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The Messy School Plan

Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 in Homeschooling Multiple Children, Thoughts on Education

I’m joining with some other homeschool moms to share a confession about real homeschool life. It’s not always like we plan for in our heads,full of projects and organized school time….

I sit down beside my Dad, letting my bag of school books settle on the floor beside my seat.

It’s not one of his good days.  Actually he hasn’t had what I would call a good day in a very long time.

I lean forward and look into his eyes.  ”Hi, Dad.”

He stares back at me but doesn’t say anything.

“I love you Dad.  I’ve missed you, it’s really good to see you.”

He continues to stare at me, eyes the color of the turbulent green sea.

I talk to him about deep sea fishing, the book I just read, the kids trip to florida. But my one-sided conversation can’t sustain itself forever, so I get out the computer and show him pictures of the kids. The cloudy eyes stare and he moves his hand to tap the computer.

I settle back in the chair and get out my school books.

Planning school is challenging, often overwhelming at the beginning of the year.  But there’s another side, too.  When the schedule, book lists, and ideas gather into a nice tidy braid, it’s very satisfying, not at all like what I’m doing with my Dad.  I can control what we do, I can see the outcome, I can make lists of what we’ll accomplish in convincing black and white. School planning seems very alluring, a way to distance myself a bit from the darker waters in my heart.

I open my brand-new, crisp planner, blank with possibilties.  But other, not so tidy thoughts, interrupt.

My Dad’s presence, the tubes and the small shared room press me and I can’t help but realize I’m trying to look at my Dad’s stuggle and our homeschooling journey as if they’re on two seperate pieces of paper.  But that’s not the truth of our life or even my goal, for that matter.

After six years, homeschooling is no longer defined as the portion of our day assigned to academic study.  It’s seeped into the ebb and flow.  We read about history  and science to know the God who made the world and us.  We learn when the baby is sleeping or when we’re all schlepping around a big lake.  We study art together, but we also do art when we feel like doing it. Learning follows us when we’re in our school room or out of it, and the tide and waves shift when we’re having a baby or when my Dad’s in the hospital for four months.

The learning within our home and family  feels very connected to our actual world, not a school world before “real life” begins.

It’s taken time to get here.

But still I forget.

And then I remember where I’m sitting and who I’m sitting next too with my bag full of what we need to learn.

And then I remind myself. Again.

What’s happening with my Dad is part of  what we’re learning.

It’s a messy part that doesn’t look great in my planner.  But I’m trying to grow kids who are engaged in a world bigger than themselves, and with a God bigger than my own well-typed plans.

It was two school years ago that my Dad went into the hospital for four months.  As his only family in the same town,  we needed to be there for him in some way every day.  School flowed, trickled, and reached a full stop.  I worried about what the neighbors would think when they saw the kids outside in the middle of the day.  I worried about our families and whether they would accuse us of neglecting our children’s education.  But mostly I longed for us to live in a different era.

I thought of a time when families took care of the stuff of life first-planting, sowing, baking, caring for aging family, and the academic studies came along when the plants weren’t growing or when mom wasn’t busy making the meal for the day.

Last year a friend called and reminded me, “They will look back and remember that you cared for your Dad when he needed it.”

What does this really mean for me, books in one hand, the slow end of life happening on the other?  It means we might hear difficult news this week about my Dad.  I might not have a year long plan fully conceived with a lovely table set for the first day, a special breakfast, and a freshly painted schoolroom (I really want that new paint).  It means I have to be careful about not taking refuge from what’s really happening inside the very predictable and safe world of planning.  I might have to accept messy planning that happens throughout the year instead of now (if I were really honest, all of my before school planning just makes me feel good, I never adhere to any of the schedules I make anyway).

We need to start where we already are in our lives and see how our formal learning can ebb and flow with the plans the Lord has already put into place.  Or we might miss the best lessons, which are the ones not planned by me.

Like all things I’ve learned on this journey, I’m going to need to tell myself again and again.


To read other personal stories of homeschool moms, head over to Sunflower House to see a full list of blog posts.

Bring on the comments

  1. Joanna Goforth says:

    just came across this…as i’m browsing for homeschool blogs to follow. so encouraging to me to read this post. i’m sure this year will be an unforgettable year with your family, and “lessons learned” that could never have been taught, but through your trials and challenges.

  2. Amy says:

    Aimee, what a beautiful perspective. I love your honesty, your opennes to life and what the Lord has for you, and your willingness to learn from and through every experience. You are a lifetime learner and a wonderful teacher my friend.

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