Let’s face it, none of us decide to classically educate our children because we want to make things easy, which is probably why homeschooling on the fly doesn’t come as naturally to us as, say, our unschooling counterparts. By nature, I’m highly inflexible and thrive on structure and routine. That’s not to say all classical educators are like me, nor do all unschoolers educate by the seat of their pants. But sometimes life dictates that we make adjustments — either adding structure to our school or loosening the reins — that would otherwise make us cringe.
For me, the need to change was precipitated by our son-in-law’s long-term illness. Between helping him with out-of-town doctor’s appointments and his eventual hospitalization, I had to let go of my idyllic picture of what our home school should look like.
Nine o’clock start, books open, pencils poised and ready
Sound familiar? Even if that’s not what your school looks like, I’ll bet you have a vision of what you want it to be. Then when circumstances beyond your control require a change, you get flustered. (Okay, hopefully you don’t actually get flustered like I do. I’m working on it!) Going through a year of relaxed schooling gave me a bit of insight for those unexpected seasons of life.
*Let go of your expectations.
Did you hear me? Let go. Really, it’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself and your children. Forget what homeschooling is supposed to look like because true learning can happen anywhere and in all kinds of circumstances. The van, the waiting room, Grandma’s house—all perfectly acceptable places to learn something new.
This can be especially cathartic when your family is going through a tragedy as opposed to a few days of interruption.
*Look into the What Your ___ Grader Needs to Know series, by E.D. Hirsch.
These books for elementary-aged school children are broken down by subject matter and cover a vast range of topics. History, math, language arts, science, fine arts—it’s all covered by grade level. Assign a bit of reading in each subject and you’re good to go!
*Have classic, age-appropriate books on hand.
It never hurts kids to have a few reading-only days. If you happen to have a bit of paper on hand, the kids can even write a summary of what they read.
*If all else fails and you’re simply trying to take the next breath without falling apart (I have been there, I know) then forget school.
Truly. It won’t hurt the kids to see that there are more important things in life and that tending to them is the right thing to do. If you’re going through an extended season of tragedy or grief, set a date in the future when you can start again. If that date comes around and you’re not ready, so be it.
*When it’s time to return to a normal schedule, don’t feel guilty about that either!
Routine can be a comfort and a good way to stabilize emotions that are all over the board. You’ll know in your heart when that time has come.
After more than two months in the hospital, our precious son-in-law passed away from a rare and incurable condition. I realized something important that I hope never to forget: all those days we missed school, we weren’t slacking — we were living. I wouldn’t trade a moment of the road trips where we dissed each other’s music or taking him a sandwich at the hospital because he was tired of the food. I wouldn’t trade a moment of just being there so he would know that we were all in this together.
It’s far better to fully live and experience the life in front of you than to second-guess yourself later on.
We all do the best we can with what’s in front of us each day. Sometimes that means holding deep and thoughtful Socratic discussions and diagramming sentences in Latin. Sometimes it means focusing solely on the people we’re fortunate enough to have in our lives. And sometimes … just sometimes … it means chucking the books completely and trusting that the commitment to the long-haul of home education will eventually produce fruit.
I’ll try to keep that in mind this week as I while away the hours during jury duty … and the kids are off frolicking with their grandparents.