Even under the best of circumstances, homeschooling is tough.
But who manages to homeschool under the ‘best of circumstances’ anyway? Life has a way of throwing challenging situations at us, creating major kinks in all our best laid plans. It may be an illness, an accident, a birth, a death, a move – feel free to insert your own personal form of chaos here – but very quickly a job that was already hard enough is made even harder by circumstances beyond our control.
I’ve been there. And while I would love to offer you solutions to your problems and peace for all your situations, I’m afraid I can’t do that. But I can tell you a thing or two I’ve learned as I’ve homeschooled through hard times. So mind if I share?
It’s true what you’ve heard: In homeschooling, relationships really ARE the most important thing.
It was one of the mantras I heard most in my early days of homeschooling. “Home education is all about building a relationship!” It sounded good, but I’m not sure I really understood what it meant.
But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that staying connected with my children – maintaining a close bond, especially in hard times – is essential for their emotional and spiritual well-being. They need to know that some things are constant, even when everything else in their lives is spinning out of control. They don’t need me as their BFF, because that’s not what moms are for, but they do need to know that they are loved, that their feelings matter, and that they can confide in me and trust me. It’s only in maintaining those relationships that I can effectively share my faith and values and provide an environment that is ripe for learning of all kinds.
There are more important things than academics.
I didn’t say academics don’t matter. They absolutely do, but several times along the way I’ve had to stop and remind myself what matters most.
I don’t want my child to excel in math, but be a person of poor character. I don’t want my daughter to be a good writer, but not know how to treat others with kindness and respect. I also don’t want any of my children to be bitter against me or anyone else because I was too obsessed with their academic excellence to bother listening to them, crying with them, or working through some tough life questions by their side.
Kids can still learn, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Much to my surprise, kids can still learn spelling and algebra and the life cycle of a mosquito, even in the middle of some pretty significant life chaos. Sometimes things have to be tweaked a little. A study may have to be slowed down some or even halted temporarily. I may have to be more patient if hard times distract, and accept that we may not be able to move through material as quickly as we could otherwise.
It’s important to remember, too, that sometimes learning can provide a very welcome distraction! Sometimes occupying my child’s mind with schoolwork can be a big help in distracting, at least temporarily, from weightier issues that are bogging them down emotionally.
I am not a failure if we have to spend some time just surviving homeschooling.
I would love it if my homeschooling days always felt successful and productive and inspired. That rarely happens consistently, even under those ‘best of circumstances’ I mentioned earlier. But in the midst of hard times, my homeschooling efforts have sometimes felt broken or desperate, or at least incomplete. It’s a terrible thing to feel like you’re just surviving.
But while I don’t want to live in ‘homeschool survival mode’ forever, sometimes visiting there is necessary. And that’s okay! We act like ‘just surviving’ is a bad thing, when help and healing isn’t even possible without first surviving!
I can beat myself up for not having time or the emotional fortitude for extra events or activities or projects, for not reading that book, taking that field trip, joining that homeschool group, or doing all the extra things I told myself I would do. Or I can accept my life chaos for what it is, do the best I can do with my circumstances, and start planning for better days ahead.
Because the hard times won’t last forever. They never do. Sometimes they last far longer than we like, and sometimes they are made especially challenging by the fact we can’t see their end.
But things will get better. And in the meantime it is important to take in all the lessons homeschooling in tough times can teach us.
Have you ever found yourself homeschooling through some hard times? What lessons have you learned to help you survive, and even thrive, in those circumstances?