Really. This past school year has been the hardest of my adult life. No one died, and for that I feel blessed. However, it was all we could do to make it through each day, and without a plan our homeschool would have been utterly lost for an entire year. As it was, we dropped classes, assignments, and whole weeks. Some weeks we doubled up on the schoolwork we decided to keep. Having a plan already in place made our choices easy.
Our Nightmare Year
Last July my husband accepted his dream job training youth to join the workforce by arming them with a skill. The caveat? The job was 100 miles away, over a mountain range.
Around the same time my husband became an instructor, we left our church of thirteen years. That was a terribly hard decision–one that came with many prayers and tears.
We felt strongly that the Lord was moving us, so my boys and I worked hard to prepare our house of fifteen years for sale. The house sold in two weeks, we found the perfect home to purchase, and everything seemed to be going well aside from the loss of our church and many of our relationships.
Then we had a code issue the city wanted us to fix. That code issue became a total nightmare–it cost us months of contracted work, tens of thousands of dollars, and many concessions with our buyers and sellers. After months of hard work we were able to secure proper permits from the city so we could close on our house, but until the day we passed the final inspection, everything was in the air.
In the midst of that logistical mess, my doctor ordered a liver biopsy because of a medication I take for asthma. I went in for a quick outpatient procedure the day before Thanksgiving. I knew in the middle of the procedure that something had gone horribly wrong. Though I was screaming and I fainted, the hospital sent me home without further tests. I was in agony at home, unable to lie down, while my liver filled with blood. The hospital advice nurse told me the surgeon probably nicked a nerve–and I should stay home and heal. Five days later, my liver ruptured. Months later, an ultrasound tech used the word “exploded”. She told me she’d only seen those kind of images in textbooks. The fifth day after my surgery, a visit to urgent care led to the emergency room. After a CT scan and blood tests, I was prepped for surgery and transferred to another hospital over an hour away via ambulance. By the time I arrived, I was no longer a candidate for surgery.
God saved my life. I am certain of that. God led us through our housing issues and into our new home. He is faithful even when we are so, so weak.
When we finally moved into our new home, I couldn’t lift a frying pan by myself, let alone pick up a box. I limped badly when I walked for months. My body had to process a massive amount of blood that had clotted in my abdomen. Digesting that much blood made me extremely ill, and I ended up in the hospital again.
But we were home. We were all alive. Our family was finally all together again. Friends drove the 100 miles each way to help us clean and move in. The future looked brighter.
Three weeks after we moved, my husband was fired. He shared the gospel at work, and was escorted from the premises. He’s now working 100 miles away–again.
It’s been a hard year. Even so, I am convinced by Scripture that every event in our lives has been ordained by God for our sanctification and His glory. I trust He will work all things to the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). I cling to that Scriptural truth.
Homeschool Lesson Planning
This past school year was a disaster. I was consumed by legal and logistical details. For months I was in agony (seven months, to be exact). And for six weeks after our move, I was deathly ill.
YET, our boys were homeschooled this year. They completed their most important coursework, and they scored incredibly well on their required standardized tests. Both of my boys grew in character and in wisdom. It has been a joy to see.
I’ve been planning out my homeschool years in advance for the past nine years. I find that the homeschool year is stressful enough without adding in weekly or quarterly planning as well. It takes me about two weeks of part time work to plan out a full year of assignments and procure the necessary supplies.
I plan each week, then write the week numbers in erasable pen on each Sunday on my calendar. I make sure to schedule weeks off, but I find that my week numbers always move. There is always something that comes up, like illness sweeping through the house. Having each week’s number scheduled on my calendar makes it easy for me to make adjustments. I can easily erase the numbers and renumber my calendar. Sometimes we take two or three weeks to make it through a week’s worth of work. Sometimes we’re able to buckle down and catch up, studying two weeks in a one week period. Sometimes we just go a little further into the summer or shelve a subject until the following year.
Having each week of our homeschool lesson planning done allows me to assess how we’re doing in perspective to the overall picture for the year. At the beginning of each school year I set our priorities–my goals for our household as well as for each child. When something goes terribly wrong, like it did this year, I know what we must keep and what we can afford to let go of.
Surviving Our Nightmare Year
This year my boys dropped science and theology (which I need to actively teach), and took up horticulture, home economics, and shop. Those young men learned skills many adults haven’t explored. We were able to take eight weeks off at the beginning of the school year to prepare the house for sale and pack. When I was hospitalized and when I was at home in the worst agony of my life, they were able to consult the weekly schedule to stay on task with literature, English, history, Bible, and math. Had my kids been younger, we probably would have employed education videos and dropped even more of our coursework, but by middle school they’ve both become very self-sufficient.
After we’d moved, we were able to double up on our curriculum to finish the entire year’s schedule on time. Though we dropped several classes, the boys are still in a strong position academically because those classes were optional at their ages, and because we’ve been on an academically challenging course. I think that even if that wasn’t the case, we’d still celebrate surviving the school year with some semblance of order.
Beauty from Ashes
My boys had more independent time this year than they usually do as I couldn’t teach the classes I normally do. Because they’ve progressively developed skills to learn independently, they both found projects to take on. One of my boys taught himself to play my old college guitar. He’s actually really good at it. My other son has been working on world-building, character, and plot development for a novel. (Be still my writer heart.)
Both of my boys have developed independent devotional habits I’m blessed to see.
It was a hard year, and our homeschool didn’t go the way I planned AT ALL. But because I planned, our homeschool survived and our boys thrived.
You’ll notice I had a set plan, and that everything changed. Proverbs has a lot to tell us about planning, and many of those verses seem to be in opposition to each other. For instance, Proverbs 16:1 says: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Yet a few verses later, Proverbs 16:9 says: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
We can plan our path, but we must hold those plans loosely. The Lord has ordained the events of our lives, and He will move us in the direction we must go.
Proverbs 21:5 says: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” In homeschooling, let us be diligent with the lives of our children.
Best Homeschool Planners
You can make your own homeschool planner. In fact, I made my own with a spiral notebook for about seven years. Eventually, I wearied of the task of handwriting the same weekly structure over and over again. I made my own planner with three essential sections: Our Objectives Child-by-Child, Our Subjects and Supplies, and Our Plans Week-by-Week. I’ve incorporated the experience of helping students develop individualized education plans and nine years of homeschool planning to put together simple worksheets and schedules to help you plan your year.
The Lord created each of us with a unique set of abilities and skills. As such, we’re not all going to plan the same way. I’ve included links to two more incredibly well-designed homeschool planning systems, each developed by women I highly respect. Take your time to look through all three systems and see if one of them will work for you!
Purchase: My Homeschool Planning Journal
Some highlights of The Relaxed Mom Homeschool Planner and Course:
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~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.