This post is from contributor, Marianne Sunderland
I was counseling a fellow homeschool mom about her struggle to find a ‘groove’ in her homeschool this year. It’s no wonder that she was struggling; she has four young kids and is preparing to move for the third time in two years – among other things.
Have you ever had a year like that? A year when you have so much on your plate that every day is a struggle? Are your unfinished lists looming heavy and your confidence lagging?
Maybe you are in the middle of a year like that right now. If so, you may benefit from a Grace Year. Taking a step back from academics to focus on a baby, or an ill family member, or to work together to pack up and move is okay. In fact, in many cases, the things your kids learn by the experience can be life-changing – for the good!
How to Know if You Need a Grace Year
It is normal to have bad days. We all have them. If you’ve been homeschooling for a while, you know how no day ever goes perfectly to plan. However, if you have day after day of struggles or you are experiencing signs of homeschool burnout, it may be time to reevaluate your goals and prayerfully consider taking a Grace Year.
It is tempting to think that somehow this homeschool year will be different–to think that this year you will have long stretches of uninterrupted time in which to lovingly fill your children with all wisdom and knowledge, provide three home-cooked, gourmet meals a day in your perfectly clean and organized home.
There Will Always be Something
The truth of the matter is that every year holds something. There will always be some trial or obstacle keeping you from your ideal homeschool year. In our family of 8 kids, we have always had an infant, toddler or preschooler (or all of them!). We have experienced everything from family illnesses and financial troubles, to learning struggles and rebellious teenagers.
I was asked, after speaking at our local homeschool convention last summer, how we did school while our daughter, Abby, was being rescued from the middle of the Indian Ocean during her solo-circumnavigation attempt. My answer? “We didn’t.” No, we did not pull out our readers and history books while our family was in a crisis. Nor should we have.
Our kids did learn a lot though. They learned how family and friends and church collide to impact the world by prayer. They learned about the kindness of strangers and their parents’ absolute and utter dependence on God.
When to Take a Grace Year
You don’t need to be in a crisis to give yourself a break. Your break does not necessarily need to be complete. You may focus on certain subjects like literacy, the 3 R’s, or character while taking a break from other, less important (at that time and in that circumstance) subjects. Your family’s choice of how to take a Grace Year will depend on your unique family needs.
When your homeschool goals are based primarily on character and godliness, you can afford to take a break from the academics for a season. I mean, if you are drinking wine in the afternoon and watching soap operas while your kids are watching cartoons upstairs, get some help, but otherwise don’t feel the need to shield your kids from real life. Learning how to navigate life’s trials by seeking God through prayer and fellowship should be a part of every child’s upbringing. They are going to face their own trials one day and your example will help them find their way during those times.
God Fills in the Gaps
Many years ago, when I was fairly new to homeschooling, I attended a talk put on by a group of veteran homeschool moms. They shared the stories of their homeschool years–the trials, the struggles, and the victories. I’ll never forget the statement that one mother made after one particularly dramatic testimony. She said that despite her fears and doubts, God had filled in the gaps and then some.
Now I am that veteran homeschool mom and I am here to tell you that she was right! God has completely filled in the gaps in our homeschool – and then some. He will do it in your homeschool as well. Keep your hand to the plow. Don’t grow weary in doing good. God is faithful!
Have you ever taken a grace year? Do you need one this year?
Need more encouragement from Marianne? Buy her helpful book Dyslexia 101!
Latest posts by Marianne Sunderland (see all)
- Does Your Homeschool Need a Grace Year? - December 30, 2015
- 7 Simple Ways to Wash Your Children in the Word - September 23, 2013
- Mercy and Motherhood - August 16, 2013
- Abundant Life During Abundant Trials - July 9, 2013
Thank you so much for this! We are currently fostering 2 little ones with a lot of needs and a lot of therapies. We also bought our first house in October and moved in. Now the holidays are here, and I look up and realize we’ve been so busy and consumed with everything else that I haven’t really done anything that I wanted to do this year with my 4 year old son. I wanted to practice cutting, writing, letter recognition, counting with manipulatives, etc. We haven’t done any of that. We read and snuggle a lot, but right now we’re in survival mode. And yesterday someone called my parenting into question in a deep and hurtful way. I started rethinking everything our family does- fostering, homeschooling, all of it. I think this post is an answer to prayer today. Thank you so much. I needed this.
Great Post!!! We are new to homeschooling this year, and I have to say somedays are better than others…… We have chunks of time it seems like that everything runs smoothly and everyone is into the acidemics, and then we have a bit of time, that I can’t seem to get anyone interested. Having 4 kids is a challenge all on it’s own, adding homeschooling has in some ways been great, and others; really really difficult….. They are all learning and growing faster than they were in public school, and I know in my heart this is the right thing for them and our whole family…… I’m just hoping things smooth out and we get in a groove!!!
We took a grace year for most of last year. We were in transition and living out of our van volunteering and visiting around the country for 5 months between when my husband finished schooling and started his job. Looking ahead to that time I thought I really should “do school” during that time but after prayer and talking with my husband we decided not to which, looking back, was a great decision. We all learned a lot and grew as a family. Forcing our normal school schedule into that time period would have wasted precious time with my husband we would have missed out on! I’m so glad we chose family time over school time for that season. I’m also thankful we homeschool so we could make that choice.
Yes, God fills in the gaps. I consider last year to be our “Grace Year” – we were at a crossroads with our homeschool style, our oldest being in the midst of so many pre-teen changes, and so much more. Looking back, we came through it JUST fine, and I don’t think it hurt the kids at all — quite the opposite, actually!
Thanks for this post 🙂
Thank you for this! It was encouraging to read. This is our first year homeschooling and I already feel like giving up but only because of the craziness our lives have turned suddenly due to events. I have 3 young children- 7, 2 & 1. We are moving hours away 10 days after Christmas for the third time in less than a year. We don’t even have a place to live yet. We just have to move ASAP bc of husband’s job. My youngest had cleft palate surgery 2 weeks before Thanksgiving and that was a whirlwind, eating up all of my time from my other children. In the entire month of October we faced ultimate hardships we thought we’d never see. I feel overwhelmed so much by life and trying to keep up that I felt incredibly guilty I was letting slide over a month without schooling my daughter. We recently picked back up but I feel overwhelmed with what’s to still come. I loved reading this today and knowing it’s okay if I just focus on the bigger few subjects and let some others go while we straighten our lives out. I know God wouldn’t allow me in this situation if He didn’t know I could handle it. Thank you again for the encouragement!
There are whole bodies of educational theory that support the idea that living life in curious and engaged ways is the most expansive, comprehensive and preparatory “education” any child can have. And, likewise, that “doing school” in the way that is now mainstream in institutional settings is, at best, intellectually stultifying.
If you’re feeling overwrought by “homeschooling” (or even if you’re not!), take some time to investigate the works of John Holt, Alan Thomas, John Taylor Gatto and others; you might be surprised that taking a “grace year” is the greatest thing you’ll ever do for a whole child and for the family as a whole.
I’m so glad that this post blessed you Kat! We have undergone quite a bit of criticism in our homeschool over the years. I find it best to consider if there is any truth in the criticism, take to heart what is true and reject the rest. Blessings!
Julie K says
Thanks for sharing Marianne. We lost a son to cancer 5 years ago and that is what we did – took 9 months off to read books and learn with real life. Now my husband is diagnosed with metastatic melanoma and he is struggling to work and do treatment and not get discouraged, whilst we are at home doing normal life. We are taking a break for a few weeks this Christmas season. Homeschooling actually gets in the way of real life learning sometimes.
Thank you for this. What a freeing post. It’s been a rough year for me personally and it has definitely trickled down to homeschool burnout. We’re on a winter break right now and I’m hoping that helps. This is such a great reminder that it doesn’t have to look one way or even the way I expected things to look when I was pumped up over the summer about new school year. I need to rely on God and trust that all will be OK!
We had a “grace year” this year. I was six months pregnant when my husband was called to move our family across 4 states away from our church and my family and friends, in less than 30 days. He travelled the whole month for work, while I packed the house with the kids….. That was our sixth baby in 9 years… When we got to the new house, I picked up school with a vengence. We put in two good months before I had to slow way down due to the pregnancy. After delivery we put off school until the lack of routine drove me insane. then it was back at the books. My oldest child is highly gifted, so he has ALOT of schoolwork, and really keeps me working hard to keep up. After we were in the new house 8 months we moved again. with a new baby. Its been a bumpy ride this year…. for me, grace didnt mean putting down school altogether, it meant, fitting it in when I could, and not condemning myself when I couldn’t. We’ve gotten alot of school done, and my overachiever completed more than a years worth (as usual). turned out that i taught the others alot more than I thought i did too.
God takes what I have (little) and fills in the rest with His Grace…. It was wonderful.
I am so having one of those years. Although it is getting better. But only by God’s grace.