August is here already; in our area, the schoolchildren are already back to school. My little homeschooled children are not doing lessons yet, but we will soon.
After everyone goes to bed at night, I sit in my quiet living room with the windows open. I can hear the cicadas in an enormous chorus outside in the dark. Their sound rises and falls together; I can't figure out how they coordinate themselves. Underlying the cicadas' chorus is the seemingly inexhaustible chant of the katydids: katy did, katy didn't, katy did, katy didn't....
So far, no crickets. I always know fall is coming when the crickets begin chirping!
I often hear the lowing sound of cattle. Occasionally I hear coyotes yipping. More rarely I might hear a Great Horned Owl (always a joy!). One night I heard a bobcat; believe me when I say that'll make you jump out of your skin.
So in this peaceful setting, I'm planning our school year. It's the first year I'll have two true students, as I consider kindergarten sort of "optional fun".
There's plenty to do: printing lesson plans, making sure I have books ordered, creating a schedule. We're using an actual curriculum this year for the first time, so I'm learning what I'll need to know to implement it. At night I sit in my husband's chair with the laptop open on my lap, a can of Perrier at my side, and the cicadas singing outside.
August seems to invite a flurry of slightly-panicked planning in homeschool mothers, but I think we can save ourselves the trouble by remembering the end goals. What's the end goal to your homeschool? I mean, really?
For me, it has always been that our schoolwork will help my children become the people God created them to be. That's it! (That's also the goal of my housekeeping!) And I want this to happen in an atmosphere of peace, happiness, and mutual respect. I don't think my children can flourish in an atmosphere that feels rushed, strained, stressed, or chaotic.
This is a freeing approach to education, I think, because it helps me separate the wheat from the chaff. It means my primary planning goals do not include covering all the bases, creating the perfect schedule, or finishing every book.
I do create the schedules and checklists and printouts and binders and all the trappings of homeschool that we will use, and I genuinely enjoy much of this planning, but I do it all with an eye to what will bring peace to all of us. How have I learned this lesson? From experience, of course: I've gotten overwhelmed by those trappings before, and realized that they distract me.
It's worthwhile to do a little less in order to relish more.
The schedule is the end result of a process that begins with our passion. The schedule is the by-product, the guide, the help. It's not what stokes the fire. Consider this:
"Rembrandt and Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Gaugin, possessed, I believe, powerful hearts, not powerful wills. They loved the range of materials they used, the work's possibilities excited them; the field's complexities fired their imaginations. The caring suggested the tasks; the tasks suggested the schedules." (Annie Dillard, The Writing Life)
At the root of any good schedule is the caring: the powerful heart for the work we do.
So as the cicadas ring in my ears, and the laptop glows in front of me, I craft my plans. If a powerful heart was good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me!