Monday, February 22, 2010

Homeschooling in a Minor Key

Life, being what it is, and home, being what it is, can be somewhat unpredictable. You can be sailing merrily along and next thing you know, for one reason or another, you are in the doldrums.

When this happens, when grief or sickness, pain or depression strike, it is inevitable that it will have an effect on schooling. If people know about the troubles you face, the naysayers will often take this opportunity to chip away (with the best of intentions) at your resolve to homeschool at all. To tell the truth, this is often when we DON'T FEEL LIKE SCHOOLING ANYMORE. There, I said it. I, lover of all things homeschool and passionate advocate for homeschooling, have admitted that it isn't always sunshine and roses. Sometimes the key goes from major to minor. We wonder "if I find it an effort to shower today and preparing food for the family seems like an insurmountable challenge, would my child be better off at school today?". We question "surely if I could just sent them off to school I could get it together more, have some peace with no demands for a few hours."

We read homeschooling blogs, books, forums and support sites. We listen to the other Mums at homeschool groups and co-ops. We watch the Duggars on TV. And we wonder, am I the only one that doesn't have it together? The truth is, so many of us in the homeschooling world have had to defend our choices so often to everyone from our in-laws to the old lady in the grocery shop to actually admit that we feel sad and today life is tough IS HARD TO DO! But the fact is, friends get sick, accidents happen, people die. Life happens. And it's sad sometimes. If you think it is "un-Christian" to feel this way, I invite you to read Ecclesiasties, Lamentations, a fair portion of the Psalms, the stories of Israel in Exodus. I invite you to remember, Jesus wept..

Some things to remember:

* Teachers have off days and down times too. They struggle through and try not to let it touch the kids for the most part, but they are not on the top of their game. One teacher I knew lost her mother, had major surgery and experienced major trauma within her family all in one year and still kept teaching all year. Yes, she did an OK job, the kids didn't get bells and whistles and things were kept simple. My point is, how do you know that if you send them to school they aren't going to be taught by another grief affected person?

* Grief and sadness is a part of life. There is an article on Grief and Homeschooling which challenges the idea that it is best to isolate children from grief. Perhaps it is best to experience this together as a family. Perhaps it underestimates our children to think that they will not pick up on and be affected by our grief simply because they are out of the house 8 hours a day?

* It is OK to go vanilla! Julie from Brave Writer talks about experiencing grief and homeschooling in this article and insightfully recommends dropping the bells and whistles. It will not harm your children to spend a year just doing the three R's - and the basics of those. They will learn.

* Plan 'slack' into your program. There are the 'big' griefs, like a family member passing away or major illness touching the family, but there are also the 'little' griefs that rock your boat. Like the dog dying. If there is 'slack' in your program, like slow days planned into each week and a catch up week for the term, it is much easier to relax about having a few days of doona therapy where 'schooling' is a few read alouds and DVD's.

* Take a break. Now I don't have many family or friends who I can drop all four of my kids off with for the day. This pretty much only happens when I am going off to add another bundle! But, I can feed the kids fish and chips, on a quilt in front of the TV, then put them to bed early and they consider it a special treat. I can ask Papa Bear to watch everyone for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon while I take some time out to pray, meditate, journal or window shop on Etsy. I can even ask Papa Bear to take the two older ones away for the weekend which leaves me naptimes and evenings of complete quiet and solitude - something I need to heal. Get inventive, but there is a way. Even if it is to throw your apron over your head and refuse to come out for a while!

* Get Help. If you suspect you are suffering from depression (which I have dealt with more fully in my old blog here) this goes double! Help may be professional counseling, or it may be letting your husband, friend, mother, pick up the slack for you a bit.

So what about you? What have your experiences with grief and homeschooling been like? How do you homeschool in a minor key?

How do you remember that you WILL come out of the doldrums and one day, you will be in full sail again?

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