In good times and in bad, homeschool during tough times is a part of life.

So many homeschool families are doing it tough. You know tough times. Each day is tough. Pain is your companion. Conflict and trauma surround you. Grief drags you down.

When you first held this tiny child in your arms, this was not the life you planned for them. But this is where you are. And you love your child with a fierceness you never imagined, but they need to survive. You need to survive.

Every week, struggling homeschool parents share a little of their own tough times journeys with me. And sometimes, I cry with you. We who live tough know what it is to walk in pain.

Homeschooling During Tough Times

11 years ago, I was on the brink of 10 years of tough times. During this time, I fought for my family and for my children. In the worst moments, the pain seemed impossible. I could barely choose to survive the next five minutes. During this time, my eldest daughter introduced me to spoons.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of the concept of spoons and The Spoon Theory. Spoons are energy. My youngest daughter says she wakes up each morning with 61 spoons.

During my tough times, I felt like I started with five spoons and it took the first two just to get out of bed and decide what to eat. And so, during this time, I developed a five-spoon list so I could survive.

Surviving Tough Times in Homeschool

My 5 Spoon List

Here’s how it works:

Today I Choose To Get Up

It takes one of my spoons, but I will choose to get up today. I am teaching my kids a vital life skill – resilience.

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover from difficulties, toughness. Sometimes tough times last. Sometimes survival and recovery are a long process, but the tougher our lives, the more opportunities there are to teach and model resilience.

There is a saying that, “more is caught than taught.” So model resilience. Know that every morning when you choose to get out of bed, you are modeling resilience, the tenacity to survive. And if they survive, who knows what else they might do.

One of my daughters spent over two years in bed. It was not what I had planned for her high school education. I prayed for a lounge to put on the veranda so that she could be outside. Most days she got out of bed, at least for a while, and lay on the lounge on the veranda.

At the end of Year 10, she said, “Mum, I want to go to Uni.” And she did. The next February she got out of bed, did a bridging course, and was accepted into Uni.

She’s resilient. Life is still tough, but most days, she chooses to get up. And so I will choose to get up because I am teaching my kids resilience

unmade bed with orange pillowcases

Today I Choose To Get Dressed

I once joined a group that was going to teach me how to keep my house clean and tidy. It didn’t work. But I did learn something – get dressed, including your shoes.

Now, this sounds crazy. I love the barefoot homeschool thing. In fact, I’m somewhat proud of the barefoot homeschool thing. I’ve loved moments when we scooted through the shops at 10 am on a school morning, barefoot, sandy, still slightly damp from the beach when all the other kids are in school. But on my toughest days, I get dressed including my shoes.

Why does this work for me? Because I know I will have no spare spoons later to cope with emergencies. And so, I get dressed including my shoes, so that whatever happens today, at least I’m dressed.

woman's legs with black jeans and hiking boots standing on top of rocks

Today I Choose To Eat

When food is one of your five spoons, make it count for everything.

Read and follow recipes – this covers reading and comprehension. Write shopping lists – it’s handwriting and spelling with purpose because it’s important that you can read your shopping list when you get to the supermarket.

Budget carefully and purchase groceries, measure ingredients, set bake times and temperatures – these things are maths.

Chemical reactions, nutrition discussions, using kitchen tools safely, solids liquids, gases, safe food storage, even growing mold in the fridge, these things are science.

Discuss, cook and eat food from other countries and different cultures – this is Geography.

You get the idea. If it’s the only thing you can do, your kids can all major in four unit Food Tech. If food technology is your major, your kids are well on their way to being equipped for real life.

shopping docket with food

Today I Choose To Go Outside

Apparently, holding your breath underwater, under cold water, reduces your heart rate and increases muscular relaxation, which reduces anxiety and stress.

For my fourth spoon I choose to go outside. I choose to walk along the beach and remember that some of the most relaxing and beautiful things in life are still free.

Outside in nature, I see evidence of something bigger than myself, something outside my pain. Each sunrise reminds me that each day is new, that life goes on, that this moment will not last forever.

I add art and PD health PE to our learning. Transient art with natural materials requires no preparation and costs nothing. Photographs are record keeping, walking is free, and it’s exercise.

We feel better outside and together we do five minutes at a time. Together we will survive.

Young girl on beach at sunset

I Choose To Be Kind To My Kids

For my fifth spoon, I choose to be kind to my kids. I choose to be the best mum I can be, to consider their needs, to aim for stability. In this chaos of loss and change, I will aim for stability.

I love the mountains, giant trees, and oceans and I remember they don’t move. I need a rock I can depend on; mountains are stable and we need stability.

I aim for stability for my children. I love how big the mountains are – they remind me that there are bigger things in life than my pain. There are more people with bigger injustices.

We are not alone. I trust in Jesus. Others help us. These people think more clearly than me. They remind me of truths I cannot remember on my own. I am a good mum. I love my kids. Mountains, large trees, cliffs, rivers, and oceans are a visual reminder of these stable truths.

Landscape with blue sky and mountains

And then…

Late one afternoon, an amazing discovery dawns in my mind, I am ready for bed and I have one spoon left. Like a single drop in a quiet pool of water, I dream of the future and the ripples begin to spread across the pool. And my children begin to dream too.

Today my years of tough times and trauma are mostly memories of past pain, at least for now. Today we find comfort in relationships and friends. We find comfort in the faithful rhythm of seasons, sunrises, and sunsets. We find beauty and peace in places we did not expect to find these things. Today the sun is shining. Today we have food and a home.

Some days are tougher than others. Some days I feel as though the earth is still rolling under my feet, but it is better. And life goes on.

Three of my children have made it through to adulthood. They all got into Uni. One is studying psychology, one is a nurse, and one has started his own business. This is despite the fact that they all majored in food technology.

My youngest has a roof over her head, friends, and a family who love her and she’s learning to do her own hard with a chronic illness. We are surprisingly functional in daily life. Relationships are sometimes hard and we are still learning. But we are reasonably sane, we have friends, and most of the time we can talk to each other.

I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve been learning over the past 10 years. And I’m grateful to be in a place where I can now help others. And if possible, if it’s useful, I want to help you on your journey. Simply Homeschool is my effort to do just that. And so I invite you to visit Simply Homeschool, to create a trial membership, to join our Simply Homeschool Community on Facebook because if I can help you, that’s something I’d really like to do.

Thank you for listening to my story.

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About Karen Wilson

Karen is the Founder and Directory of Simply Homeschool; a homeschool curriculum based on Real Life and Good Books. Karen started homeschooling her children over 20 years ago and has always been an eclectic Home Schooler - searching the world for the very best resources and programs for each of her children.

You are invited to visit Simply Homeschool, to create a trial membership, and to join the Simply Homeschool Community on Facebook.

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