Have you ever tried to homeschool while moving to a new house? Or maybe you’re in the midst of that now. Well, we want to talk about that today, and joining me is my friend, coworker, experienced homeschooler, and mover, Laura Pitney.
Sonya: You’ve moved 11 times since you’ve been married, and four or five times since you’ve been in the homeschool years.
Laura: Yes. I’m not bragging, by all means. It was not easy.
Sonya: But you have survived, and your kids have survived, and I’m sure you’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way.
Sonya: I want to approach this from a few different angles, all right? The first one is the atmosphere that you keep, or that you’re trying to keep, during the whole process. Do you have any tips? I know a lot of that atmosphere depends on momma’s attitude. Any tips on how to help us keep a good atmosphere?
Laura: That’s a tough one, because you’re definitely right that most of the time, the atmosphere of the home comes from the mom or the teacher, the main person there. One thing that I have realized over the years is, it’s not necessarily where you’re at, even though that does contribute to the atmosphere. But when it’s school time and we gather around that table or we sit outside on a quilt, the people that are together is what the atmosphere is. So that easily moves. Because it’s us, it’s not the building, per se.
Learning that helps me stay focused that it’s not about all the boxes around me or the lack of things around me, because sometimes it’s a empty room where we’re homeschooling on the floor because we’re waiting or we’ve already taken our table or whatever. The atmosphere of the family, when we sit down and it’s that school time, that’s the moment of us, of that atmosphere. Once I transitioned over that it’s not about all the things around me, it helped me be more content and happy in those moments when we sit down together. And like I said, even being established in a home, if we take our school to the park or go out in our field or something, that’s still that little sweet atmosphere that we have.
In the midst of the moving, if there are days when you’re just tired and exhausted and you don’t want talk to anybody or deal with anything, those are probably the days that I say, “Today’s not a good school day. We’re just going to play outside today while I do stuff in the house.” Allowing myself that grace that it doesn’t necessarily have to be every day like a normal season of school. We will do it and we will learn things in the midst of that move, but it’s not putting that pressure on me to do it just like I would do it if we were settled. That helps me be a happier person, which helps the atmosphere be better, if that makes sense.
Sonya: Knowing that you’ll make up that school work later in the year. You might go a day longer into the summer. No big deal. I appreciate how you said—I was focusing on momma’s attitude, but you said that the people in that group make up the atmosphere, that it’s not all on momma. I mean, momma might set the tone, but helping our kids keep a good attitude, I suppose, has a lot to do with it. Have you had any breakthroughs in that area?
Laura: I think it goes back to that pressure, giving them grace knowing that there’s a lot of uncertainty. Even though our family is solid, there is uncertainty with things like, “Is the closing date really going to happen? Or are the moving trucks really going to come on Thursday? No, we have to make it Friday.” So they’re dealing with a lot of insecurities in that realm. When they sit down to do school, I’ve got to be understanding that they may not have their A-game, so to speak, because there’s other things they’re dealing with, especially the younger ones. It’s a big deal to move, no matter what age you are, but for the children, they’re not always able to express those emotions that they’re feeling. It may come out later. So to help cultivate that healthy atmosphere, I’ve got to be understanding with them as well and maybe not put as much pressure on them to get it all done or perform like they normally would, or “We’re going to do a light day today,” or just tweaking it to help cultivate that healthy atmosphere versus the nagging and the stress. It’s easy for me to feel the stress of it, and then that to translate to them and they bicker more. Or they’re less motivated to do the work.
Sonya: Which brings us to the second thing I wanted to ask you about, habits and keeping habits going. As Charlotte talked about, we do it during holidays as well as during school days. But sometimes habits are tied to a specific way your house is set up or a specific place in your house, and when that is in flux . . . . Talk a little bit about how you keep habits realistic and yet persistent.
Laura: Okay, two things come to mind. The first thing is, I usually know when a move is coming. It’s not necessarily, “Hey, today we’re moving.” I know it’s coming. So I try to plan ahead and think, “Okay, these habits need to be in place so that in two months or three months when we move, they’ll easily transpose to the next place.” Habits like my children being responsible for their school possessions. They may have a bucket or sometimes it’s a shelf, and wherever that bucket or that little cubby shelf is, the habits of getting it, using it, and putting it back still function the same at the next location.
This last time, we were homeless for like three months. So we moved out of our home and we were in a transition location. We brought our little buckets with us, which was the practical function of it. Then we moved out of that transitional location because our closing date was scheduled, and we had made arrangements and then it got delayed, and it got delayed again and got delayed again.
Sonya: That’s so frustrating, ah.
Laura: So about three weeks later, I would say it was probably more like two, but a family in our church let us come live with them, all six of us in that two weeks. We just took our buckets with us and we just put them in the corner of her dining room. And we would go, again, “Okay, go get your school bucket or your school things,” whatever I would tell them to go grab. They owned that responsibility to know where their school stuff was. They would go get it, we would use it, and then they would put it back where it goes. So the function of the school room, so to speak, was tied to us transporting that bucket, or my older girls had their book bags. It was the simplicity of just having the things we really needed.
Sonya: That makes total sense. It comes back to a habit that only works in one location isn’t a very helpful habit. You have to have a habit that you can take with you wherever you go. And that made sense, that the school belongings were portable, so they were responsible for this wherever it might be. The core habit is, “You’re responsible for this.”
Laura: Right. So the habits of the children owning up to their possessions. The other thing was, as much as possible, we would try to keep the same schedule or routine during school time. So whether it was at the in-between locations or at the friend’s house, it was, “Okay, we’re going to sit down and we’re going to do our Scripture memory, and we’re going to sing our hymn, and we’re going to have a word of prayer. Okay, and then I’m going to sit down with Chloe and we’re going to do her reading lesson.”
It’s the same schedule of what we would do in our normal home. So that habit of knowing that on this school day, we’re going to do this—it wasn’t a surprise to them what I was asking them to do. That remained the same too. So that habit for me to be disciplined, to try to stick to that routine, helped the children in the best way and also helped that atmosphere, because they weren’t flustered or frustrated that I was throwing something new on them. Just being prepared, letting the children own that responsibility, creating those habits of what expectations I had for them. Then for me, it was to stick with the habits that I’ve created for myself of “this is the order we go in” or “this is what we do four days out of the week” or whatever that looks like, just that discipline of habit for me was important. Whether school was morning, afternoon, dinnertime, it didn’t matter, because moving is crazy. So I didn’t lock myself down into a certain time of day.
Now, overall, I function better first thing in the morning. Get it done! That way, as distractions happen or things come up, I have the rest of the day. But I also didn’t tie myself down to that, because sometimes I had commitments in the morning to go meet an electrician or other things, just things outside of my control.
Sonya: Because you built your house this third time.
Laura: Or hundredth time, whatever time it was. I don’t even know.
Sonya: That’s true, it was more than third time, yes.
Laura: They all mush together.
Sonya: I was thinking the third thing I wanted to talk about was lessons. Some people say, “Just set them aside, don’t worry about them.” Some people say, “No, muscle through.” And it sounds like you’re saying . . .
Sonya: Do what works. Yes, exactly.
Laura: Do both.
Sonya: What works in your situation.
Laura: I think we’ve all learned that life happens. Circumstances are always changing out of our control. I have taken the stance that if it’s a day I can do school, I’m going to do school. That way, when things do come up, it’s okay, because we’ve been doing school all along. Again, I don’t feel guilty for not doing it when I need to be doing something else. So, that’s just the stance that I’ve taken over the years. If today’s a day we can do school, let’s go ahead and get it done. Let’s do it.
Sonya: Whether that’s morning, afternoon, or evening.
Laura: Correct, whatever that day.
Sonya: You know about what chunk of time you’re going to need. Did you ever have to split that chunk in half and “We’re going to do part of it in the morning, and we got interrupted because the electrician called and I need to meet him now, so we’ll finish up”?
Laura: Yes, that definitely happened. It’s always harder to go back to it later. So again, me having discipline to give them the best of me on the education side of things. We did go back to it, not all the time, because it was a weakness of mine. I’m like, “Oh, there’s so many things.” But again, giving grace when it’s needed. The other part of that is because moving is a big deal, whether it’s your first time or your 11th time, knowing that there’s still good opportunities to educate and instruct and build relationships with your children, even in the midst of moving. I mean, the conversations we’ve had over packing up a kitchen or the manliness I give my son for helping me with that heavy object. There are such good things that your children learn through moving or whatever the trial of life is. There are always good teaching opportunities.
So even if it was a day where it wasn’t formal lessons, we were still together as a family, learning things together, talking about things. Or I’d have my younger daughter try to pack. I’d give her a job to pack up something and she would have to number the boxes for me, like this is one of four, two of four. I tried to implement things that would help them understand what we were doing and why we were packing it a certain way or why we were labeling it now and it didn’t necessarily matter when we opened the box later on. Just taking those teachable moments, I feel like there was such value in that too. So it’s not just, “Kids, get out of the way. We have got to move.” They were there next to me helping me, because first of all, I needed their help. They’re older now, so I’m like, “I’ve got a lot of minions over here I can boss around.”
I want them to understand that responsibility of taking care of a home. More than likely, they’re going to be moving a couple times in their lives. I just don’t want to say school is only during lessons. I think that’s helped me stay positive about moving and all the stress that’s involved in that. There are good days and bad days, of course, but just loving them and bringing them alongside me. When I have a bad day, they know it, but then it’s encouraging to me to see them pick up when I’m not at my best. It’s like a fruit of your labor, so to speak.
Sonya: So it’s all about keeping that broad picture of education, that it’s the whole person, it’s not just what we do with the books during school time, per se. And keeping those habits going and taking them with you, it sounds like, and building that relationship with your children. This is a prime time to make that happen.
Laura: Another thing, one last thing, is that it also opened my eyes to habits we needed that we didn’t have.
Sonya: That’s a good point. For example?
Laura: Well, that’s hard to come up with. But I mean, even just the habits of full attention. So for instance, if my older daughters wanted to help me pack the kitchen, there’s a certain way some of the glass stuff needs to be packed. It was important for them to be able to give me their full attention and follow my instructions, and they usually did well. My son, on the other hand, that’s something he needs to improve on, giving me his full attention and making sure he’s listening to instructions and following it out. So a lot of times in the moving scenarios, I would see, “Oh, we should tweak that a little bit” or “You know what, that’s a weakness of that child, so later on, when we’re settled . . .”
Sonya: Mental note.
Laura: “I need to revisit that.” Yes, so it pointed out, even just how we worked together, some habits we should, or I don’t way to say we should, we could improve on, we need to improve on, or implement or teach. So that’s something to look for too.
Sonya: And keeping a positive attitude about that. I can see how it’d be easy to look at that and say, “Oh, I failed. I’m a failure at that.”
Laura: I’ve totally said that.
Sonya: But being able to look at that and say, “Okay, I’m glad that this trial,” as you said, “this situation has brought to light that we need to work on this a little bit more and maybe we need to work on this more outside of school time. Maybe we’re paying attention fine while momma’s reading, but outside of school time, we need to work on that more.” And so, we can make plans to do that. That’s a great idea.
Laura: So it’s all been good. I’m thankful for all the lessons that our family has learned. I’m glad we’re having this conversation as an encouragement to other families, because I know there are plenty of families out there who are in situations like ours or maybe they’re going to be moving. Just the hope that that investment you have in your children, your family, that’s what it is, it’s your family. And wherever that family is, that can continue. It’s not tied to the building or the place, because those are so temporal.
Sonya: The house and the home are two different things. Thanks.