When everyone is falling apart …

lisakremer4picmonkThe following is a guest post written by Lisa Kremer of Life is a Journey.

I can’t think of many things in life more stressful than selling your house and moving.

Add to that six busy homeschooled kids.

Add to that the fact that this is our second move in one year. (Military families, I salute you …)

The boxes were piled up and the toys had been sifted through numerous times, me continually asking the kids (and myself): “Do we really need to hang onto that?”

We had a garage sale and took items to the local thrift store. We sold stuff online. We downsized in every way we could possibly think of and packed up the majority of our belongings so the house could be clean, uncluttered and appealing to potential buyers.

Everything we could do to prepare for this major life event was taken care of.

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What I didn’t count on was the stress. And it wasn’t just my stress as we walked through this transition — it was the acting-out, the emotional outbursts, the temper tantrums and so much more that my kids displayed constantly.

I understand now why spring is a preferable time to sell your home — because then maybe you can avoid moving at a time when life traditionally becomes very busy — with school starting up and so many activities resuming after summer’s lull.

During the last couple months I have learned a few things about kids and stress.  Hopefully my experiences can serve the purpose of helping others who might be going through a similar journey as a family.

1. Mama, just calm down.

There is a direct correlation between my response to stress and my kids’ responses.  The more I yell, the more they yell.  The more I run around the house like a chicken with my head cut off, the more mayhem and chaos I see in my kids as they begin to act out and terrorize the place.

The more I seemed stressed, the harder it is on them, and it seems to have a snowball effect until everyone is crying and falling apart!

2. Mama, slow down.

Understand your season.  Let go of unreasonable expectations, and realize that even though your kids may have the physical capacity to do schoolwork (time, space, etc.), they might be emotionally unable to carry on as normal.  (This certainly applies to the mom, as teacher/mentor/advocate, as well.)

If that means we only get one question done in a book before someone falls apart, then I just let it go. I am trying to focus on more “fun” learning in the meantime, to give myself and the kids a break.  (More of that in No. 4.)

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3. Think outside of the (moving) box.

When one of my daughters was having an especially hard week with her schoolwork, and I had been moved to tears numerous times in attempt to get things to work (but felt like I was going to fall apart), we moved school out of the house and went on a coffee date.

It was amazing to me how a little one-on-one attention, and a cup of hot chocolate in a local coffee shop had the makings of a perfect hour and a half of school-time.  She felt special — not pressured — and I got to enjoy a good latte while we successfully completed some of the work that she had been struggling with.

4. Be creative.

Stressful times are not the right time to tackle challenging, long-term projects that require tons of prep work and concentration.  We’ve tried to make the moving process more enjoyable by adding school in less traditional ways.

In our commutes between our current city and the one we are moving to (about a 2 1/2 hour drive) we listen to books on CD and work on our Social Studies by listening to “Story of The World.”  This gives Dad a chance to get involved when we pause to discuss an interesting point in history or we talk about the meaning of a word.

When we were forced out of our house for a showings, we would take a trip to the library, science center or enjoy a family nature walk.

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Stressful times can arrive in a variety of ways: the birth of a new baby/adoption of a child, moving, career changes for mom/dad, illness and/or financial struggles.

The point is, our stress as parents while we try to maintain our role as educators can and will have an affect on our children.

Kids respond in a variety of ways, depending on their personalities and age. For example, my 4 year old is continually packing his backpack after every nap — I’m not sure if he knows where home is since we’ve had to travel around so much in the past few months!

As homeschooling parents, sometimes we have to make some difficult decisions and adjust our expectations in consideration of our kids’ emotional well-being.  When it comes to priorities, my kids’ hearts trump their “need” to memorize times tables and complete a book report.

For we don’t just teach our kids facts and figures, history and geography … we also teach them emotional health — when to slow down and learn to find calm in the midst of chaos.

In the end, sometimes we just have to reassure them, hug them tight and let them know that it’s going be okay.

Has your family experienced a stressful time in your homeschool? What ways did you find to cope?

About Lisa Kremer

Lisa Kremer is a Canadian married to an American with 6 fantastic kids whom she has homeschooled since day one! She and her husband pursue a life of adventure which includes missionary work, pastoring, and lots of road trips with the family. When she isn't racing after the kids, she's probably out for a run, chasing some inspiration and a chance to quietly contemplate her next blog posting for Life Is A Journey.

Comments

  1. We moved recently, too. I’m fascinated to learn that the stress lasts far longer than just through the actual moving stage–it lasts looooong after the boxes are unpacked. I’ve been very thankful that we moved in the winter because we’ve had the luxury of staying home and really learning about home instead of being out having adventures all of the time.
    And now we’re in the process of preparing to adopt . . . again.
    I feel like we’re stress junkies or something!
    Anne’s latest post: Satisfying Work

    • Anne,
      Yay! Someone who understands tackling challenge after challenge. I hear you on being “stress junkies”. Sometimes I wonder if my kids are going to settle down to very boring lives when they grow up – if we aren’t moving, we’re renovating or starting a new job or letting relatives live with us…..
      In the end, I think all these challenges cause our kids to grow up very adaptable and *hopefully* more patient than normal!

  2. When we moved into our current house, there was a period of about two weeks when we all had to stay at my mom’s until the house was ready. My mom’s house was already quite cramped without 13 extra people, so we ultimately decided to forgo any actual “school work” in that time. Instead we focused on life skills like helping Grandma, and we went on a lot of field trips. Believe me, it was such a huge help to get out of the house and actually breathe.
    Shelly’s latest post: Every Week Should Be Break Week

  3. I can appreciate this post right now. I have 4 homeschooling kids, and am weeks away from having a new baby. I keep feeling guilty because our school work is suffering. My kids are crabbier lately, I’m crabbier lately, we all seem to be a terrible combination. Getting anything accomplished is a huge task. I know they are feeding off of my crankiness. We live in a fairly small house, and trying to prepare to made room for the necessary “baby things”, cramming stuff into other rooms, getting rid of stuff, etc., it just feels overwhelming for all of us. Thanks for the reminder that we are ok, my kids’ intelligence won’t suffer, and that keeping everyone as unstressed as possible is just as important as any school work.

  4. Our decision to start homeschooling started as a response to our child’s emotional needs. Public school and the transitions that went along with it were too much for our little one to handle after some other tough life experiences. The best thing we ever did was get in touch with a counselor that taught us to be vigilant for outward responses to emotional upsets in our daughter. Once we did that the “problems” were solved so quickly. We’ve been able to focus and provide reassurance on those areas that previously caused stress for her and have moved into a much better place for the whole family. And we found that homeschooling really is the best path for our family! :)

  5. My oldest was 5yo and at the age to start schooling when my husband had a psychotic break. We have moved three times since then and my husband and I have been separated for the past two years. My oldest is now 11yo. I have four children. None of them seem to be adversely affected by all of the chaos and transition. I have supported the relationship they have with their dad, and their “schooling” has been secondary. I have had to do all of things in this post and would encourage others in stressful life seasons the same way! I sat down just this week (we moved most recently on February 1st) to work with my 10yo and 11yo on some math concepts. They were champs!! Caught on so quickly. The focus for us has been on relationship and looking for solutions. Even work on math is “exercising our brains” – not about “getting it right” (but what a reward when things click!)

    Just want to encourage other mamas in stressful seasons..seasons that last even longer than a move. It really is all about our kids’ hearts – how they process and internalize what is going on around them. The “academics” do come….as long as their insides are “free enough” to absorb it.

    • Thank you for sharing. It is easy to make lists in our minds of all the things we “should do” and we miss out on the relationship. It sounds like you are doing an awesome job!

  6. Moving is one of the most stressful life experiences. In the course of a few months we move multiple times. I stopped counting at seven. Yes I said seven. We were doing mission work. We moved from our house of 20 years. It was crazy. But these reminders are good for everyday life – not just times of moving. Thanks for sharing.
    Machelle’s latest post: Christmas Decorations Put Away

  7. We moved to a house that needed MAJOR work. We actually took completely off from homeschooling for about two months and let the kids help clean out, take walls out, plane wood for beams, and help with demolition and construction. It was a learning and good family time. The books were actually late in coming that year (we’re overseas) and so everything worked out great. As I remember, we were still all done by the end of June. Loved some of your de-stressing ideas. Thank you! It’s so true that kids sense when Mommy is stressed. God bless!

    • Very cool how you have involved your kids in the process of renovating. We too have renovated most of the houses we’ve lived in and I think I err to the side of turning on an “educational movie” so I can get the work done by myself when I could be involving my kids in the process more!
      Lisa’s latest post: When Basmati Won’t Suffice

  8. Ha! I hear you on all this. We are moving too, only into a school bus instead of a house. I have to constantly remind myself to settle down and not take my stress out on the kids. This is supposed to be a fun adventure, not a miserable experience for everyone. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. We are moving THIS WEEK from our temp home in Australia back to our real home in Missouri. WOW the stress!!!!!!

    You are so right about just chillin’ every single chance you can. I have teens and have found that, as helpful as they can be, their stress is still quite important to manage with love and patience.

    Nice post!!!!!!!!
    Karen’s latest post: 100% Yes and 100% No

    • Wow Karen! That is a huge move!
      I hope it all goes well for you and that it can possibly feel a little more like an adventure than a headache! Good luck!

  10. I SOO needed this! We seem to always have our plates full – my husband travels a lot for work and we have seven-year-old twin boys on the spectrum and a five-year-old boy with ADHD…and just had a sweet baby girl in November. I have tried to keep the pace but finally realized God is calling for a change of pace – that a homeschooler’s classroom is “life” and will look different in different seasons. So refreshing to read this!
    cindy’s latest post: Hands Down Best Popcorn in Four Easy Ingredients

  11. Thanks for the nod to military families. I know we’re not the only ones who move frequently but I did snort when I read the first line. Your first point is really critical. (Five moves in ten years, in case you were wondering.)

  12. Yes! We had a wild year last year including moving overseas. This was our 5th move in 6 years (four states, one new country). Our kids definitely were stressed out, but it was amazing how much calmer they were when I slowed down and just read a book with them or cuddled them, etc, amidst the craziness.

  13. We moved in October of this year. We have 3 children under 5, and like you, I spent months planning the boxes to be color-coded to each room in our new house, packed slowly and carefully so it wasn’t chaotic, and made arrangements for my mother in law to keep the kids on he actual day of the big move. However, I was still completely caught off guard by the stress of closing on a house. This was our first home to actually buy. We’ve rented forever, and I thought I was a pro at moving. Maybe I was at the actual moving part, but not the house-buying part. It was a mess trying to get tax forms, loan documents, legal information, etc. in order AND run a household at home (while packing and squeezing in some education for our older one). I was so stressed. I gained weight like crazy and yelled all the time, everyday. It was miserable. So homeschooling stopped. Only recently in February have we picked it up again. Thanks for your advice. I wish I could hug moms out there who are going through what I did just a few months ago, but at the very least reading this lets me know it wasn’t just me.

  14. What if we are mourning the death of a dear loved grandmother (husbands mother) and a daughter who graduated and decided that going to ywam in the farthest country away from us was a good idea?
    I dont seem to be able to concentrate on anything lately and I mostly just want to cry all the time. I also suffer from migraines. And dh works away part time so when he is home I feel even more distracted but lonely when he is gone. So how do I continue this journey of hs?

    • Ang,
      It sounds like things are pretty tough right now. Sometimes we’re going through a specific season that is especially hard, and other times it seems like we just can’t keep treading the waters of “normal” life and there is no end in sight to the challenges.
      I would encourage you to first take care of yourself – what would it take to work through some of the grief and be able to tackle just being a mom, let alone being a homeschooling mom? Do you have a good friend or maybe a group of homeschooling moms whom you could meet with to be encouraged? Or maybe it means that for now, you could change some of the expectations that you have placed on yourself regarding homeschooling – is there anything you could trim from the school schedule or are there ways to combine students or subjects?
      Most of all, I hope that you are able to find encouragement somewhere… and try to be kind to yourself – tackle small things at a time, don’t overdue it in this season, and just breathe… I hope this helps a little bit.

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