The bright feeling of possibility I feel at the start of the school year is unmatched, even by New Year’s Day itself. Maybe it’s my love for paperclips, folders, books, and school supplies; or maybe it’s as F. Scott Fitzgerald penned in The Great Gatsby—“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
But the excitement of a fresh school routine can quickly turn to drudgery, can’t it? That's why it's important to make back-to-school resolutions when enthusiasm is at its peak.
As the fiery crimson and gold fall leaves drop off, exposing tired winter-grey branches, enthusiasm, too, wanes. We need more than a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils to get us through the school year; we need purpose. If we don’t have purpose, vision, and clarity, then we’re simply going through our days by rote, mechanically completing one task after another. Purpose elevates our daily tasks, transforming have-to-do chores into get-to-do opportunities.
1. Resolved: To Remember Why We Are Homeschooling in the First Place
What’s your why? Do you homeschool to
- accommodate learning differences?
- maintain a flexible schedule?
- work at the child’s own pace?
- keep Christ at the forefront of studies?
This list will look different for every family, but the reason you started homeschooling is probably also the reason you keep homeschooling. On the days when frustration runs high, it helps to keep your why in mind. Homeschooling is not always easy, but knowing—and owning—your purpose as a homeschooling family keeps the joy in and the resentment out.
Of course, even when homeschooling with vision and clarity, conflicts still occur. We can’t eradicate clashes, but we can control how we react.
2. Resolved: To Give Myself Timeouts Before the Situation Escalates
Can I be honest with you—especially those of you who are also in the trenches with a child who's strong-willed, intense, and pushes your buttons.
Sometimes, when tempers flare and fuses are short, it’s my fault. Yes, mine— even though, in my human nature, I’d like to blame my impetuous daughter.
This year, I’m endeavoring to remove myself from the situation—even if momentarily—before it escalates to the point of eruption. If I’m calm, I can handle (almost) any sass thrown my way. But if I’m already irritated? That’s a long path back to peace and productivity!
3. Resolved: To Put Away My Phone During School Hours
Since we live two thousand miles away from one side of the family and one thousand miles away from the other, a great deal of daily conversation happens digitally. Add in working from home, and the distractions pile up. But multitasking isn’t always better. It’s harder to focus on teaching—and learning!—if I’m answering texts “really quickly” between concepts.
This year, I’m making a concerted effort to be wholly present. As Jim Elliot so famously wrote, “Wherever you are, be all there.” For me, it needs to start with putting my phone away and focusing on one thing at a time.
4. Resolved: To Stop Comparing Myself to Others
At the end of the school day, I don’t always have a healthy perspective. I tend to get stuck in an unhealthy cycle of should haves, lamenting how I should have
- planned meals better,
- managed my time better,
- organized our semester better,
and on and on. Does this sound familiar? “That family really has it together,” we think to ourselves. “If only I could manage my schedule the way she does. If only I could have those curriculum extras. If only we had the space for a school room…”
But as Paul reminds us in Second Corinthians, “Comparing themselves among themselves, [they] are not wise.” “In all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point,” rephrases Eugene Peterson in The Message version of the same verse.
And isn’t that how discouragement takes root—through comparison? This year, let’s kick comparison to the curb, and remember that gratitude transforms what we have into enough.
5. Resolved: To Give Thanks
On the heels of Paul’s admonition against comparison (2 Corinthians 10:12) and for gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) comes my favorite author Wendell Berry, echoing Paul’s words. Berry writes with such wisdom when it comes to embracing the life we’ve been given. I’m printing this excerpt from Hannah Coulter and tacking it up where I can see it daily, to remind me that even in the bad days—even when I can’t— through Him I can.
“You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this:
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.’
I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.”
And in the end, that’s what it really comes down to, doesn’t it?