Overview: So much is not going according to plan right now. For all of us. Learn the importance of leaning into whatever God presents and embracing the unknown.
When homeschoolers are asked their favorite things about homeschooling, one of the number one answers given is we love the flexibility. Even in states with a lot of regulations, the homeschool lifestyle provides a lot more flexibility and freedom than any other.
The freedom to include religious and character training that matches whatever our family believes without interference from the government.
The ability to provide a unique education for our kids, taking into consideration the ways they learn best, their strengths and weaknesses, and even more learning about the subjects they’re interested in.
A flexible schedule which allows us to choose an earlier or later starting time, how many hours a day and days a week we will teach, and whether we will take summers off or opt to teach all year long and take off days/weeks throughout the year. This allows families to do lessons around a parent’s long work hours, to travel as a family rather than having a father or mother have to leave them behind if they have a job which takes them on the road, to take vacations offseason to save money and not have to fight crowds, and so many other benefits.
Have a child whose brain doesn’t work well until after lunch?!? No problem.
Have an early riser who finishes all of his or her lessons before 10 am. That works, too!
As you can see, flexibility is an amazing blessing. However, that same freedom and flexibility can be hard to adapt to – especially for people who tend to be naturally on the rigid side. Like me.
I’ve always been a rule follower. A planner. I love looking ahead to come up with lists and schedules and checklist after checklist. And I love checking things off of those lists, too. I’m one of those people who will add things I just completed to my list just for the pleasure of checking them off!!!
As I look back, however, I can see how God has been working on me to look at my plans less and to take advantage of whatever situation He presents to us. And how when I’m willing to loosen my grip, the experience will be so much better than what it would have been otherwise.
My husband and I were taught that lesson in a big way last summer. We had planned a family vacation in the Wisconsin Dells at the end of August. My dad owns a timeshare and he was generous enough to give us a week’s worth of points so that we could take a vacation on a budget. I was excited because I hadn’t even been in Wisconsin since I was a young child. In fact, my sons had never been there even though we live in Michigan. Oops!
So, in my usual style, I began to make detailed plans for our vacation months in advance. I poured over maps and blogs and various other resources to determine what we would do while we were on our trip. Planning things is often more fun for me than actually doing them. And I love having things to look forward to doing.
As August approached, however, it became apparent that some of my plans were going to have to change. My sons were 17 and 18 and for the first time, they were not looking forward to heading out on the family vacation with us. They were reluctant to leave their friends for that long. They weren’t excited about being jammed into our family car, which isn’t comfortable for all four of us anymore with my sons’ height. But they were willing to stay home and hold down the fort, which included taking care of our cats while we were gone.
So, we decided to modify our plans slightly and try leaving them at home while my husband and I headed off on our own. We live next door to my inlaws and several other family members so we knew there was plenty of help nearby if they needed anything while we were gone.
It was bittersweet as we headed out on vacation without our sons for the first time. But it was a beautiful, sunny day and we had a great time driving around to the other side of Lake Michigan and into Wisconsin. Just the two of us for the first time in a long time.
When we made it to our hotel in the Dells, we were relieved to have reached our destination. We eagerly enter the lobby and gave our name… only to find out that they didn’t have a reservation for us that week. After several phone calls and a lot of confused looks, we were told my dad had accidentally made our reservations for October rather than August. And the resort was full so there was no way for us to stay there that week.
So, here we were, a minimum of six hours away from home and nowhere to stay. At that moment, we had a choice. Should we turn around and go home – and perhaps come back in October? Or should we take advantage of the situation we found ourselves in and embrace the unknown?
My husband came up with a great idea to throw ourselves into the situation and to just go with it. We headed to the nearest McDonald’s so that we’d have some wifi, grabbed some fries and a shake, and pulled up Google Maps. We saw that we were about fours away from Escanaba, Michigan and that if we were willing to jump back in the car for a few more hours we could turn our vacation into an entire week of exploring the Upper Penninsula which is something we’d always dreamed of doing.
We threw our plans out the window and ended up completely playing it by ear for the week. We chose our destination and activities day by day, depending on where we could find affordable lodging, rather than coming up with an entire plan for the week. That enabled us to explore the Porcupine Mountains, Copper Harbor, the ghost town in Fayette, and so much more. It was one of the best vacations we’d ever had and it only happened because we were willing to let go of the plans that we had made for ourselves and to embrace the seemingly broken situation that was presented to us.
That same type of thing has happened to us over and over in the 17 years that we home educated our sons. Year after year I came up with elaborate plans only to have outside forces or different interests from my sons that knocked my plans off-kilter. Each time I had to decide whether I should fight to stay on track or to lean in and embrace the change. And each time that I was willing to let go of my elaborate plans and to at least modify them to meet the demands that were placed on us or the needs of my family, we were blessed.
Right now, we’re all in a situation where our best-laid plans have had to be set aside in order to adapt to this new situation that has presented itself. We’re all having to rethink how we’re going to approach homeschooling with the uncertainty of sports, extracurricular activities, co-ops, classes outside of our home, and more. We can choose to fight and resist our circumstances or we can lean into them and choose to find the good. To learn the lessons God is trying to teach us through all of this. To embrace the flexibility we have as homeschoolers and to allow God to bless us in ways we never imagined.
My advice as a seasoned homeschooler is to make plans as best we can, but also to keep our eyes and our minds open for the opportunities that God is trying to present to us. Whether that means extra time at home with our families due to a limited ability to socialize with others, exploring online classes we might not have otherwise considered rather than in-person co-ops, attempting some hobbies on our own rather than social activities such as sports, or dealing with any other restrictions that come our way.
Imagine the blessings we would have missed out on if we hadn’t embraced the uncertainty of homeschooling and taken the road less traveled.
If we’re willing to embrace the unknown and lean into the situations that present themselves, this could end up being our very best year yet – even though it may turn out to be nothing like what we would have planned.