We have homeschooled our family right from the beginning – through 10 years of having babies, 3 years of my husband going back to college, 2 moves for jobs, losing a job, re-enlisting in the military, another move, parenting on my own while he was away for many training courses and a tour in Afghanistan, a posting across the country and, most recently, a year of diagnosing and treating my husband’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Life is full of surprises but by far the most challenging year we have had has been this past one in which PTSD invaded our family, drained our resources and threatened our strength and resilience. I’m not going to lie. It’s been a hard year.
Surviving a crisis is a always a challenge. Homeschooling through a crisis adds another layer of stress to an already draining time. I remember many times during this last year thinking that I just couldn’t continue to homeschool on top of dealing with everything else! I was afraid that I was failing my kids academically and worried about how they were coping emotionally. As hard as it was though, I’m so very glad we kept at it and homeschooled through this storm – because there were some definite advantages to walking hard times together.
Two of the strengths of homeschooling are the routines it provides as well as the flexibility it offers. I know they sound like opposites – and they are – but in a crisis they both have their place and can be invaluable.
The routines you establish in your family for school, chores and life in general are the rails your family runs on. Those routines provide a sense of comfort and security to your children and a sense of “normal” in a season that has turned everything else completely upside down. There will be days in the midst of your crisis that you will want to stick to your routines and keep things as normal as possible because that brings a sense calm and keeps everyone moving forward.
On the other hand, there will be days during a crisis that sticking to a routine would actually be detrimental for your family. There are days when things are so intense, or emotions are running so high that there needs to be the freedom and flexibility to drop “normal” for the day and sit and cry together, or talk at length. Sometimes that flexibility is for making appointments with support people (doctors, counsellors, pastors, friends) or arranging for some time for mom to be “kid free” for the day or for the kids to go and do something fun for a much needed distraction.
For us, there were many days that we were driving my husband to the airport in the next town (an hour away) to fly out to appointments with his psychiatrist in another province. There were days when the kids had lots of questions about PTSD and why daddy was acting the way he was and wondering if they had done something to cause it. We spent long hours talking together or reading books I’d found about PTSD and depression that helped to give them the information they needed at a level they could process. For months and months I kept plodding along trying to make sure everyone else was ok only to eventually discover I was burnt out and suffering from Compassion Fatigue. At that point, some of that treasured flexibility needed to be invested in my own self care for doctors appointments, finding a counsellor for myself, and time to invest in my own health.
And yes, if I’m honest, our academic plan for the year did suffer a little. We didn’t go as deep into some subjects as I would have liked and took more time off than I had intended, but the things that we did learn were far more important that the academics. We learned compassion. We learned how to face our fears together. We learned a lot about mental illness and compassion fatigue. We learned to reach out for help and we learned to persevere when the resources we needed were hard to find. We learned to navigate many military systems and supports. We experienced God in a much deeper way and saw Him at work in our circumstances even when things looks absolutely bleak and hopeless. And most of all… we learned that as a family, we are stronger when we stick together and have each others’ back!
Homeschooling through a family crisis allows you to react, response and tailor your schooling and life to what your family needs most in those moments. Rely on routines to sustain you, flexibility to empower you and trust yourself to know when each of those is needed.
Tammy is a homeschooling mom of 6 and married to Gerry, a Canadian army medic. She blogs at Marching To A Different Drummer where she writes about faith, family and homeschooling fun in the Canadian Forces and shares opening about their family journey with her husbands’ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.