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A parent loses a job. Someone close to the family passes away. Love strikes a family member like lightning–a flash that is gone quicker than it came, leaving heartache and tears in its wake. Wind blows the roof off the house. Illness sneaks in.
Things happen. Bad things. But when we choose to homeschool our children, sometimes it is necessary to soldier on. It is difficult. Sometimes it feels impossible. We just want to give up, give in, lay down, and let the world roll over us. It’s hard to concentrate on teaching a lesson, which makes it hard for the littles to soak that lesson in. Suddenly, your entire learning experience is in upheaval. How do you handle it?
The first thing you should do, after an appropriate amount of time off to grieve, handle the stress, or get the job completed, is think about what is most important when you get back to the classroom (or dining table or blanket outside). If your state has laws about what has to be done throughout your school day, figure out the bare minimum you can get by with and stick to that schedule for a few weeks or even months until you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Adding a bit of structure to your littles’ days will help them deal with the stress, too. So none of you may be up to 4-8 hours of education right now. Try to set aside 2 hours of a lighter load. I’m a firm believer that littles should practice math daily. Writing practice is also essential. So if you are just too stressed or sad to teach in-depth lessons, print out some math worksheets for them to work on by themselves. Find some copywork or notebooking pages for them to do. Grab a list of writing prompts and give them their head. Then read together. Read Anything. Fiction, nonfiction, comedy, adventure. A lighter load can make such a difference in your healing process. It can also take one less stress off your mind. And remember, you can turn any moment into a teachable moment, so count those as part of your school day, too. As long as your littles are still learning something, you are doing a fine job.
Here are some great sites to find those things:
Especially if you’re grieving, it can be hard to make yourself get out of bed and do things. On those days, take the day off. If you have a bad Wednesday, make up for it on Saturday. If you have a bad morning, make it up in the evening. If you have a bad week, tack a week on to the end of your scheduled year. I have actually done this, and it worked out just fine. Sometimes life gets in the way. We work around it. The glorious thing about homeschooling is that we don’t have to do it from 8-3, Monday through Friday, August through June. We can do it whenever we want. Be flexible With Yourself. Allow yourself to work through the crisis without adding more to it.
But Be Consistent
Your littles, as I said before, need a sense of normalcy and a certain amount of structure will help with that. If you let things drift too much or for too long, you are leaving your littles without an anchor. Math every day. Not too hard to accomplish. Even when your patience is at an end, you can put together a basket of busywork and tell them to get to work. Explain to them how you’re feeling (don’t try to hide it; kids are so much smarter than we think they are, and they See Everything), let them know it’s going to be a work-by-yourself day, whatever you have to do. Just don’t leave them dangling for too long, wondering if they will ever have ‘school’ again.
And I do mean practice. Especially when we’re dealing with financial crises, our patience seems to have run out before we wake in the mornings. It becomes easier to snap at people who have done nothing wrong. Everything makes us angry. This is the time when we have to learn to leave the room before we use our voices. Walk away, take a breath, allow yourself a minute to think about what’s really bothering you. Then take another breath. Decide if what just made your temper snap really deserved the tongue-lashing that wanted to leap from your mouth. Remember, they’re just little. They have no intention of trying your patience during this difficult time. Also, be patient with yourself. We are so hard on ourselves. We want to hurry up and get over this so we can move on. But it doesn’t work that way. Hard times have their own timetable and our desire to make them end sooner doesn’t change it one whit. So don’t be disappointed when you are still sad after a couple of weeks, still stressed even after the roof has been fixed, still wondering where you’re going to come up with the money. Be patient. As my neighbor says, they can’t eat you. It really will work out in its own time.
Whether it be spiritual or just support from other homeschoolers. Connect with peers, with blogs you love, your pastor, whoever will make you feel that spark again that got you homeschooling in the first place. When I’m feeling blah, I like to go to my favorite craft sites and find something new to try with the Littles. Whatever works for you, find that inspiration and soak it up. You don’t even have to do anything with it. Just reading about it might help you be better prepared to face tomorrow. For spiritual inspiration, try Alive to Grace. For spiritual homeschool inspiration, try A Homeschool Mom. To remember why you love being a parent, check out Mom Life Now. For a good belly laugh about parenting and homeschooling, go to Stories of Our Boys. For really awesome craft ideas, look at The Crafty Classroom. Come here. Email me. I promise to be here for you. You never know when I might need you in return.
Take a break
At a homeschooling seminar I spoke at this year, a lovely young woman approached me and asked what to do about her preschool-age daughter, who seemed to balk at all of her lessons. After sitting down with her for a while, I learned they had lost two very close loved ones that year, and there had been an inordinate amount of upheaval in their lives. My advice to her was to stop pushing. Her daughter was grieving. She was grieving. She needed to give them space to do that. No one would expect that sweet little girl to care about learning her ABCs or handwriting just them. The mother was worried she was failing in some way. I told her to take a break. Don’t push her daughter to do ‘schoolwork.’ Read with her, sing the alphabet with her, buy some of those great bath paints and let her make letters with her fingers. I told her she would be surprised at the end of a couple of months how much her daughter had learned without scheduled, paper schoolwork. If you have older littles and you decide to take a break, set some parameters. Tell your kids you’re going to take a break, when you will be picking back up, and what you expect from them during the break. That way they still have that sense of consistency.
Sometimes whatever the tough times are, they are just too tough. Don’t push yourself or your littles to achieve a grand school year during those times. Do what you can. Give your family a break. But do soldier on. Don’t give up. Don’t let the world roll over you. There will be sunshine again, and you will be glad you didn’t send your kids back to school or shut down completely. Because
P.S. My series 25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool will pick up Monday with Day Four: Insects. 🙂