A lot of us choose homeschooling, at least in part, for the advantage of flexibility, so when you encounter a particularly hard season in your life, give yourself grace, mom.
When my brother passed in 1997, I was just getting ready to start up our school year. At that time I had three children, two of whom were homeschooling. My daughter was beginning the 8th grade, and my oldest son was beginning 4th grade. Within hours of getting the devastating news, I was on a plane to my parents’ home, leaving my daughter to care for her younger brothers while my husband worked.
As it turned out, over the next 24 hours or so, she also did everyone’s laundry, and all the packing for her dad, herself, and her brothers for their trip to my parents’ home the next day. I did not find out that she had taken these responsibilities upon herself until several weeks later. It was at that point that I began to realize that my children had been learning and internalizing the life lessons and values we had been teaching them all along.
During that next year, I was engulfed in grief. I was also very concerned about my parents having to deal with the loss of their oldest son. I took many trips to visit with my parents for as long as a week at a time. My daughter was old enough to do her school work on her own and even supervise her brother. But if I had not been able to be flexible – to allow myself to be available to my parents and to trust that what really needed to get done, would get done – I would have missed out on not only the opportunity to be of comfort to my parents but also the opportunity to see how our years of homeschooling were bearing fruit, especially in my daughter’s life.
Homeschooling is always about priorities
I’m always a little surprised when I hear some homeschoolers say they are overwhelmed with their day and mention that one of the things on their “must-do” list is homeschooling! I remember a time when I felt exactly like them. It took a few life-changing events to teach me that my children could get a more-than-adequate education, even if I cut back on the amount of work I required of them for a time. Strategies for homeschooling must include realistic priorities.
For instance, I remember after we lost our home in Hurricane Andrew, I put a lot of stress on myself thinking that I needed to keep up a full, structured school curriculum with my kids. For several weeks after the storm, we lived with our family while we looked for a new place to live.
We found a damaged home that we were able to buy dirt cheap, the only caveat being that we had to live in it during the renovation…a perfect recipe for stress. On top of that, my husband started his own business, and six months into the rebuilding process I became pregnant with our third child.
When facing later challenges I finally came to the realization that there were really only three things that I needed to maintain in order to make sure my children’s education progressed. I am referring to what is commonly known as the “three R’s” – reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. This strategy for homeschooling is simple to apply.
When your children are young, as long as you stick with a consistent math program and a phonics or reading program, your child will be getting what they really need. If you have older children, they can certainly be doing the majority of their work independently, but even then, if you scale things back for a little while it won’t do them any harm, and will certainly help to alleviate stress for both you and your children.
Their natural curiosity will lead them to learn about things in nature, stories in the news, and just about anything else. Consider suggesting books that are set in historical time periods or biographies of famous scientists and explorers as a way for them to continue learning. While they may not be having formal “science” or “history” lessons, they will still be learning more than you might realize. Even activities that aren’t strictly book learning can teach life skills and build character.
Strategies for homeschooling include simplification
In some states, the regulations are more rigorous
in terms of how many days/hours you are required to homeschool, as well as what subjects need to be covered. But I would contend that there are ways to give your children credit for work that does not require them sitting down with books for hours a day. I’m not advocating that you discontinue teaching other subjects indefinitely (like science and history), only that you take a break for a time to adjust to the new challenges you are facing and how they may impact your family long-term.
I do encourage you, if you live in a state that has stricter regulations concerning curriculum and other requirements, to contact your local and state homeschool representatives to help you with ideas for complying with those regulations in a way that works best for your family. Smart strategies for homeschooling when life gets tough will help as long as you keep things simple.
Finally, whether the challenge you are facing is the blessing of a new baby in the house, the tragedy of the loss of a loved one, or the stress of a move or some other life event, it’s possible for your homeschool to survive and even thrive if you remember two things: be flexible and evaluate your priorities.
Once you’ve done those two things, make the appropriate adjustments. You can meet life’s challenges and continue to homeschool as well. And as you do so, your homeschooled children will be learning valuable life lessons that I believe no other educational model can provide.
Homeschool mom Anne H. contributed to this article.
1 thought on “The Best Strategy for Homeschooling When Life Gets Hard”
What a concise and insightful post. Homeschooling is definitely not easy, but it’s very rewarding. I think your advice of evaluating your priorities and being flexible are spot on. You have to adapt to your children’s pace and continue to modify their schedules that best fit them.