Homeschooling without a box curriculum, enrollment, or set program requires a little more advance time than if I am just ordering one set of books and plans and preparing those for the next school year. I generally seriously start thinking about the following year shortly after Christmas! I have planned 12 homeschool years, so far, for my children (K-12), and planning is still my favorite part. I like it even more than the actual homeschooling! Gasp!
In those years, I’ve developed a process that works for me and helps me work with my strengths to fight against my less-desirable inclinations. I am confident that I will continue to re-engineer my process (yes, Dad, I still wear my “process re-engineering” sweatshirt from your corporate days!) for the remainder of my homeschooling career, probably for 12 more years if my youngest completes K-12 at home.
Homeschooling today is full of options, which is fantastic for the unique families God has created and called to homeschool, but as the options increase, the need for careful discernment also increases. I find it is way too easy for me to start buying books and switching curriculum before really examining what is and is not working in our family. It requires an enormous amount of self-control for me to watch January, February, March, and April go by and not buy a single book for the following year!
So, I have developed a process of prayer, pondering, preparation, and planning that helps me to make decisions based on the needs of me, my family, and God’s call on our lives. I’ll explain two of these steps today and then dive into the other two next time.
Truth be told, every step of my process is steeped in prayer. I begin with prayer, but I also pray before, during, and after each of the next steps. I take my planning notebook to Adoration and keep it handy when I’m praying at home.
I ask God to guide me and lead me in planning our next year of homeschooling. I thank him for the successes and (reluctantly) the challenges of this year. I beg his forgiveness for my many failings, and I entrust all of my worries to His merciful heart.
I ask our Mother Mary to help me to be the mother my children need and to fill in the gaps where my weaknesses fail them. I call upon our homeschool’s two patron saints, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, to pray for us and inspire me with their wisdom.
I believe it is impossible to be ultimately successful at homeschooling unless we actively seek God in the planning and execution of our days. For He is the one who knows our hearts and the needs of our children more than anyone else. He can and will move us to provide the best education for our children’s futures, as long as we turn it all over to Him.
For me, this starts in earnest in March. I’m on my knees a lot in March, because several of my children are Irish dancers, and the schedule of competitions and performances surrounding St. Patrick’s Day is brutal. So I have a lot of time in the car to beg God to help me and to think about homeschooling, even though we don’t actually get that much homeschooling done in March!
This step is primarily driven by my Personal Reflection Survey for Catholic Homeschooling Mothers (sign up for my email newsletter to receive your free copy). I carry these questions in my heart for about a month before I move on to the next step. And I generally do this in April, as soon as Spring Fever hits, when I’m ready to be done with this year and move on to next year!
Basically, the survey asks one to explore your personal spirituality, your struggles and those of each of your children, your successes and those of each of your children, and issues related to setting goals for the upcoming school year. There are sixty-one questions that a few friends and I chose based on prayer and conversation in preparation for a day of reflection with other Catholic homeschooling moms. I feel strongly that pondering these questions, or a similar type of assessing your current season of life, is an essential precursor to planning to homeschool for another year.
These are questions that I answer in my planning notebook and discuss with friends and family. For the second year, we are enjoying conversations in my Facebook group on these questions, and I take the survey to Adoration at least once to beg the Holy Spirit for inspiration.
Honestly, I don’t enjoy this step. I would much rather forge ahead with optimism than to look back and inside myself, but without this period of introspection, it would be very easy for me to create a homeschool plan based on my hopes, desires, and idealistic dreams and then crash and burn with trying to implement that plan with all of the imperfections and unavoidable challenges of family life. It is essential to me that I look at what has worked and not worked this year and take into consideration all the complicated factors of this season of life.
To Be Continued…
Do you spend some time assessing your homeschool year before moving on to the next one? What questions do you ask yourself?