Tell me this. Does homeschooling bring you joy? Should it? After all, educating our children is pretty serious business.
This is one of my favorite Bible texts: “You will show me the path that leads to life; your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever,” Psalm 16:11 GNT.
What this tells me is that God’s presence fills me with joy. It doesn’t say my path will be easy, that I’ll never have any stress, that I won’t agonize a little more than I should over which math program to use — but it does tell me that the overall tenor of His presence in my life and my activities should be joy.
January is an excellent time to think about this because we’re starting a fresh, new year. It’s not a new school year, but there is still something very encouraging about knowing a new calendar year has been birthed — a year where you can fix things that didn’t work so well in 2016, and look for ways to claim God’s promise of joy.
If you haven’t done it yet, reevaluate your fall semester of 2016. What worked really well? Were there subjects in which your child flourished? Did anything not flow as smoothly as you had wished? Was there a subject that caused you both lots of stress? Or, are either of you just plain bored with something?
The new year is such a good tweaking time. Spelling, Bible, math, and history were awesome at our house last semester. Full speed ahead! Science had lost its verve, though, so we’re starting 2017 with a new plan. We totally tossed cells, and have embraced physics. (It’s okay. You can do that as a homeschooler, you know. LOL.) Grammar was going okay, but my son really is tired of it. I, as an editor, feel a strangling sensation to throw it out, even though I know it’s not a typical stand alone subject after elementary school. So, compromise: We’re both good with two days of grammar and two days of cursive writing practice. This kind of reevaluation is so important to keep joy alive in your homeschooling. Both parent and child should feel like they are doing something fulfilling.
And, what about the unschoolers? Yes, unschoolers, you’re completely aware that shades of this apply to you too. We started out as unschoolers and loved it, and I can assure you I’ve never seen an unschooling mom or dad who is not involved in their kids’ education. The approach is just different. So, maybe 2017 is the time to add a zoo membership, or to encourage your child to research backyard chickens with you. Is your kid one of those (like mine) that wants more parental guidance? Time to adjust. Or, maybe you’ve been peeking over their shoulders too much, and you need to let them explore music or gardening on their own. Aim for educational joy.
What about your home life? When you are a homeschooler, home life is an even more consuming part of your daily existence than with typical families. What does yours look like? Here are a few watchwords: order, schedules, flexibility, cleaning, noise, time alone, time with kids, time with spouse, errands, rest. This is a good time to think about your needs and those of your spouse and children.
Home should be a haven, not a nest of stress. I’m a pretty “wing it” type of person. My child, on the other hand, really appreciates knowing the day’s agenda. I have minimal domestic desires, but my husband thrives on a relatively orderly house. In both areas, I’ve found ways to extend out of my comfort zone in order to help my family be more happy. Conversely, one of my greatest desires is quiet. Husband and child can make a lot of noise when they’re together, but they make an effort to give me periods of respite — silence, peace, ahhhhh.
I believe joy at home often relies heavily on one quality: being considerate. Being considerate to my family means taxing myself somewhat to help achieve their happiness. Being considerate to myself means asking children and spouse to bend some for me. Peter tells husbands to “be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect…so that nothing will hinder your prayers,” I Peter 3:7, NIV. No doubt this counsel extends to wives and children as well.
January is a great time to decide where your homeschooling and your home life excels and where they could use a little improvement, and to work with your family to seize the fruit of joy.
“You will expand the nation and increase its happiness [joy]. It will be happy in your presence like those who celebrate the harvest…” Isaiah 9:3 GWT.