When It All Falls Apart, by Briana Elizabeth

Somehow, in September of 2015, we’d had an amazing 8-week semester. It was one of those glorious periods where everyone was ready to hit the pavement running, and we just didn’t stop. Everything meshed just the way it was supposed to, and we even went further than I had planned. Not just in work, but in ability. The kids worked hard for things that were far above their ability, and they attained it.

November 2015 I was diagnosed with Lupus.

It now all made sense. The extreme exhaustion, the constantly being cold, the rashes and hives, the swollen joints that some days just would not work. The brain fog that made me question whether I was an adult most days.

School had been a struggle for me, but after those eight weeks of amazement, I crashed. I crashed hard. I limped through November and into December, and after Christmas I didn’t get off the couch for a week. I went from the couch and sleeping to bed and sleeping. In Lupus talk, it’s called “a flare.” My joints were on fire, I was freezing all of the time, I could hardly cook a meal, and I spent most of the day sleeping and reading or trying to knit so that my fingers wouldn’t stiffen into wooden blocks. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come, and my family was going to suffer some serious trauma that we’re still trying to work through. I had no spoons left. Not one.

This is when I seriously started to think about putting the kids back into school. You probably don’t not know me well enough to understand the severity of that admission, but it was severe. I was sick, and I knew that things were serious. Enrolling them in school was the only responsible thing to do because I was too incapacitated to homeschool them. I started to reconsider my refusal of medications (another huge consideration for me), but again I searched for a different way out of this pit because I knew that I was young and those medications are serious. I begged God to show me how to fix things. If taking meds was my way out, then I would, but I needed to know that I had done everything possible, everything within my ability, before I went that route.

Rest started to work. In February I started to be able to *moderately* function. I didn’t have many spoons, but I could manage to oversee the kid’s self-directed learning. My planning last summer had worked, and though I was currently unable to participate in their schooling, they were able to see my bullet-journaled lists and calendar for them, and when that failed, which it sometimes did, Do The Next Thing was the rule of the day. I made it through Easter, and let me tell you, I was hoarding spoons. I spent them  judiciously, and when I did, it was on my children and husband.

However, the day after Easter, I made a huge life change (bigger than ever before) and I have to say, I’m feeling so good, I’m almost at my pre-lupus levels of energy and health. My fingers and hands still get blocky, and I’m still cold a lot. But I can teach my kids, and last night I planned out another beautiful eight weeks. This time I’m going to focus on the self-care which is keeping me healthy, and I’m going to be able to be present, which is a gift.

It was a hard few months, but there were true blessings that came out of it. My kids own their education. Before I was sweeping them along. Now, it’s theirs, it’s a part of them, and if we have another time like that, they know how to soldier through it and drive in spite of it. They grew in both grace and grit.

When I was planning out the next two months and was checking the last eight weeks we’d accomplished way back in October, I was shocked to realize that they were almost done in all of their subjects. With this last section I’ve planned, they will have finished their respective grades of work, and I will have rising 5th and 8th graders, two 9th graders, and an 11th grader on my hands. No one is more surprised – or grateful – than I am. Then we’re joining Jen with her Middle Earth Summer, which I am very much looking forward to. A Hobbit Holiday is just what is needed after this year.

Homeschooling is a full part of our lives. It’s so interwoven that there is no beginning or end, except maybe when our last student leaves our home. And that home can sustain us or shatter us. I had always been a proponent of Do The Next Thing, and I knew it worked when life got bumpy, but I didn’t realize how well it worked when everything falls apart. So I want to encourage you: If it starts to spiral, just do the next thing. Make sure your kids know what the next thing is, and let them do it. They too will grow in grace and grit – and your heart will swell with pride and gratitude.

Image courtesy of FreeImages.com

Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

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