It’s that time of year again. You know, when you wonder if your tenth grader will ever finish her geometry textbook. (Yep, that would be me!) It’s the time of year when we wonder why we chose a particular science curriculum, but realize that it’s too late to start over again. It’s the time of year when we’d like to ditch our school projects and work on the picnic-in-the-park projects. As necessary and nice as flexibility are in homeschooling, I think that finishing well is even more necessary.
So, how do we inspire our children to finish the dreaded research paper, to put the finishing touches on the science fair project, to complete the reading list? Even more important, how do we inspire them to finish well? Colossians 3:17 gives us the command and the reason: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (NKJV). Proponents of the Westminster Catechism will remember the first question: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
Just as a runner in a race wouldn’t quit a mile before the finish line, so we must not quite a month (or two) before the school year is officially over. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–2 NKJV). Every family has a different racetrack and a different set of rules for the race. That’s absolutely fine. I read a blog post a while ago about what ending well means to a pastor who’s near retirement. It encouraged me to keep running (or plodding sometimes) when I’d rather relax by the pool with a good book.
I’ve been reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. While it’s geared towards business people instead of homeschoolers, I think anyone with an impending project can take away some principles not only to get started on those pesky projects, but also to finish them. Here are what he calls the Five Phases of Project Planning:
1. Define your purpose. Do you remember why you even assigned that book report in the first place? If we can’t clearly delineate the reason we have our kids do certain things, then we can be sure that they won’t have the right motivation to finish them.
2. Envision your outcome. What should the project look like when it’s finished? Do you define a completed textbook as every single page read and highlighted, or as being at least three-fourths of the way mostly completed? Relay your expectations to your students so that they know what they’re aiming for.
3. Brainstorm. How do we get from point A to point B? Do we need more supplies? Can the kids contribute ideas to this project? Write down anything and everything related to the project without worrying about the order, spelling, or whatever.
4. Organize (that’s my favorite part!). Take all the information that you wrote down (if you didn’t write down the answers to the first 3 phases, do so before you move on) and put it into some semblance of order. Make a list of all the supplies you wrote down. Write a list of all the books you need to pick up at the library, and so on.
5. Identify next actions. What needs to happen next? And next? And after that? Put each step in a logical sequence so that everyone knows what’s coming.
We’ve got the what, the why, and the how. Let’s git ’er done and finish this school year well.
Q4U: What subject are you afraid won’t get finished by your official end-of-school date?
This article is posted on Heart of the Matter Online today!
Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”