Incorporating learning when life gives you lemons
~ Written by Lusi Austin from That Homeschool Life
Difficult seasons and circumstances in life happen to us all. These times can leave us feeling frustrated, despairing, alone, and often overwhelmed. This is normal in the human experience, but what happens when you are also homeschooling?
Instead of allowing these things to just keep us downhearted, we have chosen to incorporate learning – right where we are in that moment.
Here are some of the ways we have embraced learning in our most difficult seasons:
Incorporating Learning When Life Gives You Lemons – 3 Steps
1. Grapple with…and then accept the season you are in
I don’t want this to sound trite. I know only too well how hard it can be to receive an unexpected diagnosis or have life happen in some unexpected fashion. Between myself and my children we have 12 auto immune diagnoses.
We also have had multiple family members diagnosed with a range of neurodivergence which has brought its own challenges (and strengths!) We have mental health issues in our family along with seasons that happen to most people: finances can be lean, friendships can be strained, family relationships can be fractured.
Truly, giving yourself time to grieve the present circumstances and then come to a point where you can accept this season you are in, is liberating.
An example in our family: ITP
One such time came for our family when one of our kids was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune bleeding disorder (immune-thrombocytopenia purpura). I’d been diagnosed with that same disease a decade beforehand so I had some experience there, but for my child, this was a whole new world. There were regular blood tests at our local pathology clinic or hospital, bleeds to deal with due to a lack of platelets, tests and examinations, and trips to hospitals half a day’s travel away.
When she was unresponsive to regular lines of treatment, she underwent a monoclonal chemotherapy treatment.
There was nothing we could do to change this season of our lives. We grieved. Then decided to learn as much as we could about this disease as a family.
2. Learn about the challenge
We learned about the centrifuging machine in the pathology lab. Then, we read about the job of the platelets and watched videos about the components in our blood. We made our own ‘blood sample’ out of coconut oil (plasma), cherries (red cells) and gnocchi balls (white cells) with dried split peas acting as the platelets.
We read about the percentage of each in our blood. Getting to know more about blood led to questions about how the blood is pumped around our body. This led to us doing a hands-on dissection of a lamb’s heart purchased from the butchers.
During hospital trips, I packed books to read aloud or movies and we’d discuss plot, character development and stylistic techniques employed by the writer. In the midst of it all, I’d always encourage self-reflection and make myself available for any help I could offer with emotional processing.
Another example of tough season for us involved traveling out of town – for almost a full day – to attend therapies for different kiddos. Again, this was not how I thought our homeschooling journey would look! But we embraced it and added in learning by listening to podcasts and audiobooks on our way to the appointments.
We would do a nature walk to a nearby reserve, spotting pond turtles and water lilies. I’d pack a book and a picnic lunch and would read to the kids as we sat in the nature reserve. It is possible to keep incorporating learning into your rhythms even when you feel life has give you lemons!
3. Go gently
Self-care is one of those terms thrown around frequently, but often very hard to do in practice. It is especially so when in these harder seasons. Going gently with yourself and your child during this time will be specific to you.
It might look like scheduling a cleaner or take-out. Or it might look like eating more basically than you do. Perhaps it looks like binging an entire series with your kiddo on a day of exhaustion.
Maybe on a better day they’ll write a summary about it. Do what needs to be done, but rest as often as is possible too. Set yourselves up for success rather than failure by being flexible and not aiming too high with stressful demands.
Use the tools you have at your fingertips and shed the guilt! And as always, knowing that you are not alone is so powerful.
Friend, if you are in this kind of tough season, I am thinking of you and sending hugs your way.