Dear Corona Schoolers: I Didn’t Intend To Home School Permanently, Either!
With countless families abruptly thrust into the world of home schooling in recent days due to the Coronavirus pandemic (“Corona Schoolers”), and moms across the nation posting their hilarious home school memes, as well as their frustrations, fears, and success stories… it’s making me think back to how OUR family got started.
It was a “crisis” as well that initiated the entire process for us. My mom was dying… she was in the final stage of cancer. My parents lived a couple hours away, in a different country and I needed to go be with them. So, I packed up the kids, took our eldest out of Kindergarten “indefinitely”, and we headed to grandma and grandpas for what would end up being a month. (Dr. Hubby stayed back to man the fort and came to visit us on weekends.)
We had only been relocated for a few days when the SARS pandemic reached full force in the area, and people were losing their ever-loving minds. I was losing my mom, my best friend. I couldn’t have cared less about a stupid virus. BUT, it meant that the kids could no longer visit grandma in the hospital, and my dad and I had to take turns going to visit… once we passed the inspection of the guards at the hospital entrance.
It was an awful time. So much sadness. So much stress. So much fear. So much unknown.
I was a heartbroken, frightened daughter (my faith wasn’t as strong then as it is now), but somehow had to figure out how to also be a good mom despite this… AND now a teacher, seeing how I yanked a child out of school!
For the first few days, I packed the kids up and brought them to the hospital along with me and their gramps. They’d hang out in grandma’s room, reading, coloring, and quietly entertaining themselves and their grandparents. SARS brought a quick end to that little routine.
My dad and I quickly found our groove with alternating hospital shifts and taking care of the kids. I got up early to work out, then I’d wake the kids up and we’d say our prayers and make breakfast. My schooling goal was to read with them, have them do some math problems, and usually some sort of social studies ‘thing”. Usually, their “book work” would only take 30-60 minutes MAX… which always amazed me, seeing as how it was taking a LOT longer at school in the formal classroom setting. I kept thinking I was missing something!
I also made sure they got outside with me for a bit before I headed to the hospital.
When Dad took over, he was the gym teacher (!), the field trip coordinator, the geography & history teacher… and the one who let them eat too many muffins! He took them to nature parks, farms, trails, free concerts, the driving range, out to lunch with his golf buddies and their wives, he played catch and kicked the soccer ball with them every day, showed them how to pump gas into the car and spot deer across the field with binoculars, he introduced them to “good music”, the art of reading the daily newspaper, and Hockey Night in Canada.
Every night, I’d read with them when I got back from the hospital again, and put them to bed.
We found things to be grateful for, to laugh about, and to celebrate. Even though we cried, too… a lot.
Throughout it all, as distracted and stressed as I was, I couldn’t help but notice that my children were THRIVING! They were grasping things so quickly that I just kept adding more advanced lessons, concepts, and skills because it seemed like the natural thing for them to do. It was like this academically, as well as physically, artistically, and socially.
It was so interesting to watch this unfold. Pouring into them without distraction for just a tiny bit of time each day seemed to be the exact fuel they needed for massive growth! (Go figure!)
After my mom passed, it was time to head back to school. It was rough… for me, that is. Although the daily routine of packing lunches, driving them to and from school, getting back to my work, etc. got me through the early stages of grief, I missed my children!
I couldn’t stop thinking about how much they had blossomed and excelled during that month, and it sure did seem to slow down once we were back in school.
I had started to daydream about home schooling. NOT because I knew a single thing about home schooling or felt remotely capable of doing so, but because I wanted to spend more time with my children at this stage of the game.
At the end of the school year and throughout the summer months, we decided not to head back to school the following year… we were going to “take a little break and see how things went with home schooling… for a little while…”
THAT WAS THIRTEEN YEARS AGO!
We have ourselves a high school senior now, as well as a freshman! (And the senior kicked the pants off her SAT exam last year, which I can’t take ANY credit for… there are so many great resources out there now, she just tapped into one and did her thing. Don’t EVER worry that your kids will be “behind” because of home schooling!)
There was a brief hiccup in the home schooling timeline, though, when after a year and a half, the naysayers had gotten under my skin and I was worried that I was “ruining my children, socially”, so I sent them back to school for one semester.
That single semester was all it took to seal the deal. Clearly, I was not ruining them socially OR academically. I was underwhelmed by the standard school system for that entire semester and couldn’t wait to return to home schooling.
Let me say, I know some AMAZING home school moms and dads. Their curriculum and daily routines and field trips and projects and home science experiments and organic gardens and family cooking classes and Latin classes and memory work (I could go on) are incredible!
I am not one of those parents.
I opted for a “hodge podge” approach to home schooling. Let’s call it “Free Form”!
I stuck to the basics with daily math lessons, voracious reading (our trips to the library doubled as weight training!), some great social studies/history lessons, science sprinkled throughout, lots of outdoor time & “adventure walks”, excellent field trips to nature centers and museums and art studios on a fairly regular basis (where the experts in their field could teach my people!), prayer time, subconscious health & nutrition lessons by Dr. Mom, and daily interaction with mom, dad, and a gazillion people in our practice, where they hung out quite often.
We did (still do) school at the dining room table, in bed, at our office, in the car, on the dock, on the boat, on the trampoline, in tents, at coffee shops, at the library, on trains & planes, in blanket forts… anywhere we felt like it. I love the flexibility.
I always tried to keep them in one team sport and one individual sport (plus a skill like music &/or art) to keep them active and social with kids their age.
It has never, ever been perfect. In fact, at times it was downright awful and I questioned myself at every turn.
Until I didn’t.
I started to see the BIG picture. The important part of the picture. The love that glues it all together.
These two are besties. They’re faithful. They’re hilarious. They’re happy. They’re smart. They’re talented. They’re kind hearted. And they’re just all around good people. There isn’t a curriculum for that!
They’re also sassy smart arses at times (must get that from Dr. Hubby) and aren’t kind to each other 100% of the time… but you get the general idea!
I’m not the perfect home school mom whose lessons and activities are chronicled on Pinterest or Instagram… but I AM my children’s mom. They’ve seen me at my best, and they’ve seen me at my worst. I don’t regret a moment of it. We’re a tight knit crew and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I always said I didn’t really have a concrete PLAN regarding if and when I’d send them back to (traditional) school… I said I’d just keep going with home schooling if it seemed to be working for us.
Apparently, it continued to work for us.
Over the years, every time someone said to me “Oh, I could NEVER home school… I don’t have the patience!” I’ve responded, “Neither do I!!” Truth. There are certainly days that they were better off in “private study time” while mom was having a moment.
Throughout it all, I keep reminding myself that no one could possibly love my children as much as I do… and that trumps a degree in education and an impressive Pinterest page any day of the week.
The kids are old enough and mature enough now to realize this, as well. And they are grateful.
For all you moms (and dads) who find yourselves home schooling now, be forewarned. You might just decide to “try it out for a little while longer”!
Don’t ever worry about being PERFECT. Just be THERE.
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a long-time personality in Natural Health & Wellness and is in her 25th year of active practice in Michigan, along with her husband Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat. She’s also the proud mom of two fabulous kiddos that she currently home schools – really, she’s more of their Manager at this point in their education!
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