Is this your first week of homeschooling for the year? It is for me. I always start our new homeschool year the week of my youngest child’s birthday because <cough> I really enjoy adding that kind of stress to the first week of school.
Whether the stress in your homeschool week is normal life stuff, like birthdays or long to-do lists, or abnormal life stuff, like surprises and emergencies, the fact remains that homeschooling isn’t always easy. It just isn’t. This is because homeschooling is just like anything else: it’s work, and you have to actually Do It.
I spent the latter part of the summer doing extensive planning. I have learned this fact about myself: if I do not plan it, it is highly unlikely that it will be done. I’m not spontaneous, I don’t think well on my feet when it comes to stuff that should actually happen in the physical world, and I’m usually tired. This is not a good recipe for action, nor effectiveness.
It’s good to know things like this about ourselves so that we can search for a remedy. For me, the remedy has always been summer planning — the more thorough, the better. There is nothing romantic about it; it simply works for me.
With that said, plans are great and all, but they need to be executed, and that’s what we’re talking about today.
Charlotte Mason’s Motto for Homeschool Moms
Dawn recently published a free ebook called I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will: Charlotte Mason’s Motto Explained for Upper Elementary Students. It’s awesome, and you should go grab your copy! I’ve been reading through it and pondering how I’m going to incorporate it into our Circle Time, and in the midst of that, I’m remembering that this motto isn’t just for students — in fact, it’s the key to successful homeschooling, when you really think about it.
I am a child of God.
I ought to do His Will.
I can do what He tells me.
By Grace alone I will.
The order is a little different — I’ve seen the motto both ways. That detail isn’t terribly important. The key lies in the content.
Here’s the deal: it is really easy to think that we made these grand plans for the year, and now they are going to “just happen.” But lots of times, they don’t happen, and we’re left holding our scraps of plans wondering where we went wrong.
Sometimes, it isn’t us that went wrong. Life went wrong, and it took us along for the ride. While usually something is wrong if we find ourselves permanently in survival mode, survival mode is necessary for all of us, sometimes. This is where grace comes in.
Other times, what went wrong was actually in the plans. We planned too much, and we were destined to fail at the outset. We added that extra book over here, and that extra activity over there, and we didn’t realize we were adding the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. We need grace here, too — grace, and the realization that education does not mean that we have to do everything.
Those times — where life went wrong or our plans went wrong? That’s not what this post is about.
When the Problem is Us
Yes, I said it. Sometimes the problem is actually us. We were raised in an age when it was said that we were “strong-willed” if we did whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, to the great dismay of adults instructing us to do otherwise. But there is nothing strong at all about a gelatinous will that oozes with the passions and has no self-control. When we use the word “strong,” we imply the use of a muscle, and there is absolutely no muscle involved when a child throws a tantrum because he does not want to leave the playground/put away his shoes/do his chores. In that moment, he’s taking the easy road.
The hard road — the road requiring strength — is the one where he uses his will to submit himself to what he ought to be doing.
So, if I’m five, and I’m at the park, and my mom says it’s time to go — it’s 100 degrees and we still haven’t eaten lunch and my baby brother needs a nap soon, and anyhow, God did put my mother in authority over me — the weak will throws the tantrum, but the strong will sucks it up and goes home without a fight because it’s the right thing to do.
And if I’m thirty-five, and it’s a homeschool morning — oh, and I stayed up too late the night before, and now I’m tired and unmotivated, and the kids are crabby, and the house is a mess, and I would rather just drink my coffee in silence and read a blog or something — the weak will throws in the towel and sends the kids out to play (tomorrow will be better), but the strong will sucks it up and starts lessons, game face on and cup of coffee in hand.
Nike was Right
I have said this before, and I repeat it often, because it works so well for me: Just Do It is the way things get done. Or, as Carol puts it, “do the next right thing.” (Carol’s saying is the better one when it comes to embodying Charlotte Mason’s motto, I think.)
a homeschool mom, with the responsibility for educating my children Christianly. This is my chosen vocation, and it is my calling.
to do right by my children in this area. I can hire help, of course, but I don’t have the right to drop the ball in regard to their education.
do this, for I believe the Lord equips those whom He calls. (That doesn’t mean perfection, though, people.)
do the work. Every day, I will get up, and deny my desire for leisure and comfort and Do the Work.
The strong will chooses the ought — it chooses what it knows to be right in defiance of big temptations like another cup of coffee and another page of a novel. This is the sort of situation in which we can apply the words of the Apostle Paul, who said, “I discipline my body and make it my slave.”
Make Hay While the Sun Shines
I’m writing this post because it is the post I need to read. I try to start the year off right because I never know what the future will hold. It’s possible my plans aren’t as well-made as I think they are, or it’s possible that Life will take us for a ride. I know this. That’s why it is such a big deal to be diligent, to Do the Work on every day that I can, because I do not know what tomorrow will be like.
You know that saying, make hay while the sun shines? Have you ever been around hay-making before? Hay can be ruined by a cloudy, humid, or rainy day. It’ll spoil. Moldy hay can mean death to the flock it’s feeding. It’s a serious thing. Good hay requires optimum weather. That is why we make hay while the sun shines. Because tomorrow might be cloudy, and then where will we be?
Homeschooling is like that. Tomorrow might have bad weather. The neighbor’s husky might break down the fence (this actually happened to us on Monday, folks), or someone might do that of which we do not speak (it involves the stomach flu — that is your only hint). But, today the weather is fine. So make the hay — Do the Work.
Listen to the audio version of this post, courtesy of The Homeschool Solutions Show!
Get the (almost) weekly digest!
Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.