Most of us who have homeschooled for a little while can tell you one of our favorite things about this lifestyle is the flexibility homeschool offers. With six years of homeschooling under my belt, I can tell you that for our family, the flexibility is my favorite “perk” of being a homeschooler.
In my introduction I shared a little bit about our family. Allow me to share a little more and tell you why flexibility is so important to us. My three kids – ages 12, 9, and 8 – each have their own special medical needs. My oldest daughter lives with a chronic and sometimes crippling anxiety disorder. My middle daughter was born with a rare genetic disease called Hecht-Beals Syndrome. This syndrome causes a multitude of health problems. Her brother, my youngest child, also has Hecht-Beals and he’s also a severe dyslexic.
I don’t share these things with you for sympathy, I promise. I know many of you reading this post deal with similar issues. Each of our children are unique and equally as precious. I share them with you so that I can paint a picture of what our life is like, day-in and day-out.
We spend a great deal of our time in waiting rooms -frequent doctors appointments, therapy appointments, and usually a few times a year we have surgeries or hospitalizations for medical tests. The children’s hospital that provides most of my kids’ care is a 45 minute drive, one way, with perfect traffic conditions. So, just making a doctors appointment takes at the very minimum 2 hours out of our day. (And it’s usually more like 3-4 hours when you factor in the waiting room delays, etc.)
In addition to the time away from home, my son also has to be given a medication five times a day. We must work this into our schedule no matter where we are or what we are doing.
Through these situations, we’ve come to embrace a relaxed, almost unschooling attitude. When times are difficult, we can still accomplish learning in some way, shape, or form. Gone are the days of stressing about curriculum and getting every subject done each school day. Most days, I’m thrilled if we tackle the big ones – reading, writing, and math. I’ve learned to “sneak in” school in some of the most unlikely places.
In January of this year, my son and daughter were in two different hospitals at the same time. Talk about overwhelming! To say we were homeschooling in the midst of difficulty is an understatement. It was during this season of life that God really pressed upon me the gift of flexibility that homeschool affords us.
Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation, homeschooling through a difficult time. I encourage you to take a deep breath, relax, and learn to go with the flow. Learning CAN and SHOULD happen any where at any time. It doesn’t even have to be forced or planned. Just try to look for the opportunities around you.
Here are a few of the things that have helped our family when homeschooling in the midst of difficulty:
-BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS. So many lessons can be taught with good literature. You can combine science, history, and more with the right novel. If your children are old enough, pick books that will do “bonus” teaching for you. For younger children, find some good picture books and read aloud. This has proven invaluable to us on long or short hospital stays. A great side benefit is that my children have each learned to love literature in their own way. My dyslexic son still can’t read very well on his own, but he loves for me to read to him.
-AUDIOBOOKS. Listening to books in the car on our long hospital days are great ways to learn and have a little fun. My family is nuts about all of the Lamplighter Theater CD’s. I highly recommend them.
-TV??? Before you think I use TV as a babysitter I’ll defend myself and say it isn’t true. However, we’ve found some great programs both on TV and online that have helped us learn on-the-go. It’s been a good way to get science and history into my kids. Checking out science DVDs from the library have also helped me supplement their education during difficult times.
-Got Apps? We’ve used apps for so many different things – teaching multiplication facts, states & capitals, foreign language fun, and so much more. And it should be noted that I’m extremely frugal. I hardly ever pay for apps. There are so many good ones out there for FREE!
-Go with their flow. If my kids are really into something, we roll with it. Right now, my 8 year old son is really into Bengal Tigers, courtesy of a show he saw on television. So, we’ve followed that bent for a few weeks. Allowing my children to follow their interests helps save me planning time, especially when there just isn’t any extra time to give.
-Disposable Workbooks. I’m really *not* a workbook-y kind of homeschooler. I normally don’t care for them in the traditional sense. But, when you’ve got a few hours to kill in the hospital and you need to sneak in some math or language arts, don’t underestimate the power of a cheap disposable workbook. They’re easy to carry along with you and they can help reinforce concepts without much planning ahead. We personally like some of the really cheap ones you’ll find in most stores like Walmart.
-Let them do something with their hands. Knitting, crocheting, drawing…we typically pack a tote bag of quiet things to do while sitting in doctors offices.
-Blank Notebooks. Blank notebooks often turn themselves into journals or homemade story books. To be honest, as long as my children are writing I am happy. I don’t impose topics or heavy writing prompts on them. I just let them write. These are also easy to pack for on-the-go travel. Every year when the back-to-school sales are on, I buy dozens of these for about $0.25 each.
Homeschooling can be done in the midst of trials. I am living proof. If anything, sticking with home education through difficult circumstances has made us a stronger family. There’s no separation between home life, family life, and school life – it’s just one solid, fluid thing that we take with us wherever we go.