anxious and worried about many things.
How can we deal with this and move past panic into productivity? There are two keys: prayer and action.
Turning to God and relying on His faithfulness is essential. Worry does not come from God, so I rely on the St. Michael Prayer and the Scripture, “Get behind me, satan,” to overcome my anxiety. Going into a quiet, dark room (a closet) or just closing our eyes and connecting with God for a few seconds can remind us to breathe out the panic and breathe in His peace.
Then act. Do a brain dump and write down everything that needs to be done. Organize the space, because order bring peace of mind. Prioritize that to-do list and get started. Rather than sit with our anxiety, we must embrace the Nike motto and just do it. We might have some late nights, and our kids might spend several days watching TV. But action is the only way to get it done and avoid falling back into panic.
Should I really be homeschooling? Am I capable of this? Am I doing the right curriculum for each kid? Are they really learning? Could I be doing more?
Homeschooling is a huge responsibility. Usually homeschooling moms make virtually all choices when it comes to their children’s educations. And some of us have very little accountability or oversight to or by anyone. It’s all up to us. There are so many decisions to be made that decision fatigue is a real thing, and that’s when doubt creeps in.
The opposite of doubt is faith. We must do our best and let God do the rest.
I try to make all decisions prayerfully and carefully, big ones and little ones. One little, “Jesus, I trust in You,” builds my armor against the attacks of doubt later down the road. Because when I find myself doubting, I remind myself that I made those decisions with Jesus at my side, and I trust my choices.
It is appropriate to ask all of the above questions in a calm, peaceful manner at the appropriate time. But if they are swirling in our heads when we have already made most of the decisions about the upcoming year, we need to cast them aside and put it all in God’s hands. Even when we mess up and make a decision that turns out not to be best, God is faithful and will bring mercy out of any situation if we place our trust in Him.
I am looking forward to the first day of school, the structure, the routine, the lightbulbs I get to see in my children’s eyes, the joy in learning. I am excited about strengthening my relationships with my children through homeschooling.
Once we banish the panic and take action, after we squash our doubts with faith, we can truly be excited about a new school year and those freshly sharpened pencils! The first day of school is the beginning of new possibilities and opportunities. Learning is exciting when we get to the root of it and do not dwell on the struggles.
Our first day of school traditions help remind me to be excited. We go to Mass and for donuts afterwards, then home to open schultutes and explore all the books! And we start our year with a fun read aloud. These are reminders that school is not all drudgery and that home education is a tremendous gift. When we are excited about our school days, sometimes our kids catch our positive vibes (except for teens on their sulky days!).
I surrender my plans, my lack of plans, my books, my lack of books, my children, my intentions, my excitement, my determination, my doubt, my panic, my joy, to God.
Looking back on my 12 years of homeschooling, there has never been a year where it has been a complete failure. Every year there have been moments for each of my children that I have treasured, moments that are the gifts, the fruits of homeschooling.
Because every year when we get started and we consistently attempt the plan that we have prayerfully developed, adapting and tweaking to meet the needs of our kids, giving our fiat to the Lord, it becomes a beautiful thing.
Here we are the week before we start school, and I am currently in the excited mode. I had panic last week and doubt a few days ago, but the clock is ticking and I need to keep moving. If you see me IRL, I’ll have a glass of sweet tea and circles under my eyes! Let’s do this!