Homeschooling Through Disruption ~ Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins
I thrive on peace and calm and intention and purpose. I like to meet needs and meet goals, to make progress and make things work. Our days are fluid, but there’s “fluid” and then there’s “melted into a pile of goo.” I prefer the former.
Disruption, in other words, is not my favorite thing.
Last year, when we were trying to move to a new house in the middle of the school year, I mostly wanted to hide until the whole thing was over.
We live in an area where the housing market could best be described as “utterly insane.” Every morning we would open an app to look for new dots representing homes in our area, then send virtual messages begging to see those houses before anyone else did.
The whole thing seemed a lot like playing the worst video game ever, and when you won, you would get the joy of complete life upheaval. So that was great.
We don’t hope to move often, but life throws plenty of other disruptions at us all the time, doesn’t it? Here’s what helps us cope with ours.
1. Remember the awesome.
Our homeschooling lifestyle gave us flexibility so that if we needed to, we could:
- Take time off
- Make life changes in the middle of the year, not only over the summer
- Switch school districts without disrupting our kids’ daily lives
- Let the kids focus on processing life changes before leaping back into book learning
Truly, moving to a new city mid-year could have been way more disruptive to our kids than it was. When we were living out of boxes and wondering if we would ever get back to “normal,” remembering to be thankful gave us more peace.
2. Schedule time to listen to the kids’ feelings. (And our own.)
So, it turns out that we are not emotionless robots. Even good change can be hard, and we all need time to process our feelings. It might have been more efficient to spend every minute packing and unpacking, but we needed to plan some time for sorting out our emotions, too.
I don’t know about you, but when I just keep moving without thinking about how I feel—giving myself space to grieve what’s left behind and to look forward to what’s ahead—I end up frazzled and anxious and weird.
Multiply that times how many people there are in our family (EIGHT) and it was worth it to take time out to process instead of just powering through.
3. Ask for specific, useful help.
We wanted to keep our kids’ excitement factor for the move high while keeping the boredom factor low. When people asked how they could pitch in with the moving efforts, we suggested they help us with that.
We asked others to do things like:
- Read stories to the kids while the grownups packed.
- Take the kids on a long walk around the old neighborhood or the new one.
- Drop by with a surprise snack delivery. (It’s hard to remember to take snack breaks, and without them, we get cranky!)
- Let the kids give you a tour of the new house, even if you’ve already seen it.
- Send mail addressed to the children at the new house.
We also suggested that faraway relatives who wanted to help could send the kids a small iTunes or Amazon gift card. We used those for new movies and audiobooks so the kids could have some downtime even in an unsettled space.
We weren’t pushy, but when people asked how they could help, we tried to answer as specifically as possible.
4. Say no.
Because people are wonderful, they might offer to help in ways that would be helpful to them if they were in your situation—but that aren’t necessarily helpful to you.
Remember that you don’t have to say yes just because someone offered.
If it’s not helpful—and especially if it will make more work for you!—say no thank you. People will understand. (Or maybe they will not understand, but at least you haven’t made your life harder by inviting unhelpful help. What else can you do, really?)
5. Notice the life lessons in the disruption.
From moving, our kids learned a ton about … moving. They learned about choosing a neighborhood, about furniture that doesn’t work in new spaces, about forwarding the mail and changing the utilities and coordinating all the logistics.
They learned life skills, like how to plan for meals when your pots and pans are packed, and how to meet new people, and why not to overfill boxes with hardback books.
They also learned about handling stress, and about conflict resolution, and about trying new things, and trying again if those new things don’t quite work.
The older kids learned more about helping the younger kids to be safe and busy and happy. They learned to have compassion for each other, because change is hard.
They learned how strong and capable their bodies are, and how they can lift and carry and build things. They learned how to work as a team, and when to work alone. They learned about priorities and flexibility and compromise.
We tried to point out what they were learning as these new things came up, and to recap them again at the end of each day. We wanted to be intentional about showing the kids (and ourselves) that they were learning and growing even while surrounded by a web of wrapping paper and packing tape. And they were!
Eventually the boxes did get unpacked. The furniture was reassembled. Art was mounted on the walls. We opened history books and math supplies and notepads again.
Things did get back to normal, or as normal as they ever are.
And all that life learning the kids absorbed is so important to me that I would almost be willing to move again just for that.
What are your best tips for thriving in times of disruption? I’d love to hear!
This post is part of our Hardest Part of my Homeschool Year series.
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