Missing a day of school from time to time won’t necessarily ruin the program. However, missing over a month and a half is going to have a seriously negative impact.
I knew this, which is why I was tempted to enroll my eight children in public school.
After my youngest son died, getting through the day was difficult enough. Homeschooling seemed almost impossible. I struggled with even getting out of bed.
When I did, it was very difficult staying focused, educating with positive enthusiasm, or motivating my children.
Everyone said it was reasonable for me to take the time I needed to grieve. How much time is that exactly?
Weeks passed without any educational structure. My critical inner voice frequently suggested that the children should be enrolled in a public school so they could get some sort of education. Of course, this self-criticism only made me feel more depressed.
My children were grieving too, I’d remind myself. It definitely wouldn’t be healthy to send them away to an institution during their time of need.
The choice was before me. Send them for government education so I could sleep my life away, or get up and go through the lesson plans.
Honestly, I don’t think I could have ever put my children in public school. But, my logical mind was faced with an ultimatum, and that forced me to start teaching again.
Homeschooling Actually Saved Me
Homeschooling actually saved me. If my kids had been in public school, I might have slept all day, every day from then on. But, they weren’t, and as much as I didn’t want the responsibility then, I wasn’t about to add more stress to the lives of my children by changing their environment.
Motivating myself wasn’t easy though. Even after I mentally recommitted myself to homeschooling, it took several days to get back into practice. I would read a little with one child and help another with math, but afterward, I would be exhausted and felt no satisfaction from completing homeschool tasks.
This little effort, however, is what started the momentum. Just a couple hours each day, unstructured, whenever I felt energetic, is all it took to get the ball rolling again.
During this time, it occurred to me that I needed to reevaluate why I homeschool. That is when I realized how truly blessed we are as a homeschool family.
My children were able to struggle and grieve in the security of our home. We could take our school vacation whenever we needed it—and we needed it then.
We were able to ease back into school, and I understood why they were struggling and was patient with them. They were able to complete schoolwork in their pajamas while sipping hot chocolate. I was their grief counselor and they were my comfort. What at first seemed to be a tremendous burden was actually the grace of God.
Homeschool as a Positive Blessing
How different things might have turned out had my children been in public school. Likely, they would have struggled emotionally and academically. And I would have had the time I wanted to sleep, to do nothing but wallow in my grief. Thank God, that didn’t happen.
Certainly, I was grieving and needed time to myself. But, I also needed to learn how to check my grief and manage it. There were many situations where my children would say something funny or do something adorable.
At first, I felt I was supposed to be sober and was ashamed to smile. The most important advice I can give is when that urge to smile happens, don’t resist it. Let it happen with all its simplicity and power. It’s okay to smile. You deserve to be happy even when you have a reason to be sad.
“We cannot prevent ourselves from feeling much regret at separation,” says Saint Francis de Sales. “This regret is not forbidden us, provided we moderate it with the hope of not remaining entirely separated, but consider that in a little time we shall follow our friends to heaven.”
The consoling thoughts of St. Francis gave me the courage I needed to continue and helped me understand how to order my thoughts and emotions. It was important for me to focus on the positive blessings in my life. Being able to homeschool is one of those blessings.
1. Schooling Outside
Instead of doing our lessons in the depressing dark basement, we went out on the lawn. The warm spring sun pressed against our backs, while the cool air refreshed us. The scent of hyacinths flitted on the air, providing us with mental stimulation.
It felt wonderful to be outside. So, we decided to spend the rest of an early week studying botany.
God in His goodness already knew what scientists have recently discovered. That is, soil microorganisms contain anti-anxiety properties. No wonder I felt so positive transplanting purple petunias.
If you don’t have a garden space, buy a potted plant and a new ceramic planter. Look at the creation of God! Here is a flower that the good God created just to make you smile.
2. Go on a field trip.
That’s what we did next. Keep it simple, but go somewhere new or to your favorite hiking place. Teach your children to observe wildlife and try to identify birds. Field guides are extremely helpful on nature hikes. Try to help your children identify as many plants as you can. This will get you close to nature and observing the beauty of our world, which is a reminder of all we have to be thankful for.
3. Bring a quilt and a picnic.
There is something extremely enjoyable about eating outdoors on a blanket. It is the little things in life that make it so wonderful, and we should hold onto those little things with determination.
4. Have a Lavender Bath
After a long, tiring day exercising in nature, give yourself a hot bath with lavender Epsom salt or sip some chamomile tea. Treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated and don’t feel you have to make an excuse for yourself or wait for someone else to treat you kindly. Buy yourself flowers, create a space in your home where you feel comfortable and then make a list of what you want to accomplish the next day.
5. Take frequent breaks.
Work on school for an hour, then take 15 minutes to file your nails. Read to your children for 30 minutes, then finish that chore you’ve been putting off.
School doesn’t have to be done all in the morning. It may be accomplished throughout the day. Use a timer so you don’t obsess over a subject. If you and your child have been struggling with a subject for more than an hour, stop. Move onto the next subject with renewed enthusiasm.
6. Every hour, use a timer and give yourself 10 minutes.
Check your email, play a game of candy crush, or make a phone call. Don’t martyr yourself. If you become ill because you don’t care for yourself, who is going to care for your children?
Your first obligation is to keep yourself healthy and sane so you can care for them.
- Consoling Thoughts of Saint Francis de Sales: Consoling Thoughts on Eternity, pg. 286
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