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“Jump Start” to a Joyful School Year

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Enjoy the start of a new adventure this fall! And for good measure, “check out” these checklists to help you start the year with confidence:

By Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Early Years Coordinator

“…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b NKJV)

“The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.” (Psalm 126:3 NKJV)

As a new school year approaches, wouldn’t it be great if homeschooling could feel less overwhelming and more joyful?

As a fellow homeschool mom, I know that it can be overwhelming when that big box of curriculum arrives and you suddenly aren’t sure that you are up to the task. It can be overwhelming when you can’t seem to find the right key to unlock learning in your child. It can be overwhelming when life broadsides your homeschool. Even as my homeschooling experience climbed into the double digits, I still always felt more confident and equipped for a new year when I read through the organized back-to-school checklists—so I’m including a few helpful links (see box); I hope these will help you feel less overwhelmed as you begin.

But what about the joy?

Allow me to give you a glimpse into the heart of this ordinary mom. Not a supermom, but a homeschool mom who, in the busy-ness and everyday-ness of life, awoke one day to the realization that I had no joy. The Lord directed me to Psalm 113:9 and showed me that making me a joyful mother of children ranked right up there with seating the poor with princes. I purposed to not take life so personally, to laugh more, smile more, love my babies more, and cherish my family. I wanted them to remember their childhoods as joyful, contented times with a mom who treasured them, not think back woefully to the stressed mother of their youth!

Here are six steps to “jump start” your joy as you begin this new school year:

1. Have a vision for your family. The Greek model of education is all about knowledge; the Hebrew model is all about relationships (read Robin Sampson in What Your Child Needs to Know When or Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach). What purpose(s) does God want to accomplish through the relationships within your family, and how does home education help fulfill those goals?

2. Have realistic expectations of your children.

Maybe you awakened this morning, still drowsy from the dream of a day when everybody gets himself up, makes his bed, tidies his room, speaks gently to the siblings, offers to take the smallest cookie, bundles the trash, folds the laundry, finishes his schoolwork by noon—all with no reminders. Then you smell the toast burning—and reality set in! Someone will very likely test the rules today; it is just part of the territory when you’re a parent. You can prepare yourself in the family service arena by having age-appropriate expectations, pre-determined consequences, and a sense of humor.

From ages six months to about 5 years, children are learning cheerful first-time obedience and basic routines. They need life to be very concrete and hands-on. They often can and want to help you, but they need lots of modeling and supervision, so don’t expect the results to be the same as if you did it all yourself! Be appreciative of their efforts.

From ages 5 to 12, they are being better trained in consistency, respectfulness, deference to others, diligence, thoroughness, and cheerful obedience.

From 12 to 18, they earn the privilege of independence and responsibility by showing their faithfulness to accomplish a task and to be accountable for their actions. (Listen to Dr. S. M. Davis’ tape, “What to Expect of a Twelve-Year-Old.”)

3. Have realistic expectations of yourself. Instead of comparing yourself to your friend or neighbor (or support group leader), recognize your own gifts and talents, your limitations, your specific family circumstances. It’s no mistake that your children got you as a parent—it’s by God’s design! Be aware, too, of your own needs for sleep, food, and encouragement. Is the Lord revealing to you any areas in which you might need to make adjustments?

4. Recognize that interruptions often are God’s purpose for your day—opportunities for ministry and discipleship of your children and of others. Instead of viewing the interruptions as frustrations to the success of your plans, you might consider the possibility that they are God’s way of reminding you what is really important today.

5. Recognize spiritual warfare for what it is. The mind is the enemy’s battlefield. I had to be reminded to take captive every harsh thought about my children, every selfish thought about my own entitlements in life, every self-pitying thought about being a less-than-perfect homeschool mom. I learned that the enemy really can’t take away my joy, but he sure can influence me to give it up! If you are committed to raising warriors for God, your family is a target for battle, and you may want to take inventory of your Ephesians 6 armor.

6. Recognize the source of true joy. I used to sing to my babies and toddlers: “Break forth into joy, O my soul; break forth into joy, O my soul; In the presence of the Lord, there is joy forevermore; break forth, break forth into joy, O my soul.” When I am spending time in God’s presence, I can choose to be joyful, to speak gently and cheerfully, and to recognize that I am blessed to have this season with my children.

(This article was adapted from the Early Years e-newsletter, August 2009.)


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