Homeschooling in a Crisis

“So what have we got planned for today, Mum?” Sophie asks me.

“Well, nothing really,” I reply. “We can’t go anywhere because of the bushfire, but I guess I don’t have to keep such a close eye on the fire updates. I could read to you, or we could watch a DVD together.”

Sophie smiles. Doing something together? That sounds good.

We’ve been living next to a huge bushfire for 8 days now. Life has not been normal for all that time. You could say we’ve been experiencing a bit of a crisis.

I’ve hardly done anything with the girls all week. It’s hard to concentrate on homeschooling when there’s the possibility we might have to evacuate our house at any moment. We’re all longing for life to return to normal. We want to watch and listen and discuss and enjoy our days together once more. But despite us not having had much interaction this week, I am sure the girls have learnt just as much, or even more, than they usually do.

When life is normal I do a lot of strewing to enrich my children’s environment. But I haven’t done any of that for days. Does that worry me? No. It hasn’t been necessary. How much more enriched can our life get at the moment? We’ve had fire fighters and fire trucks in our street. Helicopters have flown overhead. We’ve watched fire reports and discussed our fire survival plan… Life cannot get any more exciting and interesting. So I don’t feel bad about not strewing.

I don’t even feel bad about spending so much time on my computer, my eyes stuck to the fire updates. My girls haven’t sat on the sofa with blank looks on their faces waiting for me to appear and tell them what to do. No, they have found loads of things to do on their own. They’re used to directing their own learning. Yes, lots has been going on despite life being difficult.

I remember another difficult time in our life. I remember when our son Thomas died. He lived for only a day and changed our lives forever. That crisis was a lot harder to deal with than a bushfire on our doorstep.

I couldn’t think about homeschooling when my heart was breaking. I didn’t even try to. For 3 months I concentrated on nothing more than my grief. My children played many, many computer games during that time. Well, it was more like one computer game was played many, many times. Our computer resources were rather limited in those days. Even today if I hear the music belonging to that game, I feel tearful. It brings back some painful memories. When my children had to give up their computer seat to an impatiently waiting sibling, they read and played and amused themselves. For weeks and weeks my children did whatever they wanted without any direction from me. I didn’t read to them or take them to the library. We didn’t go on any educational type outings. I didn’t share anything with them. Or did I?

I actually shared one of life’s biggest lessons: the loss of a loved one. They learnt all about death and suffering and later, joy and healing. They learnt what life’s all about. They never could have learnt that lesson from a book. It’s something, just like a bushfire, you wouldn’t want to ask for as a learning experience. But sometimes we don’t have a choice. Things happen. And because they do, we all learn.

So it seems to me that there is no reason to worry about homeschooling during a crisis. Just go with the flow, and use the crisis as a learning experience. Yes, life is different. We might want to do more with our children than we can. We may yearn for ordinary days, learning together in our usual way. But learning? That will still happen.

“Hey girls!” I say. “I’ve just ordered seasons 2 and 3 of Five Mile Creek on DVD.” The girls’ faces light up. “They’ll take about 2 weeks to arrive.”

See, our crisis is almost over. The fire is still burning but I’m able to look ahead. I’m thinking about strewing again. I’ve been online shopping instead of checking on the fire. Well to be honest, I checked on the fire at the same time. I have hope our house will still be here when the postman arrives with our DVDs. Yes, in two weeks’ time, probably even sooner, life should be back to normal.

I can’t wait.

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  1. Reply

    Sue, I'm off to bed after a rosary, mainly for you and your family…that that stubborn fire will finally give up! I can't imagine doing "normal" homeschooling at a time like this. But, like you said,, life lessons can't really be learned from books. How are the novels going? Or has there been unwriting class in the unschooling school? 🙂 Love and hugs to all of you from a sleepy friend! xoxo May tomorrow bring relief at last!

    1. Reply


      Thank you so much for all your prayers. You'll be relieved and happy to hear our fire was downgraded a few hours ago. It is still burning of course. It will be a long time before it goes out completely. But I think we are no longer in danger. We need to be vigilant for a little while longer but all is looking good. Thanks be to God! How would we have survived without friends like you? It would have been a very lonely experience. I am so grateful for your constant prayer and many messages. Thank you!

      We are looking forward to life returning to normal, but not tomorrow. Tomorrow we are going to town to celebrate being able to leave the house. The girls haven't been anywhere since the fire began.

      Writing? The girls have been planning their NaNoWriMo novels but I haven't even thought about mine. I'm glad NaNoWriMo hasn't yet started. I don't think I could have focused on that while worrying about the fires. Now we have something to look forward to. One more week and we will be deep into novel writing!

      Love and hugs to you too, dear Patricia! xx

    • Hwee
    • October 24, 2013

    Life's lessons are the best lessons. There is much discussion in our official education system about preparing children for life but book learning is only one aspect of the wider world of real life. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Be safe!

    1. Reply


      I am constantly amazed at what my husband, who is a school teacher, has to teach his students. "Don't they learn that in their everyday life?" I often ask him. Yes, some things are better taught by real life experience. That's what I love about homeschooling… our children get so many opportunities to experience life and learn from it!

      I think we'll be safe from now on, Hwee. It';s been a difficult few days but I think the worse is over. Thank you so much for your concern.

      And thank you for stopping by to chat!

  2. Reply

    You ordered DVDs! Now that is something to look forward to!!! Will you take time out from novel writing to watch? I'm SO glad the fire situation is improving, and I pray that things will soon be back to normal!

    1. Reply


      At the beginning of the week I didn't want to order anything just in case we no longer had a mailbox when the postman came to deliver our parcels! I'm not really a DVD person. I find my mind wanders while I'm watching. I'd rather write. But the girls love it when I join them and I must admit I've been really enjoying the TV series Five Mile Creek. Even I am looking forward to the DVDs arriving!

      There'll be lots of time for both novel writing and DVD watching, I'm sure. Otherwise I can write with my computer on my lap in front of the TV!

      Today was a great day. The girls and I went to town and did some shopping and had coffee and cakes for morning tea. Funny how something fairly ordinary can seem so special after a crisis!

      Thank you for your prayers, Nancy. I keep you in mine.

  3. Reply

    Beautifully stated. Really moving…and honest. You're so so right. Your kids DID learn so much during the time of intense grief. It brings me back to almost 5 yrs ago when my Mom suddenly died,. She was 88 an had lived a very full life. But of course it was a shock and the boys' first experience with loss. For days after she passed, the during the wake and funeral and gathering, which was here b.c we are the closest to the cemetery , we grieved and I stupidly thought the next day, we;d get back to a routine b.c that would be "better." We just couldn't. It was like we were moving under water for weeks. Gradually we got bck into a minimal routine and back to extras such as their basketball teams and book clubs at the library…… It took me a long time to realize that they DID learn, live and recover during that time. ……

    Sue, I also wanted to tell you that I nominated you for the HS Post Blog Awards…this blog in the category of unschooling……Here's the link. I am not sure when voting begins. I had been meaning to nom a few friends' blogs and never did. Today was perfect.A little distraction at the hospital and something fun to do! There are many categories but I nom only in 3-4. Here's the link if you want to check it out.:
    I have no idea what a winner "gets" if anything, but I had to nom you. It was clear.

    OK, so I am home now and even tho it's only 6PM, I'm closing my eyes. I wanted to come over and read your update. Feeling a little better! Still some symptoms hanging on but not as bad at all.

    TTY at some point soon…:)
    Hang in there….

    1. Reply


      I know you were very close to your mother. It must have been very difficult adjusting to life without her. Not something you can do quickly. Yes, sometimes we just can't get on with normal life. We need to stop and grieve and take time to heal. And our children need that too.

      I'm so glad to hear you're back at home! I'm praying you continue to get better. I can understand why you're so tired. Take care of yourself. I hope you can relax and rest over the weekend! Hope those fine boys of yours are looking after you!

      Chris, thank you so much for nominating my blog for one of the award categories! That was so kind of you. I am so touched by your kindness. Can you see my big smile? Did I see you were nominated for the new blog category? I hope so because then I can go and vote for you.

      Thank you so much for remembering us when you've been having a difficult time of your own. I appreciate it. Sending you a hug!

    2. Reply

      You're so welcome….I have to stay on top of my friends' situation:)

      Thanks Sue, for the offer to vote….I have not seen the nom for any of the categories….not sure if they're posted somewhere on the site.

      I'll "see" you next week at some point…don't know how often I
      l'll be online or blogging….

      Take care

    3. Reply


      I followed your link to the homeschool awards blog. I think voting begins on November 4th. I guess that'll be the day we see which blogs were nominated in each category.

      I look forward to catching up with you next time you are online.

      Hope you're feeling better!

    • Eva
    • October 25, 2013

    So good to read that the fire seems to be dying. I wouldn't know how I would react in a situation like that. I don't think any child could concentrate on regular activities. So I do think you are doing the best there is to do. I still have to answer some of your comments again, but I'm too tired tonight. I hope to get to them soon.

    1. Reply


      I think we are now out of danger even though the fire is still burning. It's now under control. We didn't have to face the fire, There were fire fighters working down the end of our road and water bombing helicopters flying overhead keeping the fire from approaching too close to our village. Without them I don't think we would still be here. Fire is very frightening but it's part of life where we live. We need to be very prepared and have a survival plan. I'm glad life will get back to normal now we are no longer watching out for the fire. Yes, we'll be able to concentrate on our regular activities once again!

      Eva, please don't feel you have to answer my comments. It is always good to chat with you but I understand if you can't continue the conversation. I know are unwell at the moment, and sometimes life just gets too busy to do all we'd like. Please don't worry!

      I hope you are soon feeling better. God bless!

    2. Reply


      I loved seeing your photos of the snow. So beautiful! We don't get snow like that here but it would be nice. Don't feel bad about comments. This comment doesn't even need a reply!

      God bless you!

      • Eva
      • October 27, 2013

      Maybe you could need some of our snow:).

      Well, I guess I will always worry if I have answered comments. I feel bad if I don't, I don't like unfinished conversations. But I'm glad you don't mind if I don't answer right away.

  4. Reply

    Dear Sue
    Yesterday I've been on a walk with my 3 small ones. We enjoyed the beatiful autumn weather and the beatuy of nature in this special season. There was no hurry, no plan. We stopped and looked and watched.
    I thought that too is learning. Just doning "nothing" but noticing what's around you. It was a nice calm time.
    But you? I feel sorry for the stress you had, but I fully understand all the benefits you can gain from such a situation. I hope things are soon totaly normal and you can all recover well!! Yes, crises are always a learning and growing chance.
    My thoughts and prayers go out to you!

    1. Reply


      I agree totally! Your autumn walk sounds so delightful with lots of opportunities to learn. I love going to the lake with the girls. We have a picnic and talk about all sorts of things as we eat, and then we go for a walk and notice all the nature. Yes, we love 'doing nothing' too! I especially love going for walks in autumn. Life doesn't have to be busy, busy all the time, does it?

      We are out of danger now as far as the fire goes. I think it will take a little time before we stop thinking about the bushfire. It has consumed our thoughts all week and it's hard to move on. But in a few days' time things will be back to normal!

      Thank you so much for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers!

  5. Reply

    God bless you! I am so glad the fire seems to be calming down.

    1. Reply


      Thank you! The fire is still burning but it's not a danger any more. It's contained and hopefully in a few more days it will be put out. We need some good rain to help the firefighters!

      God bless you too!

  6. A very moving post, Sue – thank you. I cannot imagine what it is like to lose a child, but when you write about Thomas it always shakes things into perspective.
    Things around here have been slightly different with James' broken ankle but everything has been pretty good really – he is mending nicely and otherwise we are all healthy and well. And learning lots, of course!
    I hope things are back to normal with you soon.

    1. Reply


      Thomas died quite a few years ago now but I'll never forget that time. It was very hard to think of homeschooling when my thoughts were elsewhere. Yes, it makes the distractions of everyday life seem so much smaller.

      I do know how hard it is though to have a husband who's injured and off his feet. I didn't quite realise how much I depended on Andy until he broke his leg and was unable to do even the simplest of things for himself. I am sure you've also had a difficult time since James broke his ankle. So glad to hear it's healing. Did your children want to know all about bones and fractures and such things?

      Life is back to normal now. I no longer think about the fire all day even though it is still burning. I am watching out for the final RFS update which will be released when the fire is extinguished completely.

      Lovely to chat as always!

    • Julie
    • September 7, 2017

    I know this is an old post, but I’ve been going through your blog posts from early days forward. I saw your blog last year and found it again recently. I love reading about your family and recently started listening to your podcast. I love your perspective and voice on unschooling and parenting. As a Christian, I found it hard to relate to a lot of unschoolers kind of like your early days with it. Thanks for sharing so honestly.

    I really wanted to know where you found Five Mile Creek seasons 2 and 3 on DVD. I grew up watching them maybe even a couple times through with my parents. We found season 1 a couple years ago, but couldn’t find 2 and 3 on DVD anywhere. I live in the United States, so maybe it’s different here.

    Thanks so much for sharing your family’s stories!

    1. Reply


      I bought season 2 and 3 of Five Mile Creek from the website iOffer. The DVDs are copies of old VCR recordings. Despite the lower quality, we still enjoyed these episodes. I don’t know if theses seasons were ever offered directly as DVDs. Like you, I could only find season 1.

      Thank you for reading my posts and listening to my podcasts. It’s good to share stories and ideas with each other, isn’t it? I’m glad you stopped by!

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