Our house burned down a couple months ago. We lost our dog (Juna) in the fire. In her final moments she barked as loud as she could to wake us up in time to get out safely.
When the pandemic broke out my family did not know hardly any homeschoolers. This group has been a life-saver. So after having gone through a true near death experience I feel compelled to share our story in hopes that it may help make your homeschooling journey just a little better.
Here are five lessons we learned:
1) Kids are tough
Losing everything was hardest on my ten year old daughter. Juna was her dog. She was an older rescue dog who took a year to learn to be potty trained. My daughter also painted her room and created a lot of crafts that were ruined by smoke or burned. She experienced panic attacks in the weeks after the fire. But now she seems to have matured by years! She takes initiative helping with everything! She takes nothing for granted anymore. I find myself being lifted by her strength.
2) LifeSchool is best when possible
My daughters learned a ton the past two months...in large part because we did not even try to employ structure in the middle of all the chaos. Instead, mom and I included them on everything. They helped organize the funeral for our dog, review our insurance policy, find temporary housing, shop for necessities, cook meals, and share their thoughts on how to rebuild. They wanted to learn because they wanted to help! They were part of our family team!
Obviously kids need to learn some things that won't necessarily come up naturally as part of life. Reading, writing and arithmetic come to mind. I personally would add coding to this list. But when possible...I think kids should learn as much as they can from life experiences because LifeSchool makes learning so natural.
3) Teach Deep Values ... like avoiding attachments to material possessions
My grandparents grew up during the Great Depression. They instilled the values of that time in me. I instilled these values in my daughters. We just never spent time and energy thinking about material possessions like what type of table would go with that type of chair. My wife is the same way having grown up in poverty in China. We only bought things we needed or viewed as a good investment. As a result … my daughters experienced very little emotional suffering from losing all their "things".
We grieved for Juna. We all experienced panic attacks from the trauma of nearly losing our lives. I even lost some of my hair in the fire. Pain and suffering in response to such events is unavoidable. But pain from losing stuff, and other shallow things ... is avoidable with practice.
Homeschoolers can make this way easier for their kids by starting early. Frankly it is way easier for homeschoolers to help their kids avoid materialism because they don't feel as much peer pressure. Help your kids see that so they can be patient with friends in public schools. When I was in public school growing up I remember at times feeling ashamed because my family mostly bought clothes from thrift stores. I am so grateful for my grandparents never giving in to that cultural pressure.
Lesson #4 - Learn to use technology
We lost all our physical possessions, but we kept most everything my daughters created for school because it was all on the cloud! That means it was backed up on computers outside our house!
Our family has been using Google Docs for years to collaborate on essays. Facebook is great for taking short videos of things kids create, performances, and other achievements. Soundcloud, YouTube, LinkedIn and Medium are all basically free cloud storage ... plus parents can set privacy settings until kids are mature enough to control their data themselves. During the pandemic my daughters learned to use these technologies in a smart and safe ways. For example, they knew how to back up all their school projects. The only things we lost they they cared about was artwork, but even that we saved videos of so not a total loss.
Lesson #5 - Cherish authentic relationships
After the fire we didn't want to talk to anyone. We just wanted to sit in the dark and watch uplifting movies like "Inside Out" ... which if you ever lose your home is the perfect movie.
When we did start wanting to connect again we were a bit surprised by who we wanted to talk to. There are some people in our lives that made us feel good...people that did not judge us for deciding to homeschool...people that supported our relationships with each other...people that were good at listening ... people that cared enough to share their point-of-view on tough topics, but without pretending to have a monopoly on truth ... people that took the time to drive and come see us since the lockdowns ... people that showed through their actions that they wanted what was best for our whole family.
Teach your kids to seek out and hold on to these relationships
Thank you for listening and letting me share.
Falls Church, Virginia