Few things breathe hope into my soul more than the first gentle breezes of spring. After enduring the darkness and bone-chilling temperatures that leave us huddled inside for days on end, sunshine and warmth whisper promises of the changing season. Springtime also means the end of the school year is within sight! It signals the last lap, the final bend in the road, the last uphill push. However, if you’re like me and a whole lot of homeschool moms out there, it’s also around this time that you start to become aware of all you meant to do during the school year that you never quite got around to. Add that to the pressure of end-of-year testing, and you have the only two ingredients needed for panic pudding: fear and doubt.
Where did the time go?
What has my child missed?
Am I messing up their education?
Why can’t I get it together?
After being a part of the homeschool community for well over a decade, I can assure you that when you feel this way you’re in good company. We truly are our own worst critics. I can also assure you that, most of the time, your fears are unfounded. Objectively evaluating our students, efforts, and the school year is wise, but just make sure you give yourself enough credit!
But what do you do when you realize that you’ve truly had a bad year? I’m not talking about poor planning or lack of effort, necessarily; I’m talking about major life circumstances that are beyond our control. Maybe you had an ailing parent who took you away from your usual routines. Perhaps, you had an unplanned move, a financial crisis, a marital conflict, or personal illness. Whatever the circumstances have been, you’ve weighed the school year by your calculations and found it wanting. If you find yourself in such a position, let me share with you how you can indeed redeem the time.
First, take a summer break, effective immediately! That might sound counterintuitive, so let me explain. When you feel like you’ve come up short or missed too much, your initial reaction might be to buckle down and work overtime to compensate and catch up, even if it means doing school over the summer. Truth be told, that’s the last thing you or your students need. How do I know? I have discovered from my own experience, and that of others, that at least part of the equation is burnout. I’d be willing to bet that you’ve been too stretched for too long, and you need a break as much as your kids do. We often underestimate the pressure and stress that homeschooling adds to our lives, especially if we’ve been doing it for a while. The whispered lies of not enough tempted us to believe that if we just do more or try harder, it will get easier or better. What we truly need, however, is rest. Most homeschool mommas I know have a lot of grit and gusto. Because of the nature of homeschooling, we’re used to hard work and long days as we swim against the current of cultural norms.
How easily we forget that we are dust! Beloved dust, yes, but we are dust all the same. We were created for so many things, and rest is one of them. So, stop, right now, wherever you are. Shelve the books, clear away the pencils and projects, and rest. Start by going to bed early and getting the physical rest you need. Spend time doing those things that refresh your spirit so that you will feel the relief of emotional rest. Above all, as you make it a priority to spend time daily in the Word and prayer, our good Father will give your spirit rest.
After you’ve spent at least a couple of months resting, the next step is to start evaluating. By resting first, you allow time to downshift out of emotional overdrive. You will be able to think clearly and objectively rather than critically. Make a list of all the things you think went well, academically and otherwise, even if they seem minute. A little encouragement can go a long way! Then, make a list of those things that didn’t work. Besides curriculum, consider factors that may have compounded the stress and fatigue of a difficult year. The time demands of outside activities, commitments you’ve made to help at church or in a co-op, etc., might need to be set aside for a season. Ask your spouse for input. When I am willing to set aside a defensive attitude and humbly listen, my husband’s feedback has been valuable. Don’t rush this process or try to do it all in one day, or even one week. Spend a few weeks or a month thinking, praying, and evaluating. Embrace those things that you can control and be willing to make difficult changes. Relinquish what belongs to the Lord, trusting in His sovereign plan and love for you.
Finally, hold it all before the Lord with open hands—the lost time, the missed opportunities, the plans gone awry. When I had young children, an older wiser friend once told me, “The Lord has filled in so many gaps over the years.” Four high school graduates later, she can still attest to the Lord’s faithfulness in filling the empty places. God’s economy is vastly different than ours. Just as he did with the fish and loaves, He can take our humble contribution and multiple it greatly, even if we have only a few fragments to offer. So, offer up the past weeks and months, asking the Father to restore what the locusts have eaten. Trust Him for the past year that you cannot change and for the coming year that you cannot control. Our God is the God of redemption, and He is redeeming all things!