I’ll be the first to admit I have very little knowledge of the game of baseball. I know to cheer when the people around me do. I know the players run around bases and take FOREVER to pitch the ball.
Oh, and I know about curveballs.
A curveball is when the pitcher, who already took far too long to pitch the ball (combed his hair, waved hello to his son, adjusted his pants), unexpectedly throws the ball in a downward spiral causing the ball to veer outside the batter’s reasonable reach.
Just the description is enough to make you never want to experience it, and yet, people keep playing baseball every day.
I suppose you could say the same thing about life. Day after day we show up for the things that God has called us to, fully aware that at any point, we might get pitched a curveball.
It’s simply a part of life. You can’t keep the curveballs from coming.
In our homeschool, we’ve had more than our fair share of curveballs. I started homeschooling with my nephew (a curveball in and of itself) who we pulled out of public school mid-year. Did someone say CURVEBALL?
Just a few years into homeschooling my own kids, my husband decided family life wasn’t for him and I became a single mom. KNUCKLE CURVEBALL. (Ok, don’t actually know what that is, but sounds like a punch in the face, doesn’t it?)
We moved eight times over the course of the next four years, including moving to a new state and starting over, all while homeschooling. CURVEBALL!
Perhaps one of the most difficult and long-lasting curveballs we’ve had in our homeschool was me having to work full-time while homeschooling, then losing that job and having to pivot to find a new way to provide. SERIOUS CURVEBALL!
We’ve lived out some major learning and behavior issues along the way, including severe ADHD and a vision issue that kept one of my kids from reading until age nine. YEAH, CURVEBALL!
Then there was the day I stood in the ER with my six-year-old while the doctor explained the brain tumor growing inside his precious body. We did 18 months of chemo in the days that followed and still have frequent clinic visits. (Curveball of all CURVEBALLS, right?)
Of course, these are just the curveballs our family has experienced, but there are so many more that you might be able to relate to, like…
- Having a dad who is deployed or travels for extended periods of time
- Caring for an aging parent
- Death of a family member
- Critical or chronic illnesses
So what do CURVEBALLS have to do with homeschool?
A lot, actually. You see, the truth is we have to learn to expect curveballs in our homeschool and we need a strategy or plan for how we will handle them… or we will strike out every time!
In baseball, the batter can’t walk away from the game when a curveball is thrown. We can’t just walk away from our homeschool either. We’re going to have to stand at the plate and figure out a plan to handle the curveballs that are pitched our way.
Strip back to the basics
Whenever life throws you a curveball, the very first step is to strip back to the basics. This might mean basic subjects or it might mean basic parts of a subject.
If it’s a big curveball and your kids aren’t in high school, consider cutting all things back to the basic subjects: just reading and math. I recommend you don’t cram too much in the early years anyway, but cutting back is a simple way to accomplish what you need to and still have the time to deal with whatever struggle you are facing.
This is one of the biggest strategies I used after my husband left. My kids were little (early elementary); it was a great day if we did reading and math. I didn’t allow myself to feel guilted into doing more.
This is a critical strategy for kids with learning issues, too. How can you master math when you are focused on other subjects? Those other subjects become hurdles and frustrate all of your educational time.
If you have high schoolers, you can’t cut social studies and science, but some of these other tips will help make it more simple.
Once you’ve cut to basic subjects, you might also need to evaluate how you can keep those subjects simple for now. For example, it’s likely you won’t be able to do all the extra fun stuff, like create a volcano or a papier-mache Egyptian sarcophagus. Remember, this is just a season and it will pass. When it does, you can go deeper once again.
Let Someone Else Do the Teaching
As a single mom, I had no choice but to admit there was NO WAY I could do everything myself. (Isn’t it funny how God has a way of showing us we aren’t able in and of ourselves?)
In the early days, my kids were so little that I used strategies like sticking with the basics (detailed above) and just waiting before starting school (neither of my boys started school until the 1st grade).
Eventually, my kids grew, but our circumstances didn’t change. In fact, I’m still a single mom with four kids who need to be educated and a full-time job to keep food on the table. So naturally, I need help.
Not wanting to outsource my children’s education to the government, I resolved to stay home, but I had to get creative with how I would teach them. I simply couldn’t teach four kids five or six subjects a day. It was impossible.
Sometimes you just need to let someone else do the teaching. This might come in the form of a co-op (which we have done quite a bit) or it might be in the form of online programs.
The very first program I used to “do the teaching for me” was Teaching Textbooks. That was in 2009 and here we are 10 years later still loving it. With Teaching Textbooks, the computer was teaching the lesson and GRADING the work (can I get an amen?). I just had to monitor it and occasionally help as needed.
I was able to keep my kids home, still have control over what they were learning and even the PACE they were learning (see more tips on that below), but I didn’t have to actually teach every single little piece to them! Huge win-win.
Often, the curveballs in life keep us outside the home. This can be tricky for homeschoolers, since our school is at “home.” Don’t let that word fool you. Homeschool means mom/dad (those at home) are in authority over the school. It doesn’t mean you have to stay inside your house, of course!
During moves and periods full of doctor’s appointments, we take our school on the road. Each child has a backpack full of curriculum and needed supplies. (This saves on space, too–an added bonus when moving.)
We can do school in the doctor’s office, chemo clinic, while waiting for mom at a meeting, basically anywhere we go.
Knowing that our life is a little unpredictable, I’ve intentionally chosen curriculum that is either lightweight or easy to pack up and take with us. Teaching Textbooks has been one of our favorites for this.
We can access the program anywhere with internet access. We’ve done it at the library, in the car, at grandma’s house, and in countless hotel rooms. In the early years, it wasn’t easy to take it with us without a laptop, but now it’s a breeze. I don’t even need a laptop as the kids can use their own devices, too.
Today we travel over 10,000 miles a year to various homeschool conventions, encouraging families. From February to July, we NEED curriculum that can travel with us. I’m so thankful Teaching Textbooks has provided easy access for my kids without compromising their mathematics education.
Modify the basics
If you’ve done the steps above and still feel like you are drowning, the next step is to modify your basic subjects so they are manageable with your particular circumstances. If your curveball is a learning issue, this is extremely important. Scaling back to the basics will be critical, but it won’t be enough if you keep the workload the same.
You may need to work at a slower pace, doing half a lesson each day. Or you might need to do multiple lessons in one day and none on other days. This is what we did when my son was in chemo.
He had chemo on Mondays for over a year. He almost never did school on those days. Tuesdays were his big sick days. He spent most of those in bed. But then most Wednesdays-Fridays were decent days. He would do two math lessons on those days.
Some weeks he did zero math. The next week, he would double up on lessons.
One strategy we used was to watch one lesson and do only the practice problems. Then do the whole next lesson. Teaching Textbooks makes it really easy to customize like this.
As long as he got a 90% or better on the 2nd lesson, I knew he was getting enough repeat practice problems to make sure he understood concepts.
For my son with ADHD, Teaching Textbooks has been the answer to our math nightmares. He can dance, sing, and act crazy all while typing on the computer. This takes out the hurdles of handwriting/fine motor issues and sitting still. Best of all, he’s able to work on higher-level math so his mind isn’t bored even though his fine motor skills took years to catch up with him.
Take a break
Of course, sometimes life’s curveballs call for a total break. You might need to step back from all curriculum to tend to whatever is demanding your time. Just remember, it’s these critical life lessons that have the most impact on your kids… not curriculum.
No one will ever regret caring for Grandma in her last days here on this earth. We won’t look back and say, “Wow, I wish we had spent more time in that history book.” Always remember to care for your people. You can get back to the curriculum soon enough!
Don’t be afraid to be the boss over your curriculum and make wise choices for your family. That’s the beauty of homeschooling!
Interested in trying Teaching Textbooks? You can sign up for a free trial here.