Plan Fail #1: None of the Stuff I Ordered to Homeschool My Kids is Here Yet

Hi, I’m Laura.

I’ve lived in Alaska my whole life. I grew up on Kodiak Island, and moved to Anchorage when I was 18. I met my husband, Brad, the autumn after I graduated high school. We had our oldest daughter, Arialle, a couple years later, and our second child, Connor, was born on her birthday seven years after that. Tyler joined the family in December 2013 and Willow followed in February 2016, on her great-grandfather’s birthday.

Parenting has never been easy for me, despite the fact that I have always known I wanted to be a mother, and have always known how much I love my children. I was constantly suffering from what I thought was postpartum depression, and it wrecked me. I was never really able to pull myself out of it in any significant way. I’d always done my best, but until a few years ago, I didn’t even know what my best was.

Me and my youngest, Willow

I started really focusing on my mental health in a serious way several years ago when I noticed how much one of my kids was struggling. Connor was uncontrollable, but so smart, and his emotions were all over the place. My husband and I grappled with how to change his behavior through discipline, but it always ended in tears (for everyone). He just wasn’t responding the way other kids did, and we hated punishing him for things we came to realize that he didn’t seem to have control over. We didn’t understand him.

Through the process of his being diagnosed with autism (level 2Asperger’s profile), it made me want to connect as many of the dots for my kids as possible in regards to mental health. This meant getting a clear picture of my own issues so that I could address them in a way that might actually produce change, and so that my kids have a documented mental health family history should it ever be needed.

It turns out that what I believed to be severe postpartum depression was actually bipolar depression, which normal antidepressants can’t even touch. The memory, attention, and organizational struggles that I believed just came with being a crappy mom who couldn’t get her sh*t together were actually caused by ADHD and CDD. All of these are common disorders that people with autism frequently suffer from. I’m being treated for all of them, and I think I’m doing pretty great comparatively, but there are still bad days.

Especially in the middle of a global pandemic, when all of my plans and efforts to keep structure and sanity in our home are constantly being turned upside down by whatever the latest bit of chaos may be.

This is fine.

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Willow (4, Kindergarten), Connor (8, third grade), Tyler (6, first grade)

Anyways, these are my kids.

Well, most of them. Our teenager is doing virtual ASD high school, and she generally doesn’t allow me to take random photos of her and post them on the internet. These are the three I’ll be homeschooling, though.

Here’s a our oldest, Arialle, in an approved photo:

Arialle (15, sophomore at West High School HG program)

Now that I’ve showed off my kids, we can start discussing how I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to pull off homeschooling them for the first time with no teaching bone in my body. This has been a huge source of anxiety for me for months, because I have severe concentration, memory and attention issues that make it difficult for me to learn, let alone teach. I’m sure we’ll run into some snags here and there, but I’m doing my best to be at my best for my family.

We arrived at the decision to homeschool when it became clear to us that schools in Anchorage would not be safe to send our kids to. Our youngest daughter, Willow, has complicated health issues that make her a high risk patient were she to contract Covid-19. We’ve been living in a bubble since March. Based on things that were happening in Anchorage this summer, it didn’t seem likely that we’d be in a state of low alert before school started…or how long that would last before kids may have to return to an at-home virtual option like last spring.

Neither of our boys did well with the virtual learning process, and it was a major source of stress for us all. I couldn’t see them succeeding learning that way again, especially given some of their individual education needs. Connor has autism and is very intelligent, and was doing math and reading at a higher level than his peers last year, but also needs certain accommodations and he struggles with other subjects. Tyler cannot sit still in front of a computer long enough to absorb anything, but if he’s active in the learning process and can get hands-on, he gets really excited and will learn a lot.

The appeal of homeschooling was that we could work it into our own schedule, at our own pace, and tailor it to their learning needs. Our family is chaotic and our schedules need room to breathe lately. We need to be able to let someone sleep in if they’re having a bad morning, take a video game/walk/pet the puppy break if they’re going to have a meltdown because their sister offended them, take a family day because Daddy finally has a day off, and to allow for any random medical emergencies that may come up. We’ve been pretty lucky the last several months (knock on wood), and haven’t had any major issues that required any of the kids to be seen in the ER. This is a big deal for our family, since Willow used to spend almost every month in the hospital for one thing or another.

I thought we got ahead of the game by getting most everything started in late July/early August, but all three of our curriculums are already a month late. I’d been checking in on the status a few times a week, trying to figure out when we will be starting in earnest. But I get it. EVERYONE in the country is homeschooling right now. It’s a supply and demand problem. They’ll catch up eventually.

Meanwhile…what do we do?

I’ve posted in local homeschooling groups to see what everyone else is doing, and it’s a range of responses. Some parents are in week 7 of their highly structured and thoroughly planned out Expert Homeschooler-designed learning plan. Some of us are still kind of scratching our heads, wondering where our supplies are, and what to do with our kids until they get here. It’s good to know I’m not alone in not having started anything formal yet, but I don’t have a confident feeling about how this is all going to work, either.

We JUST moved into a new house at the beginning of the month, so it’s taken a bit to get settled enough to even wrap my head around instilling order and a schedule. I emailed the kids’ contact teacher to let her know we are pretty much out of the thick of packing and moving and ready to move forward with whatever the next step may be. I think it’s doing ILPs (Individual Learning Plans) for each of the kids. Glancing at the form, it doesn’t seem like we can fill it out without the curriculum to support it. Or do we just alter the learning plan to include the things we CAN do, like baking, field trips, projects, etc?

Another issue with moving is that our curriculums may be sent to the wrong address, since we ordered ours before we knew there would be a delay. I’ve contacted the vendor to update our address as well, but haven’t heard back from anyone yet. I’m sure they’re swamped with communications right now. Hopefully everything can be forwarded, or our former landlord will contact us if it’s delivered to him instead.

I will admit though, it’s nice to have an excuse to not have to jump right into it after moving from a home we had lived in for 8 years. There is a LOT to unpack, literally and mentally right now. I’ve been on a bit of a vacation from the Covid-19 stress and all of the ugliness and confusion and constant changes to our way of life that comes with it, because all of my time has been completely consumed by the move. It still kind of feels like summer vacation, at the moment.

Once we start the school year, we’re officially crisis-schooling through a pandemic.

That may seem like a dramatic statement, but anxiety makes everything dramatic. And regardless of what your opinion on the scale and risk of Covid-19 may be, it’s changed everyone’s lives, including our kids. I just hope I can keep on top of everything while keeping all of our stress levels reasonably low.

If anyone else is struggling and would like to reach out, please comment, or feel free to email me at [email protected]

The kids love chilling in our new backyard and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows on the fire pit. We have a lot more room for family activities in the new house, which is an enormous improvement for our big, busy family.