Injury, Recovery, and Homeschooling, by Sarah R

in the rehab hospital

 

My first year homeschooling looked nothing like I’d planned – and it wasn’t just because it never looks like the plan.  My dreams of my son happily learning Math, Reading, Latin, Greek, Hindi, and Hebrew, while memorizing poems and stories and cheerfully doing copywork in kindergarten weren’t very realistic anyway, but there was a far more important reason our first year of homeschooling didn’t look like I expected.

My son was recovering from a traumatic brain injury.

A month after his fifth birthday, he fell head first out a window and three stories onto concrete.  We are thankful every day that my then three-year-old daughter, the only other person upstairs, knew to come get us right away.  We are also thankful that he did not have any major permanent damage.  However our lives changed with his accident.  He was in the PICU for almost two weeks, spent five days in a regular room at the hospital and then spent another three and a half weeks at a pediatric rehab hospital. It was a life-altering time for all of us.

When his plethora of therapists – physical , occupational, speech – and doctors asked our plans for kindergarten, we said we’d always planned to homeschool and those plans had not changed.  Each of them had the same response: “That is a very good choice for him at this time.”

He came home from the hospital in the last week of June. We started homeschooling a day or two later.  Our homeschool routine for the first six months was frequently interrupted by doctor and therapy appointments. We were fortunate in that he and his sister had been attending a wonderful preschool that took both our daughter and our younger son full-time for the summer and kept our youngest full-time until December, while my daughter went back to the part-day program that fall.  Having both the younger children with caregivers when their brother had doctor and therapy appointments 30-45 minutes away made it easier.  In the beginning, he had PT once a week and OT twice a week. Weekly speech transitioned to twice a week when the school year started.  He also had a weekly talk therapy appointment and numerous doctor appointments for check-ups.   We spent three to four days a week at various therapies and doctor appointments during those early months.  This greatly cut into the time we spent on formal education.
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doing math

One of the most noticeable new issues resulting from his injury was hyperactivity.  My son could no longer sit for more than ten seconds at a time.  Before the accident, he was able to sit and attend for ten minutes, which would have been enough time for schoolwork.  Ten seconds, on the other hand, made it hard to get him to attend to his work.  We had to come up with alternative strategies.  He often did his math while running around the living room or jumping on the trampoline.  His reading instruction was haphazard. We would often break a ten minute reading lesson into three days, only working for three or four minutes per day.  We also streamlined what we were studying.  I had dreamed of teaching my son all about history and science.  In reality, between his various appointments, focusing issues, and general healing from concussion, if we read two or three science and history picture books at random times during the week we counted it a win.

Eight months after the accident, my son moved to once a week OT, finished PT, and his doctor appointments slowed down to every six months.  Even then, we still had days when we got nothing done except his therapy. Many times through our first year, homeschooling was a lifesaver.  Because doctor appointments consumed our days, taking three weeks off would not have been possible in a regular school environment. With homeschooling we were able to work in a break when we had many appointment and were still able to finish off his kindergarten year with him advancing enough to move to first grade on a normal schedule. That type of flexibility would not have been possible in a public school setting.  We also did not have to deal with IEPs and making sure it was followed while he was in a large class, which could have easily overwhelmed him at that point in his recovery.  We were able to focus on him and his needs thanks to homeschooling and the wonderful preschool our other children attended.

Fast forward twenty-one months after his accident: you’d never know that my son fell out a window nor would you notice the issues we dealt with last year. There were still some issues that appeared as he healed that needed to be addressed, but most of them were not on our radar during his recovery period.  Once the main portion of his healing and therapy had ended, those issues were far easier to address.  He is still in OT, speech, and behavioral therapy to address a few lingering effects of his accident; however it is far easier to handle a handful of weekly appointment than a wide variety of daily appointments. He’s on track to finish first grade even though he isn’t able to sit for three hours of schoolwork. My dreams have been a bit modified from having him happily learn Latin, Hindi, and Greek, but he is doing well, learning, and having fun.

 

Sarah–Sarah is the wife of Dan and mom to Desmond, Eloise and Sullivan (Sully).  She enjoys sarahreading,  board games, D&D, computer and console games, the Oxford comma, and organizing fun trips. Sarah and Dan decided years before they had children that they would be homeschooling and now they are. Their family has enjoyed beginning their homeschooling journey and the early elementary years. There are a lot of fun opportunities upcoming in the next year as well, including Eloise starting Kindergarten at home, numerous trips to Atlanta, and a month long trip to India. They currently reside in a suburb of Washington DC and enjoy all the local attractions available for day trips.

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The Secret of Homeschooling, by Melissa

 

When I first thought about homeschooling, I envisioned happy children, eagerly learning from the vast array of materials I would lovingly provide for them. Crafts, field trips, music lessons, our world of home education would be glorious. They’d excel at everything, all veritable geniuses and perfectly behaved children, and my home would be filled with the sounds of children’s laughter, the smell of home-made meals, and always neat before my husband came home.

I don’t know whose children I thought I’d be homeschooling, but it evidently wasn’t mine. I also seemed to believe that homeschooling would cause me to have a complete personality change.

Needless to say, I’m the same woman I’ve always been, just with the added responsibility of educating my children.

If my inherent personality flaws weren’t enough, then LIFE had to happen.

Winds of change have gusted through our life, some wonderful (new babies) some ill (chronic pain disability, job loss). I’ve had people ask, half in awe, half in horror, how I can possibly keep homeschooling through it.

How? I don’t know. I just do. I have what I call “Dory days,” those days when all you can do is keep swimming. Not that you seem to be actually getting ahead in any way, shape or form, but motion, even if it’s not seeming to get you closer to your goal, is better than complete inertia.

The fact that I’m more stubborn than the average definitely helps. The fact that my children have inherited this trait is a mixed bag. It depends on if they’re with me, or against me. Tazzie, our soon to be nine-year old, deciding that he can’t read, doesn’t like reading, doesn’t want to read, absolutely has been working against me, but I’m more stubborn than he is. I think.

One thing I’ve absolutely had to do is pack up my idea of what ‘should be’ and deal with ‘what is’. A curricula that I thought would be wonderful just didn’t work for my kids. My careful plans were shredded by chaos. I’ve had to learn flexibility, patience, and to quit daydreaming of dumping my kids on the steps of the local public school, yelling, “They’re yours now!” and fleeing, cackling wildly.

For me, it’s the small accomplishments that keep me going.   For example, Princess, our seven-year old, finally *getting* how this whole phonics gig works gets me through trying to teach Tazzie long division. His constant cries of, “I don’t geeeeeet iiiiittttttt!” and the wash, rinse, repeat, of showing him, yet again, how it works.  If it wasn’t for the bright moments of what I think of as “the Click,” I’m honestly not sure how I would manage, but I suspect it wouldn’t be in completely socially acceptable ways. I know they’ll get there, eventually, though. After all, the Grand Canyon started out as a river over some rocks, right?

I have some good friends who just awe me with their homeschooling. Honestly, they intimidate me too. I think we all have those folks in our lives, who from the outside seem to have it altogether. They’re who we want to be when we grow up: we want to parent like them, teach like them, keep house like them.

The reality of that is, they’d probably be completely horrified by the idea.

And that right there, folks, is the true secret of homeschooling. There’s not a single one of us that’s convinced we’re doing this all right. There’s not a homeschooling family that hasn’t made some compromises along the way, who’ve had to identify what their priorities really are, and let other things slide. We can’t do it all, and we need to be honest with ourselves about that. We need to give ourselves grace. This is especially important when challenges hit. And challenges *will* hit, no matter who you are. They may be huge, such as relocating, job loss, health issues. They may be small, such as folks wandering around in bathing suits in the winter because laundry hasn’t been done in recent memory, or having toast and cereal for supper for the third time in a week because all available kitchen work space is consumed with science and art projects.

Having a sense of humour, giving yourself grace, and being patient and kind to yourself are survival skills when it comes to homeschooling. These are also valuable life skills to give your children, giving them a cornerstone for their future that’s as necessary as math and reading.

(This article is published by StS with permission from Melissa Charles)  Melissa, more commonly known as ‘Mom’ or ‘Imp’, hails from Canada. She spends her day Wife-ing to ‘Wolf’, and Mom-ing ‘Diva’, ‘Tazzie’, ‘Princess’, ‘Toddler Terror/Boo’ and the newest addition to the minion roster, ‘Cubby’.

When not home educating, attempting to control the chaos that is every day life, and dodging bears and deer, she can be found blogging one armed at Not A Stepford Life

Homeschooling While Owning a Business: How I Do It All…Or Not.

226558_1922289850788_1631326_nby Cheryl

We are busy. We co-own a performing arts academy, my husband is self-employed, we have three kids, and we homeschool. Some of my friends are amazed at how productive I can be. In one day I can educate two kids, snuggle and care for a baby, clean, do laundry, go grocery shopping, pay bills, order some dance costumes, cook lunch, get dinner in the crock pot, teach dance classes, and bake cookies!

What no one knows is, on days like that, school is Story of the World on CD, a Magic School Bus video, and a page of math for my son and free art time for my daughter. The laundry is washed, dried, and stacked in laundry baskets – not folded. The cleaning consists of loading and unloading the dishwasher in between everything else. The costume ordering is something I missed the week before for which I am now panicking about delivery dates. Grocery shopping was a just quick run through Aldi for something for lunch and a chicken to throw in the crockpot. It was my short teaching day (1.5 hours). And finally, the cookie dough was made a week ago and needed to be used up.

Is that a typical day? No. Every now and then I end up with a busy work day. In December I have to order dance costumes. In April I have recital packets, schedules, and performance orders to put together. Once a month I have payroll. Most of our days include two hours of school, one hour of me working from home, and three to five hours of me teaching. Sometimes, I can overlap the school and work at home hours a little bit. That leaves plenty of time to rest, play, clean, and run errands.

I have only been at this for three years, but here are some helpful hints for working (whether from home or away) and homeschooling.

  1. RELAX! You can’t do it all. (At least not in one day.) Prioritize. Make a big to do list, each day pick the top five to six things that MUST be done first (keep school at the top of the list on school days and add five other things). Mark them off as they are done and start the next day with school again, and then do anything not finished the day before, and finally add to it.
  2. Put chores on a rotating schedule. I tried assigning days, but that was too structured for our lifestyle. I have a priority list: laundry, kitchen, bathrooms, living room, refrigerator, front room, kids room, my room, pantry, garage. If I have time to clean, I do laundry first. If laundry is done, I clean the kitchen. If the kitchen is clean, or if I have at least started the dishwasher, I clean the bathrooms, etc. So, if I have an easy week, the whole house gets cleaned. I may even have time for other tasks – like organizing a junk drawer! If I have a few busy weeks at least the kitchen, laundry, and bathrooms stay clean.
  1. Set your school schedule around your work and life schedule.We start school on August 1. We take a week for Thanksgiving, one or two weeks for Christmas, two weeks for performances in January (a continuation of Christmas break), and we stop formal school in the first week of May. If we don’t take spring break and if we have no sick days, that gets us our 180 days. This year we had sick days, but no spring break. We finished math, spelling, grammar/writing, reading, Latin, and science. We were short a couple of weeks so we did not finish history. We have made up those days with educational trips and activities this summer plus a week of intensive history catch-up.
  1. Ask for help. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed. This year it happened a lot! I was adjusting to three kids and it showed. I started asking my teachers to do things I normally do for recital. I gave up teaching the daddy/daughter dance. It is one of my favorite things to do, but I did not have time. I gave up the opening number. I am not teaching any summer classes. Mentally, I am now in a good place and have had time to plan out all of next year’s recital…almost!
  1. Take time for yourself. Read a book, go for a drive, go for a walk, watch a movie, surf the internet, go to lunch with a friend, or SLEEP!! You need time to reboot and refresh. Whatever you need, make sure you do it!

I am not an expert, but we are making it through. My dancers looked great at recital, the musicals turned out well, the house is clean-ish, and my kids learned a lot this year!

Cheryl has been married for 13 years and has 3 children. She has home schooled since her oldest started Kindergarten. She also runs a dance studio and teaches there 4 nights a week.