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It’s planning season for many homeschool moms, myself included. While there are a lot of wonderful practical posts and resources out there to help with dreaming and scheming for the coming school year (and a couple excellent resources I’ll recommend at the end of this article), it’s easy to get focused on the logistical side of things and forget that even the most perfect planning system can fall short if it’s not humbly oriented toward the Lord.
Godly planning, of course, requires more than considering our children and taking stock of our resources. It requires considering our Creator and taking stock of our hearts.
That’s the essence of godliness–being mindful of God and aligning our hearts and lives to Him, for His glory.
But how do we do that? How are we to be godly as we plan for the future?
Let’s dive in by first looking a little more closely at our definitions and purpose. Why before How (I promise the How is coming!).
Why: Two Kinds of Righteousness
It’s important to remember the difference between godliness and righteousness and how these terms apply to our planning process. Godliness is a life-altering devotion to God. Consider these words from Christian author Jerry Bridges:
For the godly person, God is the center and focal point of his or her life. Every circumstance and every activity of life, whether in the temporal or spiritual realms, is viewed through the lens of this God-centeredness. …Everything we do is to be done to the glory of God. That is the mark of a godly person.
Righteousness means justice, or more simply doing what is right. It’s a good, noble, and necessary goal. But there also exists this thing called self–righteousness, which ought to soberly remind us that the motivation for our right actions, or our right plans, makes a big difference. Godliness ought to be the source of that motivation.
When we Christian homeschool moms make plans for school, we’re often aiming for righteousness. Often motivated by convictions about what is right–both before the Lord and for our families. This is good.
But if we pursue that righteousness as an end in itself, we can easily begin to operate solely in the practical outworking of our convictions, forgetting why we came to them in the first place. We risk swapping God-centeredness for work-centeredness, which can easily become a kind of self-centeredness.
My children. My plans. My time. My results. My reputation. My … glory.
It was supposed to be about God’s reputation. His glory. But righteousness without godliness becomes self-righteousness.
Let’s say that again: Righteousness without godliness becomes self-righteousness.
Planning without God-centeredness becomes self-centeredness. If we’ve gone down that path we know we need to repent, turn around, turn to God.
Jerry Bridges continues:
…Such a God-centeredness can be developed only in the context of an ever-growing intimate relationship with God. No one can genuinely desire to please God or glorify Him apart from such a relationship.
The first “step,” if you will, in godly planning is being in right relationship to God and growing in God-centeredness. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you know the gospel or “good news” of what Jesus has done to save you from sin is what puts you in right relationship with God. Keep coming back to that. Rest in that. Rest in grace. If you’re not really sure what all of that is about, please check out this simple and straightforward presentation here.
To sum up our WHY, we must be oriented toward God in our planning if we are to truly honor Him. The best-laid plans can either be tools for God’s glory or temptation toward our own. Keeping our hearts in check is essential to maintaining the good intentions of our convictions.
How: Looking Up and Following Through
At the risk of creating yet another checklist, here are five “steps” from my own reading and study to encourage you in godly planning–whether you’re just scratching down the first details or are about to tie it up with a pretty bow (or custom cover).
When Planning, Look Up:
ONE: Trust God’s goodness.
It’s difficult to align your priorities with someone you don’t trust. Now, we probably don’t wake up and say, “God isn’t good, I’m not going to trust Him today.” But we may find ourselves forgetting God is good, which can land us in one of two ditches along the path of godly planning: self-sufficient overconfidence and anxious worry. The remedy for each is to remember God’s goodness is still there and look up.
The weight of our responsibility as moms and educators can overwhelm us. Real challenges may weigh on us. We think we’ve got to shoulder it ourselves, and we don’t feel up to the task. Enter anxious worry.
The lure of shiny curriculum can distract us with exaggerated promises. The act of making plans can make us feel like we’re in control. Like we have some power over the future. Like we have this thing whipped before we start. Enter self-sufficient overconfidence.
We can even find ourselves hopping from one ditch to the other in the midst of the same planning season. Anxiously despairing of our situation turns to confident expectation that these new plans or new curricula will solve all of our problems. When things don’t go according to plan, we jump ditches again.
Without a good and sovereign God in view, we tend to celebrate our sense of control or else mourn the lack of the same. Looking to ourselves, we’re unstable, swinging from one ditch to the other at the whim of our circumstances or emotions as they waver from day to day or season to season.
But keeping the faith by remembering the goodness of God will steady us for the long haul.
The book of James has a surprising amount of continuity when it comes to the goodness of God. Look at this line up from chapter one:
We are to “count it all joy” when we face trials. They test our faith, but they’re also for our growth and endurance. This is the good that God intends in the trials He allows.
We are to ask for wisdom in faith that God “gives to all generously and without reproach.” God is a generous giver. He isn’t stingy with what He knows we need. He’s good.
There is a crown of life for those who persevere under trial–God has promised reward to those who love Him. He’s good.
We’re to recognize that temptation springs from within us–not from God. He doesn’t tempt anyone. In fact, every good thing given comes from Him. He’s good.
The anger of mom doesn’t achieve the righteousness of God–His ways are better. He’s good.
Behind James’ every call to repent and endure is a deep confidence in the goodness of God. Let’s make our plans with that same confidence, climbing out of the pitfalls of overconfidence and anxious worry to stand on solid ground.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young. 
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust. 
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord. 
When we see that God is good, we’ll want to seek His wisdom and aim for His glory…
TWO: Seek God’s wisdom.
Many homeschool parents recognize that education ought to be more than filling our kids’ minds with information. We want them to know how to properly sift through and apply information, whether in an academic setting or real life. What we really want for our kids is wisdom. And we’re bold enough to think that we can give it to them. But this is a tall order. Anyone who’s been at this parenting gig for a little while knows that children push the limits of what we thought we knew.
If we desire to raise silly kids into wise adults, we need to model the wisdom we wish to pass on. We need the wisdom of God.
If we are to wade through the sea of educational advice and resources available to us today and choose what fits our family and convictions without being “driven and tossed by every wave,” we must practice discernment. We need the wisdom of God.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so we ought to start there. In simple terms, the fear of the Lord is being mindful of God as He is in all His attributes and responding to Him with appropriate fear, awe, wonder, and respect.
The practical fallout of such a disposition toward God is to recognize that this wise, good, and powerful God has ordered the cosmos such that there are consequences for our actions. Orderliness and cause-and-effect relationships are woven into the fabric of the universe. There is purpose, there is reason, there is beauty, and there is Truth by which we ought to live our lives. Failing to live in accord with this Truth brings on the one hand hard knocks in this life and on the other judgment in the life to come.
Remembering that godliness is being God-centered in our thoughts and deeds, it’s clear that the fear of the Lord, and the wisdom derived from it, is an indispensable part of a godly life.
But we’ve got to bring this lofty pursuit of wisdom down to desk-level, don’t we? How does this touch my planning pages and curriculum guides?
Wisdom involves putting things in their proper place, in their proper order–differentiating between the things that are truly important and those that are enticing red herrings.
God has revealed to us in His word what is right and good in His eyes. What does He have to say about children? About discipleship? About marriage and family life? If you’re a wife and mother, there’s pretty clear instruction to consider your husband, your children, and your home in this process.
It’s easy to think that our children and our selves are the only people involved in this education thing. But be careful not to cut your husband out of it. Biblically, he’s accountable for the training of his children. Make room for him, see what he thinks–you may find a great source of wisdom (or at least a sounding board) and freedom from all the voices on the internet that make you feel like you aren’t keeping up.
The scriptures don’t spell out a particular method of education, nor do they prescribe any kind of schedule. But they do give us principles, goals, and boundaries upon and within which we can order our homeschools in freedom. We don’t have to all choose the same method or materials, but we do need to make sure that the ones we choose (and how we plan to use them) are informed and perhaps even transformed by scripture.
To circle back around to James, if we need wisdom, we’ve got to ask. God is good. He will give it as we trust and seek Him for it.
THREE: Aim for God’s glory.
Trusting God’s goodness is good. Seeking His wisdom is, well, wise. But even in these we may think the purpose of God’s goodness and wisdom is all for us–to make us feel better and to smooth out our lives. It certainly can do those things, but the trajectory isn’t inward on self. Rather, the goodness of God and the wisdom we employ ought to show that He is good and wise and glorious. Aiming for our own comfort and saintliness as an end in itself means we’re exchanging the glory of God for our own.
Likewise, in our planning and in our homeschools, we do well to recognize that we’re not raising children to be trophies of our success but arrows for the kingdom of God.
We know we want to be that city on a hill, the light of the world. And sometimes we make plans that are so idealistic it’s as though we think that the way to glorify God is to have perfect Ivy League children, a spotlessly clean house, and gourmet meals on the table each night. Wouldn’t that be shiny?
But when we come down from our ivory tower with our plans, we find that we can never reach that goal. The kids … aren’t perfect. Who knew? The house … is just mostly maintained. The meals … well, somehow we eat each day.
Maybe the purpose of God is not to get glory from self-satisfied creatures. Maybe what really glorifies God is not a family that looks like it has everything put together, but a family that gives thanks and praise to God as they seek to honor Him in all the ups and downs of ordinary life.
Maybe we need to adjust our aim.
As we realistically work out the details of our year, our months, our days, seeking to choose books and activities that honor God and fit our family, we’d do well to build on our trust in God’s goodness with thanks and praise, glorifying God with heart and voice.
Thank you, Father, for the people you’ve put in my charge. Thank you for the home you’ve given us. Thank you for the opportunity I have to be intimately involved in the growth and learning of my children. Thank you for the abundant resources I have at my disposal. Thank you for your Word and Spirit to guide me.
You are a Good Father, a wise Creator. You’ve made me and those around me in your image and for your praise. You’ve infused the world with order and beauty for us to enjoy and explore and discover. You are good and do good. You establish justice and You are the definition of love and righteousness. You supply our needs and give grace unmeasured. You are bigger than I can imagine, and yet you care for little ol’ me. You have given your Son for my salvation. You are good and gracious and kind.
A godly heart recognizes God is worthy of thanks and praise in the midst of a serious planning session. But it also carries those things forward. Here’s where our WHY rolls up its sleeves and meets the mess of life. Godliness greatly effects not just HOW we make our plans, but also HOW we hold and execute them.
Plans in Place, Mind Your Follow Through:
FOUR: Hold those plans loosely and humbly.
“If the Lord wills we will live and also do this or that.” James reminds his readers in chapter four that our confidence doesn’t need to be in what we think we can make happen in the future. Our confidence ought to be rooted in … wait for it … the goodness and sovereignty of God.
“God is good” and “God is in control” can almost seem cliche in modern meme-saturated church culture. But that’s only the case if we don’t stop long enough to actually consider these truths. If we’re not meditating on the goodness, wisdom, and glory of God, knowing that His plans trump all and that His plans are, indeed, better than our own, we will struggle miserably when things don’t go our way.
We’ll likely struggle anyway, to be honest, but we can only struggle well if we have a godly perspective.
When it comes to the plans in our hands, we need to do more than look at what’s slated on the calendar. We need to number our days “…so that we may present to you a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Our plans may be ideal, even godly, but our expectations must also be in line with reality.
James calls our over-confident planning “arrogance” and insists “you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
Those words might not make us feel good. But we have a choice. We can either take such conviction as a downer and ignore it, continuing to allow the clouds of emotion and pride to obstruct our view, or we can take it as the wind that blows them away so that we can see clearly.
If we see God ruling for our good and His glory, we can more easily clear the air, relax our fists, and halt our grasping for control. Once we take a deep breath and accept reality, we begin to actually rejoice that God is in control and we’re not. A truth that didn’t feel good at first can become one of our greatest comforts.
Remembering we are faulty and finite puts us in a position to move forward with humility and good humor.
Imagine your life is a folk dance. The fiddle begins to sing. And you begin dragging your loved ones across the floor, steamrolling them if they get in the way of your carefully choreographed moves, and grumbling when one trips or steps on your toes. This is a likely enough outcome if you imagine yourself as the caller. As though they’re all supposed to keep in step with you.
But God’s the Caller and you’re just another one of the dancers. A dancer who steps out of line sometimes. A dancer who has little feet following behind her own.
You know a lot more of the moves than your kids. You’ve practiced them longer. You’ve even made plans to optimize the effectiveness and enjoyment of the dance. But when the Caller changes the pace, you’ve got to follow. Insisting on your own way will only make a scene and get someone hurt.
Imagine the same scene with a humble heart:
When a little one gets their right and left foot mixed up, you remember what it’s like to miss a step and help them set it straight–but you do it with a laugh and a nudge to get back up, listen for the Caller, and enjoy the dance.
The freedom to enjoy the dance, to adapt to each change in the music, comes when we hold our plans loosely and humbly–because we trust in God’s goodness and know that He’s in control.
FIVE: Execute those plans with kindness and gentleness, by God’s grace.
Holding our plans loosely doesn’t mean we never look at them or try to make them work, and it sure doesn’t mean it’s cool to be lazy or haphazard. Putting our plans into action requires intention and consistency. But as we march forward, plans in hand, we seek to implement them in line with the fruit of the Spirit and in light of the fact that our priorities as homeschool moms are ultimately relational and not mechanical in nature.
When I think of not just the planning but the managing of our days, one of my favorite places to find inspiration is that often-resented Proverbs 31 woman:
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Here’s a strong woman who wears a smile, pays attention, and gets things done. But those two lines in the middle point to something more. Her joyful hustle and bustle to the tune of productivity isn’t off in some corner where she can enjoy the solace of personal achievement free from smudgy fingers and untimely interruptions. Nope. There are other people in her household, and her words to them are marked by wisdom and kindness.
Ooph. Does that knock the wind out of you, too?
Our buddy James echoes this Proverbial link between wisdom and kindness–and he introduces it with a surprising warning: “Let not many of you become teachers…”
Woah, wait. Too late. We’re teachers.
Ah, but that means we ought to pay even closer attention to what he has to say:
With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
…Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
Show? Deeds? …Gentleness? Where’s the dispensing of wisdom with many words and lectures? James doesn’t seem to mention that. It would seem true wisdom is clothed in our friend from the last section: humility.
The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
Tall. Order. Sounds an awful lot like the fruit of the Spirit, doesn’t it?
Is our teaching characterized by kindness? Do we pause our reactions and consider how to answer with the gentleness of wisdom, according to the need of the moment, to give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29)?
Does our kind intention toward our children permeate not just our lesson plans but also everyday ordinary moments?
The two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. If we’re at home with our families most of the time, it’s pretty obvious who those “others” are. Maybe that’s why Titus two urges older women first of all to encourage the younger women “to love their husbands, to love their children.”
We ought to plan to love our own but still love them even when those well-meant plans are foiled.
I don’t know about you, but I need some help in this department.
This is why we sought God’s wisdom to begin with, and why we won’t be done with that practice anytime soon.
To act on our plans in keeping with the rule of love, we need the fruit of the Spirit. We need kindness. We need the gentleness of wisdom. And for it all we need the grace of God.
If that doesn’t motivate your prayer life I don’t know what will.
Apply: Condense, Remember, and Be Ready to Troubleshoot
Let’s condense the big ideas we’ve covered so that we can remember them in real-life situations. We said at the outset that godliness means being mindful of God and aligning our hearts and lives to Him, for His glory. In keeping with that, I’ve outlined five steps or concepts:
Trust God’s Goodness
Seek God’s Wisdom
Aim for God’s Glory
Hold Plans Loosely and Humbly
Execute Plans with Kindness and Gentleness, by the Grace of God
The first three big ideas involve “looking up”—-there’s our being mindful of God. And the last two apply to our “follow through”—-aligning our hearts and lives.
As a memory aid or perhaps a motto: We can be mindful of God in our planning by trusting God’s goodness, seeking God’s wisdom, and aiming for God’s glory. An easy way to keep these in order is to recognize that they (intentionally) correspond to a very familiar and very relevant passage (Prov. 3:5-6):
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
To remember the specific outworking of the last two steps, imagine you have all your plans on a clipboard (or a smartphone or tablet if you’re techie like that).
What are you doing with them? You’re holding them.
What are you doing when you take a step forward and give marching orders to your minions? You’re executing them (the plans, not the minions, mind you).
If you can visualize holding the clipboard and marching forward with it, all you need to do is ask how?
How do we hold our plans? Loosely and humbly.
How do we execute those plans? With kindness, gentleness, and grace.
And so we have another motto: We can align our hearts and lives for God’s glory as we hold our plans loosely and humbly and execute them with kindness and gentleness, by His grace.
That may seem repetitive, but it’s how I’ve been able to use these ideas to keep my heart in check (or reel it back in) this planning season. I hope it’ll help you, too.
Mamas, we can make the loveliest plans, but when lessons don’t come easily, chaos ensues, or the February blues strike, those plans aren’t what will make us godly. Our focus and response to those things will be the determining factor.
Watch over your heart with all diligence as you plan, and watch over it with all diligence as you move forward (Prov. 4:23). So that whether your plans roll out smoothly or blow up in your face, you maintain the disposition of a sinner saved by grace, of a daughter looking expectantly and dependently to her Heavenly Father, giving thanks and praise to Him.
I’m praying toward that end. May He give us grace to do it.
If this article has resonated with you and you’d like to dig deeper into how heart attitudes intersect with everyday life as a homeschool mom, I highly recommend The Art of Homeschooling e-course (accessible through Simply Convivial Membership).
If you’re still chomping at the bit for very practical help with school planning, check out Plan Your Year–I’ve used this process for several years now. Plan Your Year provides a step-by-step guide so that you can take these godly-big-picture why’s and how’s and translate them into the particular-day-to-day why’s and how’s of your unique family situation.
This article was inspired by my study of the book of James and by reading Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. I heartily recommend both books. 😉