When Life Broadsides Your Homeschool - Part 1

Families , Home School , Homemaking Add comments

by Vicki Bentley

You had a wonderful plan last fall for a well-rounded education, envisioning academic excellence and character development in your smiling, well-adjusted offspring. But then…It happened (pick one):

  • Your husband got transferred and you have now moved cross-country, separated from your family or community support system.
  • Your husband has been deployed and you pray for his safety while holding down the fort alone.
  • The morning sickness has lasted five months, and shows no sign of slowing.
  • The house burned down and the rental you finally found, sparsely furnished with blessings from the community, has been “home” for longer than you’d expected.
  • The test came back malignant.  
  • You are now the sole caregiver for an elderly relative.
  • The builders have been saying, “Just two more weeks...” for two years.
  • Or ____(fill in the crisis)__________

Even the “good” stresses of joyful events, such as that one tiny bleep on the ultrasound that turned out to be three, or the upcoming wedding or family reunion, can blindside us. Ah, the best laid plans….

A homeschool mom, who found herself in the midst of great upheaval, with one trauma after another in a short period, recently wrote me: 

"We got a good start with school, ever so many months ago, but it has been almost three months since we have been able to study regularly. I feel so far behind that I am completely overwhelmed as to how to go from here. Do I just start at the beginning of all the texts again? Do I review and try to ‘catch up’ to where we are supposed to be? I don't know. I am completely overwhelmed by the seeming enormity of the task facing me.” 

My friend Vanessa, who has struggled valiantly to homeschool the past two years while her husband has been going through cancer surgery and treatments, shares this insightful bit of wisdom: "When life broadsides you, the most important - and difficult - thing to do is re-establish 'normal.’  'Normal' provides a framework for healing." 

So, how do you find ‘normal’ again?

Start with a routine. When you feel so incredibly overwhelmed, just start with the basics of normal. What is getting dropped that just can't? Meals? Bedtimes? Basic housekeeping? Re-visit your routine – I don’t mean the sort of schedule that has you checking the to-do list every eight minutes, or dinging a bell to move from lunch to naptime. I mean covering at least the basics and having some regularity to your day. 

Knowing what comes next, without having to make one more decision, can be a relief. Children find security in routine, and we moms can find emotional freedom in having a basic structure for the day or week. For example: “I'll make a great effort to have breakfast by 7:30 and then lunch ready at 1:00 and supper at 6:30, and everyone has to be in their rooms by 9:00 p.m., whether they are in bed or quietly reading or something else safe (depending on ages).”

It helped us to have a morning start-up time of, say, 8:45 to meet in the living room for 15 minutes of family devotions. I would drop all else at 8:45 and call the kids in and put on a praise/worship song (CD) and we'd just close our eyes and sing for one or two songs. Then we'd have a quickie devotional or Bible/character lesson for about 8-10 minutes (from a book and the Bible – no major planning or thinking required), then pray together, either one of us or anyone who cared to (or some days, I'd have everyone pray aloud).

This gave me a consistent, prayerful, focused start to my school day, got everyone in one room, and gave us a launching point. That doesn’t mean we didn't occasionally crash and burn later, but at least we started right!

Make a short list of what has to be done. During times of major stress, such as miscarriages, family deaths, job losses and relocations, unexpected diagnoses, and more, the house stayed up pretty well because we use a practical but simple chore system(1), which has worked well through fifty kids, the changes of foster kids, moves, job losses, and more. At a minimum, make a list of the basic housekeeping or cleanliness standards that you consider non-negotiable. For example, my crisis list might look like this:

  • Do dishes.
  • Make the beds. (Critical for me! But simplify bed making with easy linens.)
  • Wash clothes (hint: we don’t need fifteen outfits per person).
  • Tidy bathroom daily and clean it weekly.
  • Sweep kitchen in the morning and clean up spills as needed.
  • Vacuum once a week.
  • Clean the fingerprints on the door glass and bathroom mirror (but the windows can wait).
  • Feed the pets.
  • Feed the family.  Oh, my…that means meals!

Consistent meals were a major challenge for me when I was overwhelmed by life. I was much better about consistent, nutritious, on-time-ish meals when I'd made menus. If you are having trouble coming up with menus, remember that your family is probably more impressed with eating nourishing food at a regular time each day than with trying a vast array of new foods each week. 

To get into the habit of regular, healthy dinner times, consider something as basic as a weekly rotation of the same basic meals. You can work up to scheduling certain categories of meals on the weekdays (for example: meatless meal on Monday, poultry meal on Tuesday, ground beef meal on Wednesday, poultry on Thursday, new recipe on Friday, etc.). Then, as you are more comfortable with menu planning, you could even plan a month at a time, if you have room to store the groceries for that many meals. (I found that when I planned/shopped for a month at a time, my cost per meal was significantly reduced.) Some moms find it helpful to make a family project of once-a-month cooking, to stock up on meals or pre-cooked components of meals.(2) 

Read Part 2

 1. We used the system that we developed, The Everyday Family Chore System by Family Resources. 

 2. See meal-planning suggestions and charts, as well as sample menus and recipes, in Everyday Cooking.

© 2008 Vicki Bentley. Used by permission of the author.

Vicki Bentley is happily married to her high school sweetheart Jim and is the blessed mother of eight daughters, foster mom of over fifty since 1985, and grandma to fifteen wonderful grandbabies (so far). She is the author of Home Education 101: A Mentoring Program for New Homeschoolers, My Homeschool Planner, The Everyday Family Chore System, Everyday Cooking, and various articles. Vicki has a heart for moms, and offers strong practical wisdom and encouraging words. www.everydayhomemaking.com

Valerie will be speaking at the following AHEAD conferences

April 19-21 CAPE - New Mexico Albuquerque, NM
May 11-12 CHAP - Pennsylvania Harrisburg, PA


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