Last September, at the beginning of the school year, my oldest was about to turn five. She was starting kindergarten, and as a beginning homeschool mom it was very important to me to do everything right. I researched curriculums and methods, spent hours making flashcards for reading and math, and painstakingly wrote out my lesson plans and organized our school schedule.
When the first day of school finally arrived, my daughter and I were both so excited to get started! I felt like I was truly prepared and ready to ace my first year of “real” homeschooling. After all, the key to success (in homeschooling and anything else!) is a painfully exact level of organization…right?
Perhaps not right.
My daughter wilted under my organization. I really don’t know how else to describe it. The lessons plans I had written up, detailing our school mornings down to the minute, were far too rigid for her. My idea was that we would begin each day with handwriting, and then progress through reading, math flashcards, workbook sheets, etc., always in the same order to provide a comforting structure. That was monotonous in the extreme to her five-year-old self. I was so dismayed to see her eagerness and enthusiasm for school waning daily, and so frustrated and disappointed that my carefully planned approach had gone so awry.
As I pondered where to go with my daughter from the ruins of my organized plans, I was reminded of a place in the Scripture where God talks about what kind of plans He makes for us. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”‘ Jeremiah 29:11, well-known and easy to call to mind, but when I went to my Bible and read verses 12 and 13 as well, my eyes were opened. “‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”‘
Slowly, realization dawned, as it so often does when I finally pause in the middle of all my “brilliant” human ideas and take the time to actually see what God’s word says. While I had spent weeks buried in my own plans, He had been patiently waiting for me to just seek Him with all my heart. How often do I wait until I’ve tried everything in my own strength that I can think to try, before I finally turn to God and seek Him with all my heart?
Predictably, when I finally submitted the issue of my daughter’s school time to the Lord, He immediately began to make our paths straight. My mind cleared, and I could see how hard I was pushing my little five-year-old to embrace a level of organization that was a challenge to me as an adult! Sitting down right after breakfast to a routine that never changed, and limiting her to “traditional” schoolwork (endless papers and workbooks!), were great ways to stifle her creativity and her zest for learning.
Immediately, I started mixing things up for her by inserting a lot more fun into our school days. I had previously been too determined to achieve “success” to be willing to spend time learning through play — now I was realizing that at age five, she would still learn a lot more through play than any other way. Now we never do two “serious” subjects in a row. Once she completes a sheet of math problems, I read a book to her or she gets to do a page of mazes (which she loves). When she finishes reading a book to me or completes her reading flashcards, she gets down on the floor and goes through a series of P.E. exercises (somersaults, jumping jacks, and stretches) that usually end with her giggling uncontrollably. We have slowly accumulated some great educational games and toys, as well, like a bingo game that teaches reading, memory card match games, mosaics, and little clocks that have effortlessly taught her to tell time because she has so much fun setting and resetting them.
Letting the fun back into the time we spend together has drastically changed my daughter’s attitude toward school — she now bemoans weekends when her school tub is tucked back into the closet for a couple of days! I have also given myself permission to be less “hardcore” about the fact that we are now officially homeschooling; if my daughter does not learn best in three hour chunks of time five days a week, then the only reason to force that format upon her is if I’m more concerned about “doing it right” than I am about doing it right for her.
Recently, she and I have started taking a few minutes together at the beginning of the day to pray together, just the two of us. Since she already has two younger sisters and our house is a busy place, that one-on-one prayer time has been rare, and making it a priority every morning is really special for both of us. We pray specifically for her school time, among other things — for a sweet attitude (on both our parts!) and effective time together. I love hearing her specifically ask the Lord for this, and it has already made an impact on our relationship during school work.
It is a humbling thing when my plans fall so far short of God’s. Part of me would really like to think that I know exactly what I’m doing, but the reality is that I get myself (and the precious children for whom I am responsible) so tangled up when I act that way. All the time I spend rushing around concocting my own plans, God knows the plans that He has for me…and His highest plan is for me to find Him when I seek Him with my whole heart. And oh, how He blesses when I finally do!