I have debated, nay; wrestled with conflicting thoughts about whether to write this post or not. I’m going to come right out and say that I am slightly terrified to write this. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s this: Vulnerability is strength, and it deepens our ties with other people in the deepest, and yet most basic way. To know that there’s someone else out there who can say, “What? Me, too!” somehow lessens the threat of the issue du jour. So I’m going to do the thing that frightens me the most, and I’m going to be vulnerable and share my mess with you.
Sometimes life throws us a sudden curveball. It’s a fast punch in the gut, and it’s all we can do stumble to our feet and get back on track. But sometimes life is a slow train wreck, and it takes us a long, long time to realize that we are actually standing in the wreckage, and we’ve been there a lot longer than we ever knew we were. That’s kind of where I am right now. And homeschooling through it all has been terribly hard and terribly wonderful at the same time. In many ways, it has kept me going. So the burning question is this: How do you keep homeschooling when your life is a freaking mess?
Just kidding. Sorry. That was a terrible joke. But here’s the thing: It’s kind of true.
Do you need to tend to the basics? Math, reading, and writing? Yes, of course. Sorry, there’s no shortcuts for that. But when you find yourself somewhere new and different and your heart is hanging heavy? It’s time to put down the heavy history books and go out and explore the crap out of your new environment with your kids. Go out and play, play, play. I cannot even begin to emphasize how important this is to surviving hard times. This does not have to be expensive. It can be as frugal as you want it to be. Do these things as much as possible:
- Go to the beach, weather permitting, at least twice a week. Find new beaches. Search for little beach critters while you are there. Science/Nature Study? Boom, done. Take pictures and look up your discoveries on your ipad/iphone/laptop when you get home.
- Go for walks or hikes with your kids. Pack the basics and do not freak out about getting dirty. Dirt is the least of your worries right now. Look at the trees, bushes, dirt, rocks, etc. Bring small field guides. Botany? Geology? Boom, done. ALSO…have your kids sketch their nature discoveries. Art? Boom, done. You don’t have to bring your art supplies with you on your adventure, although you most certainly can if you’d like. They can draw when they get home. Remember- LESS STRESS.
- Explore your city/town/village/hamlet. Find “your place” with your kids. We developed a new routine of finding a place to park, giving the kids quarters (math!) to figure out how many we’d need for our outing, then walking to a used bookstore, hanging out there for a bit, then walking to my favorite coffee shop, and THEN walking to the donut shop for a treat. This simple routine brought us a lot of joy in the midst of hard times. Routine. Community. We all know it’s a lifesaver. Make a new routine as soon as possible.
- Do something for other people. My oldest son asked me if we could make “care bags” for some of the homeless people around town. So we did. It wasn’t fancy, just some snacks and toiletries in a gallon sized ziploc bag, but it was a great experience for the kids to hand them out, and it sparked great conversation between us about homelessness and contributing factors and why compassion and kindness are so important, no matter what.
- Listen to music. Whatever brings the most joy to your heart. Never, ever underestimate the healing power of music and the bond it can forge between people.
- Ask your kids what they would like to do! When things are hard and feel out of control, giving your kids a choice helps them feel valued and esteemed (for the record, this is so important to do even when your life isn’t falling apart). Say. YES. This thing is hard for all of you. Movie night with popcorn? Yes. Go for an evening walk even though you are so tired you could. just. cry? Yes. An extra episode of Octonauts on a rainy day? Say yes. But…
- Maintain a home routine. Make your bed. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper. Brush your teeth. Get dressed. Bring your dirty dishes to the sink. Pitch in. Don’t shut down. Remember it’s the everyday, small moments that propel us forward.
All of these things contribute to healing, adapting, and moving forward. I have no idea what the future holds for us. None of us do, whether our lives are coasting along beautifully or not. But sometimes, all you need to remember is this: Do the next thing. No matter how small that thing is. Do the next thing.