S9 E3 | Vision: Beginning with the Ends in Mind (Shiela Catanzarite)

S9 E3 | Vision: Beginning with the Ends in Mind (Shiela Catanzarite)

Show Notes:

It's a new year and God has gifted you 525,600 minutes! How will you invest them to ensure you have the most fruitful, life giving homeschool year ever? By beginning with the ENDS in mind! What were your gains in 2023? What do you want to gain by the end of 2024? Join Shiela as she shares a simple framework to help you reflect on the gains you had last year in order to plan for the ones you desire this year. Be inspired to create a vision and concrete plan that will bring clarity, confidence and direction to your family life and homeschool this year. Gather the family and create an exciting vision that ensures an adventurous year of growth and precious memories! Be sure to visit Shiela's website to request the free PDF she created to help you "begin with the ends in mind."

About Shiela

Shiela Catanzarite is an author, speaker, editor, and communication coach. She's a 20-year Charlotte Mason veteran homeschooler and has worked as Jeannie Fulbright’s editor and designer for 20 years helping develop Jeannie’s award-winning Apologia science curriculum and most recently her Charlotte Mason products published through Jeannie Fulbright Press. Shiela is the author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry and is finishing up her second book in the series Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture, to be released spring 2024.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary, Shiela has been teaching language arts in some capacity for 40+ years. Her passion remains helping students understand the elements of language and how to use these elements artfully to communicate effectively. Shiela is currently a language communication coach, working one-on-one with students who have language learning and communication challenges. She also writes curriculum for her private middle and high school English language communication classes that focus on writing and speaking.

Both of Shiela's and her husband Bruce’s daughters attended private universities on scholarship and went on to pursue graduate studies in medicine and global business. She attributes their love for learning and academic achievement to homeschooling with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methodology.


Begin with the Ends in Mind PDF


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Show Transcript:

Shiela Catanzarite Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show, a show that discusses Charlotte Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. I'm your host, Shiela Catanzarite, author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry, and soon to be published, Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture. I'm so thankful you joined me today, and I pray this episode deeply encourages you as you learn more of Charlotte Mason's life-giving methodologies and how to implement them to bring greater freedom, confidence, and joy to your homeschool days.

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Well, hello everyone. Happy new year! Happy 2024. I hope you're excited about this year because God has already gone before you and He's opened the door for new experiences, new opportunities, new connections, and new levels of growth and maturity. And today we're going to talk about vision. And we're going to explore the idea of beginning with the ends in mind. You've probably heard the popular saying, "Begin with the end in mind." Well, I've tweaked that concept a bit to say, begin with the ends—E N D S—-in mind. And we're going to talk about what that means and how you can do that. But before we do, I want to share a short conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat from the book Alice in Wonderland: "'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?' 'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the cat. 'I don't much care where,' said Alice. 'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the cat.'"

Which way do you want to go in 2024? What path will you take to get there? Vision is simply imagining a desired outcome. And unlike Alice, it's caring about where you're going and taking the route that will get you there. Vision is seeing the end result of the desires God has placed in your heart. What results do you desire for yourself, for your children, for your family, and for your homeschool this year? What do you want? What character growth do you want to see? What personal growth? Academic growth? Spiritual growth? Health and fitness growth? Relational growth? Vision works backwards. It's imagining or seeing the finished outcome of what you desire; it's beginning with the ends in mind. So the days of 2024 exist between two ends—the end of 2023 and the end of 2024. And to have a clear vision of what you desire in this new year, you have to take time to reflect on and evaluate the past year. So what came before 2024? What's the backstory? What happened in 2023? You'll want to build on that backstory. And as you reflect on 2023, it's imperative to focus on the gains and not the gap. Gap thinking is focused on what you didn't gain, on the perceived failures and misses, on what you didn't finish, what you didn't accomplish. And gap thinking is common among homeschoolers, and this is a defeating mindset.

Gain thinking, however, is a winning mindset. It's focusing on the ways you and your children grew and all you accomplished in your homeschool and in your family's life. Gain thinking is seeing how God worked through the experiences and circumstances of the year—the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly. And Scripture tells us, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose." So the gains are often the good that God is working in our difficult circumstances, and sometimes we have to see those gains by faith, believing that God is working his good purposes when we don't perceive them, or when we don't feel like it. Gain thinking is celebratory and it's hopeful. So what did you gain in 2023? Reflect and write down every gain in the specific areas that are important to you. Then shift your focus to what you want to have gained by the end of 2024. So my pastor said, during his sermon on December 31st, "That when we wake up on January 1st, 2024, God is gifting us something very important and extremely valuable. He's gifting us 525,600 minutes to invest for His purposes and for the good works He's created us to walk in." Wow! That puts things in perspective. And I've never considered minutes as gifts, but they truly are when you think about it. But it's what we do with those minutes that determines our gains for the year.

So this podcast is scheduled to go live on January 22nd. By then, 31,680 minutes have come and gone. We have 493,920 minutes left. How have we invested the minutes past? And how will we invest the ones remaining? Powerful things can happen in just a minute or two, a life can be changed eternally. So we don't want to take the minutes God's gifted us lightly. How can the minutes of our days serve the vision God has given us for 2024? And I think it starts with getting super clear on what you want, what you desire, then creating a plan, a path that ensures you get to where you want to go. Beginning with the ends in mind was the number one thing that I did that gave me confidence, consistency, and direction in my homeschool every year. I could not have begun my homeschool year without getting clear on what had just happened the year before, and what I wanted to see happen in the new year. And so I used a certain framework that was based on questions that prompted me to reflect on the year that had just ended, and on the new year that would end in just 12 months. And taking time to work through the questions and process my heart in mind, helped me to form a clear vision of the gains that I wanted for the new year.

And I've created for you a free PDF of the framework that you can use to create a vision statement for this year. I've included questions that will help you reflect on your 2023 gains, and plan for your 2024 gains. And if you go to my website—SheilaCatanzarite.com—you'll see a "Resources" tab. So you want to click on that "vision resource" once you go into the tab. It'll scroll you down to the resource, you'll see it, and then you'll enter your name and email address and I'll send it to you. And be sure to specify that you want the "vision resource", because I do have several other resources available on my website—and you're welcome to request those as well, I'd love to send them all to you—but if you're just looking for a copy of the framework that I use that I've created for you to use, please specify that that's what you're requesting.

So we always started our new homeschool year the second week of January. And I would spend the first week reflecting on the last year and planning for the upcoming year, and I would always come away with clarity and direction to my vision. And usually I would take a few half days, or maybe a full day, usually at a coffee shop or a quiet place where I felt like I could get some space and have some time to think, and I would begin my time by asking God, of course, to meet me during that time. And I would ask Him to open my heart and mind to what He wanted me to see. And it was important to me as a Christian, to know that my desires were God's desires for our family. And once I prayed, I would begin with a journal and start writing the answers to some of the reflection questions that I was going to work through. And the first question was, "What were our gains last year?" And I would have one page for my gains, one page for my children's gains, one page for our family's gains, and one page for our homeschool gains. And on each page, I had specific areas like: personal gains, spiritual gains, physical health and fitness gains, relational gains, cultural gains, academic gains, intellectual gains, creative gains, so I had really specific areas that I could really think through. And I would write down specific concrete gains for all those areas, in the year that had just ended. And it was always so encouraging to have that time of gain thinking, because there was so much to celebrate, and it made me hopeful and excited about the new year. And I never did this, but when I was creating the podcast, I thought, "What a wonderful idea it would be to have your entire family do the gains reflection and then come back together, and everyone can be reminded of how much was gained and how faithful God was to your family and how much you as a homeschool mom and homeschool dad were actually able to accomplish during the year." It's just such an empowering time.

And after I would reflect on the past year, I would shift my focus to the new year. And again asking God to place in my heart and mind the desires that He had for me and my children, our family, and our homeschool. And I'd answer the reflection questions and write down specific, concrete gains that I desired to see by the end of the year. And then I would work backwards from that vision. I would go and consider each month in the year beginning with January, and we'd create a plan that focused my time and energy and my children's time and energy on our desired gains. And again, I would divide the gains into the specific areas for each of us. And my vision was the filter through which everything passed, through which all the decisions were made. So I planned for the curriculum, the field trips, the extra curricular activities, the service opportunities, and the habits that would set us up for the gains that I wanted to see.

And so a few examples I was thinking of: One year I wanted a personal gain of completing a trail race series with my husband. He liked to race trail runs and I decided to join him as our girls got older, and we decided we're going to do a whole series. And so that was a personal gain I wanted to accomplish. So it was just as simple as at the beginning of the year when the race schedule came out, we scheduled our races and signed up for them. And then of course, I had to schedule time to train in the weeks that were passing before the races. And I know, had we not scheduled those, I would not have felt motivated to put the time in to train. And so, again, it was a desire I had. Had I just said, "Oh, well, we'll run this. This would be a great idea. Let's run the trail series." If it was just a passing thought and a passing comment, I am 100% sure it would not have made it on the schedule and it wouldn't have happened. So every time I thought, "This is what we want to do," I looked at the schedule and we put it down. We wrote it in to make sure that we held ourselves to that. So we'd plan for it, but then we planned for it in the schedule so that we actually spent the time on it.

Another example was one year we had a personal goal for the girls to learn to speak more confidently and to speak for themselves, rather than going and an adult asks them a question, and then they turn and look at us to answer. So we felt like, "You know, this is just an area of personal maturity." So we decided, "Every time we go out to eat, our girls are going to order their own food." Or, "Every time we go and an adult makes a comment or asks a question, they are going to answer it themselves." And I remember going to the physician's office and saying, "Okay, you're going to talk to your doctor. She's going to ask you the question, and you're going to give the answer." And that was just a simple way to make sure that, "Okay, we're planning to see this area of growth in their lives." And even as they got older, they started making their own phone calls. And it was just something that was really important to us to build the confidence in speaking. But we planned for it, and I actually wrote it down and it happened. And so that was one area.

An academic area for the girls: They were doing some personal reading, and I remember, it was in elementary school and they were reading the Marguerite Henry books— I think we read like Misty of Chincoteague, and they got really into horses. And so we're like, "Okay, we're into horses. So let's just immerse in this area." And so we combined the reading—We bought a horse drawing book and we notebooked drawing and illustrating horses and creating art around it, we got a literature study for a horse book that we read together, and then they went to a horse camp for a week. So we just captured that passionate obsession that year with horses and spent a lot of time invested in studying and learning and enjoying horses. And we had to put it on the calendar, again. It wasn't just something, "Okay, we'll do this and we'll do that." It's like, "Okay, we're going to do this. Let's actually write it on the calendar and make sure that we have scheduled the time for it." And so that was really a fun memory. I remember one year we wanted the girls to spend more time with their grandparents, so we scheduled trips. Again, that took some of the time, but we made sure that we did it. We planned for it. So there are many different things that you can do in the different areas like setting them up for getting all the math facts in place. And saying, "Okay, for the next six months, we're going to schedule—we're going to really work on these math facts so that we have a foundation for going into upper math." So even all the academic areas, if you write it down and you schedule it, it's definitely going to happen.

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Then I would work backwards from that vision. And as I created the plan, I began to feel really hopeful about our year. It created a sense of expectation and a sense of excitement for what was going to happen. We all knew where we were heading, and it was in the direction of what we all desired and what we cared most about. And rather than get to the end of the year and say, "Oh, we really wanted to do that, but we didn't have time." I just really made sure that we could say, "We really wanted to do that, and we made time for it, and we gained it, and we're so excited." And it's really just a matter of designing your life and living proactively, rather than just reacting to life with no real control over the direction that you're heading. And it seems simple, but sometimes we just don't take the time before the year gets going to write it out and really make sure that we are going to put on the calendar, we are going to invest time into the things that we really want to happen this year. And if you do it together as a family and let your children weigh in on it and let the whole family weigh in on it at the beginning of the year, if your children are old enough, it just becomes such a joy for the whole family. "Okay, we are going to do this together."

I remember we were going to take our girls to Switzerland because that's my favorite country, and I just had always thought when I was single before I got married, "I'm going to take my children to Switzerland one day and we're going to do that as a family." It's just a dream I had. And we planned for it. We start saving for it and planned, and we decided to wait until they were high school to take them. All those years we talked about it. We had an envelope, we were saving money because we wanted to pay cash, and we wanted to all be a part of contributing and building up for this trip. And we went. It was our older daughter's...I think it was her senior year that we went, and Caroline was maybe junior year. And it was so exciting because we had anticipated this for so many years, and it was a family moment of, "We are here, we got here, we did it!" And so it just, it builds family unity, family memories when everybody gets to weigh on in what they want to see accomplished for the family. And that is one of the joys of homeschooling.

One of the greatest benefits is the family memories that you can build. And if you think about the freedom that we have as homeschoolers, time is ours. There's nobody telling us how to schedule the minutes of our days for our children. And I want to just emphasize that these minutes are fleeting. Think about how quickly one year goes by. The homeschool years are fleeting. They go so quickly, and you want to be intentional. You don't want to just go in reacting and regretting that, "Oh, we never got to do that." We don't have to live with that regret. We can say, "This is what we value. This is what God wants for us, and we are going to plan to make it happen." And when everyone is a part of that, it just brings such joy and such bonding and unity to your homeschool. But of course every year I had to surrender my plan to God. The Scripture says, "The mind of man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps." And things did not always go as planned, of course; we had surprises each year. And sometimes my plan would change and we'd have to move something we wanted to the next year. But overall, I tried to be as faithful as possible to that original vision that God had placed in my heart for that year. And when the year would end, I would reflect on what we had gained and plan for the next year. And I just did it year after year, and it really gave me such confidence and direction in our homeschool. I felt like we were walking in the good works that God had planned for us. And did we walk perfectly? No. Did we face challenging circumstances and attitudes? Of course. But in the midst, I knew that God was working for our good and that He was working gains even in our perceived losses.

And so creating vision, it's so exciting. And imagining the growth and accomplishment that can happen in the new year is exhilarating. I think God designed us for vision. It keeps us moving in the direction of what our hearts want and what He wants. And so, the initial creating is, "Oh my goodness, this is so fun! Look at everything we're going to do." But I will say showing up every day for your vision, day after day amidst all the distractions requires diligence and it requires faithfulness. And you're building something significant. A vision is so significant. It's a chronological timeline of lives being built, and lives being changed, and relationships being nurtured, and character being developed. And that's something so significant. And you're really showing up for God, and you're showing up for the good works that you believe He has set out for you and your family this year. And so take your vision seriously and show up for it. It's hard. I know for me, just life gets going and I'd have to print it out and look at it the beginning of the week. Look at, "Okay. Oh yeah. This is what we already decided we wanted to do." And look at it and have it before my mind and then show up for it. And when you believe your vision was given to you by God, then when you show up to live out your vision, you're showing up to God in a spirit of faithfulness to what He's called you to. And it's just so important. And I needed that confidence in taking the time to really be intentional about seeing the growth and development and the gains that I feel like God wanted for our family was really important to me personally.

And God's Word says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart," Psalm 37:4. And I looked up, "delight yourself" means to be soft and pliable before the Lord. So again, we want to go before the Lord with a soft heart. We want to be surrendered to Him, saying, "Lord, my life is yours. My children are yours. And I want to humble myself before you and receive what it is that you have for me." So it starts with delighting yourself, with humbling yourself and being soft before the Lord. "The desires." Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you "the desires." The translation for ‘desires’ are the requests and petitions—what we ask for. But we can be confident that God will give us the desires of our heart if we are surrendered to Him, because our desires become His when we are pliable. And when we go before the Lord and say, "Lord, I want what You want for this year in my life, in my children's lives, in our families life, in our house. I want what You want. You know what's best. I can't see the future. You created these children. You created me. You called us to this homeschool journey. You have good for us. And I can't see what that is, but You see, and I trust You. And I want to humble myself before You and be soft and pliable and teachable to what You have." And when you go before the Lord with that humility, He will put His desires in your heart, and you can be confident that He will accomplish those. Will he do every single thing you ask for? No. Will every single plan be perfect? No. But you have the confidence of knowing that, "Even if things change, I'm trusting God. He's going to fulfill the desires He has for us."

So ask God to help you to delight in Him, to teach you to delight in Him, and remain pliable and surrendered. And as you do, He will fulfill your desires and requests. Proverbs tells us, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life." God wants to fulfill our desires. And we know that God Himself is the ultimate fulfillment of all we desire. But He does want us to experience fulfillment in our desires, for ourselves and our children and our homeschool. He does want that for us. And when we're surrendered to Him and His will for our lives, we will have the desires and the vision that God has planned for us.

So this podcast was around maybe 30 minutes, maybe a little more, which means we have 493,890 minutes left to steward and invest for God's glory and for our gain this year. And if we are intentional and we begin with the ends in mind, we'll find ourselves walking purposefully and confidently and the good works God has planned for us—the good works God has planned for our children, for our family, and for our homeschool this year. Well, I hope that you have the most life giving and fruitful homeschool year ever. And I hope that you'll visit my website and grab the resources I created just for you, and it will prove a valuable tool in helping you create a life-giving, compelling vision for this year. I love being with you today, and I look forward to being with you again soon.

Thank you for tuning in to the Charlotte Mason Show. If you want to learn more about Charlotte Mason and discover a beautiful Language Arts curriculum that uses her methodologies, go to my website at ShielaCatanzarite.com. There you can find my new blog where I discuss Charlotte Mason's principles for Language Arts, and how to implement her philosophy in your homeschool. Please enjoy my free resource on how to mark a poem. Simply provide your email address and I'll send you the free PDF that teaches a simple, hands-on, Charlotte-Mason-inspired way to bring poetry into your homeschool. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode.

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Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the U.S.. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you there. Have a wonderful week. I look forward to being with you next time.

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