Bend, don't Break
So I start a blog and promptly disappear for months on end? Sounds totally stable, right? I actually think that life is about seasons. Seasons occur in our homeschool journey and funnily enough, they seem to coincide with those life seasons. The temptation is to beat ourselves up for not sticking to a perfectly strict school schedule that never changes. But is life ever like school? School only allows for two seasons: summer and school. It doesn't allow for the true seasons of life: birth, sickness, moving, death, grief, joblessness, world-wide pandemics... Okay, in all fairness, the public schools did allow for that last one. School is rigid. Homeschool is flexible. In life, we have to bend so we don't break.
Flexing through grief
A few months before I started this blog my mother passed away. I had no idea how much that would affect our homeschooling. Logistically, nothing changed. We traveled to the funeral, spent some time with grandpa during the summer, and for all intents and purposes, life *should have* returned to normal. Spoiler: Life does not return to normal because there is no normal after losing your mom and grandma. Grief has no timetable. Grief didn't know we were supposed to get math done every day. Grief didn't check the schedule to see if there was time for mourning between spelling and science. Our days often started late because I really needed that extra cup of coffee and quiet. Some days didn't really start at all. We took a lot of time "off" this year to give our houseguest, Grief, the attention it deserved. In the back of my mind, I keep hearing that voice say, "Get back on schedule, you're falling behind!" But then the homeschool voice answered, "Behind who?" And then I realized that most of the benchmarks of where you are supposed to be at a certain point in the school year are made up for the ease of the school system and really aren't an indicator of your child's success on any particular day. There is plenty of flex room for grief.
Flexing through babyhood and toddlerhood
Baby B turned 1 just a month after my mom passed. Homeschooling with an infant was harder than usual, but homeschooling with a toddler can be near impossible at times. We settle in and start a math lesson and she starts dismantling the bookshelves. When we move on to English grammar, she moves on to climbing the dining room table to get to the marker box - its art class for her! This means CONSTANT interruption. Our learning schedule now allows for frequent breaks to chase down our mini Michelangelo before she turns the foyer wall into her own pint-sized masterpiece. Of course, my children, being the brilliant opportunists they are, take frequent advantage of my distraction and immediately abandon all pretense of academics and dive into much less productive endeavors - like fighting with each other. It's astonishing how little actual work we can get done in a day. But each day we start over and my flexing muscles get a new workout.
Flexing through the end of the world...
Since I teach students in China, I had a front row seat to the end of the world before it happened.
Alright, maybe I am being a tad bit dramatic.
Starting in January, just in time for their biggest holiday of the year - Spring Festival (known to most westerners as "Chinese New Year"), all of China closed down to deal with this mysterious virus spreading through their cities. My students told me about being at home all day, taking classes online, not being able to go anywhere or do anything. So I wasn't all that shocked in February and March when things started to shut down around here. I wasn't surprised when the stay at home orders started coming out. I thought, "Well, we homeschool anyway so things won't change all that much for us."
I was wrong.
I should get used to that by now. Dad worked from home, which we loved. All of our extras were cancelled, which we hated. We went from being together all the time to being together ALL. THE. TIME. You wouldn't think there would be that much of a difference, but trust me, there is. Do you have any idea how much mess 6 people can make in a day when they never leave their house? I developed an eye twitch. I felt like my house would never be clean again. Grief + toddler + pandemic = the world's most flexible homeschooling family. We're practically acrobats. Cirque du Soleil should be calling any day now.
Needless to say, all extraneous projects (like this blog/website) got taken off the back burner they were already on and were stashed unceremoniously in that tiny, useless cabinet above the refrigerator and promptly forgotten. May 2020 marked a year since my mom's passing. June marked my baby girl's second birthday. Many of the restrictions are being lifted and I feel like the light is coming back on in our lives. If I look at just the textbooks and workbooks on the shelves - it looks like we didn't learn much. But when I look into the eyes of my children I see that is clearly not the case. We have learned the truth of God's Word, that this world is not our home. We have learned to grieve together, to be compassionate with each other, and to comfort each other. My children have learned to care for their youngest sibling so that mom can take breaks when she is overwhelmed. I have learned how to coach a child through a loss I have personally never experienced before and a worldwide event that has never happened in my lifetime. My husband has learned to lean on our Provider and to rest in His will. I had no idea we would grow so much closer together through our shared loss and stress. A favorite catchphrase of homeschoolers is "homeschool is not school at home". Homeschool is really a lifestyle of learning and not all learning is quantified in worksheets and test. In fact, most of it isn't.