Four years ago my family's life was flipped upside down by a drunk driver who left my four nieces and one nephew without their homeschooling mother. He also left me without my best friend. My family adjusted our rhythm to support them for the next couple of years. It was difficult to keep going through those trying times, but we walked with a purpose and God carried us through.
I'm feeling some of the same kinds of challenges with this new world shaking pandemic of COVID-19. Although at this point, the only impact I've felt is the difficulty of quarantine, I know how life changing this event will be for many families around the world.
The challenging thing is that when this pandemic season comes to an end, there will be something else that challenges your homeschool. Next year it could be the loss of a job, depression, illness, or sending your child off to college. There are always trying times. Some are more difficult than others, but it is important to identify them and work together as a family to navigate the uncertainty.
Here are some ways that we've found helpful in continuing to walk with a purpose through trying times:
1 - Scale Your Workload
It is strange that while I have so much additional time on my hands, the required school workload seems too much to carry. You'd think that I'd be so much more productive, but my heart is heavy with the burdens of my family, friends, and neighbors.
I'm also adjusting to learning new technologies to keep my people connected which takes an amazing amount of brain power. So scaling my normal workload is imperative.
Our kids are feeling it too. By cutting down the required assignments, I'm not just giving them hours of extra free time. I'm encouraging them to pursue things they love: reading, painting, singing, and gardening. Use this time to pursue other realms of study that feel life giving. Don't feel guilty.
2 - Dream Together
Counting down the days until things return to "normal" can sound like a fun activity, but when the days keep changing, and normal feels like it needs to be renamed, it can really drag you down.
After my sister passed away, I found myself juggling anywhere from five to ten kids at my house during homeschooling hours. On top of that, my husband was teaching music lessons each afternoon with more families filling our home. In seeking the Lord for help, He gave me a dream: build a library.
As a kid, I loved playing library with my sister, so this was a great project. I enlisted all of my kids to dream with me. We had so much fun walking through IKEA and imagining what this space could look like. I still can't believe that God made that dream a reality for us in transforming our patio into a bonus room. Here's the big reveal if you're interested.
While we're not planning huge renovations during COVID-19, we are finding ways to dream together. This time we're dreaming about using this down time to read. We've started a book chain—like the ones you make for Christmas—to visually capture how many we've accomplished together. We will see how long we can make our chain while we're hunkering down.
It's about focusing on a lovely thing and not fueling our anxiety. I've got them all into Goodreads and we're having fun with great books together.
3 - Spend Time Outdoors
One of the best things we've done during the past two weeks is walk together. There was one day when it rained that we realized how important our walks have been to our well being.
First of all, if we never take a break, we can either work all day, sleep all day, or veg all day. None of those options are healthy. Getting out every afternoon for a walk has been a great way to rest our minds, renew our spirits, and exercise our bodies.
We all have FitBits, which has been a fun way to track our exercise and challenge ourselves. I signed up for the 90 day free trial of FitBit premium and it has been fun playing Bingo or creating an "all for one" challenge to keep us moving.
4 - Invest in Wartime Learning
When we first realized that this COVID-19 thing would be more than just a couple of days off of school, we sat down with our kids and read this sermon by C.S. Lewis entitled Learning in War-Time. It was a great way to process what we were currently experiencing. It also offered us a well-respected opinion on how to think when conditions for learning are unfavorable.
When we were all on the same page, it helped us manage our expectations for one another and ourselves.
"For that reason I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with "normal life". Life has never been normal."C.S. Lewis - Learning in War-time
It is really nice to have some wise counsel in unprecedented times.
5 - Stay Connected
I have the privilege of living in a home with six other people. Typically, my home consists of my husband and me, our two daughters (16 and nearly 14), and my mother. Five. However, in January, my college-aged niece moved in with us, and then my son was sent home from college for safety, which brings our household total up to seven.
There is a lot of interaction with seven near adults to communicate with each day. It has been genuinely enjoyable. I realize that not everyone has this same scenario. It's important to stay connected with friends through texting, phone calls, and social media (who would have thought that could be redeemed for such a time as this?).
It's really pretty crazy how much we need to hear one another's voice. I'm an introvert, so generally, I'm good with limited interaction. However, I've realized how much I truly love being around people whether they wear me out or not! I'd rather be hugging a friend and talking for hours than isolated for the rest of my life.
6 - Rework Old Systems
I used to make meal plans and cook from recipes, but with the changes in the food availability, we've had to rework our system. We buy food for a certain number of meals and then just post what we have on the fridge.
Since I have so many cooks in my home, we share the load of meal-making. When it's their night to cook, they just pick what they want to make off of the list and go for that! It's not normal, but we couldn't operate in the same way as before.
Our cleaning routine has also changed. We're working collectively to clean the house. If we set a timer and all work hard together, we can reclaim the house in a matter of minutes. It really uplifts my spirits to have a tamed house. When you're living in it 24-7 it can get wildly out of control. Can anyone relate?
7 - Lean into God's Word
This may have been the hardest thing to do after my sister passed away. The hurt in my heart was so raw that I almost didn't want to be comforted, or at least I didn't trust God's goodness even through my trial.
It took me about six months to humble my heart and submit to His tender care. I read the first 12 verses of the book of John for the next six months just allowing His truth to soften the hardness of my heart.
Slowly but surely my heart was restored and God's Word renewed my mind to line up with His Truth about my circumstances. I've learned that staying close to Him through reading the Bible provides a refuge in the midst of the storm. He's trustworthy and able to carry us through the hard times.
His purpose is what allows us to walk with a purpose through trying times.
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.