Planning on Purpose

For over ten years, Clay and I talked about taking our children on a historical tour of America. We wanted to see our country’s historical markers and relics first-hand in order to give our children (and us!) a real live view of history. Unfortunately deadlines, responsibilities, and commitments filled up the years, never leaving us a good time when we could all set off together to explore.

Recently though, my friend, Kathy, and I decided that, even though our husbands needed to “hold down the forts” and work down the piles, we needed to take this trip before our children were gone from our homes. So, with our husbands’ blessings, we piled into her Chevy Suburban and took off on the trip-two moms, seven kids, three weeks, 4000 miles, ten states, and about a million memories.

Laughter and love filled our home school tour bus as we sailed the Interstates, packed and repacked the car, traded seats, listened to books on tape, followed the map, and “listened to one more historical lecture.” We saw places like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home and museum in Missouri, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana House in Illinois, and the Ohio Aviation Museum. We visited Amish country, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, and historical downtown Philadelphia. We took in Lexington and Concord, the Minuteman Museum, downtown Boston, Paul Revere’s home, and many other places; but it was more than just a history tour. We forged warm friendships with wonderful people with whom we stayed along the way. As I spoke for seven different groups, we got to know home schooling families from all walks of life. We met children, moms and dads, cafe owners, doctors, airplane pilots, lobster fishermen, and many more. As we memorized scripture together on the road, we also thanked God for the sweet families who hosted us and prayed for their needs and for their children.

This was not just a trip; it was a whole life experience. Our minds were filled with ideas of historical freedom and heroic acts. Our bodies were nurtured with a wide variety of foods and many places to lay our weary heads. Our emotions were gratified by the warm friendships and love shared. Our creativity was stimulated by the music we heard, the designs of homes and towns we saw, and the writings we read of great men and women. Our spirits were encouraged by the prayer and scripture we shared together. Our sense of beauty was fed by the gorgeous spring flowers and trees that were blooming everywhere. All in all, it was an unforgettable life experience.

Do you know that not one person ever said to me, “Sally, aren’t you afraid you are going to fall behind on your curriculum assignments for the year?” Yet as we made our way across Mid-America and up to the Eastern Seaboard, nearly every mom we met seemed to be overly concerned with curricular goals and how to insure academic excellence in her children. “Which method of schooling do you most recommend?” I sometimes feel that we in the home schooling movement have cultivated the idea that home schooling is mainly, or even only, about filling up the mind. We seem to be leaving out of the picture the soul and spirit, emotions, and body. There is little sense of a whole life experience in most home schools I see today.

Admittedly, life in a normal home school is quite busy and burdensome, so it is easy to see how we can become unintentionally one-sided on the academics. Yet, one of the greatest advantages of home schooling is our opportunity to be creative, to pursue dreams, desires, and interests that are not possible to pursue in the public school. We can give individual attention to our children by using the freedom and flexibility we have to pursue any schedule and any method of education that is best for them. Yet, wherever I go throughout the U.S., I have observed that many moms are living as though their children are still chained to the constraints and methods of the public school.

The only way I have been able to get beyond this over the years is to make very specific plans for my children with their whole lives in mind. As I begin my year, I list several categories of goals for my children to be sure that in my weekly schedule I include experiences that will nurture them in all areas of their lives. I will share some of those life-nurturing plans with you.

Spiritual

  1. What are the specific character areas on which I am going to concentrate with each individual child? (selfishness, laziness, lack of initiative, using words for harm, etc.)
  2. What passages should we memorize?
  3. What books or devotional helps are we going to include in our family times?

Ministry

  1. To what ministry projects are we going to commit in the next 3-4 months?
  2. (conferences, the homeless, missionaries, outreach in the neighborhood, etc.)
  3. How are we going to give our money as a family in the next few months?
  4. In what specific ways are we going to minister our staff and friends?
  5. (Dinners or teas to host, cookies to bake, letters to write, retreats and overnights to plan)

Arts

  1. What concerts or performances do we want to attend?
  2. To what musicians or artists are we going to listen?
  3. What theatre performances are going to be in town?

Activities

  1. What lessons will each child take? (swimming, art, music, tennis, Irish dance, etc.)
  2. What organizations should we join? (museum, zoo, Scottish society, etc.)
  3. What trips will we take? (weekend trips, vacation, ministry, visiting family)
  4. What interesting field trips should we take?

Traditions

  1. What birthdays are coming up?
  2. When should Clay and I schedule individual dinners, breakfasts, and tea times with the kids?
  3. How can I surprise the kids with some fun to add interest in our home schooling day?

(hot chocolate with a morning fire, a hike and picnic, candlelight dinner on the porch, an interesting movie while all are piled into my king-sized bed) The planning list could go on and on. I usually try to keep the plans as simple and as realistic as possible. I try not to crowd too many activities together.

However, I find that if I do not plan for the extracurricular things, our lives become overwhelmed with the mundane tasks of home schooling. Variety definitely has added spice to our lives. It gives me a break from the rigors of our daily schedule. But most of all, by planning a whole life curriculum for my children, I have seen them come alive. They love to learn; they love life; they have been enriched by their many experiences, and in spite of all of my academic goals, they are becoming wholehearted children.

Now that we have tackled America, all of the kids are asking, “Well, Mom, how about England for three weeks?!!!”

Back to the planning board …