There is something you should know about me in order to understand the underlying, um, issues. I have a panic/anxiety disorder. I deal at various times with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. In short, I have a mental illness.
Yep, I have a mental illness. I am not afraid to say that. (you can read all about my journey with it here if you like…)
In the rush of life I forgot to refill my prescription for my anxiety meds, and the weekend has turned into three days without them. It’s funny how I forget how much I actually need them until they aren’t in my system. Today has not been an ideal homeschooling day at The Schaffner School of Cool (aptly named by my children, of course). Mom has been a little on edge, out of it, and possibly asleep. (don’t judge – I have a baby who doesn’t sleep, so when I put him down to nap I fell asleep too!)
I know we’ve all been there. We wake up and swing our feet to the floor just as we feel the pressure in our head, or the twinge in our neck, or the fog of depression descend. Life happens, illnesses happen, and as much as I may have a beef with God about it – Moms are not immune.
And not only are we in control of getting our kid’s ready for their day, feeding them, providing for them, taking care of their basic needs – but as homeschoolers we are also in charge of their education. No pressure, just the entire trajectory of their lives hangs in the balance…
How do you homeschool well while dealing with something as serious as mental illness? Or serious illness? Or even a miserable cold that knocks you down for days at a time? It’s not like we get to take sick days and lay in bed binge watching Netflix and napping the day away. (pause, please, for daydreaming).
In our home the number one strategy for overcoming days like this is: work yourself out of a job. I try to set up as much as I can to be able to be done without me hovering. My day begins with writing in my kiddo’s spiral notebooks. Sarah Mackenzie of Amongst Lovely Things shared a post once about using simple spiral notebooks in her homeschool to keep on task and it has worked wonders for us. I simply sit down when I get up in the morning and write out a checklist of what my kids need to accomplish that day, in school and chores, and hand it over. I would say about 60% of our homeschooling material can conceivably be done without me there, so they are pretty capable of getting out their lists and books and getting down to business.
I was Über proud today when I woke up from the accidental napping to find they had continued with their school work instead of taking advantage of the time off!
I know that this strategy only works when kids are old enough to be at least a little self-motivated. I have a 3rd grader and a 5th grader, so it’s become a little easier for this to happen in our home. I well remember the little years when there was no free time without fear of possibly losing a child or burning down a house.
When your kids are small you have to think outside of the box for different strategies. Is there a friend or family member nearby that can serve as a substitute teacher? Maybe Grandma could step in for the day and teach reading and math while you get a little break? I’m also a firm believer in the power of media when it is necessary. Sometimes it’s okay to park your kid in front of a LeapFrog video. Really. Not only will it not harm them for life, but you will get a much needed break while they learn the sounds of the alphabet in a tune that will stick with them for life. (and you, it will haunt you…) If it’s a treat and not a daily occurrence then it can be used as a tool to help you when you need a break. Save it for the “rainy” days!
We all have these days. Sometimes it’s a short season of colds and flu, sometimes it’s a long season of pregnancy and morning sickness. Either way, give yourself a break. It happens to us all and we can only do so much. One of the beauties of the homeschooling lifestyle is that you can always make it up some other time. Or don’t. Either way I guarantee your kids are getting a much more tailored education than they every would outside of home.
So, relax. God knew exactly what He was doing when he put those particular kids in your life. He knew the struggles that would come and he has provided for it. Just breathe.