When I first sat down to ask my husband what he thought about my homeschooling our seven-year-old child, he gave me only two rules:
- Rule One: If my child and I were either having a bad day arguing or getting stressed about learning, we were to stop what we were doing and intentionally direct our energy to some other form of learning.
- Rule Two: If, and when, our schedule ever got out of control, I must be willing to step aside from my constant need for everything to go as planned. I was even to take the day off.
These may not seem like a big deal to most people, but in my world, I am motivated by rules and regulations. I know the exact number of days we need to school each month to make sure we're homeschooling the legal and correct amount. What he was asking seemed impossible; however, I acquiesced and accepted my husband's rules. My son enters the ninth grade this September. Looking back over the last six years, my husband’s advice was the best homeschooling guidance I ever received.
Homeschool moms and dads range in terms of flexibility from one end of the spectrum to the other. In my small homeschool circle of friends, I know some are very comfortable with an unschooling model. Others, like myself, follow a more rigid schedule. No matter what your school leadership style is, events like welcoming a new child, caring for an elderly or ill family member, or being faced with a family crisis can throw the most relaxed, well-planned parent into disarray.
The key to not letting the unexpected in life heave your homeschool world into chaos is this: life is a process of ebb and flow. Some days it’s going to work, and some days, often days and days, it won’t. It’s those times when things aren’t working where we need a mental plan in place for coping with the unexpected.
1. Build a mental framework for your worst-case-scenario.
Your life experiences and circumstances will best help you determine what that might be. What happens when the schooling parent is unable to teach? What tools are in place to help children learn on their own while Mommy recovers or while Dad is helping Grandpa?
Building a framework involves taking the time to think through all the elements that you’d need to face in a schedule change or crisis. It’s not focusing on the worst for anything more than preparing your heart, head, and home for what you might need to face in the future. Even if it’s not a worst-case scenario, when change is unexpected and unplanned, things can catch us off guard. We must think through what life could be like in what-if scenarios.
2. Make a list of your needed resources.
This doesn’t mean you must be an extreme prepper and purchase things you wouldn’t normally need. It is a great idea to have a list nearby so that someone who is helping can step in easily and assist. Sometimes stress can be so overwhelming, we cannot think through what needs to be done. Having a contingency plan in place will help keep things going when you cannot.
3. Practice self-giving grace.
This is perhaps the most vital step. No one is harder on you than you are. It’s human nature to think the world is falling apart because we haven’t met our own expectations. It is natural to think this, yes, but it is not healthy. We need to be able to dole out large amounts of grace and mercy for ourselves, our spouses, and our children when changes come along.
I used to think if my child did not graduate with the year his public school peers did, he might be scarred in some deep emotional way. Come to find out, in following my husband instructions, we have approached homeschooling with a “do what you can” attitude. Now that we are approaching high school, we aren’t in a rush to meet my preconceived notion of the perfect date anymore. We changed our mindset and followed the road the Lord set before us without extreme amounts of stress.
It was a good thing too because we have had some road bumps along the way. We moved my retired parents from California to Texas, we dealt with a long-term illness, and a major job crisis for my husband, all while I went back to school. And just last year, we bought and began renovating a home for missions work overseas. If I had held to my rigid ways, I would never have made it through these times the way I did.
The process is simple. Build yourself a framework and think through the possible changes your life might entail. Make a list of all that you will need to deal with those changes. Live a life of mercy and grace, especially toward yourself, your spouse, and your children. Trust me, these three things can make a world of difference.