Tuesday, October 26, 2010

HomeSchooling Through a Family Crisis

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My kids learning Chemistry with Daddy with the "Dangerous Things for Boys Chemistry Set" that Alex received for his 6th Birthday.

My baby girl, Tess got super sick the first week back for public school kids around here. I had some shocked comments from neighbors that I was continuing to home-school my older kids after Tessy's illness. I wasn't thinking clearly in social situations during Tessy's time in the NICU--so I missed coming up with some snappy comebacks. (Such unintended meekness on my part was probably for the best!) Still, I wanted to share how amazing homeschooling worked for a family coping with a severe medical crisis.

First, with a newborn in the NICU, childcare was an immediate crisis. I was so thankful that I didn't have to coordinate multiple school drop off and picks up with three older children. Who ever was free for the day, could easily pick up all of my kids at one time and keep them together for the whole day. Eventually, my older kids ended up spending over 10 days with their grandparents in another state. This would have been impossible if they were in a traditional school setting.

Second, I think it was really important NOT to make my older kids sit still at a desk and do traditional learning tasks while their little sister was had a severe medical crisis. Before Tess, I would have followed conventional wisdom that said older kids need "structure" during a crisis. Going through it, however, I can't imagine asking my kids to sit in a new school classroom on concentrate on difficult material. This wasn't a time to stress phonics or multiplication tables. Instead, my kids needed to look forward to going to the Smithsonian with their beloved Aunt Emily.

Third, hanging out with relatives was a win/win situation for everyone. My parents and my siblings were freaked out by Tessy's medical condition. They weren't the type to sit still in a hospital waiting room praying the rosary during Tessy's multiple surgeries when her outcome was so uncertain. Caring for my older kids allowed my family to do something intensely practical to help me during a very scary time.

Fourth, my kids LEARNED stuff this Fall. I didn't expect that. I worked my older kids hard this summer because I thought we'd simply take off for a long "new baby break" this September. That's why I had absolutely zero guilt about my kids "missing school" during Tessy's time in the NICU.

Yet instead, my kids learned so much stuff during Tessy's NICU stay. The National Air and Space Museum is near Tessy's hospital room, so the kids took in multiple viewings of the planetarium. We now talk about "super novas" and "wormholes" at my house. Their grandparents took them spelunking. Aunt Emily taught them Geography and French. Of course, thanks to Baby Tess, everyone now has advance knowledge of the digestive and circulatory systems!

Now that Baby Tess is home, we're back to our more familiar routine of Reading, Writing and Chemistry. (We're science geeks in the Benjamin house!) I'm so grateful for the flexibility and family solidarity that homeschooling lent us during Tessy's NICU crisis.