Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Review: The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Daylight

It's only now, as I near the end of my second year of homeschooling, that I'm beginning to realize what a marathon I've signed up for. I have always known that I would homeschool, and that I would do it for the long haul. With my steady personality, when I committed to homeschooling, I committed all the way. But not having any doubts does not mean that I have no fears. What will it be like to homeschool four boys at once? Will I have what it takes to manage our days? Will I be able to hold on to the priorities God wants me to have? Will we finish strong?

A little e-book from Real Life Press that I read recently for review met me right where I am: “If God has called you to homeschool...then He has already equipped you with everything you need to get the job done.” In her book The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight, Heidi St. John encouraged me by reminding me that this homeschooling venture will ultimately not be about me and my abilities and energy (or lack thereof), but about God's purposes in each of our lives. St. John also provides a mix of inspiration and practical advice from her own experience on organizing, scheduling, menu planning, homeschooling multiple children at once, and more.

I see myself on a journey as a homeschool mom. I'm learning. Sometimes I wish I was older and wiser right now, without having to go through mistakes and adjustments and a whole lot of hard work. It's just a fact that there will be things that will only be learned by experience in my life. But there are also things that I can learn from the experience of others if I'm just wise enough to take them to heart. This is why I like hearing from veteran homeschoolers, whether in real life or in books like this one. 

The Need for Vision
Three themes really stood out for me in this book: the need for vision, the need for flexibility in our planning, and the need to find encouragement. We all need to take the time once in a while to evaluate how things are going in our home schools, and to consider again what our priorities are and why we are homeschooling.
"Busy homeschool mom, why are you homeschooling? Most moms I know would never, not in a million years, take on homeschooling if they were not driven by something. What's driving you?" (p. 40)
Thinking through our goals and priorities now will help us stay the course when we have frustrating and fruitless days later.

The Need for Flexibility 
The second theme that was helpful for me was that "The key to successful planning is understanding that even the best plans need to be flexible." (p. 43)  St. John reminds us that there are seasons of homeschooling, a sort of natural ebb and flow, and that we need to change our plans and expectations as our lives change. She includes many practical applications of flexibility in planning.

I love her advice to "create some white space" on your calendar. I am a strong believer in white space. I know that right now, with three young children and a baby, I can't handle more than one outing a week (besides church). Back when I had only two children, I remember it was enough to make sure I never went out two days in a row. I anticipate my "white space" needs will change again as my children grow older. That's really what it's all about...taking note of what works for you now and planning accordingly.

I also liked her suggestion that menu planning does not mean that you have to assign days to your meals. I have always found that menu planning works best for me when I plan a variety of simple and more complex meals for the week, and then choose which one to make based on how my day is going.

Flexibility in planning also means changing the plan when it's no longer working for you. I found myself thinking about this when spring suddenly arrived this week. Where last week was cold and miserable (we even had almost 10 cm of snow early last week!), this week is sunny and perfect weather for playing outdoors. My winter routine is just not working for me this week, and I know I will have to change it to allow for hours more time outdoors as the weather gets warmer.

The Need for Encouragement
Heidi St. John speaks of the danger of comparing ourselves with others, and of the impact good friends can have on encouraging us and keeping us accountable. Ultimately, though, we need to find our strength in the Lord.
"I believe that when we find our strength in Christ, we will also find strength for the homeschool years. Is it hard? Yes it is! Do we ever really know what we’re getting ourselves into when we obey the call of God on our lives? I don’t think so!" (p. 193)
I appreciated the encouragement I found in The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Daylight. I would recommend it to any homeschool mom who needs a lift. With its balance of planning and flexibility, I think it will help both the organized and the disorganized to manage their "daylight" better.

This e-book is also available as a physical book at the Real Life Press website.
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