Saturday, June 25, 2005

Homeschooling in Times of Crisis

Someone asked about homeschooling during times of crisis -- what are the essentials and how one schedules when life is unpredictable -- so here's the answer I wrote:

...I will pray for you.This is just how one person, myself, does crisis-mode unschooling.Please take it for what it's worth.

About the essentials:

When medically fragile 6th child is in the hospital, which happens regularly, I go to a modified version of the Robinson Curriculum....not the actual book choices, but the method: focus on math, daily writing practice even if it is just copywork or free story writing,and the rest of the school day spent on reading a variety of books which cover all the content subjects like history, science, etc.

For pre-readers, I focus on teaching basic reading and writing skills,and only get to the math a couple of times a week if I couldn't do more than that.

Religion education becomes basically a part of family life -- prayer,character training, read alouds and discussion, as time permits.

Basically, during crisis times I try to make sharing literature a way to interact with my children; especially when I am emotionallyexhausted it is a nice way to be close without a lot of demands on my energy and creativity! and sometimes we play board games for the same reasons, plus they do foster thinking skills. Another mom might do arts and crafts.

As to how to schedule when life is unpredictable:

I have a Plan A and Plan B. Plan B is as I described above -- basic 3Rs, plus literature and informal religious formation. Plan A is what I add on when I can -- Latin, catechism, and whatever else seems important but takes some instruction/motivation time on my part. ...grammar, formal composition teaching, etc.

I also try to "plant seeds" when things are stable. I don't know if I can explain this. Say I spend a summer and begin nature walks and journals with my kids. If they like it, it plants a seed which growseven when I don't have time to keep it up -- they continue their journals and walks on their own because they like to. An intellectual habit has been formed. Another example: I knew when my 7th was born,he would be in the hospital for some time. So I trained the kids to basically maintain the house without me. That was a seed which continues to bear fruit because now it's second nature to them, mostly.

This "seed planting" is not something to stress out about when things are already stressful, but just something that can pay off if your life is unpredictable and there are smooth times and hectic times. I keep an informal list and look for opportunities to do this "seed planting".

I firmly believe that Corporal Acts of Mercy -- nurturing a newborn, a sick child, ailing parents -- are HUGE "seeds", the most important in life, and that modelling a "witness for the culture of Life" for your children is a real blessing even if it's harder to get to all the academics. So please think of it that way if you can, because you are teaching something very crucial by what you are living right now.

HTH, I don't know if it's what you are asking! My kids are mostly older which makes it easier in a way (because they can read) harder in a way (because of high school concerns, etc). But this method has gone quite far even for my graduating senior.

Also, here's what I wrote to someone who is homeschooling and dealing with medical issues:

Our sons' disorder may have a genetic component -- it's so rare that the drs are not sure yet. It acts as a kind of placental incompatibility which transfers lethal amounts of iron from the mother to the unborn baby, which affects the baby's major organs and especially the liver. Our first 3 children and our 5th were born healthy. Our 4th child had what in retrospect looks like a mild case and was in the NICU for a few days. Our 6th was seriously affected but drs didn't figure it out until he went into liver failure. He was in the hospital for 7 months post-birth and then has been in and out periodically since.

They tell us that statistically the chances are very high that a future child will have the same condition. Our youngest was given an experimental treatment in utero (weekly IVIg infusions given to me to offset the immune response on my part that apparently causes the damage) and that seemed to help (plus prayers). Normally the only remedy is a liver transplant, but he did not need one. It is different from your case in that the damage is done by birth and so it is not degenerative except as a consequence of that damage, if that makes any sense.

YES, I often worried about handling the other childrens' needs PLUS spending many days and months in the hospital. I could probably write a book about it. You probably could too. I just tried a couple of times to write out a response and deleted it because it didn't sound right.
I guess the key is to ask God for wisdom, and to realize that the bottom line is that none of us can meet our kids needs in our own strength -- and that God has promised to make His strength perfect in our weakness. I know you know that, so I'm not sure it helps at all! I was so burned out and worried when my oldest went into his high school years.... at the same time Aidan was having many problems and needed oxygen and lots of other medical care at home, and I was pregnant with Patrick and had to spend almost all day at the hospital twice a week. The "world" thought that we were crazy to even have a seventh child in those circumstances -- we weren't sure if Paddy would make it or if he too would need a transplant.

I was definitely beyond my human strength but God did give us the grace we needed to go on. I thought a lot about how our Lord stumbled and fell, not once, but three times on His road to Calvary. I thought that if He got to the end of His strength and that this was not failure, but victory, in the end, that the same could be true of mothering and continuing to homeschool. I could "feel" like I was failing and yet be accomplishing God's will by letting His strength work through my weakness. I know by experience that that's easier to say than it is to live.

We were led by prayer to continue homeschooling but it was a continuing discernment. Definitely I don't think that everyone is called to continue homeschooling in all circumstances. However, sometimes a family might feel they are called to continue homeschooling, but feel inadequate. That was how I felt. But some of my "inadequacy" was just a matter of comparing my homeschool with some ideal one or with what I imagined a "building school" would be like. So there's a matter of distinguishing between how God sees it and how the "world" sees it.
Oh, I know there is SO much more to say than this! but the kids are waking up and I have to get the day started. -- .. I will be praying for your family, you are a witness for life and faith to me !

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