Let’s face it – life happens. Hardships and difficult situations come into the life of every family. Dealing with hardships can put stresses not only on family life as a whole but also on homeschooling. Our family has been going through a very challenging circumstance for the past year. My husband sustained a traumatic brain injury as the result of a fall. Since last summer our schedule has revolved around doctor’s visits, therapy sessions, and meetings related to his recovery. This has caused quite a change in our homeschooling dynamics. I have had to take on some extra tutoring and online work to help make ends meet, so our kids have been forced to become more independent in their studies. God has taught us all so much over the past year. We have had to take inventory frequently and make choices based on what is the most important. We have had to make adjustments to our daily life and all work together more than we had ever had to do before. Overall, there are 4 basic lessons I (and my family) have learned through this time.
1. ORGANIZE – With eight people in our family, I have to stay on top of this constantly. My husband is not allowed to drive, so I serve as his driver to all of his appointments. This has forced me to be much more organized in scheduling our days. I use a computer calendar which allows me to set reminders. This is synced to the calendar on my phone. I receive a text message and e-mail reminder about events. Every evening I check with each of my kids about their work schedules, etc… in order to make sure that everyone who needs a car or a ride will have one. Our school time is scheduled around appointments. Using a school planner is crucial for us. We have all worked together to make our home more organized. It is so helpful to know that there is a place for everything.
2. PRIORITIZE – When trying to homeschool in the midst of a hardship, it is crucial to discern the true necessities and focus on those things. Is it really important that the baseboards are scrubbed every week? Is it really important that all of the meals are home-cooked? I know these examples are a little extreme; but, I think you get the point. I have a habit of thinking something is super important when, in the grand scheme of things, it really isn’t. Over the past year, I have learned not to beat myself up if some of those things are neglected in favor of things that are more important. In our family, that means that anything related to helping Dad heal takes number 1 priority. With schoolwork, pulling back on extras temporarily is very helpful. We have just been ‘doing the basics’ and not much more than that. Planning, grading, and record keeping have been much more streamlined that way.
3. REST – Stressful situations only become more stressful if you are not rested. If you are the primary caregiver to someone recovering from an illness or injury, chances are you are not resting adequately. Relinquish control to another responsible person every now and then and take some time for yourself. Your ability to care for someone and your ability to homeschool your children is greatly diminished if you are sleep deprived. Your own health is at risk if you are not rested. I think this is one of the most difficult things for me to do.
4. DELEGATE – Let the whole family pitch in on household chores, errand running, schoolwork help, etc… if possible. If not, don’t be ashamed to accept help from friends. During the first few months after my husbands injury, we were inundated with meals from well-meaning church members and friends. It was overwhelming to me, but it was so appreciated. I didn’t have to think about planning meals on top of all of the activities surrounding his medical care. Meals we didn’t need right away were frozen and brought out as needed. Our kids basically took over all of the housework, yard work, and errand running for me. They weren’t always thrilled with having to scrub toilets; but, they knew that what they did was important for the family. They help each other with schoolwork if I am not available. I have also been letting them work on more difficult subject through a co-op. This has taken a lot of stress off of me.
Have there been times over the past year that I have thought about sending my kids back to public school? Honestly, no there have not. I could not have survived these last 12 months without the help of my children. Even though they have had to miss out on some things, I think they have learned a lot about how God works through difficult situations. Real-life learning is worth more than all of the book learning in the world at times. I have seen them develop a greater sense of responsibility and giving of themselves to others. I have been able to see the heart for ministry that each of my kids has. I wouldn’t choose to go through this type of situation; but, the lessons learned through it have been invaluable.
Sarah Dugger is a pastor’s wife and mom to six children. She teaches classes at a local co-op during the school year. When time allows, she enjoys reading and writing. You can find her on her blog, Ahoy Maties!