This is the second time I sat down to write today. When I started this morning, or rather, tried to start, I had just logged into the computer when my son called me from the garage to let me know that our freezer was full of food that was no longer frozen. Needless to say, my plans for the day, and for the next few days if I’m being honest, changed. Dealing with unintentionally defrosted meat, vegetables, fruit, and popsicles is messy and time consuming. I threw away packets of colored sugar water, tossed greens that had been frozen for smoothies that were now piles of slime, moved dripping packages of food from the warm freezer to garbage bags to catch the drips to the inside fridge. My children helped, and I was thankful for that. Assignments were given to start a roast in a crock pot, and my daughter looked up and prepared a new and delicious recipe for berry crumble bars to utilize some of the thawed mixed berries. I did go to the bathroom and cry for a moment, mostly for the waste, partly for my interrupted plans. Then I cleaned out the freezer, wiping up spills that had been left previously, wondering if only green popsicles leak or if all freezer leaks combined become green. Then I closed that clean freezer and hoped it was going to get cold again. We think there was a box on top that kept it from being closed securely, so I also moved that box.
I couldn’t help but think that this is a lot like what the world is experiencing right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in regard to education. When schools closed in the spring, everyone’s plans had to change. We had to learn new platforms; we had to prioritize time. We were thankful for people who were helping; we may have even found some new and delightful ways of doing things. Because of the ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic and schools not being able to continue the way they used to, many parents who maybe never would have considered it before are deciding to homeschool. Fifteen(ish) years ago, that was me.
“I never intended to homeschool,” is how I always start when people ask me about my homeschooling journey. Because I really didn’t. It just happened. I decided to take turns doing preschool classes with my friends because we really didn’t have the money to send our three year olds to someone else, and we figured we could play with numbers and letters and colors, and they got practice sitting their little bodies in little chairs, so we did it. People gave me things out of the blue. People with experience and needed advice came into my life. It just happened. Every year I prayed, a little fearfully, to know if it was still the right thing. I followed that internal compass and watched as my children learned and grew. It was exciting to help them learn to read and then use that foundational skill to learn so much more! I learned right along with them, and I loved it.
Life can be messy, and with changes in plans, we learn to adapt. My family moved frequently, so we just took our school with us. Some of the places we’ve lived, I was able to set up a fabulous school room and put educational posters and white boards on the walls and have cubbies and shelves dedicated to school things. Some of the places we’ve lived, I just didn’t have that kind of space. Each kid had a clear bin they kept in their room (clear so you can see what’s in it without opening it!) that held all of their workbooks, notebooks, small white boards, and personal projects while reference books and readers stayed on living room shelves. Globes have been tools and decorations.
The kitchen doubles as a laboratory. Unless it’s a really messy experiment, in which case the bathroom or back porch will do. I have used free programs, books given to us, used books, brand new books; they all work. Some people create a school at home, some people create a life of free learning; I’ve mostly been about in the middle. There are as many different curricula and homeschool styles as there are families. We have been blessed to have found wonderful co-ops in some of the places we’ve lived, but even those were all different in structure and activity. Some of the places we’ve lived we became close friends with the librarians, others, not so much. Some places had great classes at museums, others, not so much. We have just had to make the best of what was available in each area, but that was all part of the adventure.
That is what I hope all of you parents who find yourselves homeschooling for the first time, even if you never intended to, can find. I hope you can see this is an adventure as you deal with the changes in plans. Above all, do not compare your choices, your children, your school-room or lack thereof to anyone else and feel bad that you don’t have what they have. I guarantee they have things they deal with that you do not want. It is fun to look at Pinterest for ideas, but don’t let it get you down if you can’t recreate it.
For all parents, homeschooling, helping your kids with distance learning, or sending your kids back to school in person, I hope you know that what your children need most is for you to care about them and their education. Be involved at whatever level you can be. Follow your internal compass and trust yourself to make the decisions that have to be made. Let your children know that you value education, and encourage them to find joy in this journey as well. Education can happen in so many different ways, and sometimes changing our plans and adapting to our circumstances can help us learn and do so much more than we ever thought we could.