Tin Cottage Journal

Tin Cottage Journal

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Homeschooling Through
Crisis & Chaos
Recently, a lady shared with a homeschool e-mail support group her desire to continue in homeschooling, though she struggles with serious illness and other daunting obstacles. She asked the ladies of the group to share their thoughts with her, as she feared she was not up to the challenge. Her struggle is great, indeed, and my prayers are with her. I do not know if my response to her will be helpful to her, or to you, but I share it here in hopes that these words might be a blessing to someone in difficult circumstances.

Hi April,

My heart is SO moved by your plight. I will be praying for you.

Of course, I do not know enough about your circumstances to be sure my input will be useful to you, but just in case, I want to share some thoughts. If any of this is helpful, I am glad.

I had intended to homeschool my son Joel from DAY 1, but when he reached kindergarten age, I was in terrible physical contdition due to a back injury doctors had failed to diagnose and treat. I was in terrible pain all the time. I felt so depleted I put him in school because I felt I did not have the energy to do what I needed to do for him.

However, what I did not anticipate is how much energy it took for me to get him to school and back every day. I had surgery in October of that year, and spent the winter fighting severe bronchitis and trying to recover from back surgery. It would have been so much better for me to be curled up on the couch with him, reading Dr. Seuss ABC or Goodnight Moon instead of dragging both of us out every morning, rain or shine, and in the icy winter blast every day.

I left him in school through 1st grade as well, since putting him there in the first place had left us with doubts as to whether we should homeschool. He really did have a good experience, relatively speaking, with good Christian teachers, etc. But, we did begin homeschooling in 2nd grade.

I have had some other physical problems that have not left me at my best all the time. My husband has had a crazy schedule through the years, Joel I are NOT morning people, and various family crises and illnesses have proven to be challenging for us and our homeschool process. However, looking back, I wonder how much more challenging some of those would have been, trying to stay in sync with the school system schedule and demands and still address the issues we were dealing with as a family.

A few years ago, my mom went through chemo, and it was devestating to her. We almost lost her to the chemo. We spent a lot of time with her. Sometimes we took the books with us, and other times, Joel just played outside with his cousins.

Here are the things that have helped us survive.... and, I believe succeed, in continuing to homeschool in spite of choas!

(1) Do not feel you have to be locked in to a yearly schedule. You do not have to "school during certain months just because that is what the public school is doing, or because someone else is doing it that way. "School" when it is convenient for you.

(2) Do not feel you have to be locked in to a monthly or weekly schedule. You do not have to "school" Monday through Friday, or take off spring break at any certain time. You may "school" Wednesday through Saturday, or 4 days a week (no summers off). You may take 3 months off in the middle of the year for chemo. You may "school" for 2 weeks, and take a week off for chemo recovery. You may go on vacation in October because you can, and the weather is nice. "School" when it is convenient for you.

(3) Do NOT feel you have to be on any DAILY or HOURLY schedule. You do not have to "school" in the morning and afternoon. You can school in the evening, if that is the time of day you feel better. You mom can help during a time of day that is convenient for her. Maybe another family member can help at a time that is convenient for him.

(4) You do not have to do every subject every year. Some years, you may be in a "basic" mode, pursuing math and reading, and only address other subjects in the most casual way, through fiction, movies and an occasional field trip if you're up to it. After all, you can always do American History NEXT year. There is an awful lot of repetition built into how most curriculums handles those subjects anyway.

(5) You do not have to do every subject every day. My son works better in "blocks". He prefers to do all his history in one day, and all his science on another. Maybe, if your mom is off on Saturdays, and she loves history, Saturday could be "history day" at her house.

(6) Have a "survival package" and a "better days" agenda. Some years, I've used those big fat "all in one" curriculum books by McGraw Hill. On days I was "under the weather", Joel worked assigned pages in that book. He knew what was required in those books each day without having to ask me. But on days I had more energy, I would allow him to "skip" that book and we'd read together and explore areas I felt the need to be more involved in with him.

Again, like I said, I don't know how much of this will be helpful to you. Putting him back in school MAY BE the answer you need. But don't feel that you have failed if your homeschool does not fit a certain mold. Ours has always been rather unorthodox. but Joel is now 15, ready for 10th grade, and already finished with Algebra 1 & 2, and planning to study both Biology and Physics next year. We've done ok, I think.

God bless you! My prayers are with you.

This is a "reprint" from last year, posted here for your encouragement.