“Life got in the way of doing school.”
If you have never said those words, surely you have thought them. Flexibility is one of the beauties of homeschooling. Schedules can easily be rearranged for a doctor’s appointment or a spur of the moment visit from friends.
But what if the interruption is ongoing? A major move, a new baby, an operation or a parent entering hospice? These are the times that weigh so heavily on us. We know that we are not educating our kids to our own standards. On the other hand, how can we carry on with our rigorous educational plans and still take care of this family crisis?
Well, we just can’t. Some things will have to be watered down and compromised if we are going to survive. The good news is that if you homeschool for 12 or 13 years, a month or two of less-than-perfect schooling will not even be a blip on the radar.
What a huge comfort and blessing that is. We must, however, resist the pull to use this as an excuse to go for years on end without giving our kids the kind of education they deserve.
Now that my lecture is over, what steps can we take to mitigate the damage when life just gets in the way?
Make A List
When I’m overwhelmed, I can’t get anything done because so much has to be done that I don’t even know where to start. I have a list that never changes which at least gets my day started.
1. Animals first
Are there baby goats who need a bottle, a pony who needs medicine, or dogs that need to go break? Because they are the ones who depend on us the most, their needs get addressed first.
2. Feed Humans Real Food
Nothing else is going to work if I’m hungry and the kids are crashing and crying from low blood sugar.
3. Exercise before seat work
Photo by Bev Howe.
This is one I really struggle with. It is so counterintuitive. If I need to find time for more schoolwork, how does it make sense to “waste” an hour or more on something that isn’t educational? The truth is that a kid that has already taken a walk, gone for a swim or a bike ride is going to do less bouncing in her seat, pencil tapping, and daydreaming. If we have a tiny window of time to get school done, I need to make sure they are in the best position possible to learn.
4. Limit screen time
If I am unusually occupied with “life,” my kids naturally have more free time. If screens are not an option, they choose activities such as pretend play, drawing, climbing trees, writing poetry…..these are activities that contribute to my goals for them.
5. Use screens when you are in a bind.
I believe that all children learn best when they have an engaged, attached human teacher, but in an emergency my kids can spend an afternoon with Reading Eggs or Clue Finders or Madeline’s Thinking Games.
6. Double up
When spare time is nonexistent, I look for ways to kill two birds with one stone. Spelling tests can also count as handwriting. Little ones can listen to unabridged classics while they walk the dog.
7. Closeness Counts
When life gets hard and schedules are unpredictable, kids need even more of our attention at the exact time when we have less to give. How can I balance their need for me with the household tasks that cannot be put off another moment? I have a secret weapon.
8. Read for an hour; Clean for an hour
When the house looks like it’s been ransacked, I have a choice. I can scream and rage and get everyone upset, or we can attack it like the team that we are supposed to be.
I set the timer for an hour. We put on some blaring music and start cleaning the first room together. When the timer goes off, we get snuggled on the bed and I have them read me a chapter from the book they are reading, then for the rest of the hour, I read to them from a book of their choice. When the timer goes off, they are ready to attack another room with another hour of cleaning.
I have a revolutionary idea for 2016. What if I don’t wait until the house is ready to be condemned and the children are acting out to use my secret weapon? What if we make every Friday a Read for an hour, Clean for an hour day? It sounds kind of radical.
I’ll keep you updated on my progress!
Genevieve–is a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .