“Be strong and courageous.” Joshua 1:9
Cozy mornings at the kitchen table, hot tea, reading, kids gleefully going through their morning routine and putting on clean clothes before 11:00 AM. Group time met with excitement and independent work done diligently and with huge smiles. Afternoons spent in nature or crafting or going on educational field trips. No meltdowns. All home cooked food and snacks. Singing along to the Brady Bunch’s “It’s a Sunshine Day”—yes, this was the homeschool I imagined.
Then it all went downhill quickly.
In early 2015, my husband and I decided it was time to move. We had lived in the Washington D.C. suburbs since 1998. We’d built two houses, and all of our kids were born there. We had great friends and a thriving homeschool community.
Yet, the traffic, the cost of living, and the crazy, fast-paced life were wearing on us. We both had turned 40 and now was the time for a change.
In March, my husband took a job in Richmond, Virginia. He lived with his parents during the week and I stayed back with the kids while our house was on the market. He had never traveled with his job before and was now gone four to five days a week. Our house sat on the market.
When Your Homeschool is not What You Imagined, Change it UpUnschooling. We’d always been interest-led, but I had to give up lots of planned ideas. Our daily structured time was quickly blown out of the water.
In August 2015, we finally sold our house. We had 21 days to be packed up and moved. A week before we moved, our boy twin was diagnosed with PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep). All spring we had seen his health and personality decline. His sensory processing disorder, OCD-like behavior, and meltdowns lasting for hours were affecting our daily lives. We were overwhelmed but happy to have some answers.
We moved into a rental in the Richmond suburbs. New neighborhood, new stores, new church, new homeschool groups, and new friends. We finally started back into our old-style “normal” homeschool routine. I had worked for a week to get everything perfect.
- Our oldest was diagnosed with a genetic condition;
- Our PANDAS kid went further downhill while he detoxed and healed;
- And, our girl twin was lonely.
I was exhausted, overwhelmed and simultaneously trying to keep things fun and normal.
What is a Normal Homeschool?But what is “normal” when you homeschool? I would go on Facebook or Instagram and see sweet scenes of nature hikes, reading nooks, sweet curated spaces, calm kids, and well-rested mamas. My days looked nothing like this. On any given day, the following would be “normal” in our house:
- I would wake up whenever because I slept on the couch or on a twin air bed next to my oldest son who was struggling with his health and nights were hard.
- Occupational Therapy once a week for the PANDAS son, plus many daily struggles.
- Physical therapy one to two times a week for my oldest. The twins would often play Skip-Bo, Uno, do Mad Libs, color, or read.
- Specialist appointments either in doctor’s offices or on the phone for both boys.
- Paper plates and gluten-free chicken nuggets.
- Lots of park days alone because we didn’t seem to fit in with any of the local homeschool groups and most days I was too tired to talk to people.
- Detox baths, weighted blanket and 54 episodes of Adventures in Odyssey for my boy twin
- My kids fighting ALL THE TIME because we were spending every waking hour together and the boys were not feeling well
- YMCA for indoor swimming, ping pong, and billiards.
- Visits to my in-laws’ house each Friday for lunch and field trips or just hanging out while I had some downtime.
I share this story to show that because we homeschooled, we could focus on areas more important than academics: Health and well-being, rest, sticking together through hard times, surrendering my will to God’s will.
Let me back up a bit.
When You’re Called to HomeschoolGod called me to homeschool. October 2009 was when I first heard the quiet whisper. His voice became more pronounced. We followed it. I dove in head first. The kids were 5, 3, and 3 at the time. We spent a few years reading a ton, playing lots of games, going on field trips, listening to audiobooks, and having tons of free time to play! God knew I would need a strong homeschool foundation. This did not hit me until a few weeks ago. All the years were to prepare us for tougher times to come.
We moved again in November 2016. New state, new house, and a new community. I had to dig deep. I had to pray. I had to let go. Let go of curricula that weren’t serving us. Let go of preconceived notions of what a “successful” homeschool family looks like. Let go of the hurt and frustration. Let go and let God.
Two years have passed since our lives were permanently changed. There have been dark days and huge leaps of faith. There has been progress in all areas of life. Homeschooling has been an anchor. Homeschooling has not looked like what I imagined. It does not look like my friends’ homeschools or ones in books or on blogs. And mama, I am not even on Pinterest! I just cannot deal.
The Homeschool I Didn’t Imagine
So, what does Wright at Homeschool look like now with two 5th graders and a middle schooler?
- Morning meetings (usually first, but not always)
- Reading aloud and listening to audiobooks
- Math U See and Prodigy online math games
- History, writing, language arts, art, geography—usually interest-led and sometimes planned.
- Volunteering at the library, comic book club, theater, Brave Writer book club, Outschool.com classes, local classes, 423 trips a week to the library, playing with friends, field trips, movies and documentaries, and LOTS of free time.
We are still dealing with health issues for both boys—almost on a daily basis. Add in puberty and let’s just say my chocolate supply, daily yoga practice, and homeschool mama tribe are my lifelines.
In the quiet moments, I pray. I listen. Sometimes, I cry. I smile. I have learned to come up for air after years of fighting against the tide, waves crashing over my head.
I am working daily, sometimes minute by minute, to appreciate the gift of homeschooling through hard times. If your family is in this season right now, I am brewing you a cuppa tea and breaking out the good chocolate for you.
Vanessa is a homeschooling mama to three inquisitive, creative and often loud kids ages 12, 10, and 10. She is married to Jason and they live in the Raleigh, North Carolina area. Vanessa is a self-professed eco-beauty junkie, avid reader, yogi-wannabe, tea drinker, and chocolate snob. You can find her on Instagram at @Wrightathomeschool and on Facebook at Wright at Homeschool where she’s keeping the REAL in homeschool reality.