Every year, in early August, the onslaught of back to school advertising begins. Students (well the parents) are bombarded with reasons to purchase the trendiest wardrobe, up to date electronics, and designer back packs.
Home educators are not exempt from this back to school mentality. Their focus, however, is slightly different. It’s not what to take to school or wear to school, but what to teach at school. Yikes! Now that’s pressure!
In my well organized years, early August stirred excitement and anticipation as I counted the days to the curriculum fair. It was a magical place of new resources, workshops and divine interactions that built the platform of my educational year. Exploration, discovery, inspiration were glowing words that described the hours spent sorting through new and improved textbooks, unit studies and teaching aids that were a must have for the new or seasoned home educator. Me!
And then there were “those” years when August – early, middle and especially late – struck only a sense of sheer panic. Life events had robbed me of my planning weekends. I knew the general overview of the school focus but had precious few details on my projected monthly schedule. So the marketing marvels and hawked educational wares glazed my eyes, defeated my spirit, robbed me of my confidence and bent the budget on impulse purchases.
School was starting, and I wasn’t ready…..but God was.
In retrospect, my year to year educational success didn’t start in August. New Year’s Day wasn’t the beginning nor was May as we wrapped up the last of the projects. Every year was successful because, at some random point during that year, God found a way to open up His plan to me and I surrendered mine.
A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9
Each of my 13 years of home education had a hallmark moment of revelation. There were precious, tender times when I actively sought in advance His affirmation or re-direction of my purpose and plan. Then there were “hard pressed, beat the floor because I just don’t get it times” when I was so intent on my instruction I wasn’t hearing His. And the hallmark was painful but just as sweet.
Throughout my season as a home educator, God used several steadfast resources to support His effort in teaching my children.
The first was the scope and sequence book. This wonderful resource outlined what I could expect from a child at specific age levels. Alphabet to calculus, colors to geography, each grade level had lists of achievements and outcomes. How helpful it was to know that my student was doing math above his grade level or that his reading was slightly less than grade level. I could adjust or refocus my teaching not to emulate the text but to strengthen his challenges and challenge his strengths. This resource was a tangible beacon to follow as I prepared for the next year.
And yes, the curriculum fair was truly an amazing resource. I can only imagine the variety of what is available now, 20 years after beginning my journey. Then, the computer side of education was in its toddler stage so internet information was essentially non-existent. Yet that weekend of coming together in workshops, having hands on experience with items only seen in catalogs, sitting in forums discussing types of learning and being energized by fellow parents gave me the boost and information needed for the beginning of almost every school year.
Most importantly, God gave me relationships. The initial educational journey of my children began behind closed doors because Tennessee was barely in the legal stage of home education. I stood on the shoulders of pioneers who formed legal associations and professional groups that cleared the way for my choice of home education to be easy. They showed me the price of that freedom. And they taught me how to be public with home education and how to defend my choice with neighbors, strangers and family.
Additionally, week to week, year to year, we participated in “support groups.” Ahhh, sweet words – support group. This was a place for needed socialization for all of us. It was a sanctuary from the sense of isolation and an audience for presentations. Our support groups took many forms throughout the years. Sometimes they looked more like classrooms. Others were wonderfully, spontaneously creative. In every one, God brought women and families who poured into me and into my children. These relationships were interwoven not just into memories and education but into our spiritual formation.
I learned from my educational journey many wonderful lessons.
- There is grace sufficient for each day or year.
- I have people who care about me and my children and are willing to invest in our future.
- I have a Father who wants more than anything to show me His love and plan for our lives.
With August upon us and back to school a reality, what hallmark moments have directed your educational choices? What curriculum or material impacted your previous years? Where did you see God’s grace in school relationships?
Blessings as you begin your 2014 educational journey! It is full of amazing, memorable moments!
Want more encouragement? Read part two in our Back to Homeschool Mini-Series >> A Newbie’s Perspective