Are you homeschooling through a major life event and stressed out of your mind? Major life events include having a new baby, moving, or dealing with an out-of-the-ordinary health problem, such as a broken leg, or surgery. Let me tell you what you need to do: Just relax.
This is one bit of advice that every experienced homeschooler will agree with me on. It is okay to take time for real life. Set aside your curriculum and teach your child how to navigate these life experiences. There are certain special life events that most of us don’t experience too many times. So teach your child how to get through those special, challenging events while you have the chance. Some special opportunities come with these life events that you can make the most of.
Adding a new baby or adopted child to your family is a major change for everyone. Teaching your children that it is not only good but necessary to have some quiet, cuddly time with your new family member will set them up for better planning as adults. In America, maternity leave has gotten so short as to be ridiculous, and paternity leaves are often non-existent. Set an example for your child of how to set aside your normal life, as you adjust to your new, bigger family.
New babies also give you a chance to teach your older child to be a caregiver and take care of both themselves and others. Even very small children can fetch a diaper or baby wipes. Older children can make themselves a snack and bring you one too. Asking your 4-year-old to bring you an apple, and thanking them for caring for you, shows them that it is not only the baby who needs to be cared for in a family. Encouraging them to read to their new sibling from early on, will later help you add baby into your homeschool routine.
Moving is a major life event, whether you do it often or rarely, and your child’s adult experiences with moving may be very different than their childhood. Showing your child how to pack up a home, and unpack in a new one is a valuable life skill. Take time away from the school books to explore your new city and neighborhood. Show your child how the furniture can fit differently in their new room. Let them experiment with how to arrange it. Teaching them to measure the furniture and see if it will fit where they want to put it is a life skill that is extremely helpful in adulthood.
Children who are prone to rigid thinking may struggle with the flexibility you have to have while moving, and it is important for them that you model how to deal with these challenges. As adults, moving will be less scary for them, because they experienced it as a child.
Short-term Health Problems
It is always okay to take a sick day or week due to a medical problem. Your child needs to learn that it is okay to rest and recover from injury and illness. You can easily set that example by just taking time off when your health isn’t up for it. In America, we have unhealthy attitudes about never taking time off for sick leave. Many of us have jobs that don’t even allow for sick leave. That doesn’t mean you should follow that example with your child.
If you have a health issue that is going to last longer than a few weeks, and you want to continue homeschooling through it, consider bedschooling, where you do lessons from your bed. You may also need to change up how you homeschool to use on-line classes, tutors or documentaries as a larger part of your child’s education while you recover.
Surgery and Hospital Stays
And, what if it is your child who has had to have surgery or major medical issue? Feel free to just take time off for your child to recover. If you do push through school work, there is a strong chance your child won’t be able to use or remember the information you present. When a person is in pain or struggling with health problems, they often have hormones or painkillers involved that cause the learning centers of the brain to be less engaged. It may make both of you feel better to choose some good read-alouds to share or to watch some educational shows or documentaries together during this time, but just put that math curriculum back on the shelf and worry about it when your child is well.
Letting your child take time off to recover also helps them make good choices about their health and recovery as an adult when you won’t be there to guide them. No curriculum is more important than your health or the health of your child.
Major medical events, like surgery, can result in many unintended life lessons, such as how to talk to a doctor or discuss your pain. Lessons your child will learn from this experience about medications, medical staff, and hospitals all count as both health class and life skills.
It isn’t linear
Oddly, all of these breaks from “real” education can result in your child making gains you didn’t see coming. After staring at an analog clock in his hospital bed for days, my son made several realizations about telling time with it that had not “clicked” before. I had not expected that.
Our recent move resulting in all the books we owned being put away, helped one child find more things they wanted to read. We sometimes think that education is very linear—moving along a clear path in one direction—but it isn’t. Education is also about the stops along the way and what we discover while smelling the flowers.
And if all else fails
Remind yourself that most schools take long summer breaks. You don’t have to. Take the break from schooling when you need it. You can get back to it when life settles down, and go from there. You set your own school calendar, and that means you get to take breaks when you need them. Teach your child that real life doesn’t always have to look the same from year to year or month to month.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.