As home schoolers we sometimes face difficulties. Whether it is a move, a difficult child, illness of a family member or yourself, life’s problems can seem insurmountable in the face of more responsibility and less time. Home schooling is hard without problems, but what does one do when the problems get big enough for you to ask the question, “Should I keep homeschooling?”
When facing challenging situations, it is important to think through your options. The one thing you do not want to do is to have a knee-jerk reaction and throw your kids in school for six months while you have a crisis! Because kids appear to be more resilient, we sometimes mistakenly assume that it is easy for them to adapt, when in truth children are very sensitive to change and upheaval. Quick changes for which they are unprepared can cause insecurity and make learning difficult. The adjustment of changing school situations can be very hard on them and hard for you to help them when you are already stressed with your situation.
Kids are surprisingly perceptive about their family life. If they are worried about what is happening at home, particularly concerning illness, they are not going to learn well in a classroom environment anyway. If they are wondering if Mommy is feeling badly today, or if Grandfather will still be alive when they get home, it is no wonder that they will do poorly in school.
You might want to continue homeschooling even if you are dealing with illness in the family. Children gain security by forging through a crisis with you. Your presence is the most reassuring thing in their lives. Besides, there is a good chance your children may learn something they could learn no other way. We often experience more of God in difficulties.
One of the things your children will learn is reliance on God. They will be watching you as you navigate through this trial – watching you desperately need and depend upon God in a way people do when He allows a crisis to come. You notice that I did not say you would be doing everything right, being the perfect example. When problems come, they seem to bring out my weakness, not my strength! You can, however, model asking and trusting God, leaning on His mercy the best you can. That is what they will see and follow.
Children will also learn that they can be part of the solution. They love to feel that they have contributed to the well-being of the family. Give them ways to be helpful, and tell them you appreciate them. Families are bonded when they face difficulty together.
Children learn that they can pray and see God working. When difficulties come, children will learn that God does indeed answer prayer. They have an opportunity to see God work in their family to heal, take care of them, and comfort. Be sure to communicate to them what you see God doing for your family, and pray together with them, assuring them that God hears their prayers.
Let us now address some possible exceptions. Surely there are times when it would be best if a family put their children into school. Let us explore some scenarios.
High school students missing a year or even a few months at this stage of education could throw off graduation. On the other hand, would that be so bad? Consider taking an extra year. For many kids it would not be a bad idea, especially if the difficult situation will resolve.
A situation that is not likely to change for a long period of time might be an exception. An example might be having a high-need or special needs child who limits your ability to homeschool other children. A family member with a chronic illness is another example of a long-term situation, but before you throw in the towel for home education, look for creative solutions. Could you get special help for the high-need child every day for a few hours that would free time to spend with your other children? Do you have a grandparent or relative who would be willing to help? Maybe you can homeschool on the weekends or at odd times of the day. The important question to ask yourself is, “What is going to provide the most secure and happy childhood for my child?” There will be several things to consider, but asking this question can help clarify what might be the best answer today. Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose.” I believe God has a will and purpose for your family, which He will reveal for you to follow!
How can you cope? Make your child as independent as possible. This is not the time to try a unit study. Look for more traditional curricula, like textbooks and workbooks. Computer programs for children who are able are also a good choice. Most children will get bored using this method long-term, but it could get you through a difficult year. Consider utilizing some of the supplementary programs or co-ops available in your area, if transportation is not an issue.
Remember that if your child is in second grade or below, you should not expect independence. Your challenge at this level is to find a way to make school happen. When my son was ill, my kindergärtner desperately wanted to “do school” and needed some Mommy-time as well, which was a rarity just then. She was an early riser, so before anybody was out of bed, we got some juice and did our forty-five minutes of school. It helped satisfy our need to stay connected and kept her on track educationally as well.
Home schooling through difficulty is stressful for parents, and if you are stressed, your children are stressed too. Do not expect them to have a great year. This is survival. Children can make up for a bad year. They can turn around and make great gains when their world is settled again. Keep your eye on the big picture. Sometimes our most desperate situations are allowed by God for reasons we may never understand yet are of profound importance in the Kingdom. It may be that God has this difficulty tailor-made for your family, and in some strange way, it could be the best year you have had yet. Finally, do not forget to ask God for direction in all your searching for an answer.