Tackling Tough Times, Part 1

If you’ve read my post titled “Why Homeschooling911? you know that this website originally started as a book idea.  The idea I had in mind was to share the experiences in my life that had been at times extremely stressful, and at other times utterly tragic, and to share the truth that it is more than possible to continue homeschooling through, as I called them, “life’s big and little emergencies.”

Where did this book idea come from?  Well, there’s something I have found out about life: it happens.  Just because you homeschool doesn’t mean you are going to be exempt from: the death of a loved one, sickness, a job loss, or some other upheaval that affects your life in a profound way.  Homeschoolers always seem to be surprised that situations come along that throw their well-laid plans into disarray.  I even recently read in one forum a question about dealing with these kinds of disruptions, as if there is a secret formula for continuing to breeze along with your homeschool objectives when the kids are sick or you’re sick or you need to attend a funeral or you suddenly have to up-and-move because your husband’s company transferred him…but the bottom line is that life happens to all of us and there is no “secret formula.”  However, there are coping mechanisms you can put into place so that you can not only continue to homeschool, but you can do so in a way that can provide teaching moments for your children that come no other way.

When life happens, as a homeschooler, you need to learn to adjust and adapt.  You need to do what I discussed in a guest post titled “Homeschool Survival: How to Get Through Tough Times” at The Survival Mom website.  What I recommended in that post was a two-pronged approach to getting through tough times: prioritize and be flexible.

Prioritize: When life sends you a curveball you need to learn to do more than duck.  And one of the best things you can do in terms of your homeschool is to realize it is YOUR homeschool.  You have the right to do or not do any certain subject today or tomorrow or the next day.  Granted, I realize that some states are more demanding than the state of Florida in regards to what you have to teach and how many days you have to teach, etc.  But I guarantee you there are ways to be creative in terms of fulfilling your obligations in regards to your state government and local school board and I strongly encourage you to make the most of all the resources available to you including, and especially, the resources which your state homeschool organization can provide to help you when you are facing a turbulent time in your life.

That being said, I learned a long time ago that when, say, a hurricane came through and flattened my city, that it was okay to scale back on what I was teaching.  That it was perfectly fine to say, “Hey, this year we’re just going to pass on history.  We’ll get to that next year.”  Believe it or not, IT WORKS.  Every time I have gone through a disastrous and/or traumatic situation in my life, whether it was Hurricane Andrew or a move across-state or the sudden death of my brother in 1997 – when I got back to the basics – the “three R’s” if you will – it worked every time.  There was less stress on me, which benefitted me and my kids, and my children’s education did not suffer.  In Part Two of this little “series” I am going to discuss in detail what I mean by scaling back and how that might look for you.  I hope you’ll come back and read that post because I believe it will help you and – if you share it – who knows, you just might help someone else who is struggling to homeschool while going through a tough time.

Flexibility: The second key to surviving tough times as a homeschooler is to learn flexibility.  In reality, flexibility and prioritizing go together.  It’s hard to prioritize and eliminate some of the extraneous elements of homeschooling if you can’t be flexible.  Being flexible may even mean taking a month off, or handing the homeschooling reins over to an older child who can supervise their younger siblings.  What works for you and your family will be an individual decision.  But flexibility in homeschooling is key – and at the risk of offending someone – being flexible doesn’t have to mean putting your kids in school.  In fact, I am a strong believer that continuing to homeschool through the hard times is actually a win for your kids.  What do I mean by that?  When you continue to homeschool through hard times your children learn some valuable lessons that they will likely learn no other way.

Think about it: your children will learn how to deal with difficulty.  Yes, they may see you grieve – but that’s okay.  They will learn that grieving is part of life.  They will see how being flexible can serve them well when they encounter tough times in their own adult life.  They will learn how a family can pull together to help one another and to be a blessing to one another and maybe even to other family members who are a part of this challenging time in your life.

During the very difficult times in my life, such as after Hurricane Andrew blew through our community in 1992, homeschooling actually provided stability to my children.  While other families were scrambling to figure out when their kids would go to school and where their kids would go to school – considering that many schools had been blown away – our family, though we spent the next six weeks living with various family members, kept right on going…we just took school along with us!

In 1997 when my brother was killed by a drunk driver and I had to take a flight out immediately to be with my parents, I found out that the training I had provided my daughter – who was 13 at the time – had indeed paid off.  My husband was to drive down with my kids the day after I flew to my parents but he had to tie up loose ends at work since he would be out-of-town for several days.  During that time my daughter did all the laundry and all the packing for herself, her two brothers, and my husband!  I was actually astounded at the way she stepped up and took over the duties that normally I would have taken care of.  And in the months ahead, when I made several trips to my parents’ home to help them with various issues (such as meeting with the state attorney to discuss the case against the man who had killed my brother) my daughter again took over the reins including planning and cooking all the meals.  The only thing she couldn’t do was the shopping as she was too young to have a driver’s license!  She cared for her brothers, the house, everythingThis is one of those hidden benefits of homeschooling that I talked about.  And if my kids had been in school during that time, it would have been very difficult for me to get away as often as I did.  Too many don’t realize the tremendous blessing homeschooling can be not just in the good times, but in the tough times as well.

I would encourage you to take a new look at the way you approach your homeschool.  I don’t believe it should be compartmentalized into something you do “X” hours a day.  One of the false claims by those who oppose homeschooling is that it doesn’t prepare children for “life.”  On the contrary, I believe school attendance creates a completely artificial view of life (and often leads to the entitlement mentality too many young people exhibit these days).  In fact, homeschooling is the only school option that actually exposes children to real life, with all its complications, stresses, and trials.  And only homeschooling can provide the teaching platform to help your children learn how to deal with “real life” before they are out on their own managing their own lives and confronting their own challenges.

So I encourage you: don’t be afraid to homeschool through the tough times.  It is not only manageable, it will provide benefits to your children that will last a lifetime.  Stay tuned for Part Two of “Tackling Tough Times,” where I will discuss further some ways to put prioritizing and flexibility into practice.

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  • Anonymous

    I couldn’t agree more!  having homeschooled my five kids, beginning 16 years ago, through a number of minor and severe upheavals and issues, they are doing well and learning from life.  As you said, sometimes the very fact that we were homeschooling all along made some of the upheavals LESS stressful than they would have been if they had been going to a brick and mortar school.

    • Anonymous

      I want to thank you for sharing your experiences.  Not only is homeschooling during times of crisis do-able, but it also reaps rewards that we (and our children) would not have experienced otherwise.  I am glad that you stopped by to share, and that your children are doing so well!