In the past few years since we’ve been homeschooling, our family has endured what I would consider to be a “crisis” a few times. While many things can derail a homeschool, I have discovered that when homeschooling during a crisis, flexibility is key.
Here are a few things that have attempted to derail us over the past few years:
1. I had major surgery, with resulting complications
2. I was diagnosed with a chronic disease that leaves me in pain and fatigued often.
3. My mother died a quickly after being diagnosed with an aggressive type of thyroid cancer.
4. Ben was diagnosed with ADHD.
Each of these situations caused a change in the way we homeschool, either for a short period of time or on a long-term basis.
Sometimes, a crisis means we don’t formally homeschool at all, switching to a more unschooling method of learning. And sometimes our methods have become even more “schoolish.” In each situation, we were saved from disaster (you know, having to put Ben in school) by the ability to be flexible.
I’ll give you some examples —
When I had my hysterectomy a few years back, Ben was in 2nd grade. I had a little bit of preparation time, so I was able to create some easy-to-follow lessons plans my mom (who would be caring for Ben during my hospitalization) could handle. Homeschooling Ben made her a bit nervous, so I was able to alleviate some of her anxiety by subscribing to an online curriculum — Time 4 Learning — for awhile. Mom just had to get Ben logged onto the computer and then oversee what he was doing. I created lesson plans using T4L’s lesson planning tool. I also sent along books for Ben to read and for Mom to read aloud to him, along with plenty of art and writing supplies for creative school time.
When my surgery resulted in a longer than expected hospital stay and complications that took a couple of months to heal, I was able to continue using this resource for the remainder of that school year. While it’s not my favorite way to homeschool, never did I feel that Ben didn’t get what he needed that year. The flexibility it took to abandon our normal routine in favor of a simpler one decreased stress for all of us.
Soon after this crisis, we were met with another, only this one involved Ben. We had been struggling for quite some time with behavior issues that I knew in my heart were more than “little boy behavior.” To protect Ben’s right to privacy, I won’t share very detail of that behavior, but suffice it to say, we needed help. Homeschooling was a constant battle and no one was enjoying it, least of all Ben.
While I wasn’t crazy about the idea of “labeling” my son, and for reasons too personal to share here, we ended up having him evaluated by a local psychologist who specialized in ADHD and similar disorders. Unsurprisingly, Ben was diagnosed with ADHD and it was recommended he be started on medication to help with that right away. I really don’t wish to debate the use of ADHD meds here. We have used them at times, and at times, we have not. But putting Ben on medication at that time was helpful and it vastly improved our homeschool time.
Thankfully, I also discovered the delight-directed methods of teaching him as well, so that whether he is on medication or not, homeschooling is certainly better. One other thing that came of this diagnosis was learning the importance of planning. While I don’t “schedule” how Ben learns, we do have set hours for school, chores, free time, etc. Knowing what to expect next has been very helpful for Ben. Being flexible with how we manage his ADHD means we’re all a little happier.
Near the end of 2010, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease – Lupus. I had already been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia years earlier, but my symptoms greatly increased in 2009 and it took awhile for all of the right appointments and tests to happen for a sure diagnosis. It was a miserable two years as many days I struggled with getting out of bed, much less teaching a full day of complicated courses. Thankfully, we had moved on to a more delight-directed learning approach, filled with mostly living books, lapbooking, notebooks, and hands-on projects. Still, there were times when even that is hard. I had to come up with a plan I could use at the drop of a hat, to ensure that homeschooling was still happening.
The most devastating of crises that have occurred since we’ve been homeschooling, was the diagnosis of a rare and aggressive form of thryroid cancer for my mom in 2011. Homeschool ceased at that point completely. For most of the month of October and early into November, our time was spent with Mom. Sometimes taking her to appointments, but often just being together. We didn’t know how much time she had, but we knew it wasn’t long and we wanted to spend as much time together as possible. Homeschooling could be done later.
Mom’s healing came on November 6, and to be honest, we really didn’t feel like doing much homeschooling for quite awhile after. It took awhile to take care of cleaning out her home, then the holidays came. We really didn’t pick back up until after the first of the year. We read and played games, watched some great DVDs, and talked a lot. I have no regrets for how we handled any of this. It did mean that we schooled further into the summer than usual, but that was ok, too. Like I said before, it’s about being flexible.
Thankfully, it was about this time that my favorite homeschool magazine brilliantly developed an online program called SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I was working for TOS at the time, so I was one of the first members of ST. There were only 9 classes in the beginning, but we signed up and soon Ben began exploring Google Earth with a fun geography class. Over the years, many classes have been added to this online membership and it has developed into one of our favorite homeschool resources and THE best deal in homeschooling. For one low price, you can homeschool all of your children, grades PreK-12. It has saved us many times over the past few years of homeschooling. Thankfully, there have been no more major crises for us, for for convenience, travel, short-term illness, delight-directed learning, electives, and more, it has been a God-send.
As you can see, life happens even while homeschooling. And honestly, homeschooling is the greatest blessing in all of these situations. Can you imagine what it would have been like to try to get Ben to school every day, and homework done every night, when I had surgery or when my Mom got sick? Or what it would be like for me on a really bad pain day to deal with getting Ben up at the crack of dawn to catch a bus? Not to mention what his school life would be like dealing with his ADHD in an environment that would not meet his needs.
I am so grateful that this is the path we have chosen, on bad days and every other day!