I’ve flown quite a bit in this past year, but one thing I’ve never had to do is to take over the controls and land the plane. I am so glad that each time I was aloft, the pilot had the skills needed to bring us back safely back to the ground.
I am about to make a different kind of landing, one that I’ve made many times before. This month I will celebrate my 22nd end-of-school-year as a homeschooling mom. Soon we will close the textbooks for the last time and take a break from lessons for a few months. I am not one of those who runs her curriculum through the summer. Some of my friends do this beautifully, but that just doesn’t seem to be my style.
We are approaching summertime. We’ve begun our descent, and the landing gear is in place. The atmosphere is clear and we’ve got plenty of visibility. Our estimated time of arrival is late May, just before the Memorial Day weekend.
One factor that’s critical in aviation is attitude. The pilot must check the attitudinal indicator on his control panel to see if the plane is lined up correctly with the horizon. If the plane’s pitching or rolling, he needs to know so he can make the necessary adjustments.
A bad attitude can set you on a dangerous course in homeschooling, just as in all of life. Ignore that indicator and you will be headed for a fiery end. I have to confess that some of my past end-of-year seasons have not looked very pretty.
Burn out, spring fever, grouchiness, and procrastination have sometimes threatened to wipe out any pleasant memories of the year. Those nasty problems seemed to have originated with our children’s teacher. And yes, that would be me.
IF I sent my children to school, there would be somebody else to call and complain to. I have learned the hard way that the attitude of my home hinges on me. (OUCH!) I have noticed that if I can make a few adjustments, we can all end the year celebrating. But, if I let my attitude have its own way…well, you really don’t want to know what that looks like.
One year when Nathan and Kalyn were young, our school year was about to end with a crash landing that was endangering the peace of the neighborhood! My husband, Doug, stepped in and officially ended my school year for me. I will spare you the details! I can laugh about it now, but not back then!
I’ve been through my own school of hard knocks, and learned a few things along the way. I’ve made this checklist in hopes that it will help you get through the next couple weeks with smiles instead of tears, and with shouts of Hallelujah instead of Mayday! Mayday!
1. Make a big deal out of each little book the children finish up the last few weeks. Hug, laugh, and congratulate them…before you remind them that NOW they will have more time for the subjects they are behind on!
2. Remind yourself that almost no textbook is finished in public or private school settings. Curriculum is a tool to move the student toward a destination. Finishing every page is not the destination itself. My older three children have proven to be honor students in college, so I chuckle at all the sleep I have lost over not finishing the last 25 pages of some of our textbooks!
3. Remember that “cramming” rarely works for long-term retention. Asking a child to finish six lessons of science in one day may make you feel better as you mark them off your to-do list, but it’s likely those lessons will not stick.
4. When you reflect on point 3, recognize it MIGHT be appropriate anyway to make somebody do those six lessons in one day. Not for the sake of science, but for the sake of character. If a child has disobeyed instructions or been slothful, they may need to face the music…which means mom has to suffer, too! This is one of those experiences when a mom sows in tears but later reaps in joy!
5. If you are facing the painful truth that you have failed in some aspect of your child’s education, take that convicting truth on your knees to the Lord—not to your child. Repent sincerely. Ask Him for new grace, and then remember that you are in a distance race and not a sprint.
6. Have the courage to finish the grading NOW! Do not put it off! Figure the grades. Fill out the forms. JUST DO IT!
7. Remind yourself that Susie or Jane or Mary (or whoever your homeschooling friends are) are going through the same humbling experience. There are no perfect families.
8. Set a firm last day and then stick to it. I find this to be critical to my credibility with the kids and my peace of mind.
9. Consider making notes to yourself of adjustments and plans for next year’s schooling. If you are like me, you can easily forget! When I make adjustments in May, I am a lot more realistic. By August the memories will have faded and my perfectionist notions kick in.
10. Plan an end of year party! Have fun! And pack those books away for a while knowing that God is the ultimate schoolmaster…and in His kingdom, school is always in session!